What’s Your Mountain?

“Only if you have been in the deepest valley, can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.” -Richard M. Nixon

“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” -Sir Edmund Hillary

Beginning the climb of my highest mountain thus far, as an amputee
Mount Humphreys, Flagstaff, AZ
My hardest metaphorical mountain I had to climb, to date.
Above knee amputation
December 19, 2018

There are many types of mountains we all have to climb, or will climb, or be forced to climb in our lifetime. We are never alone in that. We all will be faced with the question, “What’s your mountain?”, and at some point we will need to face that mountain and answer the question. Each of our journeys are unique, too, albeit, similar at times, but they are our own, so we can never really learn from someone else’s “climb”. The timing may be different, the weather, your age, or attitude will make it impossible to replicate someone else’s climb. Why, do you ask, am I stating this obvious notion? As an amputee I see many other amputees who are looking to others for help, and that’s good, unless it creates a feeling of being “behind” the norm or creates a feeling of sadness and depression because the thought is, “I’ll never get there”.

This journey is mine. You can learn from things I have seen, gone through, and felt, but you will never have the same experience that I have had. I, too, became caught up in wanting to be where other amputees were right from the get go, only seeing their successes but not how much time, energy and attitude they had put into their “skill”. It was maddening! I had to tell myself, a highly competitive individual, to stop comparing and wishing for what they had achieved. I had to set my own course, take hold of my journey, and find my very own mountain to climb…….and you know what??? I AM TRULY HAPPY!!!

This is my life, my journey, my mountain. No one can claim it, no one can take it from me, and I can compete all day long with myself to be better than I was yesterday. It is liberating! It is freeing! It gives my competitive nature a huge rush! I am grateful for my decision to amputate. I wouldn’t go back to where I was: NEVER! But, (of course there’s a but) not everyday is roses. If anyone tells you that, not just another amputee, but ANYONE, then they aren’t being truthful. With mountain climbing, there are set backs, there are valleys. Those valleys can be hard and you can feel like you’ll never see the top… but you will, I promise. The valleys are where you find out who you are and what you are made of. It’s where your grit and determination are found. No one grows with success. It’s in failures and setbacks in which you will grow; mentally, emotionally, physically. With valleys come a new day to try, and to climb. When you push yourself you’ll realize one day you are at the top, you made it out of the valley and climbed your mountain, oh, and on that day, your view will be SPECTACULAR! You’ll have earned that view, and there is nothing more exhilarating or rewarding than that.

So, enough metaphors, right? 😉 I want you to know that I hear you. I hear how tough life is right now, and I am here for you. I feel an obligation and a joy, in helping those who are navigating this new world like I am. Do I have it all figured out? Absolutely not! But I am willing to walk the path with you. We can learn from each other. We can pick each other up, dust each other off and begin again. We weren’t made to go through life alone, we are creatures who thrive with community and partnerships. No matter where you are on your journey, there is someone looking to you to get to that next milestone, or point, in their own life. Be brave, be bold, be honest about the bumps and bruises, and please, be REAL!

I have spent the past 2 months pushing myself to hike, which is quite a path as an above knee amputee. I have found very rocky trails that have challenged me. It began with making it half way and turning around, to making the whole loop of 4.5 miles, to trying to push myself to achieve my highest elevation hike AND my longest. I didn’t start with Mount Humphreys in Flagstaff. I started with putting one foot in front of the other. Just walking down to the end of my block was hard and felt like torture, in the beginning! Now I can hike up and over boulders for 6 hours! This took time, determination, attitude and practice! You WILL get there! You just need to figure out what it is you want to achieve and go for it.

Oh, did I tell you? You can create your own mountains! I love the idea of putting a challenge in front of myself. That’s what keeps me going. Actually, I can recall at one point in time that I became really sad, during this journey of mine. I had done everything I set out to do in my first year of being an amputee, it was amazing but then I felt I had nothing else to prove to myself or others. Being as competitive as I am, I felt like I had lost my purpose, my drive, my “what’s next?” It was not a good time for me, but I didn’t allow myself to stay there. I began creating new goals, I set new mountains out in front. I began to create a regimen for myself and found a purpose again.

….and I have never looked back!

So, what’s your mountain? How will you attack it? Who do you have in your corner, helping you, supporting you as you take on the challenge? I’m here for you! I’m in your corner. I’m routing you on, because I know you can achieve anything you put your mind to complete.

Seize the day! Carpe diem…. go get the mountain!!

Heading up Mount Humphreys
Flagstaff, AZ
I got to my highest and longest point here for a hike.
3.1 miles up, 1,611 feet elevation change and we had to head back down due to a storm rolling in! Lightening strikes here are prevalent. Rain started, and I had to carefully maneuver down slippery rocks and roots. It took me a total of 6 hours to complete 6.2 miles but the joy was exhilarating!!

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so….get on your way!” -Dr. Seuss

Hiking: A fresh new article I wrote for Living With Amplitude magazine

Grand Canyon-South Rim

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.

Munds Mountain Wagon Trail near Sedona, AZ My partner-in-crime, Erik, and I on one of the most intense trails I’ve done yet (99° didn’t help the situation either)! …but the views!!😮

https://livingwithamplitude.com/amputee-hiking-one-step-at-a-time/

Enjoy!

Remember to get out and get active!

Much love🤙🏻,

Angie

Cautious Anticipation

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.

The Limb Center
where my prosthetists make my life so much better!

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.

Randy and David and my new skin fit leg!

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.

Leg in a Bag
As I get ready to try it on we have parts everywhere!
Such is the life of an amputee.

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.

The new skin fit socket is on and feels great!!
I got this!