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, December 30, 2011

My Year In Review

So much has transpired during the past year. Looking back, I never envisioned the way that my professional life is unfolding. I am entering 2012 excited and energized about the challenges and possibilities that lie ahead.

I began the year by writing a blog for my prosthetist. I am now managing his website, his blog, and his various social media outlets. I am also writing his rebuttals for insurance appeals and denials. I never thought that writing technical papers could be so satisfying. However, knowing that my words will help an amputee secure the device that they desperately need is amazing. I am honored to be part of the process.

During the past twelve months I have continued to work as a Spokesperson for Ossur. I traveled to Florida (twice), Las Vegas, San Antonio, Philadelphia, and South Carolina. Robby and Scott were able to travel with me on a few of these trips, allowing us to create family memories that will last a lifetime. To my surprise, a photo featuring both me and Robby was chosen for the 2012 Prosthetic catalog. My Ossur year ended with the unveiling of the new corporate video (I'm featured at minute two).

In November I was was presented with an unexpected and unique opportunity to help amputees on a nationwide scale. I am now working for the Amputee Coalition of America managing their Facebook page. When I assumed responsibility for the page it was relatively stagnant. Within two weeks the page traffic has increased an astounding 490%! Amputees of all experience levels and backgrounds are now posting questions and are actively helping each other on this page. I couldn't be more delighted to be a part of this important outreach!

In reality, my greatest accomplishment of 2011 was not professional. In September Robby (and I) successfully transitioned to his attending Kindergarten. I survived and, although there were tears shed, I did not have to be physically pulled away from his classroom on the first day of school!

With Robby being in school a few hours a day I had anticipated an increase in "me" time. Those hopes evaporated with each new professional venture. Some days there simply aren't enough hours to get everything done. I often find myself up late at night and early in the morning, thankful for the quiet to work. It's a good thing that I love what I'm doing!

So much has changed during the past year. It is hard to believe that I have been presented with these amazing opportunities. I can't wait to see what unfolds in 2012.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sing A Long Fun!

During the past few months, Robby and I have been making a bee line to the Karaoke machine demonstrated at Costco whenever we have been in the store. Feeling no inhibition, we would serenade our fellow shoppers with rousing renditions of everything from the ABC song and Jingle Bells. We could typically get through three songs before Scott would put an end to our floor show.

To our delight, Scott surprised both Robby and me with the Karaoke machine for Christmas. I was completely unaware that he was planning on buying the gadget. I love singing although I am acutely aware that I have no talent, and I'll never forget being directed to "sing silently" in my mandatory 5th grade chorus. Unfortunately enthusiasm does not trump talent.

Just like me, Robby loves to belt out a tune at the top of his lungs. Unfortunately, he has inherited my singing abilities. Amplified through the two microphones on the karaoke machine, our duets are compelling--just not in a good way.

Both cats have learned the soft clicking sound that signals the karaoke machine has been turned on. The seemingly benign click is enough for them to immediately take off running, seeking refuge from the noise in the basement under a pile of blankets. It seems that Robby and I manage to hit tones that are painful for animals!

While I love having the karaoke machine in the house, I have noticed one drawback (other than the pain it inflicts on our cats). Now whenever Robby wants or needs something, he simply grabs a microphone. "Attention, Momom. This is Robby. I need more milk." Apparently my Christmas present is also an effective intercom system. I am not sure who is going to be more annoyed by the karaoke machine--our pets or me! This conundrum to be solved in the near future.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Legal Hell

Hate is a strong word. I was raised to use it sparingly because of the power of emotion it implies. I can say, without a doubt, that I hate both the workman's compensation system as well as my insurance adjustor. My medical care and my family's future is being held hostage by their quagmire of paper and penny-pinching protocols. My interests, and especially my health, are secondary to the primary focus of delaying treatment at all costs in order to avoid payment.

For the past few weeks I have been living the workman's compensation roller coaster. My favorite ride attendant Elsie (my adjustor) is at the helm, seemingly in charge of each stomach-jumping turn and heart-racing loop. I feel like screaming, "Stop the ride... I want to get off!"

Yesterday I received a letter from the workman's compensation commission informing me that a hearing date will be "forthcoming." According to the dictionary, forthcoming is an adjective meaning "about to happen in the near future." In the legal realm, I've discovered it means "anytime between now and whenever the hell we feel like it." While the powers that be search their calendars for a convenient date to decide my care, I wait. I have no choice!

It will be weeks before I have a hearing date which will be set for months in the future. In the meantime, I will be playing the amputee version of infection roulette: walking around with a compromised, torn and hole riddled liner hoping that my skin that isn't protected doesn't get nicked or cut. I will continue to be in pain, and I won't be able to schedule a date for surgery. My life will continue to be put on hold. The insurance company will delay paying their bills which is apparently the ultimate goal. They are, in essence, winning.

I am frustrated to the point of tears. In an almost laughable attempt for understanding, I phoned my attorney. I don't know why I expected that I would speak with him; he still has not returned my previous four calls! Perhaps leaving message with a quivering voice and the audible snorts as I tried to hold back the tears will elicit sympathy and a return call. I'm not holding my breath!

Many times I make light of living with limb loss because I've always been an optimistic person. Being negative is only going to make me feel worse and isn't going to change my amputee status. The truth is, being an amputee isn't easy. Everyday I wake up not knowing if my prosthetic will feel comfortable. I have to plan my activities in advance so that I can have the proper leg with me. Every evening I have to inspect my limb for infection. There are days when my big toe hurts so badly I feel like I want to chop it, and then I get angry because it isn't there!

In spite of all of these obstacles, I remain more handicapped by the workman's compensation system and its minions of fools. I have mastered walking with a prosthetic. I don't think I'll ever learn to navigate the contrived, nonsensical, regulatory waters that are supposed to "protect" me.

Perhaps those who make their living spreading the red tape in the workman's compensation system should be held to their own regulatory standards when they receive their medical care. Maybe then everybody involved would realize that they are dealing with lives, not just file number and dollar signs. I feel emotionally depleted. In a few days I know that I'll regroup and rise to fight the battle. Until then, I may just hide from the world.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Crossing Annoyance

I have been dealing with a particular minor frustration for many years. I typically brush it out of my mind, try to adapt and not give it much thought. I realize that many will think that this complaint is petty and, for the most part, I tend to agree. However, for some reason recently it has been irking me!

Since the time I began sitting in chairs, I have crossed my legs because I don't feel comfortable with both feet flat on the ground. After I become an amputee, my need to cross my legs when sitting increased. I have found that with both feet flat on the ground, I don't have as much control within my socket causing uncomfortable pressure spots within my prosthetic. With my legs crossed, I can shift the weight distribution alleviating any discomfort with relative ease.

Most of the time crossing my legs is not a big issue, and I don't give it a second thought. Sometimes though, I must perform feats of flexibility in order to become comfortable. Sitting on a plane is always cumbersome as I often knock the tray table down or accidentally kick my fellow passengers. I try to be discrete, but I almost always garner attention.

My frustrations came to a head a few weeks ago while I was at a lunch meeting. I found it nearly impossible to get comfortable in my chair! Although I tried my best to maintain a quasi-professional air, I'm sure that I must have appeared squirmy as I struggled to get my legs crossed.

Because of the size of the table and the darn pole in the center, I wasn't able to find a comfortable position. I tried to concentrate on our conversation, but my legs kept moving to diminish pressures within my socket. I ended up kicking the table. Any hope of remaining discrete evaporated with the water spilling over everything!

I've been told that yoga might help with my leg crossing obstacle, so perhaps I'll sign up for a class in the New Year. Even if I don't become adept crossing my legs, it is sure to be good fodder for a few blogs!

Monday, December 26, 2011

My Break

I think I am suffering from a carbohydrate hang-over. Between the cinnamon rolls (homemade) in the morning, the seemingly endless buffet at my Mom's for dinner and the gorging on Christmas cookies at night, I feel like I might explode. It's a good thing that the New Year is right around the corner. I'll worry about the repercussions of my festive gluttony with my resolution. In the meantime, I am in full celebratory mode!

Robby proclaimed that he had the "bestest Christmas of my whole life, except it was a little sad because there was no snow." I have to admit that snow would have been nice, especially since he received a super cool new ski sled. I guess that's one toy he'll have to wait to take for a test drive.

I have to admit, Santa did a great job picking toys for him this year. Robby was excited and eager to play with everything he unwrapped. My living room resembles a toy store after a raid, but the smiles on Robby's face are worth the mess.

Unfortunately being on my leg all day took its toll. I'm sore, walking with a pronounced limb and utterly exhausted. It is hard for me to do, but I'm giving myself a gift this year. I'm allowing myself the luxury of a vacation. Cleaning up the aftermath of Christmas can wait, and we can munch on leftovers and pizza for a few days. I'm going to sit in my rocker and watch my little guy play with his new treasures for awhile. I deserve the break.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas FUN!

Merry Christmas!

For the first time in his young life, Robby was speechless this morning. He stopped in his tracks and simply stared at the presents piled under the Christmas tree. Finally, after about 45 seconds, he looked at me and whispered, "Momom, I guess I was too good this year. Look at all these presents. And how in the world did Santa get that (pointing to his new ski sled) down the chimney. Holy crap-- let's start unwrapping!"

Weeks of meticulous planning and over two hours of wrapping were undone in 15 minutes. He had paper strewn in every corner of our living room. Pausing only for the occasional picture, he had unwrapped his loot in record time!

Among his new treasures include a ski sled, a Mario racing car and the coveted archery set. Robby couldn't wait to shoot his first arrow. He took aim, held his breath and let his arrow fly. It shot Scott squarely in the bum.

I'm sitting in my comfy rocking chair, watching Robby and Scott play with the Army men that Santa left under the tree. Instead of carols and a crackling fire I am hearing a barrage of "boom boom boom" and "pow pow pow." I did have to chuckle when Robby screamed, "I'm going to kill you real good on Christmas!" Apparently playing with army men is a game that only men understand, because I simply don't fathom the appeal!

Have a wonderful Christmas. I'll post more on Monday. I need to go save the cat from a young archer in training!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Fun

Yesterday was exactly what I needed to reignite my Christmas spirit! Robby's classmates were ecstatic about their party. All of the kids were decked out in their best Christmas attire, from glittery dresses to reindeer and Santa shirts.

I, of course, would have taken the prize for most festively dressed had one been available. I wore my Santa Claus shirt, Jingle bell skirt and blinking reindeer antlers. Looking in the mirror I felt somehow under dressed for the festive occasion. I quickly wrapped battery operated multi-colored LED lights around my socket for that "extra special" touch. I turned more than a few heads when I had to run into the grocery store to pick up a few last minute party supplies!

Robby was delighted with my spirited attire. I am so glad that he isn't yet at the stage where he is embarrassed by me. I know that one of these days he will ask me to tone it down. I'll comply, but I'll be sad.

For now, Robby thinks of me as fun loving and (dare I say) cool. I'm glad that he hasn't yet banned me from his classroom because I love watching Robby play with his classmates. He has integrated into the school routine so naturally. All of my sleepless nights worrying about his adjusting were for naught. He is flourishing!

It turns out he is also quite the girl magnet. He spends much of his time in the company of three little girls who vie to sit by him during activities and lunch. Each girl refers to Robby as her "boyfriend." He simply calls them "friend" because, although he won't admit it, I'm fairly confident that he hasn't learned their names. (He is really bad about learning the names of his classmates!)

I was taken aback when one particularly forward little girl asked Robby to play on the playground with her. Robby politely declined, opting to play basketball with his little friend Nick. Undeterred, this little gal coyly smiled and promised "to do her super model walk" if Robby played with her. Both he and Nick quickly immediately abandoned their basketballs and obediently followed.

Robby's school party was a rousing success. The kids had a great time and left with a backpack full of glittery crafts and a tummy full of treats. All of his classmates insisted on hugging me when we left, each thanking me for the fun party. Robby was absolutely beaming!

The party has reinvigorated my Christmas spirit. Robby and I spent the afternoon baking cookies and making marshmallows. We sang Christmas songs and reenacted Rudolph in the kitchen.

Although my leg still hurts, I haven't slept in days because of phantom pain, and I am still waiting for both my biopsy results and a call back from my attorney, yesterday none of that mattered. I simply had a great day with my little guy!

I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas. Rest assured, I will post pictures and videos on Christmas morning, after Robby unwraps Santa's loot. Gauging from his excitement, I predict he'll be up obscenely early on Christmas morning!
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Bah Humbug Biopsy Mood

Yesterday I took a "Bah Humbug" day to a new level. I woke up and was immediately frustrated by the pine needles scattering my floor. I find it impossible to keep the cat from climbing 10 feet in the air to perch on our trees branches. I stepped outside and became annoyed because the temperature was warm and it was raining; it felt as if the weather was conspiring to keep me from feeling festive!

After dropping Robby off at school I went to the hospital for my scheduled biopsy. I'm sure that the procedure was the true impetus behind my foul, grinch-like demeanor. I am worried about the results and, to be honest, I resent the fact that I had to endure more needles and pain.

I look at many of my friends and I have to admit that I am jealous. They have all their limbs. They don't have to contend with socket issues that cause pain and interfere with sleep. They aren't facing a re-amputation in the next few months. They don't have to wait by the phone for biopsy results. I have to deal with all of these issues. Sometimes, it takes all my strength not to scream, "This isn't fair!" at the top of my lungs. Yesterday was one of those days.

To add insult to an already bad day, I am still waiting to hear from my attorney. I've left four messages for him and have yet to receive a return call. So much of my life right now is tied up with this man who doesn't care about me beyond my name and file number.

I can't make any decisions until I hear back from him. I've been living in limbo for the past few months, jumping each time I hear the phone or check my mail. I have a family and responsibilities, and I need a timeline so that I can begin to plan and prepare. I don't think my request is unrealistic!

I would rage at my attorney, but I'm simply too exhausted to muster that much emotion. I haven't slept more than a few hours a night in over a week. My leg has been hurting and the phantom pain has been borderline unbearable at night. I've been running on a steady stream of Gingerbread coffee and Advil.

Typically, I try to avoid "why me" sentiments. I firmly believe that everybody has something that is "wrong" with them. Mine just happens to be more visible. Wallowing is never productive, but on occasion it can be cathartic. I have learned to allow myself to visit those dark emotions. It's unnatural to be optimistic and happy all the time. Yesterday I granted myself permission to throw a good, old-fashioned, woe-is-me pity party.

My wallowing ended this morning. Today is Robby's Kindergarten Holiday party! He and his classmates have been looking forward and planning this event for weeks. I'm ready to throw down my room mom gauntlet again, decked out in my Christmas sweater, jingle bell necklace and reindeer antler headband. Nothing like the festivities of Kindergarteners combined with a friendly room mom rivalry to lift my spirits!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New Leg Woes

It amazes me how quickly Robby bounces back from an infection. He was pitiful on Monday. Today, he is back to school. Some TLC, Christmas cartoons, and antibiotics have worked their collective healing magic!

With a mounting holiday "to do" list, Robby's return to school couldn't have come soon enough. I haven't been able to get much done because of his insistence that I stay with him. Apparently he doesn't like to be alone when he is sick.

In reality, I didn't mind the respite. I received a new socket last week, and I have been having a difficult time adjusting. It is snugger than I prefer and, although I know I will eventually adjust, I have been wretched wearing it!

My liner has to be thoroughly saturated in hand sanitizer in order for me to slip into the socket. If it is not thoroughly lubricated, my stump doesn't slide completely down into my leg, leaving me unbalanced and compromising the suspension. In addition to the inconvenience of requiring lubricant, I am downright uncomfortable in my new leg.

My limb feels as if it is being squeezed from all sides within the socket. I am constantly sitting down so that I can press the valve to release the pressure. I feel an instant sensation of relief as the suction breaks and the compression is broken. And then I have to stand and walk, and the cycle repeats.

I hate being constantly reminded that I'm an amputee. With the exception of the moments where I break the seal, I am miserable. I now find myself planning my activities around my socket, identifying locations where I can break to release the valve before proceeding with any plans.

A squished limb during the day always equals an angry stump at night. My leg has been doing the jitterbug nearly non-stop. It feels as if it is being stung by swarms of annoyed bees. Massage, which typically helps, has been virtually useless in thwarting the stinging.

I've been through this before, and I know within a few days my limb will adjust and I'll be back to normal. I can't wait until I can walk through my house casually, without rushing to sit down and release the pressure. Hopefully my leg will adjust sooner rather than later because, if it doesn't get better soon, I might just give up and start wearing my running leg full time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sick Little Elf

All of my plans for yesterday evaporated when I first looked at Robby in the morning. He was sweaty, pale, and coughing. A fever of 103 confirmed my suspicions: he was sick.

So, instead of going to Walter Reed to visit wounded heroes, I packed him up and went to the pediatrician. It wasn't nearly as rewarding a trip as our cheer-spreading mission, but perhaps just as beneficial. He was diagnosed with both strep throat and an ear infection (again).

Prescription in hand, I drove directly from the pediatrician to the pharmacy. The pharmacist, probably out of habit, asked how he was doing. It would have been better had she remained quiet. Robby tends towards grumpy when he is sick. My typically sweet little boy scowled and responded, "Do I look like I am okay? Can't you see that I'm sick? I wouldn't need cherry medicine if I wasn't sick!"

Sitting quietly and waiting for the prescription to be filled, I tried to talk with Robby about his response. I let him know that he was not being nice, and that the pharmacist was just trying to be polite. He broke down and began to sob. Apparently he is emotional as well as grumpy when he is sick.

By the time we arrived home Robby was exhausted. I carried him into the house (all 55 pounds of him) and laid him down on the couch. He remained there for most of the day, stirring to request a new cartoon, a drink, or to inquire about when his daddy would be home. When he is sick, he only wants his Daddy! He didn't want me to cuddle with him, but he complained whenever I left the living room. I put down my "to do" list and resigned myself to an afternoon of Scooby-Doo cartoons in the living room.

I am hoping that my little guy starts to feel better today. I hate seeing him sick, and I need his help. After all, we have a lot to do. Santa comes in just a few days!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Valid Excuse...

To his delight, Robby will not be going to school today. Although we try to avoid his being absent, I think that we have a valid excuse: he has been invited to a party at the Walter Reed rehab facility!

There was no doubt that we were going to accept when the invitation was offered. Yes, school is important; however, this is a life opportunity that cannot be learned in a classroom. His teachers were understanding about the absence, and his classmates have drawn pictures and cards for Robby to distribute.

During the past few days Scott and I have been prepping Robby for this experience. We've tried to convey that although they are hurt and look different, he shouldn't be afraid because they are still people who deserve respect and kindness. Still, I worry that he is going to see physical scars and wounds that may be frightening in the eyes of a five year old. Can a child ever be prepared to witness such physical and emotional pain?

We told Robby that he was invited because he is a happy boy who is good at cheering people up. I think he is up for the task! He has been practicing his holiday songs and his Nutcracker inspired cowboy dance all weekend. Seeing a little boy in cowboy boots enthusiastically perform a pliƩ immediately followed by a modified two-step shuffle is sure to crack more than a few smiles.

Per Robby's request, we spent much of the weekend baking cookies for him to give out to his "new hospital friends." He genuinely seems excited for the visit, and I think he is prepared. Or, at least he is as prepared as possible. Wish us luck!

Friday, December 16, 2011

How to Help?

I doubt many know that my first dealing with health issues occurred during adolescence. When I was 14 I became ill with what we thought to be the flu. We realized that the diagnosis was incorrect when I didn't quickly recover. I remained sick for the next three years.

My attendance at school was sporadic at best. I was commonly absence for months at a time as the doctors tried to find a diagnosis. Finally, after years of mental and physical pain, we discovered the culprit: I had contracted Lyme disease. Unfortunately the disease went undiagnosed which allowed it to spread neurologically. Two bouts of IV antibiotics, and several months later, I finally regained my strength to return to school full time my senior year.

The teen years are a difficult time to be struggling with illness. I was isolated from my peers and essentially "forgotten" by my circle of friends. I learned a lot through this experience, perhaps most valuable was the importance of reaching out to others when they are struggling. Being sick is miserable, but being sick and forgotten is a pain that cannot be described.

Perhaps understanding the importance of supportive friends cannot be appreciated unless you have felt the isolation that often accompanies an illness or life changing event. I suspect that avoidance of uncomfortable situations is human nature because it seems to be the instinct of so many. When somebody is diagnosed with cancer, becomes ill, or loses a limb, friends and family often fade into the background because they don't know what to say or how to react to the situation.

I am often contacted by friends and family members of a new amputee. They want to know how to help, but they also want to know what they shouldn't do. They don't want to say or do the wrong thing to make the situation worse. Staying away and avoiding their loved one is, by far, worse than saying or doing something "wrong."

Fear of offending the friend should never keep somebody from reaching out. A new amputee knows that they no longer have their limb. It isn't a topic that should be avoided out of a fear of causing pain. I have yet to meet a new amputee who doesn't have the need to talk about the loss! Sometimes having those "this really sucks" feelings validated by a caring friend helps speed the healing process.

Whatever the obstacle being faced by a friend, it is never wrong to reach out and offer support. Please don't assume that others are offering a caring ear and words of encouragement. I know from experience that there can never be too much love and support during difficult times!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Elf

It is nearly impossible to grasp that we have only nine days until Christmas. Didn't we just go Trick-or-Treating a few days ago? Time has flown by during the past two months!

Our house isn't as decorated as I had envisioned back in September, but I am pleased with both my efforts and the results. We have an enormous tree covered in an odd assortment of lights and glittery decorations hanging from the ceiling and chandeliers. My favorite holiday trinkets are strategically placed through the house. I didn't do as much decorating as I have in years past, but considering everything that is going on right now, I am content.

We are overflowing with Christmas excitement in spite of the mediocre embellishments. Right now our house is on Santa patrol. Robby has me check his status on the "Naughty or Nice" list several times a day. (Thanks Mary for telling me about www.claus.com.) Robby can't wait until Santa finally comes!

I know that his years of fully believing in Santa Claus are limited. In another year or two Robby will either figure out the identity of Santa or doubts will be created by his peers. I have no doubt that I'll be as devastated as he when he stops believing!

In the meantime, I've vowed to make the most of his believing in Santa, and I plan to make this Christmas as magical as possible! Every few days we hear the sound of jingle bells. Typically, Robby and I are in the living room while his Daddy is (conveniently) in another room. As soon as we hear those bells, we take off running to Robby's bedroom. As much as we try to run fast, the elf always gets away before we can see him!

The elf has been leaving a note and a small gift. Yesterday he left Rob a Nutcracker ornament on his pillow. I wonder how Santa knew that Robby is taken with nutcrackers this Christmas? As Robby says, Santa seems to know everything!

I love seeing the excitement radiate from Robby when he discovers his little surprises. The gifts, although modest in size and price, have been making an impact that is priceless. Seeing his excitement is the best Christmas present of all!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Spilled Milk

I shudder to admit that I was counting down the minutes on Tuesday before I took Robby to school. I wasn't feeling well and have been struggling with flu-like symptoms since Monday night. He was bouncing off the walls, begging to decorate more cookies and paint ornaments. I tried using logic, explaining that I didn't feel well and that I didn't want his good clothes to get dirty before school. Neither explanation was accepted as he pouted and informed me that he "heard a present falling off of Santa's sleigh and it had Momom written on it!"

After I dropped him off, I set the timer on my cell phone and went straight to bed. I slept for the next two hours. I can't say that I woke up feeling refreshed, but I was certainly feeling more functional. I had some gingerbread tea, swallowed some more Tylenol, and then took off to pick up my little guy from school.

When I arrived in Robby's classroom all of his little friends were furiously writing letters to Santa Claus. Robby was sitting by himself at the lunch table quietly eating. He kept his head down and barely smiled when I approached him. My heart sank as I instantly knew that something was wrong.

In spite of my insistence that he tell me what was wrong, he refused to talk to me on the way home. Instead, he told me that he wanted to have a talk- man to man- with Mr. Bill first. I stopped pestering for answers and we quietly drove to Mr. Bill's house.

Robby sat on the Lazy Boy recliner next to his confidant and began to sob. He proceeded to tell Mr. Bill that he had spilled his milk at lunch time. He made a mess all over his rice and the floor. He had made his teacher upset.

Mr. Bill listened to the story and then offered Robby some cheese. He explained that accidents happen and that nobody was mad at him. "Well Mr. Bill, Miss Dominique (his teacher) said that I can't have any more milk. I guess I'm going to have to be a water man from here on out because I'm cut off milky."

I have to admit that I was impressed with Mr. Bill's ability to refrain from laughing at this innocent, yet dramatic, comment. Instead he patiently explained that he would be allowed to drink milk and that his teacher meant that he couldn't have another cup of milk during lunch. Robby's mood instantly elevated when he learned that he wasn't going to be banned from milk for life!

Robby was much happier after debriefing with Mr. Bill. We came home and he enjoyed a tall mug of ice cold milk with his Santa cookies. I curled up on the sofa and he watched Tom and Jerry cartoons until Scott came home from work. I wish that he would have talked to me directly about his school worries, but I'm so thankful that he has a kind confidant whom he trusts. If only my flu bug could be cured as quickly!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Infection Fears

If you ask an amputee about their biggest physical fear, most likely they will state losing the sound limb or having to amputate the next highest joint on their prosthetic side. Infection, falls, and trauma are variables that can strike an amputee without warning, sidelining activities and necessitating medical intervention. During the past week I have heard from four amputee friends who have been hospitalized because of infections.

All amputees who rely upon a prosthetic are susceptible to sores and infection on the residual limb. Sensation has been compromised making it difficult to feel small sores or pinch cuts. This is only exacerbated for the diabetic amputee!

Before I go to bed, I conduct my nightly limb check. I have a small mirror by the bed that I use to examine every inch of my stump. Doing this allows me to identify any potential sores, ingrown hairs or small cuts that may be a catalyst for infection. Some nights I wish I could just slip into bed without another thought, but I realize that the health of my limb necessitates the preventative checks.

In addition to thoroughly examining my leg, liner care is imperative to maintaining a healthy limb. My liner is against my skin for upwards of 18 hours a day. This dark, moist environment can be a breeding ground for bacteria and infection. I wash my liner every night, using my regular face soap. Once a week I will rinse it with a vinegar water solution. Considering the amount of dirt and sweat that accumulates on the liner, it is surprisingly easy to clean!

I often encounter one of my biggest amputee annoyances in the middle of the night. I hate getting up to use the bathroom or to chase away monsters and being forced to stop to put on my liner and leg. When I'm tired and want to return to bed quickly, I resent the few extra moments that it takes me to get up and walk.

I admit that, on rare occasions, I have slept with my liner. Typically this happened when Robby was sick, and I knew that I would have to put the vomit bowl under his little mouth at a moment's notice. Except for these rare circumstances, I never wear my prosthetic or liner when I sleep. The skin on my limb needs a chance to "breathe" after being confined and covered all day. Although I hate putting on my leg in the middle of the night, I won't compromise my residual limb health by sleeping in my liner.

Everyday I am reminded of the possibility of infection when I examine my stump for sores and cuts. Some nights I am so tired I would prefer to simply take my leg off and fall into bed. Instead I force myself to go through my routine. The health of my limb and my ability to walk are both worth this extra time!

Monday, December 12, 2011


Cutting down a Christmas tree has been a tradition in my family since I was young. I have fond memories of us piling into the car and driving to the Christmas tree farm. We used to sing songs on the hayride and took turns with the saw until the tree was felled. I love passing these happy childhood traditions onto Robby.

On Saturday Robby, Scott, and I met up with my sister and her three children in Pennsylvania to cut down our Christmas tree. We were delighted that my dad, who now lives in Texas, was in town on business and was able to join us. The grandkids were bouncing off the walls with energy and excitement as they vied for their Candy Papaw's attention.

As it turns out, Robby and his cousins were more interested in running around the farm and entertaining their grandfather than they were in choosing a tree. Scott and I were promptly abandoned on our quest of finding the ideal Christmas tree. The two of us scoured the fields in search of evergreen perfection.

Between the hilly terrain, the divots and tree stumps, and the mud, walking around the farm was not an easy task for me. To make it more laborious, I was forced to use my exercise leg because a new socket is being constructed for my Proprio leg. I relied upon Scott for most of the tree scouting since I was forced to concentrate on walking in order to avoid falling. As it turns out, Scott has excellent taste in Christmas trees!

He spotted a tree on the opposite side of the farm and was insistent that we check it out. To be honest I would have been satisfied simply to cut something closer to our location, but I decided to humor him on his quest. Despite slipping in the mud, it was worth the effort. He had managed to find the perfect tree.

The tree was bigger than its counterparts. It looked majestic, not massive. We estimated that it stood 7 feet tall. Apparently size can be skewed in a field. It wasn't until we labored to carry the heavy coniferous prize into our home that we realized the sheer size of this tree.

Our tree is nearly 11 feet tall, and is about 7 feet in girth. Standing tall in our living room, the ambiance of the space has been morphed from "open and airy" to "cozy and congested." It didn't look this big when we cut it down!

After the tree was secured in the stand, Robby and I started to hang the lights. Our four strands, which used to be ample for our previous trees, were woefully inadequate. We headed out to buy more lights and additional (shatterproof) ornaments. Unfortunately the stores were nearly sold out of lights so our choices were limited. It's a good thing I'm not a stickler for having things match!

The top third of our tree is adorn with traditional twinkling multi-colored lights. The center is covered with obnoxiously bright LED multi-colored lights. The bottom of our tree is wrapped with LED neon pink and purple lights, reminiscent of an Easter egg. Saying it looks odd is being kind.

The lights don't match and none of the branches above 4 feet have ornaments because Robby decorated it himself. I have branches brushing against my back and neck when I sit at the dining room table and we can't use the sliding glass doors because it is so big. Despite all of this, I smile every time I see the tree. Somehow, this massive and eclectically decorated Christmas tree is the perfect fit in our house.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Vroom Vroom

I am happy to report that I survived my go-cart experience unscathed. Not only did I not meet a fiery demise, but I also stepped out of my little car without any broken bones! Considering the scenarios that I was conjuring during my drive to the track, I was delighted.

Go-carting is not as easy as one might believe. It's not simply a matter of sitting in a car and driving fast. For starters, I had to figure out how to get into the car.

The car was small and extremely low to the ground. My fellow racers seemed to have no problem hopping behind the wheel. I, however, was anything but graceful as I clumsily maneuvered around the assorted bar, pedals and fuel tank to assume my seat. Surveying the car from the driver's seat, I immediately realized that I was going to have a disadvantage.

The brake and gas pedals were on opposite sides of the car. I typically drive with only my right foot. In this fast little car, I was going to have to use my prosthetic to brake. Experimenting before the race, I discovered that I couldn't push my prosthetic against the brake if my leg was positioned "correctly" on the pedal. Apparently the designers assumed that the drivers would have active ankle control. I was going to have to improvise.

I managed to position my foot against the bar adjacent to the brake pedal. If I pushed hard, the brake engaged. Now all I had to do was just make sure that my leg didn't slip off the narrow bar when I was driving! I opted to maintain mild pressure through my socket so that I wouldn't lose contact with my brake bar. It turns out that by doing this, I was keeping the brake engaged throughout the race. Perhaps this was the reason I kept getting lapped.

I had a good time go-carting, but I don't think I'll be chomping at the bit to do it again. I don't like feeling out of control and unsafe. My competitive nature did come out though and I was thrilled that I didn't finish last. I finished next to last, only 5 laps behind the leader. Imagine how fast I might have gone had I not had the brake engaged the entire race!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Go-Cart Racing

Today I am doing something that I have never imagined I would be doing. To be honest I've never had a great desire to engage in this activity, and the prospect has me nervous. I'm going to race go-carts.

I can assure you that racing go-carts was not my brainchild. I was invited to attend a Christmas party which is being held at an indoor track, and apparently my agreeing to race was implied when I sent the RSVP.

Scott is admittedly jealous that I'm going to be behind the wheel as he loves all things race related. If it has wheels and goes fast, he'll watch it on TV. A few years ago I surprised him with a racing experience. He was able to get behind the wheel of a little Indy car and zoom around the track for a few hours. He says that it was one of the most exhilarating days of his life, speeding around corners and passing other participants.

During a break, Scott's instructor took my Mom and me around in a souped-up Volvo. He whizzed us around the track, taking corners at what felt like break neck speed. My Mom walked out of the car smiling. I slumped out crying, dizzy, and nauseous. While I like adventures, I am most definitely not a thrill seeker!

Since I've never been to a go-cart track, I decided to alleviate my anxiety by doing some research. I figured if I knew more about what to expect, I would feel better. After all, I don't like feeling unprepared. I started by searching YouTube for go-cart videos. Most of the videos end with a multi-cart pile up and a lot of smoke. I decided to abandon my research and adopt the "hope and a prayer" approach.

I really don't want to wreck my go-cart, but I also don't want to putz around the track at an embarrassingly slow and cautious pace. I am hoping to achieve a fun, yet safe, middle ground. Although I want to be cool- if push comes to shove, I will hit the brake before the wall! Wish me luck when the flag drops...

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Waiting Game

Well, it's now Wednesday, and I have no more answers than I did on Friday. I have spent the last two days playing the most aggravating form of phone tag---where I am the only one making the calls! Not only is it next to impossible to speak with an actual person, it is even more of a monumental feat to receive a return call.

I have spent the past two days staying close to home, dutifully carrying the phone so that I wouldn't miss a call. I have taken my phone with me everywhere, including the garage and the bathroom so I would not miss my two important calls: t he first from my physician and the second from my attorney. My heart jumps every time the phone rings and then sinks when I look on the caller ID. In spite of leaving several messages, neither "professional" has called me back.

Finally, after no fewer than seven attempts, I was able to speak with an actual human at my doctor's office. My test is scheduled for Friday morning. Fantastic (sarcasm intended)-- I get to wait through another weekend for answers! I am still waiting to hear back from my attorney. At this point I expect he will return my call sometime between now and when hell freezes over.

The past week has been difficult. I've tried to concentrate on all things festive and jolly. Inside I've been wanting to take refuge and hide from the world. I was hoping that I would have more information by now. I do have a date for the test, which I suppose is progress towards getting resolution. In the meantime, I guess I will continue to decorate, play with Robby, and bake cookies.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Coats and Comforters

I hate it when I can't find things in my house! This past weekend Robby's winter coat was AWOL. I asked him where it was to which he simply replied, "Well, I had it before, but now I don't know where it is." Needless to say he was not terribly helpful.

I cleaned out the car, the laundry room, and scoured every closet searching for the garment. Through my search I located 5 gloves, two scarves, Scott's missing summer sandals, a half a dozen screw drivers, and unfortunately one old and soiled baby diaper. Despite hours of focused and mildly obsessive searching, I never found the coat.

Trying to put the missing coat behind me, I changed my focus to concentrate on Christmas decorating. I decided to start in our bedroom by putting on our Christmas flannel sheets and matching Snowman comforter. It didn't take me long to located the sheets-- they were on the top of the pile that fell on my head when I opened the linen closet door. My angst began to rise when I couldn't find the comforter.

I proceeded to spend the next hour revisiting all of the same closets that were searched earlier for the coat. Frustrated and bordering on fuming, I sat on the sofa downstairs to develop a new search plan. Where could I have put the comforter? Surely I was the one who had put it away because I remember washing it. I tipped my head back to rub my temple out of frustration.

Voila! I spotted my Christmas comforter. Only now it didn't look nearly as clean.
Apparently it had been stuffed up one of the many holes in our ceiling to keep the cat from exploring the rafters.

I also managed to solve the case of the missing coat. It turns out that a donation box was placed in the main hallway of Robby's school. All of the students were invited to bring in coats and hats that they don't want anymore so that another child can stay warm. Robby deposited his coat in the box on his way back from recess on Friday. The fact that his coat still fit seemed to be inconsequential to him.

As my luck would have it, the coat donation box is picked up every Friday afternoon. Robby's winter coat will now be keeping another child snug and warm. I guess I'm going shopping for a new coat--and comforter!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Trying to be Jolly

This past weekend I threw myself full-force into Christmas preparation. Robby and I worked on various crafts, resulting in us both being covered from head to toe in colored glitter. We watched holiday movies and roasted homemade marshmallows over the fire. I even took him for a visit Santa! His excitement for Christmas has been worked into a flurry.

Despite my efforts, I find myself feigning holiday enthusiasm this year. Typically I love Christmas time. A few years ago I even invested in a countdown clock. Every September I bring it out we eagerly watch it count backwards from 99 until the big day! (Incidentally, this year I must have miscounted because my clock says that I only have 18 days until Christmas.) This year just feels different.

I suppose that my impending leg surgery and my fears about the growth on my ovary have thwarted any Christmas spirit that was developing. I am just not feeling festive! I keep trying to ignite my jolly disposition, but it isn't working.

I don't feel depressed. Rather, I think I am simply overwhelmed. I don't like uncertainty, and there seems to be only unknown variables right now. When will my leg operation be scheduled? How will we take care of Robby while I'm recovering? What is growing on my ovary? Will I require surgery for the growth as well? Am I going to be facing cancer again? How am I going to take care of everything when I'm recovering? I don't like not knowing these answers!

Many of these answers should be revealed this week. I know that I can deal with just about anything and that I have a strong support system. I would simply like to know what I am up against! Maybe when I have some answers I will start feeling more festive. Until then, I will continue to bake cookies while wearing my Elf apron, decorate the house with anything glittery and don my Rudolph antler headband whenever I go out. All of these things make Robby happy and seeing him excited makes me feel better.

Friday, December 02, 2011

I'm Realistic, but Still Scared

I wasn't sure I was going to write about this topic, but since I have been so open about my life on every other issue it somehow felt dishonest to keep this information secret. I don't want to be an alarmist, but I also recognize that I am stressed and that my writing often helps. I don't have a lot of information so I am not jumping to conclusions or worst case scenarios.

Since I am a cancer survivor, I am vigilant about staying up to date with my physicals and necessary screening protocols. I am always wrought with anxiety before my appointments. The days leading up to my annual physicals are tense, sleepless, and tear-filled. During this period I am so afraid of receiving another cancer diagnosis that I go onto auto-pilot simply to function. I doubt that anybody who has not heard those words, "Your biopsy was positive. You have cancer" can truly understand the paralyzing fear that is evoked.

Earlier this week I went for my annual gynecological examination. Typical to my fashion, I was apprehensive. Unfortunately, this times my fears were apparently not completely unfounded and I was sent for more tests.

Yesterday, while Robby was at school I went to the hospital for an internal ultrasound. I was told not to expect any results until after the weekend. I decided that worrying was not going to help, so I did my best to push the entire issue out of my mind and simply concentrate on enjoying Robby.

My heart almost stopped when my caller ID came up with my physician's phone number later that afternoon. I quickly surmised that she was not calling to see how the test went, but that she had my results.

It turns out that I have a 4.5 to 5 cm growth on my ovary. I will be going for additional tests next week. All logic points to some sort of cyst. After all, ovarian cysts are common for women my age. I have so many friends who have had similar experiences. Unfortunately, my fears keep leading back to cancer. I am hoping that logic prevails!

This weekend I plan on throwing myself into Christmas revelry in hopes of both keeping busy and staying upbeat. After "Tool School" on Saturday, Robby and I will have cookies and hot cocoa with Santa and Mrs. Claus. In the evening we are going to cut out and bake our gingerbread train and assorted village houses.

Sunday morning we are going to a Christmas parade, and the afternoon will be spent assembling and decorating our gingerbread train and village while watching holiday cartoons. Hopefully it will be chilly so we can have a roaring fire!

I am nervous about the upcoming tests, but worrying is not going to change the results. My best course of action right now is to avoid thinking about the situation. Thankfully I have a wonderful little boy whose enthusiasm about all things Christmas is contagious. In spite of the situation, I don't think it will be difficult for me to feel happy this weekend!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Cover Girl!

Like so many other people, I have struggled with self-esteem issues periodically throughout my life. High school was a particularly difficult time for me as I was the recipient of taunts, nasty comments, and teasing by the run of the mill group of popular "mean girls." Graduation from high school was a joyous event for me--not because of the achievement but because I wasn't going to have to see any of those people again!

My self-value began to heal through college. I had, and still maintain, a tight group of friends whom I cherish. I was a confident and happy person before my foot was injured. The accident and subsequent amputation not only took my foot but also destroyed my fragile self-esteem. In many ways I felt like the scared, inadequate feeling girl from high school.

There were days when I didn't want to get out of bed (and more than I would like to acknowledge when I succumbed and hid under the covers all day). When I realized that I couldn't hide from my reality, I opted to eat my way out of the despair. That didn't work either. I simply ended up being an unhappy, obese amputee.

It has taken time, introspection, and hard work for my self-esteem to rebuild. After eight years I can finally say that I am happier than I ever imagined possible during those dark days when I was a girl in high school and hiding under my covers with a Snickers bar after my amputation.

Even though I feel as if I have healed from my emotional baggage, part of me continues to resent those "mean girls." I have been told that living a good life and being happy is the best revenge. While I agree with that sentiment, I have found something more satisfying. Old-fashioned, take a look at me now success!
I'm a cover girl! A photo of Robby and me has been chosen to grace the cover of the Ossur Product Catalog for 2012. I was the girl who was called fat, ugly, worthless, stupid, and unlovable. I tried to hide from the world because I thought that I had lost my beauty, my talents, and my ability to be happy when I lost my foot. It feels surreal that I am now featured on the cover of a major prosthetic company's catalog. Who knows, I just might go to my high school reunion next year-- with the catalog in hand of course!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Test Walk

There are hundreds of prosthetic components on the market, and each device touts a unique feature to distinguish it from the competition. The available choices can be both empowering and frustrating as you try to whittle down all the options to decide the correct prosthetic for your situation. The pressure of choosing the right prosthetic can be downright overwhelming!

New amputees often ask me if they have a role in the prosthetic decision process. My answer is a resounding yes. A prosthetist is there to build the device and to guide the amputee through the decision process. Although his or her expertise is needed and should be weighed, the ultimate choice lies with the amputee. After all, we are the ones who will be wearing the prosthetic and relying upon it everyday.

I never appreciated the value in trying various prosthetics until a few years ago. I had a foot, and I was walking. I attributed my achy back, reluctance to walk distances, and mental fatigue simply to being an amputee. I didn't know that I was settling and that my walking experience could be better. Thankfully Elliot (my prosthetist) recognized my struggles when I did not and encouraged me to try different feet.

That trial experience in Elliot's office changed everything. I switched prosthetics to the Proprio foot, and I now walk without constantly analyzing and thinking about every step. (If you've been reading my blog for any length of time you already know how this device has positively affected my life.) That being said, I will continue to try new devices as they hit the market because I don't want to become complacent.

The best way to make a decision on what type of foot you want is by trying it. After all, most don't buy shoes or jeans without first trying them on. Why would I make a decision about something as important as what foot I want without giving it a test walk? You won't truly get an understanding for how the foot or knee feels and how it responds without trying it.

I have never had a prosthetic manufacturer tell me that I cannot try the product. Although it takes more time and is more work for Elliot, he has never denied me the opportunity to try a foot that has piqued my interest. He is a patient man because I have tried a lot of different feet!

Prosthetics are expensive investments. If you ask to try something and are told no, push for an explanation. If you still want to give a device a test walk and your practitioner won't accommodate your request, consider going to another prosthetist. You deserve the right to choose your own prosthetic. After all, you are going to be the one using it on a daily basis.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Christmas List

What do I want for Christmas? While my wish list includes having the holes in my ceiling fixed, the roof patched and finally having an oven that doesn't have to be pulled from the wall and unplugged to change the temperature, I realize that all of these far exceed the financial means of anybody in my family. Therefore, after much thought, I have finally decided what I would adore receiving.

I want a solid, undisturbed, comfortable full night's sleep! I am not exaggerating by saying that I haven't slept more than 15 full nights in my bed since July. Between Scott's incessant snoring and Robby's recurring night wandering (which always seems to land him in our bed), I have been forced to sleep on a pull out couch or an abandoned race car bed nearly every night.

Being forced out of bed when you are an amputee is not a simple event. If it were simply a matter of moving to a different location, I doubt I would complain. However, by the time I locate my liner in the dark (sometimes knocking over a rogue glass of water in the process) and slip it on, I am more awake than I would like. I habitually fail to unplug my leg from the wall charger before embarking on my midnight move which typically results in either the cat getting whacked in the head with a charger or my becoming tangled and nearly falling. By the time I get to another bed, I am fully awake--and frustrated!

I try to push my frustrations out of my mind, but the fatigue only exacerbates the emotion. I often lie in a quasi-comfortable bed and stew over the fact that it isn't simple for me to get up and walk. Somewhere between "this really stinks" and "I really hate being an amputee," I eventually drift back to sleep. By this time at least an hour has passed.

To be honest, I'm not sure I could sleep for six solid hours anymore. I'm sure I would instinctively wake up and try to don my prosthetic. That being said, I sure would like to try! If I don't receive a solid night's sleep for Christmas, I suppose I would like more coffee.


Monday, November 28, 2011


All of the Thanksgiving fun seems to have caught up with both Robby and me. I have been dealing with phantom pain which, by my own admission, makes me grumpy. Thankfully, I don't have persistent phantom limb pain like many of my amputee friends because I'm sure nobody would want to be around me!

My pain seems to flare up during weather changes, socket adjustments, or increased activity. I was on my feet a lot more over the holiday, the weather has been unpredictable, and my prosthetic was adjusted on Tuesday. I suppose I unknowingly created my trifecta for phantom pain!

I notice the electric-like stabbing during the day, but it is most pronounced at night. My leg has been doing the jitterbug, keeping me awake and miserable. Massage helps, but unfortunately nothing seems to take it away completely. I know in a day or two my limb will return to normal and I'll be able to sleep. Until then, I'll be relying heavily upon my Gingerbread coffee to keep me going.

As if my fatigue weren't stressful enough, Robby Rotten has taken this opportunity to make an appearance. He has been downright ornery. If I tell him that it is a sunny day he immediately begins to scream that it is snowing, simply to be defiant. I am getting tired of arguing with my five year old!

Over the past two days he has systematically been stripped of every prized toy. Last night he sneered at me while he was standing in the time out corner and then proceeded to proclaim that it was a "cozy little spot to stand." Feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, I countered his taunt with my secret weapon- tears. Robby Rotten evaporated as I began to cry.

I'm sure that the SuperNanny would scold me for my guilting Robby into good behavior. Thankfully she doesn't know where I live because I don't need her yelling at me too! I never thought I would write these words. However, Robby Rotten and the phantom pain have beaten me down over the weekend. I am utterly delighted that Robby will be going back to school today!

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Gobble Gobble

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I venture to say that it may have been one of our best ever. There was no stress and only happiness, laughter, and a lot of food!

Scott and I woke up early and headed to KMart. We weren't shopping for anything in particular, and we were going because it has been our tradition since we started dating. Not having a "mission" allowed us to simply have a good time meandering around the aisles casually looking for bargains. Although we didn't buy much, I found myself a festive (and extremely comfortable) pair of Santa lounge pants that I plan on wearing while decorating and baking cookies.

The house was filled with my cousins and their children throughout the afternoon and evening. It was so much fun watching all of the younger cousins run and play. Although they don't see each other often, they seem to resume their friendships without missing a beat. It was hard for the adults to maintain conversations over the squeals and giggles emanating throughout the house!
Typical to tradition, my Mom prepared a delicious feast. She always cooks too much food which then is conveniently divided among my cousins to take home. Come to her house for dinner, take home enough food to eat for a week. Nobody ever complains!

We perused the Black Friday ads and have our schedule set for tomorrow. We aren't going after any high ticket items, so I'm not terribly concerned that we will get into a brawl in the middle of the aisle. Of course, you never can tell...If necessary I'm not above walking slowly with an exaggerated limp in order to provide Scott with more times to dash through the store to grab an item. Wish us luck!

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

The days of my throwing some clothes into a bag and heading away for the holiday are over. Now when we travel, even for a few days, I end up loading the back of our SUV with suitcases and bags overflowing with clothes and toys. Traveling for Thanksgiving used to be so much easier!

Yesterday, after packing up both the car and Robby, we headed up to my mom's for the holiday. I was impressed that I was only 40 minutes past my self-imposed deadline. Considering that I was constantly unpacking what my little "helper" included in the suitcases, I was pleased with my quasi-punctuality. Scott drove separately, leaving after work.

The 2 hour drive took nearly 3.5 hours as we crawled along the congested roads with our fellow travelers. Thankfully Robby is a good little traveler. He happily passed the time singing Christmas songs and playing on his DS. I, on the other hand, was not nearly as content. I simply wanted to get to my Mom's, relax, and start the Thanksgiving preparations.

Robby immediately began to help his Nana when we arrived. I hadn't unpacked the car before he was standing on his stool in the corner of her kitchen, cracking eggs and mixing stuffing. It was fun watching him assume the jobs that had been mine when I was a child.

Today we will have a house full of family and friends. Our table will be overflowing with goodies (including cake of course) and I'm sure we will all eat too much. Robby will be able to run around with his pint sized cousins while the adults peruse the ads for tomorrow, share stories, and laugh.

By the time you read tomorrow's blog I will be tucked in bed, warm and hopefully asleep. We plan on finishing our Black Friday shopping and returning to bed before most people have their first cup of coffee. I'm off to develop our sale attack plan. Wish us luck and Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful for...

Yesterday I spent the morning in Robby's kindergarten class helping with their Thanksgiving re-enactment feast. The boys wore feathered headbands while the girls sported adorable Pilgrim hats. We made "stone soup" (from the classic book about sharing) and pumpkin pies. After lunch the class retreated to the carpet, where they performed what the five year olds promised was a traditional Thanksgiving dance: The Hokey Pokey. (Okay, we weren't exactly authentic with our re-enactment, but we certainly had fun.)

Watching Robby sitting with his little classmates, I paused to absorb how much has changed during the past year. He is growing into such an amazing young man. I am so grateful and blessed to be his mom. While I still miss him while he is at school, I'm willing to admit that he is growing and thriving and that the "K" word isn't as bad as I feared.

I am thankful that I am able to be fully engaged in his life. As much as I complain about my insurance adjustor and the hoops that I must navigate to receive care, when the red tape is completed, I am fortune enough to have a prosthetic. So many amputees do not have access to adequate prosthetic care, not only in other parts of the world but in our own country.

So many policies have a lifetime cap on prosthetic care set at an obscenely low amount. I have a friend whose policy maxes out after $10,000. In most cases, $10,000 will only buy three toes and a poorly constructed socket!

Assuming that the lifetime cap is not an issue, many amputees face mounting bills because of requisite co-pays. Some policies require a 20% co-pay on all prosthetic care. Considering that an above knee prostheses with a mechanical knee costs approximately $20,000, the amputee must come up with $4000.00 in order to receive their leg. High co-pays keeps life changing bionic devices simply too cost-prohibitive for so many amputees.

Scrounging up the co-pay amount is a financially impossible feat for an individual who has lost their job due to medical issues or an accident that necessitated the limb loss. Without the prosthetic, they are confined to a wheelchair with limited employment options. A cycle has been established that is difficult to break.

This Thanksgiving I consider myself to be inordinately blessed. I have excellent prosthetic care which allows me to live my life to the fullest. My heart breaks for amputees across this country who cannot walk to the dinner table tomorrow simply because they can't afford a prosthetic. The discrepancy concerning access to adequate prosthetic care in this country is tragic. I consider myself incredibly lucky to be on the propitious side of that continuum. I realize that because of my access to prosthetics, I am able to be the mom that Robby deserves.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's Okay To Leave

When I became an amputee, I felt like I had lost control in many ways. When I was ready to be fit with a prosthetic, I felt as if I were desperately treading water in an unfamiliar world. I didn't understand the jargon, the process, or my options. I was happy when I was handed a leg and blindly trusted that it was the correct device for me. After all, I accepted that my prosthetist was the expert, and I assumed that he knew best.

As I have delved more into the world of prosthetic care, I have learned that my experience is not unique. Many amputees become overwhelmed and confused by prosthetics. Unfortunately, not everybody is fortunate enough to have a phenomenal practitioner. I have discovered that there are a lot of prosthetists who are not providing the highest quality of care.

So many amputees settle for poor prosthetic care simply because they don't realize that they could be doing better. Complaints about ill-fitting sockets, uncomfortable components and difficulty with mastery of the device fill my email inbox on a weekly basis. It frustrates me that so many are suffering because of a poorly fitted prostheses.

My advice is simple: if you are experiencing pain, you need to speak up. When you don't understand why you are being fitted with one component over another, ask for an explanation. If your prosthetist isn't listening, you need to go to somebody who will not only value your opinion, but also realizes that your thoughts are paramount!

As patients, we always have a choice. It is not only your right but also your responsibility to ask questions, to learn about the product, and to make informed decisions. By simply accepting a prosthetic because the "expert" said it is best, may compromise your quality of care.

I have received more bad haircuts during my lifetime than I care to count. That being said, I never go back to a stylist whose work has forced me to wear a hat for six weeks. Using that premise, why would I continue to go to a prosthetist who manufactures uncomfortable, and many times unusable, devices? It is okay to change prosthetists, even if he or she is "really nice," in a quest for better care! You deserve it!


Monday, November 21, 2011

My Brag Blog!

During my teaching career, I estimate that I have sat through hundreds of parent-teacher conferences. This past Friday I attended my first conference for Robby. I have to admit that everything looks different from the other side of the desk!

I was surprised at my level of nervousness before the conference with his teachers. I'm involved in his class and speak to his teachers daily, yet the idea of a "formal" meeting put me on edge. What if they told me that my son was unruly, disruptive and not academically swift? What if he is a bully? What if we have been failing at parents and are, indeed, raising a little hellion? I tried to muster my courage, put on make-up and a smile, and prepared to face whatever report was dealt by his beloved teacher.

Academically, Robby is scoring high. He is working on a second grade curriculum for Science and Social Studies/ Geography. His math and reading levels are nearly as high, with him testing at the end of the first grade. I was not surprised that penmanship is an area designated for improvement.

Robby utterly despises pencil work. He loves to paint, but he hates coloring. He refuses to draw anything more than happy faces, but he'll spend hours painting models and decorating treasures with glitter. Trying to get him to write his name or his letters is akin to water boarding in his eyes. On more than one occasion we have both been on the verge of tears when he is required to write words for homework. Although we will continue to work on his penmanship skills, I suspect that a career as a Calligrapher is no longer in the running!

I was thrilled to hear about Robby's academic success. I've always thought he is a smart little boy, but it is nice to have those suspicions validated. The next bit of news that his teachers relayed made me want to jump up and down and do the worm dance in the middle of the classroom. (No doubt that display might have trumped the memory of my scaling a fence to spy on Robby during his first day of school for the school personnel!)

It turns out that Robby is referred to as the "classroom crusader." When he sees a student who is upset, sad, or he perceives as being wronged, Robby immediately steps in to intervene. He has no qualms about offering a supportive hug or stepping in to protect a friend from being picked on. His teachers went on to explain that Robby demonstrates an innate sensitivity towards other students and frequently reaches out to include those who have been excluded from an activity.

While I'm proud of Robby's academic success, I am utterly ecstatic with the compassion that he demonstrates on a regular basis. He has no hesitation to step into a situation to help a friend who is hurting. He isn't shy about offering hugs (which no doubt is one of the reasons he has been so sick this year) and shares what he has in order to help a friend. I hope that he always has this much courage to stand up for his convictions, and he will remain astute enough to see when his friends are hurting.

Although I walked out of the meeting when we were finished, in all reality I might as well have been floating from pride for my little scholar. I barely made it to the security of my car before my tears started to flow. Robby is thriving in Kindergarten, and I could not be more delighted.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Stay At Home Day

I declared Thursday to be a "Mommy and Robby Stay at Home Day." While keeping him home from school was not my preference, I was left with no other option. My car was at the repair shop, and our neighbors weren't able to drive him to and from school.

Initially I was frustrated with the situation, but I quickly realized that being upset was only going to ruin the day and was not going to make the car get fixed any faster. I decided to enjoy having my little guy home with me all day!

Robby and I snuggled on the couch in the morning while eating Golden Grahams and watching Ghostbusters (yes, again). After the movie, he slipped his boots over his yellow Spongebob pajamas and put on his coat to go outside to play. I was dressed only slightly more appropriately, wearing sweatpants and Scott's flannel shirt. We played in the woods, chased leaves, and spent nearly two hours "fishing" from the tree house turned Pirate ship.

During the afternoon we lit a fire, watched Christmas movies, and worked on a variety of turkey inspired crafts. His fingers were practically tie-dyed by the time we were done, but our windows are now festively decked out with a gobble of hand shaped turkeys. Working on holiday crafts by the fire while watching all three Santa Claus movies, I found myself feeling happy that my car had was in the repair shop.

I continue to be amazed at how quickly Robby is growing up. Although I didn't want my car to break down and we certainly didn't need the repair bill, I am glad that I was able to escape those worries. Robby and I had a wonderful day together. Sometimes it's a blessing to have an excuse to just stay home and play!

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Should Have Stayed In Bed

Yesterday was not my best day. The weather was dreary and gray which probably contributed to my sour disposition. Despite having a full schedule, I wasn't particularly motivated to do anything, would have preferred to stay in bed, pull the covers over my head, and hide from the world.

Unfortunately. hiding from the world is not an option when you have a small child. Robby was energetic and ready to tackle the world. I had no choice but to put on clothes, a smile on my face, and try to act happy. I wish I had stayed in bed!

My day began by knocking Robby's cat Charlie out, at least temporarily incapacitating him. I felt horrible that his cat was hurt, and despite being blamed by a scared little boy, I maintain that I was not the cause of the feline head injury. Charlie was aimlessly running through the house yesterday morning. Unfortunately I happen to be walking down the hall at the precise moment that he reached the top of the stairs. He ran directly into my carbon fiber socket at full kitty gallop. He bounced off my leg and seemed to have trouble standing for a few minutes after the impact. Just as I was getting ready to take him to the vet, he returned to his normal kitty self, albeit moving a little more cautiously.

The ominous "check engine" light began to glow on my dashboard as I drove home from dropping Robby at Kindergarten. I despise that light! It didn't take me long to realize that the car was leaking gasoline when parked. I have a hunch that this is not going to be a quick or an inexpensive fix!

Preparing my Google search words, hoping that I would information that would alleviate my financial fears, I was frustrated when my laptop wouldn't turn on. It turns out that the battery was dead. This typically would not have been a stress causing event. Unfortunately, the charger broke the previously night. I now have a very expensive paperweight until the new charger arrives because, as luck would have it, I happen to have one of the few models that do not accommodate a universal device.

Between the kitty, the car and the computer, I was frazzled and irritable by the end of the night. (Just a hint for my male readers- it is not beneficial to remind your spouse that she is irritable. Chances are she knows her own mood and pointing it out only serves to exacerbate the emotions!) Keep your fingers crossed that the car will be a cheap and easy repair, that my new computer cord arrives quickly, and that Charlie doesn't demonstrate any signs of a feline concussion. I am really hoping that today is a better day!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Blog Friends

My blog began out of my desire to make the transition to limb loss easier for others than it was for me. Although I thought I was emotionally prepared for my amputation, I struggled with a myriad of issues that I never anticipated. I felt detached, many times believing I was a lonely pioneer in a new territory. Writing my blog has helped me connect, alleviating the isolation that I was experiencing.

Through my blog I have had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people by email and phone calls. Although each of us has had a unique journey, I am always amazed at the similarity of our emotions and experiences once the amputation occurs. One of the greatest benefits (for lack of a better word) of living with an amputation lies with the community.

Although I haven't personally met the majority of my readers, I feel as if I have a personal rapport with so many of you. We have shared stories, laughter, and tears through emails and blog comments. I am grateful that I have been invited into the lives of so many wonderful people whom I have come to know as friends. It is a unique relationship that I don't think most people will understand.

Earlier this week I was able to meet my blog friends from Massachusetts. Mary and Pat were two of my first non-relative blog fans. I was delighted when I learned that they were going to be driving through my area and that we were going to be able to connect. After exchanging emails, Facebook posts, and comments for several years, it was wonderful to be able to hug two people whom I have come to call friends!

I am always thankful when I have the opportunity to meet a "blog friend." Whether I am traveling for a conference or visiting family, I enjoy meeting my readers whenever possible. I feel as if I know so many of you already; it's nice to be able to put a voice and face to the screen name. I hope to be able to meet more of my readers in the future!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Power Foot

After hearing all the hype, I was thrilled to have the chance to see and to try iWalk's new PowerFoot. I believe the technology is exciting and stands to change everything we know about below knee prosthetics. This device contains a motor that acts as a calf muscle. Each step is powered through the motor and into the foot. The technology has left me feeling inspired about what lies ahead within my lifetime!

Like other amputees who have tried this foot, I find that it is difficult to explain. I felt a slight burst of energy with each step. The knee and hip strategies that I use when walking are not needed while wearing this foot.

Yes, the PowerFoot is both heavy and cumbersome; however, the function far outweighs the weight. After all, I'm sure that my amputated limb weighed at least 4 pounds (the weight of the PowerFoot). Although the prosthetic is heavy, I think that the mass of the leg is more of a detriment.

The components above the foot are large in circumference and look bulky. Wearing a fashion boot would be difficult if not impossible. Although the technology is cutting edge, the aesthetics are reminiscent of the 1960's space program. Of course, the look of the foot would not keep me from using it if I were able.

Unfortunately, because of the sheer size, I am not a candidate to use this foot. At least, I can't use this generation. Perhaps when the technology is further miniaturized and the device is smaller, I will be able to try again. Until then, I remain optimistic about the advances in prosthetic technology and the impact that we all will realize within the next few years.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

The Amputee Stigma

Yesterday Robby experienced what has become a rite of childhood by attending his first birthday party for a classmate. He could not have been more excited to be invited which happened to be hosted at his favorite bounce spot. I spent the weekend leading up to the party answering the same question: "Is it time for the party yet?"

Sunday morning he woke up early, telling me that he was "ready to go to that party and start jumping." I explained that it wasn't time to leave yet, but he tried to convince me to go early with the promise of cake. While I will do just about anything for a good piece of cake, I wasn't about to go to a bounce house four hours before the slotted party time. I set the timer on the microwave to countdown the time before the party and tried to divert his attention to more constructive projects.

Finally the timer beeped, and it was time to go. Robby stepped into his cowboy boots, grabbed the gift and went running out the door. I noticed in the car that his boots were on the wrong feet, but I figured that he was going to be taking them off as soon as we got to Jump-N-Jimmy's so I didn't bother changing them.

Robby was beyond ecstatic to be at the party. However I felt self-conscious and insecure. The lobby was filled with the parents of Robby's classmates, and this was the first time that I was meeting many of them. I try to feign confidence but, in reality, I am not comfortable around large groups of people that I don't know.

Most of the parents seemed to know each other. While I introduced myself, the cliche seemed closed and my standing in close proximity began to feel awkward. I was content and happy sitting in the comfy chair, sipping on some coffee and just watching Robby run and laugh with his friends.

I tried to sit close enough to the other parents so that I still seemed approachable, yet I didn't want to intrude on their conversation. Finally, two moms came and sat next to me. I smiled and introduced myself as "Robby's Mom." I was hoping to break the ice and start a conversation.

Instantly the moms began to look uncomfortable. Finally, one responded, "So, you're the disabled mom in the class." My face immediately began to flush and my heart rate increased. I think I responded by saying something eloquent like, "Umm.. my name is Peggy." An awkward silence ensured, and my insecurities began to skyrocket. I finally feigned a phone call so that I could get up and leave.

I felt deflated and angry. I have worked so hard to portray myself as a competent and involved parent. I am active in his class and have met all of his classmates. Despite my efforts, I've concluded that some people only define me by my limb loss. In the least I will have to fight an uphill battle against the stigma associated with amputees. In my opinion, these moms are more handicapped by their own ignorance than I am by my amputation.

I spent the rest of the party in the bouncers with Robby and his friends. It turns out that this group of five year olds are more fun, and less judgmental, than their parents! (Incidentally, this one legged "disabled" Mommy was the only adult actually jumping and playing with the kids.)

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Walking Day!!!

Eight years ago today my life changed forever. I entered my prosthetist's office on crutches, feeling both scared and insecure. After enduring five long years of pain, more surgeries than I care to count, and an amputation, I took my first steps on my prosthetic. Today is my Walking Day.

Walking Day is a concept that developed out of my need to celebrate my accomplishments rather than bemoan my losses. While I'll never forget March 11 (the date of my injury) or July 3 (my ampu-versary), I choose to celebrate the day I took my first steps. After all, it is the date that I began to rebuild my life. In my eyes, it is worthy of celebration!

I am so thankful that my husband (at the time my boyfriend) recorded my Walking Day appointment. It is a video that I have grown to cherish over the years. I have certainly come a long way since I took those first angst and fear-filled steps.

Robby has never known me without a prosthetic. I hope that someday he will watch the video and appreciate my journey and the work that it has taken for me to become the mom he knows. I want him to be proud of me when he grows up.

I will never forget the fear, depression, and hopeless despair that I felt when I first became an amputee. It is terribly isolating to wake up and feel like a stranger to yourself. Remembering those feelings makes me a stronger and better person.

Getting my prosthetic and walking were literally and figuratively my first steps into my new life. I have re-learned to love myself and to accept my limb loss. I have become more active and more outgoing since I became an amputee. I have learned to embrace what makes me different.

Today is a day for happy reflection. I have come so far in eight years. I have learned not only to walk, but to skip, to jump and to run. This is definitely a cake-worthy holiday! Happy Walking Day to me!

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon When You Take the North "Poll"

Wow- I can't believe that we only have 44 days until Santa makes his magical appearance. Christmas is so much more fun since I became a Mom! The elves have already been busy at our house, putting up decorations and leaving small surprises while I am picking Robby up from school. No matter how much we try, we just can't seem to catch one in action!

Robby loves Melissa & Doug toys. If your little one likes the toys as well, you don't want to miss this offer. Melissa & Doug want you to tell them which of their educational toys you think is the best! Just click on the image below to place your vote in the North "Poll!" You'll Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon** to use at MelissaAndDoug.com just for voting!

Show and Share

Yesterday morning Robby could hardly wait to go to school. He loves Wednesdays because it is "Show and Share" day. Each week the students are asked to bring in an item related to an assigned topic. This week his class is exploring careers, so each classmate was instructed to bring an item that represents what they want to be when they grow up.

Whenever Scott and I ask Robby what he wants to be when he grows up, he coyly responds, "It's a secret." We tried to pin him down on his item Tuesday night. He finally looked at us and said, "Don't worry. I have everything under control." Not having any answers and tired of asking, I finally gave up. I figured that if he didn't have something for Show and Share, he would be disappointed perhaps learning a very real lesson.

It turns out that Robby knew exactly what he was taking to school. After getting dressed in the morning, he went into my bedroom and emerged carrying my old leg. "Momom, is it okay if I borrow this for today?" He attempted to stuff my prosthetic into his little CARS backpack, but it didn't fit. I had to smile looking at him wearing his little backpack with my plastic foot shell protruding from the side!

All of the cubbies in his classroom were overflowing with plastic fireman hats, baseball bats, stuffed dogs and toy chalkboards. My child's cubby had a leg jutting out. After kissing me goodbye he whispered, "Did you guess my secret Momom? I am going to be like Mr. Elliot (my prosthetist) when I get big. I will make you all the legs that you want."

Robby's presentation earned raves from his classmates and teachers. I learned that he sat in front of his peers, holding my leg, and explained that he was going to build prosthetics to help people walk and run. He described the "really cool robot hand" that he saw in Las Vegas and how he is going to build those arms someday. I was told that he talked for nearly 10 minutes about his ambitions!

I love Robby's unique perspective on the world. He didn't choose to be a fireman or a veterinarian. He wants to be a prosthetist when he grows up. I can't think of anything that would make me prouder!

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