About Me

My photo
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.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Run Run Amputee Mommy

Since my amputation I have made a conscious decision to push myself. I now strive to do things on one leg that I never would have attempted when I had two. I am no longer as fearful of the embarrassment of failure. After all, most people seem impressed that I even attempt anything beyond walking slowly. I find it liberating that success and perfection are not expected!

I have been contemplating running a 5K for years. Somehow, something always seems to interfere with my plans. Of course, my biggest obstacle remains the fact that I am not a runner. I didn't run when I had two legs, and the prospect of running with a prosthetic is scary.

Last summer I attended an amputee running workshop. I learned how to run but, more importantly, I learned how to trust my prosthetic. Unfortunately, I also learned that I am not graceful which I think I already knew. I was the only amputee to fall during the workshop, and I ended up breaking my wrist. (The Tales of an Amputee Mommy: Yes, I Ran. Yes, I Fell.) Truth be told, in spite of the skills I learned, I have yet to run again.

My running leg is nearly complete, so that excuse has been nullified. I am feeling strong and healthy. I'm scared, but what's the worse that can happen? I figure, I've already broken one bone the last time I took to the asphalt, so the chances of it happening again are minuscule.

Right now, the only thing holding me back is my own fear. I am ready to put my running fears behind me, and I plan on making my public running debut on June 5 in Washington DC. I am officially signed up to run a 5K at the Susan G. Komen Race for a Cure. Watch out DC, the Amputee Mommy is on her way!

I chose this race for several reasons. I am a cancer survivor and know first hand the ravages of this disease. Not only have I endured the debilitating treatments, but I seen my friends and family members fight through their own battles. These horrific little cells have robbed me of some wonderful people in my life. I am running not only for myself, but for them as well.

The Komen Race afforded me the perfect opportunity to achieve my goal of completing a 5K run while raising funds for a cause that I hold dear. Surviving cancer combined with my amputation often leaves me perceived as weak. I want to prove to myself, my family and others that I am not merely "surviving" life. I am thriving, and I am strong.

A long time ago, when I was severely lacking motivation, Scott jokingly agreed to wear a hot dog costume to my first race. I plan on digging the costume out of the garage and holding him to his word. I know that the vision of him standing at the finish line, in downtown Washington DC, dressed like a giant hot dog will keep me motivated when I become tired.

If you are in the area on June 5, stop by and cheer me on (or pick me up as the case may be). I am going to do it because I believe in myself and the cause. If you wish to make a donation to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, I have included a link on the sidebar of this blog. You can also track my progress by clicking on this link. Now I'm off to start training...

Thursday, April 29, 2010


The other day I received a phone call from a social worker who works at our local hospital. She explained that she is currently working with a young lady who has sustained a traumatic amputation. I was then asked if I would be willing to contact the lady to offer support. Of course, I immediately agreed.

The social worker then continued to offer limited details on the patient's situation. The woman is 22 years old and has lost both legs above the knee and three fingers on her left hand due to an accident. My heart sank when I listened to the details of this young lady's situation. She is so young, and she has suffered a devastating loss. I knew immediately that there were no words I could offer to console her or to ease her pain.

I started thinking about my life when I was 22 and how I would have dealt with a traumatic double leg amputation. I do know that I would not have handled it gracefully! I am not sure how I would have reacted if some middle aged, below knee amputee came trotting into my room to assure me that everything would be okay. I'd like to think that I would have been polite, but I'm not absolutely convinced that would have been the case. In all probability, I envision myself throwing a water pitcher at the happy-go-lucky little cheer wagon.

I remember how difficult it was for me to reach out for support both before and after my amputation. I vowed that, after my amputation, I would offer myself as the kind of peer support friend that I felt I was lacking through my own journey. I never hesitate to call and talk with a future or a new amputee. I know how difficult it is to reach out for help. This was the first time I didn't call immediately.

I busied myself around the house in a typical procrastination attempt. I was nervous making the initial contact, unsure about what to say or how to proceed. After a few minutes I realized that my discomfort was nothing compared to the raw emotions and physical pain that this lady was experiencing. I was being selfish, and I needed to reach out.

I called the patient, Lucy. She was expecting my call and seemed relieved to hear from me. She began to cry as she attempted to explain her situation. I offered to come to visit her and to answer any questions that she or her family might have. She asked me to come the next afternoon.

I worked it out with Scott to meet me at the hospital after work so that we could switch cars and he could take Robby home. Obviously, this was not an appropriate situation for an active toddler. Robby heard me talking about the impending visit and told me that he wanted to help. We decided to make chocolate chip cookies for me to take to the visit, and he drew a card for her.

Armed with a basket of chocolate chip cookies, an artistic masterpiece and a packet of tissues, I took a deep breathe and walked into Lucy's room. I was met by a small army of family members who seemed to be more nervous than I. I introduced myself, gave them the cookies and gave Lucy a hug. Sometimes, that is all anyone can do.

I had a wonderful visit with Lucy and her family. I tried to offer as much support and information as I could, and I did my best to answer their questions. Although Lucy's life will be different, I stressed that it is by no means over. My life has been filled with wonderful adventures and opportunities since my limb loss.

My life is different than what I envisioned before I became an amputee, but it is neither better nor worse. Given time, I know that Lucy will emerge into a happy and capable amputee woman. Right now, she is feeling lost and is still in significant pain. I cannot imagine being in her situation.

Her family informed me that her boyfriend of over a year broke up with her after the accident. He explained that he couldn't look at her "deformities," he wished her luck, and has not been in contact since. I have never met him, but I do know that he is a putz. Although she doesn't know it now, she is better to be rid of useless baggage early in her recovery. Given time, she will realize that he is both a coward and a fool.

Being 22, she was concerned and terrified at the prospect of living a life alone. I tried to reassure her that she will find somebody who can see beyond the missing limbs. Somebody truly special and worth of her will love the wonderful woman behind the prosthetics. Yes, I do believe she will find love and I can't wait to dance at her wedding.

For now, I encouraged her to concentrate on her own recovery. She is going to need all of her energy to recover and to rebuild her life. When she is stronger, she can concentrate on somebody else. For now, she needs to focus upon herself and let others focus on her as well!

Lucy has a long and arduous journey ahead of her. After her injuries physically heal, she will need to battle the emotional demons that accompany amputation. She has a strong support system filled with people who love her. She can count me as another cheerleader, and I am always willing to lend an ear or offer support!

I'm also fairly creative when it comes to conjuring revenge scenarios. It's been a long time since I've dumped weed killer on a lawn or let air out of a car's tires. I'm sure I could gather a group of scorned women to brainstorm creative retaliation against "the Putz." Even if action is never taken, it is still fun to ponder the possibilities!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

RIP Orange Fishy

For Christmas, Robby's Candy Pap-Paw took him to the pet store so that he could pick out an aquarium and a fish. Robby could not have been more thrilled! He was so proud that he was deemed ready for pet ownership and promised to be a good "fishy daddy." Scott and I were in agreement that his fondness of the fish would wane in a week or two and that the responsibility for our new swimming family members would land on us.

We could not have been more wrong. It has been several months, and Robby can still be found talking to his little friends every day. He looks forward to feeding them and frantically pleads to have the aquarium cleaned when he sees fishy poop on the gravel.

Although the aquarium was initially occupied by only one fish, a blue beta aptly named "Blue Fishy," it has quickly become home to a total of six little swimming animals. We have a Orange Guppy, Red Fishy, Yellow Fishy, Froggy and Froggys. Robby is a good fish caretaker, but he is not terribly creative when it comes to providing names. I opted to name his cat immediately so that we didn't end up with a feline named Orange Cat!

Last night, when we were feeding his fish, I noticed that Orange Guppy was missing a large chunk of his tail. I am not sure if another fish nipped at it, if the cat swiped a bite, or if the fish had some sort of virus. Whatever the cause, Guppy seemed to be on his last fin, and I knew that he wasn't going to make it through the night. Robby was convinced that Orange Guppy was ready for nighttime because he was lying down and barely moving on the bottom of the gravel.

I had trouble sleeping. I worried all night about how to tell Robby that Orange Guppy had died. Should I simply buy a replacement fish and hope he doesn't notice the difference? Do I show Robby the dead fish so that he understands? Can a three year old understand death, and should he be exposed at such a young age? Should I simply tell him that the fish went to Alabama and let him pick out a new one? It sounds strange, but these questions kept my mind turning all night.

Robby was up early this morning, and for once I was thrilled with the early hour. Scott had not yet left for work so he was able to check on Orange Guppy before Robby. Yes, our suspicions were confirmed and I am saddened to report that Orange Guppy has died. He was a good little fish, who enjoyed swimming through the plastic coral reef and eating guppy food. He will be missed.

My mind immediately went into overdrive as I considered my options. My plans for a fish funeral were thwarted when I heard the toilet flush. Apparently Scott opted for no visitation and a private service.

I decided to address the missing Guppy when Robby noticed his absence. I worried that drawing attention to the loss would amplify his reaction, making his grief worse. When he asked what happened to Orange Guppy, I was simply going to explain that he died and went away. I will remind Robby that he is an excellent Fishy Daddy, and then tell him that we need to go buy a new one. I dug through my coupons to keep my coupon for Cold Stone Ice Cream handy in case he became inconsolable.

I was carrying up another load of laundry when I heard Robby talking in his bedroom. I took a deep breathe, knowing that a smidgen of Robby's innocence was about to be shattered. He was going to have his first death experience, and I was sad for him.

I expected to see Robby sitting next to his aquarium, but I found him in the corner of his bedroom holding onto Charlie. Charlie Cat looked uncomfortable, so I told Robby that he needed to let him go. Robby emphatically stated, "No Momom. Charlie Cat is in time out. Orange Guppy went abracadabra into Charlie's tummy."

Robby reasoned through the loss of his fish on his own and developed his own conclusion. He assumed that his cat ate his fish. After Charlie was duly punished, Robby asked me if we could go buy a new Guppy. No tears, no need for ice cream, no discussion of death. With all of the scenarios that I created in my mind in the middle of the night, I never once considered the easiest of all: letting the cat take the fall!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spring Cleaning

I was a Girl Scout when I was younger. Although I never fully embraced the "scouting lifestyle," I did thoroughly enjoy many of the opportunities that being a Girl Scout provided. In particular, I loved selling cookies (no surprise there), making crafts and socializing.

Thankfully, the members of my troop were relaxed. We were into socializing more than earning merit badges. I was in the Brownies and Girl Scouts for a total of eight years. I never earned a badge. I did leave Scouts with a lot of friends and quite a few hand painted ceramic figurines!

My favorite "Scouting" song is known to Girl Scouts worldwide. "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other's gold." In many ways, this song sums up my philosophy towards friendship. That is, it was an apt description until recently.

When I was younger, anybody who liked to play outside or bake with an Easy Bake Oven was considered a friend. In college, making friends was easy. With so many people of a similar age living in close proximity, opportunities to socialize were readily available.

I have discovered that "work" friends quickly fizzle as soon as I became a stay-at-home mom. When I had my amputation I was dismayed and heartbroken by the abandonment of my "friends." Scott and I were left to our own devices with limited contact and little support throughout the majority of the healing. It was a difficult time for both of us, and it is still a bitter pill to swallow.

As soon as I became mobile, these individuals resurfaced. They offered cheers of support when I learned to step. Part of me was resentful that they took part in my victories when they were noticeably absent for the grief and pain.

I am starting to realize that my definition of a friend may be too broad. I expect more of my friends now that I am an adult. Merely having a common interest is not enough to sustain a meaningful friendship. A willingness to support and listen, mutual respect and a sense of reciprocity are also required.

It has dawned on me that many of my "friends" are missing some of these traits. I find myself feeling hurt and let down more frequently than I would like to admit. I try to be generous with my time and resources when I have a friend in need. I have spent hours on the phone with a friend who is crying or trying to work through an issue. When I need a shoulder to cry on or when I need to vent, I am often left talking to my cat!

I have a friend who, although she means well, always leaves me feeling deflated after our visits. She doesn't like my hair color, or my clothes, or my make-up. She is the first to tell me when I am putting on a little weight or when she thinks my limp is prominent. After seeing her the other day and listening to her well-meaning critique of my hair, I had a revelation. A friend will tell you when they don't like your hair. A good friend recognize that you are feeling worthless and ugly, and will compliment your shirt.

I am going to concentrate on fostering relationships with my good friends. I do have a few strong friendships which I value. These individuals have seen me through hell and back. They have celebrated my victories and have held my hand during my deepest hours. They know who they are, and they know how much I love them. I am blessed that they are in my life!

One of the unanticipated benefits of my blog is the number of friendships I have been able to create with people whom I've never physically met. Through shared common experiences, a bond has been formed. It is easy to talk about grief over the loss of a limb, even though the amputation was months or years ago, with somebody who can relate through experience. We share common hardships and celebrate victories which can only be appreciated by a fellow amputee. I am lucky to have formed these relationships, and it is my hope that someday we can all get together to meet in person. Perhaps an Amputee Mommy picnic?

On the converse side, my cell phone contact list is brimming with emails and phone numbers of friends who don't return my messages. I send emails that, although I know are read, have not been returned. I don't hear from many of these individuals until they need a friend, and it seems that I am always available to lend a hand. I am done.

I am starting my spring cleaning, but this year I'm starting with my cell phone. I have deleted emails and phone numbers from "friends" who constantly leave me feeling bad about myself or hurt by their comments. My cell phone list will be smaller, but it will be reflective of who I can truly call when I need a friend!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Momom, What's Happened?

I have been having a difficult time adjusting to my new test socket and liner. My stump has been sore, red and swollen each night. When the pinch cuts developed, I knew it was time to abandon the new system in lieu of a combination that was both reliable and comfortable.

I gave up on the new liner and started to use my old hole-riddled, yet comfortable, seal-in liner. Elliot, my prosthetist, is out of town for the week. I emailed him to keep him apprised of my issues, and he agreed that the new liner will have to wait until his return. Hopefully, we'll be able to figure out the problem and we can try again.

Robby has heard me lamenting my limb pain for the past few days. I have been eager to take off my leg and liner in order to seek relief from the compression. My limb is cherry tomato red and angry looking when my prosthetic layers are stripped away.

Last night while sitting with him in bed, Robby was playing with his doctor's kit. He looked up at me and posed the question I have been dreading since he was conceived. He looked at me with his caring brown eyes and asked, "Momom, what happened to your leg?" My heart sank at the prospect of addressing the issue.

I have worried about how to explain my amputation to Robby in a way that didn't scare him, but also provided him with a truthful answer. I have carefully considered my answer for many years in anticipation of the question. I knew that when he asked, I wanted to be ready. He finally asked, and I pounced!

I explained that Mommy had an accident and the doctors fixed her leg by giving her a new one. Robby was not satisfied with that response and continued to pose the question. I tried rephrasing my answers, explaining that a computer fell and hurt Mommy's foot so she is now part robot.

Unsatisfied, Robby continued pressing me for information. For nearly 30 minutes I tried to satisfy his question with an explanation that he understood, accepted and didn't frighten him. All of my explanations were met with an anxious "no no no Momom. What happened to your leg?" Robby and I were both becoming frustrated with our conversation which was no going in circles. I was failing.

Apparently the time and mental energy I invested in formulating my answer to this anticipated question was wasted. Robby was not understanding, and he was becoming frustrated. My anxiety began to rise; my mind began racing through various responses to offer to my inquisitive toddler.

Finally, my Mom smiled and started to laugh. After watching the exchange transpire and remaining silent, she finally decided to intervene. She pointed to the doctor's kit that was on Robby's lap, and suggested that Robby was not asking about my amputation but was merely trying to "fix me" with his toy. Robby wanted me to be the patient and to tell him what was wrong.

After my "d'oh" moment, I told Dr. Robby that my knee hurt. He proceeded to stick a thermometer in my mouth, a blood pressure cuff on my hand and a stethoscope on my chest. After rubbing lotion on my knee, I was pronounced "all better" and given a kiss. Dr. Robby fixed my imaginary boo boo, and settled in to watch The WonderPets. Our misguided conversation left me feeling foolish.

Robby has never known me with anything but a prosthetic leg. For him, it is a normal part of his Mommy. I know that someday he will ask what happened to my leg, and I will give him the answers that he needs. Apparently he is not at that point yet.

The next time Robby asks me about my leg, I will be prepared for the conversation. I will also be more observant of the context in which the question is posed. I won't be so quick to assume that he wants to know the bigger picture, especially if there is a doctor's kit nearby!