I am excited to share with you an original article I wrote on hiking as an above knee amputee, published by Living With Amplitude magazine. I have spent the past 2 months finding new climbs and challenges in Northern Arizona, Utah and Idaho. Check out the link below for the article, published on July 22, 2020, in their online magazine.
I sit here in my ocean blue Jeep Rubicon, warm air blowing in through the open windows, outside of my prosthetist’s office, waiting with bated breathe for my appointment time. Today is a day I’ve been looking forward to for over a year! However, I am cautious. Over the past 8 years of injury, surgery, more surgeries, blood clots and an amputation I have learned a lot, and to have patience and be careful what I wish for are just some of the lessons. Today I am going in for my skin fit socket! For those of you who are not familiar with amputation and amputee living, I will explain.
When you first get a socket, after stitches are out, you are swollen and tender, so your socket is larger to fit your limb comfortably. However, as you wear your prosthesis more and get back to exercising, your limb begins to shrink. Your muscles atrophy and in my case I was losing a lot of weight, too. I was having to get new sockets made every 2-3 months! Under the socket I wear a thick liner which I roll onto my limb which enables me to slide into my socket and create suction, which keeps it in place…until it doesn’t! My leg would naturally shrink because of all my activity so I would have to take it off and add “socks” over my liner to thicken up the fit so it would keep the suction. Everyday, throughout the day this would be my routine. As it would continue to shrink I would have to wear two or three socks at a time, and that’s when we would know it was time to make another cast of my leg and create a new socket, smaller and better fitting.
Along with those trying times of figuring out the right thickness needed for me to feel good in my socket, and changing the thinkness throughout the day, my routine also consisted of washing the liners every night. EVERY NIGHT! I’ve been doing that for over a year now. After taking my leg off at the end of the day I would make sure I washed the liner so it would be dry by morning to use again. At first I thought, I have to do this for how long? But like everything else, I got a routine and it became second nature.
So that’s a little bit about my life as an amputee, now back to my cautious anticipation. When I first came into my prosthetist’s office back in March of 2019 they said that with my activity level they would like to see me get into a skin fit socket as soon as possible but we would have to wait for the changes in the limb to stop. I was told it would take about a year to get there. Well, here I am outside waiting, 1 year and 2 months later, to get my skin fit socket!! I can’t wait to see the design I asked for and feel the fit, but I am cautious. You see, I know that, like my first time putting a socket on, there are growing pains. I had rashes and bruising for several weeks when I first started wearing my leg-with the liner. Now that my limb is use to the liners, as much as I am so excited for this more intimate fitting socket, I know that there will be some skin issues that I’ll have to deal with and push through. I know it’ll be an amazing fit because that’s what my guys do (and they do it well) and I am so grateful for their dedication to their craft, but some of this is just part of the game.
I wait here, excited for this new chapter, anxious and cautious but excited, for what it’ll allow me to do. It signals that I have overcome a year of change and trials. I am a warrior and conquering the challenges that come with the journey. I have learned to live in the now, to be present and remain happy in the moment I am in, despite the challenges. Change is going to happen but I will conquer what comes my way when it gets to me and not before. These times where I’ve been waiting for the next socket, the skin fit socket, I have learned so much about being an amputee, about my pain thresholds (they are pretty high), and how to make what I have work for me. I look forward to what waits for me on the other side of their door today but I will not rush into it as I know there will be a new learning curve, a new set of challenges. I will enjoy where I am, right now. There is a lot to learn from each moment. There’s so much excitement in not having to wear or wash liners! There’s a joy in me, knowing I won’t have to play with thickness, finding the comfort I need by adding more socks throughout the day! However, I will now have to learn how to use a bag to pull my leg and skin down into my socket and avoid pinching my skin. I will surely find that parts of my socket will rub my skin raw as it adapts to the new fit, but in the end I will feel more free, more at home in this socket and with this positive outlook I know, without a doubt, I will be more successful, more driven and more active then ever before. I will feel complete!
I approach the building and hold my breathe with cautious anticipation. As I open the door and hear the familiar, happy greetings a small smile slides from my lips and I know my new journey is about to begin.
Grateful for my time away, this week, with my husband, my support, my soulmate. We took a couple of days to enjoy mindfulness, and peace and quiet to reconnect. This was my anniversary gift to him. We spent our time at Miraval Resorts in Tucson, Arizona. It was wonderful….and needed. You see, I have accomplished a lot this past year, since my amputation, but all of a sudden I realized that I had put all my focus on myself and getting better and achieving my goals, that I had left him back. Not my proudest moment, but thankful for realizing this and making the shift I needed to regain balance in my life once again.
You see, this hasn’t been just MY journey but my whole family’s journey, as well. Every surgery, every physical therapy and every doctor appointment my guys were by my side or giving me support. I am so fortunate for their strength these past 8 years, and I recognize how fortunate I am because not everyone has this in their life. Balance- we need it for walking, riding a bike, eating, everything in life. We also need to have it in our daily routines. Balancing work and play, is good for stress relief and for the soul. Balancing emotions keeps us from alienating friends and loved ones. Balancing our time between the people we love and time for ourselves. All are equally important but if not balanced, like stacking rocks on top of each other in perfect form, everything around us crumbs and falls apart.
As I move forward into 2020; one year of being an amputee under my belt and many goals achieved, I can now put my energy for long term balance into my life. I will always set goals for myself and strive for more, but I must remember that the people around me; my husband, my two sons, are what matter most. We cannot forget those who have watched us struggle and suffer through our trials, they deserve our love, attention and support. I was off balance then, too, but in the opposite way. I spent so much of the past 8 years of injury trying my hardest not to be a burden that I had lost a little of who I was outside of being a wife and mom. I am more than that. We are created as multi-faceted beings. We wear different hats. We share a life with the people around us that we love, but we also have activities that we love and claim as our own. We must find a balance between each. That’s when we can find peace and happiness in our life; harmony/balance.
I don’t know where you are in your journey. Maybe you are in a valley or maybe at the peak of a mountain, but in each of those points balance must be found. Step back and reassess where you’re putting all of your energy. When my husband and I had time away at Miraval Resort; time to put aside work, electronics and outside noises, we rediscovered each other and what we loved about one another. We had the opportunity to laugh, play, and rest. My wish for each of you is that you stop what you’re doing and put away the distractions in your life. Breathe, focus, find your center and reconnect to what is important to you. Find your balance. The balance that I have found in my life is amazing, it has created new life and happiness within my heart that no one can take away. You see, since my surgery I have not only rediscovered who I am but also have been able to redefine myself. I felt like I could be who ever I wanted to be now that I was mobile again. I felt like I had been reborn. However, I got so tangled up in this new life that I became off centered. I had forgotten about the people who stayed by my side during the valley in my life, but am blessed that they loved me so much that they stayed and supported me as I grew, changed, and achieved the things that made me happy.
We all go through trials in life, that’s just part of our journey. With the lows we can appreciate the highs. With experiencing highs, we can rest assured that when lows or trials hit us, we can get back up and rise. We know that, “this too, shall pass”. Keep looking for balance in your life. Remember to love on those who have walked the journey with you. They might not understand ALL that you have or will go through, but they have chosen to go through it WITH you. I am ever so grateful for my tribe and how they have stuck beside me through it all; the good, the bad, and the ugly. And remember, they are going through things, too. Balance will remind you to step back and get perspective. When you feel like your whole world is caving in on you, remember to find that balance. Not all things are going wrong, find the positive, see where you can rise, center yourself and redirect your thoughts. You may just realize, like I did, that you are being consumed by one thing, one thought. I was going the wrong direction and I needed to get back on track so I could live my best life. How about you? What has you off-centered? Do you need to refocus and find your balance?
I pray that this helps just one of you, realize that you’re not alone, that you are human, that it’s ok if you’ve lost direction or balance in your life. It’s never too late to regain your focus and still be able to live your best life. Know that I am praying for you. That I understand what it’s like to be distracted and that you, too, can rise up and find your balance once again. So, get out there, get real, find your center. Live your best life now!!
“Those who play rarely become brittle in the face of stress or lose the healing capacity for humor.”
Stuart Brown, MD
I have spent the past year making up for lost time.
For those of you who don’t know me or my story I was sidelined from my normal activities 7 years ago by a karate kick and multiple surgeries. I regained my life with an elective above knee amputation on December 19, 2018.
I have spent this past year setting and completing goals of all sizes and levels of difficulty. As I sit here and think about all I’ve accomplished I realize they all have one common thread: they are fun! Yes, fun! I had fun setting the ”impossible” goals. I had fun training for these “impossible” goals, and you guessed it, I had fun accomplishing them, as well. Impossible is only a mindset, or a comment made by someone who sets limitations on themselves or others. For example, I was told I would never walk again if I amputated, by a doctor…. A DOCTOR!!!
As my 1st year as an amputee came and went I started to look at what was next, what goal did I want to achieve? I realized that I wanted to focus on having fun. I wanted to go out and play. As I started to learn how to skateboard, street SUP, and scooter around my neighborhood I realized the health benefits as well. Not only was I outside enjoying time with my teenager in activities he loved, I was gaining balance, control of my new norm and learning new skills while I laughed and amazed myself. This was a far cry from what I expected I’d ever be able to do again in my life. And I was told I’d never walk again! HA! Please don’t let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do. If you have a goal, a drive, and a positive attitude then the sky’s the limit. Go for it! Try new things. Adapt! Live the life that you want to live.
I realized that this past year I have enjoyed what I have accomplished, I am a happier person for it. Also, one thing I have noticed is that happy, positive people attract happy, positive people. I am so grateful for all the amazing people I have met this past year. I am a better person for it, because of those who have entered my life. I am amazed at the turn my world took the day I made the decision to amputate. I have never, not once, regretted my decision and I am grateful to a God who loves me enough to never leave me and who has bless me with this life I am getting to live.
So, what are you going to do to start really living your life? Get out there, make a difference, set a goal. Laugh and play. Try new things. Master something that you’ve always wanted to do. Smile and you’ll be surprised at the reaction of the world around you. I believe in you!
Now, go play!
“And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”