I had to read the sign at the register twice before I could fully comprehend the message. Daphne, the owner of the store, had passed away on Tuesday. Although it is always sad when somebody passes away, especially this time of year, this death hit me unexpectedly hard.
Daphne was the only amputee who reached out to me before my amputation. I will never forget the phone conversation that we had and the advice that she imparted. Although she wasn't the support system that I desperately needed largely due to her own physical struggles, the knowledge and time that she gave me during our brief chat meant the world to me.
Not even sure of what to say, I remember answering the phone and choking up with tears after she introduced herself. Composed, she simply said, "It's scary, but it will be okay." At that moment in time, that is precisely what I needed to hear.
I revisited our conversation numerous times during my recovery. It is amazing how much wisdom she managed to fit into a few minutes! Daphne warned me that despite feeling prepared, I was going to grieve my foot at unexpected times. She was right. She told me that the surgery was going to "hurt like hell" but that I would recover and the pain would eventually fade. She was right. She warned me that I would experience body image issues and that sex and intimacy would be awkward and difficult for awhile. Again, she was right. She promised that I would eventually feel normal again and that I would "get my groove back." Thankfully, she was right!
Perhaps more than her words, Daphne's legacy for me was her demonstrating the profound impact of reaching out and helping somebody. While she was not able to be a consistent support system, she did provide me with a glimpse into the benefits of peer support. The fact that another amputee took time out of her day to talk to me, a scared novice, meant the world to me.
I have never forgotten the kindness that she showed, and I will always remember how much I appreciated her advice and experiences during those unsure times. When I read that Daphne had passed away, it felt like I was emotionally transported back to that tumultuous and frightening time in my life. I relived and felt all of the fears and worries that I experienced nearly 11 years ago. For a few moments on Wednesday, I was again that scared young woman who was petrified of living a future without her foot.
It has taken me several days to process Daphne's passing and my profound reaction to the news. After numerous phone calls with my mom trying to talk through my feelings, I have come to the conclusion that Daphne impacted me far more than I realized. It was because of her reaching out to me that I now feel compelled to help other amputees and their families.
There is no doubt in my mind that my adjustment to limb loss would have been easier if I had a peer support system. I have never resented that she could not be that support system for me, but I have realized that her kindness demonstrated by reaching out to me during a time of need planted the seed for this blog and for all of my outreach efforts. Daphne epitomized the potential of peer support, and for that lesson I will always be grateful.