What is it like to lose a limb?
I really don’t know how to answer that question. In a weird way, I am glad my amputation was plopped right in the middle of my chemo cycles because it helped me not dwell on losing a leg. Even though I knew from the very beginning I would be losing part of my left leg, I wasn’t given the actual date of my surgery until about 2 weeks before. I wish I could tell you that I spent my last day on two “real” legs spectacularly, but it was just an ordinary day for me. (In hindsight, I wish I would have run one more time!)
I don’t think my amputation really sunk in until about 6 weeks after my surgery. I was home from my 4th round of chemo and I was stuck on the couch. I couldn’t take walks anymore. I needed so much help with Frankie. I couldn’t even carry anything in my hands because I was always in crutches. I was getting frustrated. They didn’t even want me going and starting the leg process with my prosthetist until I was completely done with chemo. I just felt stuck. I felt helpless. It was the first time I felt defeated by cancer. I was crushing chemo and took my surgery like a champ but sitting on the couch legless is when cancer one upped me.
I guess this was the first time I showed my emotions to my family because my mom came in like superhero and found a cool contraption called an “IWalk.” It was originally made for people recovering from ankle injuries/surgeries. It’s basically like a fancy peg leg that allows you to walk AND carry stuff. It’s a crutch-less crutch. To me, this is one of the best inventions in the world. I don’t use it as much anymore but back then that IWalk gave me back some of my independence. I remember taking walks around my parent’s neighborhood with my Iwalk on all while pushing Frankie in the stroller. I can only imagine what people thought but it was so nice being able to get out of the house again!
When chemo was finally over and I could focus on getting a prosthetic, I was super excited. I was under the false assumption that as long as I put in the effort to learn how to walk, everything would just fall right into place. However, that was not even close to the truth. I was eager to learn but I was only half of the equation. I needed a proper fitting liner and socket. Whether I liked it or not, my leg had to learn to adjust to all the new forces and sensations that a prosthetic leg can bring.
I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t get mad and upset that walking did not come easy to me anymore. It took a grueling 3 months for me to finally feel comfortable enough to wear my leg all day. It took a few different liners and sockets along with the right combinations of socks to get to a semi-normal place again. At that time, I was also going to physical therapy twice a week. I was working on my gait and more technical things like jumping. Honestly, going to physical therapy was one of my favorite things. It made me feel so accomplished. I was gaining back everything cancer had taken from me.
There are some days that I wish I could have my leg back, but those days are few and far between. I get the occasional phantom pain (which, for me, is like a jolt of electricity going through my residual limb) but it usually passes pretty quick. I don’t know if it’s because I am writing about my foot, but currently I can feel the ghost of my left foot. It’s a strange sensation to feel something in your body but your brain understanding it Is not truly there. I really think I am the lucky ones because some people have pain for the rest of their lives after their amputation. I am happy to say that I take no pain meds. I have no need for them.
Let just preface this by saying that I appreciate people calling me an inspiration, however, I am not sure I am one. Throwing on my prosthetic in the morning is just normal for me now. I obviously can’t change it, so I just chose to embrace it. And just like cancer, losing a leg made me appreciate mobility. I always want to be active and moving because I have the ability, some people aren’t that lucky. Walking is truly a gift and we shouldn’t take it for granted.