There is a camaraderie that is forged among amputees. Perhaps it is because, regardless of the circumstances, we all know what it is like dealing with a limb loss. No explanation other than "bad stump day" is needed for another amputee to understand the pain or discomfort that is being experienced. I love being part of a group of amputees. Inevitably, the conversation always turns towards comparing stories. After all, every amputee has a story.
Watching the story exchange between amputees is nothing short of fascinating. It seems that, regardless of the situation concerning our personal limb loss, amputees tend to feel that they had it "easier" than another. It is an odd form of survivor's guilt.
An amputee who lost his leg because of an accident cannot fathom losing his limb because of cancer. Often, an immediate sense of guilt is apparent as they shower the cancer survivor amputee with accolades about their strength. "I don't know how you managed losing your leg and going through treatment for cancer. You must be so strong. I don't think I would have been able to handle it!"
Ironically, the survivor amputee retorts with, "At least I knew when my amputation was going to occur. I can't imagine going to work one day and ending up in the hospital because of a freak accident. The cancer gave me something organic to blame. I wouldn't be able to handle being hurt and losing my limb so traumatically."
I find that I engage in the same comparisons when talking with my amputee friends. When I share my story with someone who underwent a traumatic amputation, I often hear, "I couldn't imagine knowing the date and time of the amputation. I would have gone crazy waiting. I'm not sure I would have been able to make that decision." However, I can't relate to sheer terror of stepping off a curb and being struck down, losing my leg in an instant. I'm fairly confident I would never want to walk down the street again!
These exchanges tend to continue until the beer is gone or they call a truce on the "who had it worse" conversation. In reality, I doubt anybody will concede that their amputee story is the winner of the "most horrifying" award. While we all take pride in what we've overcome, on some level we fear what could still occur. After all, there isn't a punch card that will keep us immune from experiencing an accident or a disease. Perhaps the "you have it worse" mentality is masking our fear that limb loss could happen again, under a variety of circumstances.
- I am a below knee amputee. More importantly, I am also Mommy to two boys, a very active 10 year old (Robby) and an mischievous toddler (Timmy). I have learned that being a parent with a disability can create some unusual and sometimes humorous situations. This blogger is available for hire! Let's talk and learn how a blog can expand your business.