Today marks seven years since I left the ranks of the "ten-toed freaks," as my gimp friends from ski-camp taught me to say. (smiley face!)
I didn't have a bonfire this year, or a Leg Party to commemorate the original spontaneous celebration with a few close friends. (No party, and I mean NONE, is as insane as carousing while burning your leg in effigy two nights before your above-knee amputation.
The surgery in 2007 was the culmination of six months of lobbying doctors to cut off my fused, worn-out leg, ten years of increasing pain and decreasing mobility, and a grand total of thirty-one years fearing what would happen to my weird stiff knee. It was agony to tackle the decision; it was cathartic to have to tell my story over and over and over in a medical setting:
Osteomyelitis, a gruesome and excruciating bone infection at age thirteen in 1975 and 1976, untreated because my parents were Christian Scientists; an auto-fused knee I could limp on, denial of the whole nightmare, and a mindset that made me tackle every challenge that came my way, from race horses to my own riding stable in a barn I built myself. And finally, after intensive therapy, supportive friendships, and time, the self-knowledge to make this choice.
It was a hard sell to the specialists, but they came around. It's a decision I've never regretted.
My goal for this next year of amputee-hood is to be more active. The ski week in January was the first time I hung out with other amps and folks legally blind or in wheelchairs. We traveled in a pack of 'chairs and crutches, made terrible jokes and got raucous in restaurants. I felt like a horse finally running with the herd.
It made me realize that, from all those years when I was so determined not to let my stiff leg prevent me from trying ANYTHING, I sailed into amputee-world with the same attitude: Dammit, I'll do it myself!! ...But it's limited me. It's stopped me short from some activities.
At what I continue to think of as "ski camp" last month--and at Greek Peak every weekend--adaptive skiing is a whole culture of wonderful people working together. It is assumed you (I) need help; it is offered generously and matter-of-factly, along with encouragement and praise. It turned on a light in my head; it softened me up and helped me relax. Reminded me to trust. Ask. And reach out.
I want to ski. This summer I want to try an adaptive bicycle, a recumbent hand-powered one, to see if I like it. There are programs out there, opportunities I want to try. And I'm going to start riding my horse again this spring. It's been a few years, but now Laredo's at a local barn where there are rings, pens--and friends who want me to doff my leg, climb up on the fence and hop on my mare.
It's taken me a few years. But I'm starting to hit my one-legged stride.