About Me

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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, July 09, 2010

I'm Here

The anniversary of my amputation was last week. It is hard to believe that it has been seven years. In many ways I am amazed with how far I have come, yet I find it odd how raw my emotions become when I remember that time. I have found my mind wandering to the time immediately following my amputation.

I have had several friends who have recently amputated a limb due to injury or disease. The emotions before the amputation, although expressed differently, are universal. I have written a lot about the struggles before my surgery. I realize now that I have been remiss in exploring the issues I encountered after my amputation.

It is easy for me to tell my friends, who are struggling with bandages or new prosthetics, that it is going to be okay. I have made the adjustment and, although I am still learning everyday, I have transitioned into a happy amputee woman. This was not an easy journey.

From a physical perspective, the hard part is over. The surgical pain will heal and, barring any complications, the limb will be ready for a prosthetic in a relatively short time. I anticipated my first prosthetic like a young child readies for Christmas. I was certain that my life would become "normal" as soon as I could walk. In retrospect, it is easy to see how my expectations could not possibly have been met.

After I received my leg and the celebration of my "walking day" subsided, I was smacked in the face with an uncomfortable reality. I was an amputee. Yes, I knew that I was going to have my leg amputated, and that I would need a prosthetic. For some reason, the gravity of living without my limb wasn't realized until after I had my leg.

I guess I just never realized how different everything was going to become. Each step was awkward and labored. Yes, I was happy to be mobile, but I never anticipated it being so hard.

Every aspect of my daily life seemed to be more difficult. From getting off the toilet to standing in line at the grocery store, simply living became a conscious effort. Nothing seemed natural, and I was cognizant of every movement. I faked a lot of smiles during this period of my life.

I remember actually thinking through whether or not I was going to get off the couch to get a drink of water. Was I really that thirsty, or could I wait until I had another reason to get up so that I didn't have to do it twice. I became discouraged and began to view myself as lazy. I was mentally and physically drained by the simplest of activities.

I was comparing myself to an unrealistic standard. I was looking at other amputees, seeing how much they were doing with their lives, and becoming frustrated that everything just seemed to hard for me. I assumed that I was a failure, and that I was doomed to live an uncomfortable and mediocre life. What I didn't realize at the time was that it takes years of experience before walking on a prosthetic becomes natural.

I wish that somebody had told me that it could take years to adjust to an amputation. I thought that once I was done with the surgical pain and fitted with my leg, I would be fine. I failed to realize that the events were merely milestones on a long journey.

With time and practice, walking on my prosthetic has become second nature. My improvement was not a drastic event which could be pinpointed. Rather, I made incremental improvements every day and, over time, I started to become more confident and comfortable.

I remember feeling alone and ashamed, thinking that I was a failure. I wish that I had known that surviving the surgery and receiving my first prosthetic was not the end of my journey but the beginning. I think I could have saved myself a lot of heartbreak had I known that each step was not going to feel like a celebration.

I tell my friends that they are going to be okay, but assurances sometimes have little value. Perhaps knowing that what they are feeling is natural, and letting them know that they are not alone in their prosthetic struggles can help ease the transitions. I have been through the battle and have emerged as a stronger and better person. Sometimes giving the pain a voice helps, and I'm always willing to listen.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Dreaming of Yellow

Eleven months of the year, I would not never be described as a sports fanatic. I can appreciate the competition and the skills of the athletes. I can cheer and root on my team with as much passion and gusto as others in the stadium. I don't lament losses nor do I celebrate victories beyond the moment. I don't understand how a single game on Sunday can ruin an entire week.

For three weeks a year, this all changes. The television remote is mine. My friends and family know not to call me in the morning, and Scott begrudgingly changes all diapers and takes care of entertaining Robby. I am, by all intents and purposes, busy. Each July I become afflicted with Tour de France fever!

I am a passionate fan. I love the intricacies of the sport and the background stories of the cyclists. I become animated as I pull for my favorite riders to finish well. Yes, I have been know to let expletives, and the occasional Gatorade bottle, fly when an "enemy" cyclist gains time or wins a stage.

My sweet niece, under my supervision during the Tour when she was only two, returned home and proudly told her Mommy and Daddy that "Jean Ullrich is a fu*%ing pr*ck." I didn't enjoy the phone call that her comment prompted, but I have to admit that I was pleased that she was rooting for the same riders as I, but I am no longer asked to babysit during the month of July.

I have not always been a cycling fan. Recovering from my amputation seven years ago I found myself at the mercy of Scott's remote control. He quickly became bored with daytime television talk shows. There are a limited number of times you can watch outrageous people try to figure out the paternity of their children on the Maury Show before you begin seeking alternative entertainment. Scott loves sports and quickly discovered the Tour de France coverage on cable.

I hated the Tour during the first few days. I was bored watching cyclists with foreign and exotic names pedaling around the countryside in a pack. I didn't understand the strategies that come into play, nor did I comprehend the Herculean effort put forth by these men on a daily basis. As my pain medication consumption decreased and my understanding of the sport increased (albeit against my will) I stopped loathing the daily three hours of cycling.

As the Tour moved into the first set of mountains, the television commentators began to focus on Lance Armstrong. I was vaguely familiar with the man and his story. I knew that he was a cyclist and had battled cancer. I knew that he had one testicle. I knew that he went back to riding the bike and that he was from Texas. I never cared about cycling, so I never bothered to read about his plight.

That summer, as I was lying on the couch recovering from my amputation, I began to respect Armstrong. I learned that he was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had also invaded his brain, his abdomen and his lungs. Most people know that he is a proud cancer survivor. I don't think that most people appreciate that he was given a measly 30% chance of living beyond two years.

In an odd way, Armstrong became a symbol for me. I began to reflect on his accomplishments when I was feeling depressed or battling pain. When it was difficult for me to wear my IPOP, or my first leg, I thought about him and the adversity he overcame. He should, according to many expert opinions, be dead. Instead, he was climbing up the Alps and the Pyrenees Mountains on a bicycle. And, to make the story epic, he was winning!

If Lance could survive losing a testicle, brain surgery and chemotherapy, I could certainly learn to walk on my new prosthetic. If he could return to professional cycling stronger than his peers, I had no excuses. I heard him quoted as saying, "Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever." This has become my mantra that I repeat to myself when I feel defeated.

My interest in cycling sparked because of Armstrong, but now my passion for the event transcends him. I was saddened when he retired (the first time) but my interest in the Tour did not waiver. I learned to cheer on other riders, and root against a new batch of "young villains." I do have to admit that I cried when Lance came out of retirement to ride again.

For three weeks every July, I can be found on my bicycling trainer, pedaling along with The Tour. I set my course to mimic that of the Tour for the day, and I ride along. As silly as it sounds, I pedal harder when my favorite riders are in peril. I become consumed by the race, as if my riding at home somehow helps these men out half a world away.

Scott, accustomed to humoring me, even assumes the role of the team car when I'm in the mountain stages. I ring my bell and he will bring me drinks and bananas. He doesn't complain when I toss the peels over my shoulder like the cyclists on TV, but he has requested that from now on I try to aim away from his head. He rarely complains when I am on the bike for the entire three hour coverage. He is a good sport when it comes to dealing with this Tour fanatic!

I'm dreaming of yellow this year. I know that the pundits think that Lance is too old and that he doesn't have the same magic. I still believe and I will be pedaling the entire Tour to help him stamp out a record eight victories in The Tour de France. Go Lance Go!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Hurt by Pride

Typically I will let those around me know when my leg hurts and that I need to take a break or exclude myself from an activity. I have recently discovered that there are times when I will endure a lot of pain merely to make a point. It seems odd, considering that I am the one who suffers by trudging along with a sore limb. Nevertheless, I am guilty of disguising my limitations.

I feel comfortable discussing "bad leg days" with my friends and family because I know that they do not judge me. I am not perceived as "disabled" in their eyes. I am merely Peggy, who now has only one leg.

As much as I wish it weren't true, there are those in my life who continue to judge me based upon the fact that I have an amputation. Whether it is spoken or implied, I am viewed as handicapped and less able than those around me. There is little that fires me up more than somebody setting insultingly low expectations for me.

I find that when I am surrounded by those people, I switch gears and try to become Wonder Woman. I will push myself physically to prove that I am just as good as everybody else. I will play with Robby longer and harder than anybody else in an effort to somehow validate my mothering abilities. I will endure a lot of pain in an attempt to maintain my ruse that my amputation has had no effect upon me.

Yesterday, in an attempt to "impress" others, I pushed myself beyond my limits. My leg was hurting, yet I refused to stop. Each step was painful and I was miserable, but I continued to convey a happy demeanor. I was smiling and laughing while inside I was wincing.

I made a huge mistake because of my pride. Today my stump is bruised because of a pinch that developed inside my socket. If I had stopped to made the adjustment when I first felt the discomfort I would be fine. Instead I find myself nursing a sore and purple stump because of my arrogance. I am frustrated with the pain, and I am disappointed that I failed to take care of myself.

It seems ludicrous to try to explain this mentality. After all, those who view me as disabled and unworthy are not going to change their mindset because of my actions. My attempts at trying to disguise socket issues and residual limb pain are probably in vain. After all, when my stump hurts or my prosthetic doesn't fit correctly, there is no way I can maintain a normal gait.

Those who are judging me see only the limping. It is viewed as mere confirmation of my weaknesses. Yet, for some reason, I still cannot get past my pride and just admit that I am in pain and that I need to rest. Today I am paying for that decision.

Intellectually, I know that recognizing my physical limitations is actually a sign of strength. When my socket is pinching, I need to rest and readjust my leg so that a sore doesn't develop. Continuing my activity and ignoring the warning signs is just plain stupid. Yet I did it.

I am beginning to see a pattern in my behavior. I am hopeful that I will become confident enough someday to stop trying to prove my own strength and resilience to naysayers. I suppose it is human nature for me to want to prove people wrong when they have negative perceptions about me. I now realize that they are not going to change their ideas, regardless of the feats I accomplish or the pain I endure. I might as well stop hurting myself trying to convince them that I am doing well!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Pure Americana

After a week away, we are finally home. I know that Robby loved spending time with his Grandma and his aunts and uncles, but a week is a long time for a little guy to be away from home. He missed his fish, his frogs, his pumpkin plant and most importantly, he missed his kitty.

I would be remiss if I didn't give Robby due credit for his traveling behavior. To say that he was good in the car would be an understatement. He only asked one time if we were home yet. For an eight hour drive, his patience was remarkable. I could not be prouder of my little traveler!

We arrived home Saturday evening. Sunday was devoted to my two favorite sporting events: The Tour de France and the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. Lance proved his strength on the prologue and during the first few stages and he is now securely at the top of the peloton. Joey Chestnut kept the coveted "Mustard Belt" in the United States, eating 54 dogs in 1o minutes. Not near the record performance of 2009 when he downed 68, but still a valiant effort!

Sunday night we decided to pack up Robby and go see some fireworks. We have never taken him to see the fireworks before, partly because of the late hour and partly because of the noise and traffic. This year, because he spent the week before entertaining Grandma late into the night, we did not doubt that he would be wide-eyed and ready for some excitement at dusk. It is going to take a few days for me to shift his bedtime to a more suitable hour!

After researching local fireworks displays in our area, we settled on a display in Middleburg, VA. Middleburg is only 20 minutes from our house, but we have never actually visited this quaint little area. Charming!

Walking into the community park we felt as if we were transformed into the 1950's. Families were picnicking with the Dad's at the grill and the Moms wearing sundresses and high heels busying themselves by setting the tables. Music was playing and children were running and playing everywhere. Boy Scouts, proudly wearing their uniforms, were selling glow wands. Scott and I both remarked that we felt as if we had walked into a Norman Rockwell painting.

Although we are not residents of this town, we blended into the festivities. Robby took part in the children's annual "Tug of War" event. He held his own and only let go of the rope when I told him the game was over. We did the Electric Slide and the YMCA dances with everybody else. Even Scott got his groove on (at least a little bit).

Middleburg is an affluent area. We passed the town's Polo field when we were looking for the park. I didn't know that we had Polo teams in this area! We did our best to blend in with the residents and, for the most part, I think we were successful.

Only on one occasion did I worry that we would be pinned for outsiders. Robby was running around the playground with all of the other kids when he apparently realized that he needed to use the bathroom. Unfortunately he did not relay the need to me. He walked over to a fence at the edge of the playground, pulled his pants down to his ankles (exposing his full bottom) and began to pee on a little bush.

The mortified look on the faces of the other parents immediately let me know that this sort of thing was not done in their town. I simply pulled up Robby's pants and told him that he needs to pee in the potty and not on bushes. I kicked mulch on top of the wet spot to try to conceal the evidence. I gathered up Robby and we left the duly marked playground. After all, this is not the first time I have been shunned from public places!

In the eyes of my little four year old, the firework display was nothing short of magical. He was in awe by the colors and the "glitter" in the sky. He didn't take his eyes off the spectacle for the entire show and gleefully recounted the experience on the drive home.

Scott and I agree that, with the exception of peeing on the bushes, we had the perfect Fourth of July evening. I didn't know that town celebrations like the one we stumbled upon actually existed. I doubt we'll ever be able to afford to live in Middleburg, but at least we live close enough to crash their town parties from time to time.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend.

I'll write more about our adventures shortly.... but I wanted to put up a post to wish everybody a Happy Fourth of July!