Happy & Healthy ‘Ampuversary’
Six months ago today, I was lying in a hospital bed recovering from the necessary amputation of my left leg just above the knee. I had battled, within an inch of my last nerve, a myriad of minor to life-threatening infections and chronic illnesses over the years. In the end, it took over my left foot and my leg just above the knee.
Every so often, the foot would give me a problem, heal up, then give me another problem for a little longer. More serious and longer bouts of infection would invade my body each time. By Thanksgiving 2009, I was done with my nightly date with my husband over bandages and wound care supplies. We fought the good fight, visiting various specialists along the way. Eventually, I realized that if we were ever to resume a normal life, if I was ever to feel well again, I needed to face the fact that my foot no longer wanted to play nice with the rest of my body. My body was weary. And wow, so was I!
So began what was, for me, a really long goodbye process. We prayed, meditated, sought opinions and finally decided between Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving that the time had come. I was ready to eliminate the infections and the tiring battle of fruitless wound care regimens that took me away from work, my husband off work early too often and tied up our evenings with rewrapping my bandages.
I began literally talking to my foot once the decision was made to have surgery on January 8, 2010. When I would bathe, I would whisper how good my left leg was for giving me full form and a placeholder during wheelchair to car or bed transfers, even if I couldn’t stand on it. I thanked it for how nice it was to have a foot to fit in nice lace-up shoes rather than be confined to the clunky orthopedic ones from my childhood. I apologized for breaking my grand pronouncements to various doctors that, “I came into this world with all 10 fingers and toes. Whether I use them or not, I’ll die with all 10 fingers and toes!” It just wasn’t in the plan was it? Leaving the world with my 10 fingers and toes intact, that is.
But, in the years of on-again, off-again wound care that slowly morphed into a long-term, unsuccessful routine, I realized I gave it my best. I did right by left foot. Took good care of it the best we and I knew how. The infections had just taken their toll and it was time to go our separate ways so I could resume a healthier state of being.
As a result of my amputation, the last six months have been like waking from a deep sleep. My body feels alive again. No longer am I sequestered to bed rest. No longer am I monitored daily by useless suction therapies or every-other-day home nursing visits. No longer do Bryan and I spend our not-so-romantic evenings over bandages, ointments and very, unmagical potions to make my foot and the rest of me okay again. Today I feel alive, buzzing almost, vibrating with new health. I’m pushing 40 here folks, but I almost feel 25 or 30 again. I am a bit home rest weary, yes, but I’m getting my ‘go out and see’ legs again, even if with only a leg-and-a-half.
I tuck my pants leg under me in my wheelchair but I’m considering pinning pretty, sparkly brooches at the end of my pants leg, fold the pants leg in a way that it drapes at the end to accommodate the brooch and stay out of my way when I transfer without getting caught on something. This is a great fashion forward thing for women who love to accessorize like I do. It has seemed to draw curiosity and smiles from children, much like the butterfly logo on my wheelchair spoke covers. All in all, I want my limb loss to be a gain, not just for me, but for others who look upon it. Go ahead and stare. Wonder what’s going on beyond the pretty faux lizard or, yes the butterfly brooch at the end of my stump. I have a story I’m willing to share. It’s a great conversation piece. Some people don’t want to talk about their disabilities much, but I’m happy to talk about my life experiences using a wheelchair or dealing with the decision to become an amputee.
As I’ve grown up with a disability and chronic illness, I’ve come to understand the inadequacies, the feelings that you sometimes lack a sense of control, the worries that you might not fit into The So-Called Normal World. There’s no such thing, by the way –The Normal World, that is. I’ve learned that life, my life beyond limits as I call it, is all about intentional choices, and what result you are looking for in the choices you make. Not all the choices are easy. Not all the best choices bring immediate peace, but peace can and will come. What does peace look like for you? That’s what you have to ultimately ask yourself. It depends on how you look at it and the agreements you make with yourself about it. I made an agreement with myself that I would be much healthier with what I’ve got to work with so this situation would be less likely to visit me again. I made the decision to share my world with other people, a wider group of people who may not be at the same level of acceptance I am, which I work at daily – Yes, even The Life Beyond Limits™ Coach works at certain motivational mindsets regularly, but it can be done.
I did do one thing, though, that I swore I would do. I will leave the world with my leg. You see, I decided to have my leg cremated. It wasn’t well enough for any part of it to be used for medical transplant or scientific study, so I decided that I would have it with me always, even if it resided in a pretty urn on a table in our home. I will forever have a reminder of how precious life is, how I almost literally had one foot in “The Land of From Dust to Dust” if we hadn’t decided to do this. And, I will be able to smile at all the good my left foot had done before it lost its will to keep going.
Today, I don’t so much grieve for the loss of a piece of my physical body. I celebrate the renewed acquaintance with strength I had to dig deep for that was already there. I just had to look for it. We’re all equipped for more than we ever imagined. We just have to be more aware, active and intentional. What is it that you’ve decided for yourself today? Is it better finances? A better relationship with your family? To be good to yourself? To eat healthier or exercise more? To find a job that meets your financial and emotional needs?
Whatever that intentional decision is, hold onto it. Accommodate the plan to get to it daily. You’ll need to tweak your road map on occasion, but you’ll know. And, never, ever settle on anything less than what’s best for you. Losing my leg wasn’t a compromise against the pronouncements to leave the world with my body intact whether parts of it worked or not. Losing my leg was an adjusted decision so I can rise higher to the occasion of being well, independent, more successful…the best ME inside and out that I deserve to have.
Here’s to ‘the next leg’ of our journey toward the best that we each deserve to give ourselves. To repurpose your line Ms. Clairol, we’re worth it.