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!

Get Out and Play

Street SUP on my new Kahuna Bombora Board

“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.”

Khalil Gibran

Running the Race: Step by Step

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Helen Keller

That hill you see before me was quite intimidating. As you can see by my head down, my focus wasn’t on the long, incline ahead, just the next step right before me. Going in to this Rock n Roll 10K I had preconcieved notions of what “my” race was going to look like. Several months ago I was sure I was going to be running every step with ease, then as it drew closer I realized that my socket wasn’t fitting properly and I had gotten sore and banged up a little from every day use. Such is the life for an amputee, especially during the first year. During the first year or so the limb is constantly changing and shrinking. For me, I have been so active and getting back to my routine that I have change in my limb throughout the day.

Getting back to this race before me. One of the hardest things for me to do is to admit if I have overshot my goals. I’m a perfectionist and very strict with my goal setting. This is good AND bad. It’s good because I believe that being hard on myself has helped me, especially this past year, focus on positive outcomes and not on the pain and challenges of my new norm. However, if I’ve ever come to a point in which I know that a goal just can’t be reached, in MY timeframe, I struggle with disappointment and feel like I’ve let myself down. This is bad and can be self-destructive.

This 10K race was the first goal, since my amputation, that I knew I wasn’t going to shine at and achieve….not the way I had visualized it anyway. I wasn’t competing with others, I was competing with myself, and I wasn’t going to win. While I was on this long road, head down in deep thought, I did a lot of self-talk. I had to find a way to finish with my head held high. This was the moment I knew that I was out of my comfort zone and where God was stretching my resolve and building character within me. He knew the struggle within me and now, in the midst of this trial, He was working on me; making me a better version of myself. As Helen Keller stated above, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet »

Needless to say, I finished my 10K as an above knee amputee. I drew positives out of it; for example, I have never walked that pace for that long. I endured nerve pain, like no other, to accomplish that and I never gave up! I was able to put in a few running strides and gave my running blade some purpose. I had beautiful friends surrounding me throughout the race who gave me the space I needed to think through my mental game but also knew exactly when I needed some conversation to distract me from the pain. Best of all, I finished! I looked up, saw the finish line, smiled and pushed forward strong. People cheered for me, people I didn’t even know (they probably saw the pain on my face, and surely noticed my ginerly gate) and gave me high fives. It was then that I realized what I had accomplished. And I did it for me! I am proud of myself and the perseverance it took for me to push myself 6.2 miles. I am grateful for the friend who challenged me to this race a week before my amputation, a year ago. I am so thankful to my PTs and medical staff that joined me in this quest. It was hard, so very hard, but when pushed against the ropes I can say that I came out victorious and a better person for it. I learned more about who I am in those moments of pain and weakness than I could ever just sitting back and watching life pass by.

The true goal may never have been to «finish » the race but to find out who I am, to see who God created me to be. Whatever your « race » in life, just know that it’s not about the finish line, but the journey. Each one of us has our own hurdles and struggles. We must not give up! It is in these trials that we experience the most growth within ourselves. Be Bold! Focus on the next step! Never give up! You may surprise yourself on the road you end up walking. Use those hard moments to strengthen your soul. Enjoy the journey, I know I am!

Mana

Power!

Mana is the Hawaiian word for power. The power of the wave as it takes you. It’s an amazing feeling once you get out on the water and glide with that power. The power of that wave comes from beneath the water’s surface. It’s in constant movement, almost as if in conflict with itself. The Power changes as it encounters the terrain of the ocean floor. It’s an incredible feeling to release yourself to the power of the ocean and use it to feel the stoke of catching your first wave.

Last month I had the opportunity to head to Kauai. We have had the good fortune to go the last several years, but for every year we went, I was injured, or recovering from surgeries. I never got to really get in the ocean, never got to experience the Mana of the waters, that is until this year. After losing my leg I was determined to get back up and not let my life be dictated or defined by my amputation. I set goal upon goal. If I didn’t have some crazy hard goal to reach I probably would’ve gotten caught in a rut and felt sorry for myself. Knowing this trip was upon us I decided with only 4 weeks to go that I’d let me PT know that I had come up with my next BIG goal: surfing! He asked if I’d ever surfed; nope! But I was determined to do something new and face the fear of trying it without a leg. I had no previous experience so I could create the feeling of catching a wave for the first time to this feeling, with a prosthetic. Why not?

Mana: power. It is within each of us, lying just underneath the surface. It is given to us by a higher power and can be turbulent depending what’s going on below the surface; just like the ocean’s Mana.

I found amazing people in Kauai at the Hanalei Surf School. I don’t believe they usually get many amputees but Jimmy became my instructor. Jimmy is the one who explained Mana. When I was out on my board, in the middle of that big, blue ocean, feeling those waves glide below me and around me, I could feel the Mana. It was an incredible feeling. To start to paddle with that power just below me and then to stand and be driven forward by it, it was a feeling like no other!

I am so grateful to the amazing people who helped me succeed and who helped me find a new deep love of the ocean. To see that blue water with different eyes, it’s a precious gift, one which I can never repay them for, but I can appreciate it and love it forever, like never before.

Like the ocean, our power comes from within/ from the depths of our souls and is just as beautiful. We have the power to love, accept and help each other. We also have the power to hate, tear down and destroy. What will you do with your power? God has a purpose for each of us. His love is unconditional and His grace is pure and abundant.

Mana, a power that is so beautiful, so strong. It can drive you forward or knock you over. Find your balance, keep your eyes forward, slow down: advice from Jimmy.

Hey Jimmy, I found my palm tree to focus on. Find beauty in the Mana within you.

May you be blessed with such an eye opening experience as I had of our beautiful oceans.

Mahalo hoa!