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, January 18, 2013

My Last Lance Blog

During the summer of 2003 as I was recovering from my amputation and lying on the make-shift bedroom on the first floor of my townhouse, I was introduced to the sport of cycling. Let me be clear: initially, I was not pleased that Scott was turning the channel to the Tour de France every morning. Watching groups of men with names which were difficult to pronounce pedaling around was not my idea of entertainment. Although I wasn't interested, I was also too medicated and in too much pain to lobby for a change in programming.

Something happened after the first week of the race being streamed every morning. I actually began to look forward to watching the sport. I still wasn't terribly interested in the rules or strategy, but the feats of one particular cyclist caught my attention. It was during this summer that he Lance Armstrong legend was being developed.

Lance was portrayed as a superhero of sorts, a man who came back from death's door to demolish his competition. During this time in my recovery, I desperately needed a role model, somebody to demonstrate that it was possible to turn merely surviving into thriving. During my summer of physical and emotional turmoil, his accomplishments allowed me to dream that I, too, might be able to do something amazing.

It is both devastating and infuriating when a hero falters. In a society that seems to relish the failures of others, I remained steadfast in my support. It is easy to blame my naivete on my not wanting to believe that my hero was a liar. I think that explanation is too simple. To the sporting community, Lance was a cyclist. To me, he was a symbol of the possible during a time that I was thirsty for inspiration and strength. I am having a difficult time reconciling that my beacon of hope was nothing more than a false mirage.

My Lance posters, which once served as a source of motivation, have now been moved to the back of the garage. I was sad packing them away, but I also felt oddly empowered as it occurred to me that I no longer needed this hero. I have become the person that I dreamed of during my recovery so many years ago. I know that a happy, active and amazing life is possible after an amputation because it is my reality every day.

I don't regret being a Lance fan because through witnessing his triumphs, I was able to believe in the impossible. I began to believe in myself and my ability to flourish after my amputation. I owe him my gratitude for that lesson.  Learning the rest of the sordid story has left me feeling disappointed and melancholy. Clean or pharmaceutical enhanced, truthful or dishonest, the truth remains that Lance Armstrong had a profound impact on me during a painful time in my life. I still believe in miracles, but now I realize that the strength to succeed lies within me and not from a cyclist on the roads of France.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Grumpy Momom

The past week has been dreary and damp. At first the dismal weather was a nice excuse to cuddle up in front of the fire and hibernate, but the novelty of hiding from the world is wearing thin. I miss the sun, but I think I miss the dry air more.
With the exception of my fall, I typically don't have an issue with pain. Although I have flare ups of phantom pain a few times a year, many of my amputee friends suffer with the agony on a regular basis. Perhaps because it is such a rare occurrence, when I feel uncomfortable I become frustrated and agitated.

My legs had finally turned the corner since my injury two months ago. My gait had almost normalized and the pain was reducing to nothing more than a dull reminder of the incident. Of course, then the weather changed and now everything is different!

There is no specific place that hurts on my limb. Instead my leg just feels extremely sore as if I had run a 5K wearing heels.  I can't fully weight my socket so I resemble a stammering zombie when I walk.

Robby's classmates have even noticed the difference in my gait. Yesterday afternoon when I picked him up, his friend remarked that I must be having a "bad leg day" because I am walking different. I hate that he was correct, but I love that he has picked up on the terminology and felt comfortable enough to discuss it with me!

Thankfully the weather is supposed to break tomorrow afternoon. I'm looking forward to some drier air and some sunshine. Hopefully my leg will rebound quickly and I'll be back to my near normal state. In the meantime, I will probably remain grumpy.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Below the Boundary

Each afternoon as I walk into Robby's classroom to pick him up, I find myself taking a deep breath and hesitantly peeking towards his cubby. A worksheet taped to the outside of his little box indicates homework. I've come to think of them as worksheets of doom. Inevitably, unfinished worksheets always translate into a cantankerous exchange involving handwriting or reading.

Robby is forthright when it comes to his "number one enemy" being handwriting. He hates every aspect, from holding the pencil to trying to form his letters. He would prefer to do everything on a keyboard. Unfortunately for him, we do not yet live in a completely wired world, and he must learn how to write!

Between proper letter formation and deciphering sounds, reading and writing is a weak area for Robby. For a little boy who strives for perfection, struggling is novel and frustrating. Yesterday he reached his breaking point, sobbing in front of his teacher and me before school. He explained that he was "just plain stupid" because his letters are wrong and he can't spell. Knowing that your child feels like a failure is a horrible feeling!

His handwriting is the easier of the two issues to address.  Considering his age, I think that his handwriting is pretty good. We would not have an issue except that he refuses to make letters below the line (such as the lower case p, y and g). He complains that taking the letter below the line is silly because the line is a boundary. "Why is there a boundary if we are just going to cross it with random letters?" Instead, he insists on writing these letters (with correct formation) extremely small  between the lines. I have no doubt that I will win the Battle of the Boundary and that he will make these letters correctly.

Unfortunately, the spelling and reading issue will not be nearly as easy to address because Robby's difficulty with spelling stems from his hearing. He is unable to accurately hear and decipher everything he hears. To him, there is no difference between the short a,e and i sounds. Until his hearing issue is rectified, he is going to have to rely upon his memory for spelling.

Thankfully, Robby has a wonderful teacher. She has offered to stay after school to work with him privately. I'm sure between the two of us teaming together to help him, Robby will regain confidence in his abilities. In the meantime I am just trying to reassure him that he is smart and build on his successes.  It's so hard seeing him frustrated!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Learn From My Experience

It is hard to believe that January is halfway gone. I had meant to write about this topic earlier, but I never quite got around to it. I would be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to discuss an issue that is near to my heart (and my health). After all, January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. 

I am a cervical cancer survivor. Although I don't discuss this part of my life often, the cancer experience has shaped who I am now and how I view the world. I am grateful that I have nearly 9 years of being cervical cancer free, yet I remain vigilant and guarded about my health. I continue to live in fear of hearing the doctor tell me that I have cancer again, but I also know that I owe it to myself and to my family and friends to stay proactive about my cancer screenings.

All too often fear of a positive diagnosis keeps people from seeking cancer screenings. Let me assure you that those pesky and dangerous cells will continue to grow whether or not you know that they are present. As with most diseases, early diagnosis is the key to successful treatment.

I have no doubt that my life would be very different had I not given in to my mother's nagging. I knew that "something" was wrong, but I was in my 20's and busy with life. I knew in my heart that there was no way I could be diagnosed with cancer. After a series of phone calls and requests, I finally appeased my Mom and scheduled an appointment with my doctor. Although my physician took swabs to determine a diagnosis, I considered it a test to prove my mother wrong. 

Unfortunately, she was correct and I had cancer. Those words struck me to my core and the memory continues to elicit a visceral reaction. I am alive and healthy now squarely because I got tested. I can never thank my Mom enough because I truly believe that she helped to save my life.

Cancer is a terrifying diagnosis, but beating the disease is a realistic and attainable goal if it is diagnosed early. Not knowing that your body is being ravaged from the inside out can be a catastrophic disadvantage. I found out I had cancer, was able to receive treatment and have continued to live a wonderful life. Being a cancer survivor is part of who I am, but it does not define me. I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, writer, amputee, and advocate. If I hadn't been tested and treated, none of these roles would be possible. I would simply be known as "dearly departed." 

I am urging all of my female friends and readers to get tested for cervical cancer. Yes, going to the gynecologist is an inconvenience at best. Nobody relishes being exposed in the stirrups, but a few moments of embarrassment is a fair trade for the rest of your life. Learn from my experience: if cervical cancer can happen to me it could happen to you.  Getting swabbed just might save your life!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Test Walk

Chances are good that if I am on the computer, I have a social network site running somewhere on my browser. Between my social media work and my own need to socialize with my friends, I am constantly checking various pages and groups. When I am done with my professional tasks, I frequently spend time writing to my friends or updating my own status.  While I am often criticized for being on Facebook and Twitter too much, I feel like I have the perfect excuse. I am working!

One of the many attributes of Facebook has been in its ability to connect amputees of various experience levels and needs. We are talking, exchanging ideas and connecting more than any other time in history. Although being the only person in a community with limb loss can feel isolating, one only needs to log onto the Internet to realize that they are not alone and that they are part of a wonderful and viable community.

Before Facebook, the only time I was ever able to discuss prosthetic components and compare experiences was while I was sitting in my prosthetist's office waiting for an appointment. Now I can pose my question on a page and receive dozens of comments within minutes. I can't help but think that the abundance of information must be a mixed blessing for the new amputee.

Whereas I'm able to whittle my way through the comments to ascertain the core information, it might be overwhelming for those with less prosthetic experience. After all, most amputees have strong feelings about the prosthesis that they utilize. It's hard to remember that what works for one person may be disastrous for another.

I liken component recommendations to a pair of jeans. My college roommate loved Levi's. She swore up and down that they were the "perfect" jean and used to tease me for wearing Lee jeans instead. To prove her point, I remember her insisting that we go to the Gap so that I could try on the amazing jeans. As she stood triumphantly waiting for me to come out of the dressing room, I was performing feats of contortion in an unsuccessful attempt to pull up the zipper. My hips were, and incidentally remain, too curvy for Levi's. The only way I knew that the "perfect" jean wasn't right for me was by trying them on.

Although searching for information and soliciting feedback about components is valuable, nothing compares to actually trying the device. I love my Proprio foot and Mod III, but I have friends who do not like the way these feet feel when they walk. They prefer a different type of foot which they feel as strongly about as I do about mine.

Preferences, experiences and tips are a valuable tool when it comes to shopping for a prosthesis, but the ultimate decision should not be based solely on that input. Like a pair of jeans, you won't really know how it will work for you unless you try it on and go for a stroll. Never forget that you're buying it, so you deserve the opportunity to give it a test walk first!