Friday, January 3, 2014

How DO you say "goodbye" to a limb?

They say that the experience of losing a limb is similar to that of losing a family member.   When I heard that initially, I was somewhat skeptical, as I wondered just how the comparison could be made between a living, breathing, talking person and a physical extremity / body part.   The closer I get to this loss however, the more I understand the comment.
The longer I think about it, I realize that for me, losing this limb is kind of like losing an estranged spouse.   
I'm hesitant to pull the genetics card (since my kiddos are adopted), but in my pondering recently it has occurred to me that I have sort-of inherited an athletic legacy.  My dad is, and was a legend in my hometown for his sports capabilities, and folks will commonly recall that I'm "Randy's daughter".... the guy known for his home-runs, high school football and basketball involvement, and "hall of
famer" in the city's softball history.  In his 70's, the guy still has a mean golf-drive and is the envy of the guys on the golf course.   So....I guess I realized at an early age, intuitively, that my body and I had a good relationship going.   My legs were obviously part of the deal.

In high school, I did well in track and diving...participating and placing in the state meets.  I was fast and could jump....and I had an awesome toe point (something you don't usually think about much unless you're a diver or gymnast, and obviously, when you think about the things you'll lose when you lose a limb.)

When I met Scott, we shared an interest in sports and the outdoors.  We enjoyed being active together and had dreams of being an active family.    It was fun coaching my daughter's little tyke
 soccer team and teaching swim lessons at the YMCA.  When Kai came along, we began rock climbing as a family (I found it taught our children patience, tenacity, and how to use their bodies to reach a goal.  It was / is a particularly good discipline  for our son who tends to want to "check out" mentally, as it keeps him focused and in the moment.)     Kids are naturally little monkeys and love exploring, so these interests naturally became a big part of our family's activities.   We love, love, love the outdoors!

Since my accident, we have done our best to continue this lust-for-life and adventure.....although watching my family participate in many things without me has torn at my heart.  It is amazing how you can really miss an ability once an injury has taken it from you, and sitting on the sidelines is incredibly depressing.   Until the last two years, I had really taken for granted all of these abilities, and have come to appreciate some of the smallest, such as walking, the most.

In less than a week, I will be saying farewell to my right foot.  Damn that's hard.   But in doing this, I
know that I'll be able to regain a lot of what I have been missing, and I'll gain a huge, important part of my life back.  

What are the things we say as we begin to part with something / someone who is a big part of who we are?  

In my case,  looking at this cobbled-together ankle/foot....I say "You're not who you used to be."   Truthfully, it has been very much like going through a divorce!   :)   To this limb, I've said:  "You're causing me too much pain.   You're holding me back from being the person I know I am and can be.  You've changed....and you're never going to be what you were. You WERE awesome!  We had a good thing going, you and I."  

But the closest thing I can get to the "me" I know and love...the active "me", is to let go of this bad relationship.    It is the equivalent of having spouse who wants to lay around all day and be a couch potato (pain and limited function will do that to a person.)   Functionally, prosthetics will offer a huge improvement.  That said......

There are things I know that I will absolutely miss.  I grew up playing on the shores of  Lake Michigan, spending the day in my swimsuit and jumping over the waves.   While there are a lot of cool prosthetics that function in awesome ways, (running, climbing, etc.) none can offer the kind of foot that can feel the sand between your toes or run and jump over the waves....yet (I've thought about this a lot, actually....but then realize that realistically I don't do this often anymore anyway.)  

My sister used to give me a hard time about my ugly feet, and my family would laugh about my talented, flexible toes as I'd hold a spoon between them and feed myself  (I know...we're a strange family.)    Because I'm right-side dominant, my right foot was obviously considered the more talented one.  If I had to fall and crush my tibia again, I'd pick the left one.  Ah well.  

As one begins to realize any relationship is a total drain, still, the process of moving on is hard.  It is not really possible to just "cut it off" and not have that person with you in your heart forever.    STILL, sometimes we need to make that cut so we can move on.   (Aren't you lovin' the awesome metaphors!?

To say "goodbye" to this limb is bittesweet.   I think folks who suffer a traumatic amputation are usually left shaken and painfully robbed of a very important part of them...similar to losing a loved one very suddenly.  And I assume that that grieving is done very intensely at the time their loss is realized.  But for folks like me, this ankle has been more like a painful, aching tumor....and while hope was given throughout the long treatment period through lots of surgeries, hopes, and broken promises,  there has also been a prolonged grieving period.  A feeling of: " hey, I've already lost it....she's not coming back."  (the function-ability of my leg, that is....not my mind!)  

Sudden or gradual.....loss is not easy.   
....but there is life after loss.   I've met dozens and dozens of amazing amputees....all with incredible stories.  They're all back to DOING WHAT THEY LOVE...   I want thatI'm psyched to get that....back!    So is my Family....

....I guess, this is the best way to say farewell....


  1. Chris my prayers and thoughts go out to you for your lost, but I believe you will take your lost and turn it around and us feel what determination and faith can do. You will not let life give you a challenge that you can't overcome. As a diabetic who had a father who lost his legs when he was about my age I often worry and wonder if I will fall into his fate. In fact I have tried to take better care of myself as I reach the young age of 50 this year. My challenge is to live longer then my father who died when he was just 60 years old. This comment is not about me but to tell you that you have challenge me to be more active in my life because of your faith in beating the odds. You will not let this became the instrument that take you down you will show us all life can be hard, but we can stop living because of those hardships. Good luck and prayers for a speedy recovery and keep posting those lovely pictures of your family because your family is a model of keep faith and cherish the gifts and abilities we do have. Nothing is going to let down except ourselves.

  2. Eddie! Happy 50th! I remember your dad well....and I'm sorry that he passed so young. :( ((hugs)). I hope your health continues to improve, because you're absolutely right....attitude and determination is huge! (Although I remember that your mom is a great cook, as are a lot of folks in your community.) My dad is diabetic too, with heart issues, and we know how tough it can be when the good vittles come around. This getting older thing makes it a lot harder, doesn't it?

    Hugs to you, Chris and your beautiful daughters! You sure seem like a proud pop. At least three women in your life will keep you on your toes. Lol!

  3. Julie (Kautzer) WalkerJanuary 5, 2014 at 7:11 AM

    Chris-I am saddened about what you have to endure. I didn't know. Your husband, kids, and faith will help you get through this and be a stronger person that you ever thought you could. I am a two time cancer survivor over the past 10 years and decided that I am still here for some reason yet (not sure exactly why yet-probably for my kids)! I am confident that you will do great through it all, and I will pray for you. Take care, and despite what has happened, remember how life could be so much worse. I know that's hard some days, but it helps us remember how lucky we are to have all of the blessings we do have. Take care, Chris. :) Julie (Kautzer) Walker

  4. Julie, thank you! I did not know about your cancer battle either! (Surprised because you know how my mom is. ;). Congrats on your 10 year survival, twice! One thing I'll often say to folks about this whole ordeal is: "It's a limb, not a life." I am always thinking about how much worse it could be, and that gives me a lot of strength. So people like you, sharing what they've been so important!

    Prayers for your continued healing! I always wonder all of the "why's" too....but eventually gave up seeking answers to that question. (Too much thinking for my brain to handle. :) ) It is always good to look back later....if that happens, and kind of see the connections.

    Hugs to you! Hope to meet your kids someday when I'm up in Shevegas!

  5. You are one amazing lady. We are sending our positive thoughts to you all. Warmth and Peace. Kelly