Tuesday, November 9, 2010 arrived with a clear early morning that promised to become a chilly, sunny, and typically autumn day. I zipped my coat, buckled my helmet strap, unlocked my bike, and headed off to work. A few minutes later, a garbage truck crossed a bike lane to make a right turn. I was in that bike lane. The tires of the truck crushed my left leg and caused other internal injuries. An amazing team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my leg to do so.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Confucius.

In July 2011, I set off to walk a thousand miles as an above-knee amputee in my new prosthesis. The journey has held more twists, turns, and detours than I ever imagined.

I reached Mile 1000 on March 30, 2013.

But of course, that wasn't the end.

I'll keep walking!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Being Prepared

Mile Marker 55:

I like to think of myself as spontaneous – able to fly off to Rome on a moment’s notice!   

But if you know me, you know I'd NEVER fly off to Rome on a moment’s notice.

First of all, I’d choose Paris, or maybe Chicago.  Secondly, have you ever purchased an airline ticket on a moment’s notice?  It’s way too expensive!

And third, I like to be prepared.


Moe arrives in his stroller.
Remember him from Mile 17?
Mile 55 blew in last weekend with Hurricane Irene.  

I was proud of how ready I was!   My dad dropped off two cases of bottled water.  I had arranged to "text" my mom every two hours.  My flashlights had new batteries.  And best of all, Mary and her wonder-cat Moe were coming over to spend the night!

Everything was going according to plan until we heard Mayor Nutter’s ominous message:  “Be prepared to be without power for 5 to 10 days, possibly up to two weeks.”

TWO WEEKS?

Mild panic set in.  But even panic can be fun when you're with good friends...(cats included, of course)...

First things first:  I plugged in my leg.  If we were losing electricity for the next two weeks, I was sure as heck going to top off my charge!

Then water:  Would our two cases be enough?  What about washing, cooking, flushing the toilet?  We began filling quart-size yogurt containers and didn’t stop till we got to the bathtub.

My fridge looked a little silly, but we were once again prepared!

As we settled upstairs, a second message rolled across our TV screen.  It was in big, bold letters punctuated by that grim monotone of the Emergency Broadcast System.  And it was NOT a test.

TORNADO WARNING:  SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER IN BASEMENT --

Like those infamous chickens-with-their-heads-cut-off, we started scrambling.  Well, not exactly ALL of us.

ONE of us was fumbling around on crutches.  And another of us -- having not quite mastered the art of reading a message -- was having a nap on the floor.  I’ll let you decide who was who. 

I started shoving on my prosthesis.  There was no way I'd make it to the basement on crutches!

Leg into liner.  Liner into socket.   Ugh!  Why won't it go on?   Oops, forgot the alcohol spray!   Liner, spray, socket.  Too loose -- forgot the socks!   Liner, socks, spray, socket.  Good.  Stand on it.  Jump on it.  Jam it in there!  Oops, don't step on Moe!  Ok, it's on!  Go!

By some miracle, we all made it safely down the two flights of steep, winding stairs to the basement.    

But what now?  We giggled nervously at our lack of readiness.  We balanced the camera on top of the hot-water heater and posed for a picture.  We watched Moe playing in the puddles.

To make a long story short, we survived just fine.





Ok, so I’m NOT all that spontaneous.

I'm a Virgo.  Got a headache?  I've got Advil.   Cut yourself?  I’ve got a Band-Aid.   Spinach in your teeth?  I’ve got floss.   I had preparedness down to a science.

I mean, before all this.  Before last November.

I lost my leg, but I've gained a whole lot of baggage.  And, these days, I devote a lot of my time to packing it.   For pain.  For worry.  For getting through an entire workday.

Along this journey, I’ve met many, many people whose stories prove that it’s impossible to be prepared.   They’re just like you and me – all ages and colors, all backgrounds and professions – and their lives were changed by one moment of unpredictability.  One moment they couldn't prepare for.

I ask myself over and over again if I could have better prepared for MY moment.  The rational side of me says no.  But still, I keep asking.

The morning after the hurricane, I spied Moe staring outside into the gusty wind.

I might have been projecting, but I could almost read his thoughts.  What’s next? 

Friday, August 26, 2011

It's a Bird, It's a Plane...

...It's an earthquake?!?

Mile Marker 51:

This can’t be happening, I thought.  I did NOT suffer through the last 9 months to crumble right here, right now, in this school building!  It was my first day back at work and my first earthquake.  It was like the punch line to a very BAD joke.

And now, on the eve of a hurricane -- our worst in 100 years -- it’s a good time to consider those we need most in dire situations:  SUPERHEROES.

On Tuesday, earthquake day, our school’s jack-of-all-trades Roberto was there to make a quick decision.  He ushered us out of the building onto the street, where we found the rest of professional Philadelphia standing around in the sunshine.  Ok, so it wasn’t a true emergency after all.  Most people were just channeling Facebook on their cell phones to find out what happened.  But Roberto did what was needed.  For that moment, he was our superhero.

I’ve found lots of superheroes along my journey so far.  Or, more accurately, they’ve found me. 

Superheroes are there when you need them.
Circumstances don’t have to be grave to require a superhero.  My school team pitched in to make my back-to-school transition as comfortable as possible.  Chase, who covered my workload since last November, left a Starbucks card on my desk.  Elvira helped me dig out from under my mountain of paperwork.  Shawn carried a heavy bag of workbooks down two flights of stairs to my car.  And then she hiked back up again because I left my phone upstairs!!  Remember the Super Friends?  I’ve got my own.

Superheroes make you feel safe.
When I was rushed into the Trauma Room after my accident, busy figures hovered around me.  One in particular stood up at my head, by my right ear.  He told me I was going to be okay.  He told me, very gently, that I needed surgery. 

I tried to contradict him.  Tried every excuse in the book.  “It’s JUST my leg….I have my contacts in….I can’t go to surgery, I already ate breakfast.” (Everyone knows you can’t eat breakfast on the day of your surgery, right?!)

But he was unrattled.  “That’s fine,” he said soothingly.  “We’ll take care of it….Don’t worry about it.”   He took control, and quite suddenly, I could let go.  This doctor became one of my best-loved surgeons, Dr. M, but in that moment, he was Superman. 

Superheroes are forces for good. 
My friend Michael has TWO C-Legs like mine.  He lost his legs while trying to help another person.  But, the thing is, he hasn’t lost his smile.  At PT, he greets me with a huge hug.  He models for me how to walk on a ramp -- makes it look casual and easy, in fact.   He gives me advice about how to desensitize my leg to reduce pain.   

If Michael hadn’t had such a kind heart, hadn’t been such a Good Samaritan, he wouldn’t be in this uncomfortable boat.  And yet, through it all, he has remained a force for good.  He is truly The Bionic Man.

Superheroes set things right.
About seven weeks into my hospital stay, I was lined up for another surgery – I think my 12th.   As was typical pre-op procedure, an anesthesiologist approached my gurney to introduce himself.  “I remember you from when you came in,” he said. “I was on your surgery that day, too.  I didn’t think you were going to make it.” 

He REALLY said that!

He left, and I immediately began to cry.  Full, gasping tears that I couldn’t stop.  The nurse came from across the room to see what was wrong.  I told her I didn’t want that doctor in this surgery with me.  She suggested that maybe he could trade with another anesthesiologist.

At that point, he strolled back in.  Seeing me in tears, he mouthed to the nurse, “Did I do this??”  She gave a subtle nod, but he already knew.  He came over to my bed again.

I cleared my throat and mustered up every last ounce of courage. “I don’t feel comfortable with you doing my surgery,” I said. “I’d like you to find someone else.” 

He did.

Sometimes you have to be your OWN superhero.

-----------------------------------------------------
It took me almost 11 hours of sleep to recover from my exciting first day at work (a.k.a. earthquake day).

When I woke up the next morning, I opened the backdoor to the smell of natural gas.  An hour later, a gas technician was at my house checking the front sidewalk, backyard, and basement. 

 “I’m sure it’s nothing,” I apologized.  “But still, it makes me feel better that you’re checking it.”

His answer:  “It’s no problem.  That’s what I do.  I’m really a superhero by day.  It’s only at night that I go back to being human.”

Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes.  From a doctor who offers calming words, to a good friend who runs an extra flight of stairs when you just can’t do it yourself.

Superheroes are rare, but they’re also everywhere.

It’s the start of a new school year.  You never know when you’ll have the chance to be a superhero.  

We all hold the power.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The End of the Summer

Mile Marker 50:

The summer ends
And we wonder where we are….

--So sings Dar Williams, one of my favorite musicians.

I know it’s only August, but the sky says autumn is near.  The clouds are high and cottony.  And when I take a deep breath, it feels like swallowing clean, pure water.  These are NOT the days of Philly summers. 

I marked Mile 50 this afternoon while shopping for a last minute addition to my mom’s birthday gift.  Her birthday's tomorrow, and I've been tracking it carefully on my calendar, afraid to let it out of my sight. 

You see, since my accident, the changing months and seasons have swirled around me like January snow. 

Something happens when you miss your traditions at Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas.  When New Year's Day doesn't bring those crazy Mummers partying down your street.   When Valentine’s Day slips by without kid-delivered Candygrams.  And when you're not one of those desperate teachers counting down to Spring Break!

Time gets away from you.

...And the same things looked different
It’s the end of the summer…. 

I saw the seasons change, but my familiar signposts were missing.

Three times, when I was discharged from the hospital, we were told, “Better leave now, before the blizzard hits.”  Truly, this happened THREE separate times!  Remember that wicked winter!?  


Once home, I peered out my parents' back window at the snowy icing on the tree branches.  But I didn't listen to the radio for snowdays.

In the spring I helped my brother Steve plant flowers.  (I'm using the term "helped" loosely here, but I did sit in a lawn chair and scoop soil!)   Still, Sunday mornings didn't include skating.

And then summer came.   There were PT sessions and prosthesis fittings.  A shuffling of clothes, crutches, and shower chairs.  Suddenly, I found myself back home in the city!

….It’s just that time of year
When we push ourselves ahead….

 Now, I'm pushing ahead into a new school year, but I'm not exactly sure how I got here.  And I'm even LESS certain of what lies ahead.

Except my desk, that is.  I glimpsed it last week, and I can tell you it's frozen at last November, plus some.  I’m hoping I can bring it up to speed with the help of a few knowledgeable colleagues, a trash can, and some Lysol wipes. 

The bigger job will be to figure out what else I’ve missed in the last 9 months.   There’s so much to catch up on, it’s scary.  But I guess uneasiness isn’t a reason to stay behind.

...And the colors are much brighter now
It’s like they really want to tell the truth
We give our testimony to the end of the summer….

THINK FALL, I tell myself.  New starts.  The leaves will turn to rust and green and treasure gold.  The wind’ll blow cool and fresh.  And we’ll have many more days like today. 

As a child of the 70's, I can't resist comparing this moment to starting a record in the middle of the album.  Just plopping down that needle mid-song, hearing that ear-piercing scratch, and then trying to sing along. 

I'll need to listen carefully to the tune, and maybe lip-sync at first, but I'll figure it out eventually.  After all, I DO know the words.

…It’s the end of the summer
You can spin the light to gold.

Happy Birthday Mom!  Here's wishing you the bluest sky.... 

Mileage so far:  50.49

(Thanks to Dar Williams who expresses so perfectly in song those ideas I couldn't possibly sing on my own.)


Friday, August 19, 2011

Q & A

Mile Marker 46:

We're speeding toward the first day of school.  I've been asking myself how the students might react to my new and very different-looking leg.

Recently, I met up with my young friend Asa.  Like any kid, I expected him to be full of questions, but he ended up giving me some much-needed answers.



Asa and I go way back.  Well, as far back as two people can go when you’re his age.  In kindergarten, he stayed with me for a few days while my friend Ruth -- his mom -- recovered from hand surgery.  I made Asa pancakes, and in return he unlocked the mystery of every spare key in my house.


Asa is an engineer in a nine-year-old’s body. 

On Wednesday outside his apartment building, he bounded over to me, a few inches taller and nearly a year older than the last time I'd seen him.

He scanned my new leg up and down.  Already, I could see the wheels turning. 

“So, how does this prosthesis work?” he started.  The new word rolled off his tongue, unfamiliar but tasty.

I showed him how the knee bends when you put weight on the toe.  I took a few steps so he could see it in action.

“If it’s a computer, do you charge it?” he said.  I pointed to the port where I plug it in at night.

“But what happened to your foot?” he said. 

Now, I knew he already knew what had happened.

But I started to explain slowly.

“I know!” he said.  “But what about your FOOT?”

And then I realized what he was seeing….My leg looks robotic.  But in my sandal, the prosthetic foot with its toenails painted red, looks real.  Sometimes, even to me it’s confusing!
  
“If your foot was OKAY, could they put it on there?”  He pointed to the foot of the prosthesis.  Hmm.  Good question.  

I told him they couldn’t. 

“Why not?”

That’s about when Ruth showed up.

So the two of us explained about blood and veins and arteries.  Muscles and bones.  The things a real foot would need.  Things that were not in my microprocessor leg. 

“Oh.”

Then Asa clearly explained everything else to Ruth.  How the knee bends.  How it has to be charged up at night.  

Quickly, he moved on to the subject of my pedometer.   How do you reset it?  How do you set your stride length?
                                                              
At lunch, the three of us talked about Ruth and Asa's recent adventures in Alaska.  Asa showed me how to fold napkins into fancy shapes, a skill he’d picked up from the waiters on the cruise ship. 

In the midst of it all, I peeked under the table where Asa was twisting one leg behind the other.  “I only have one leg,” he said, smiling at me.  I smiled back.  He was trying the idea on for size.

We passed Mile Marker 46 on the bricks and cobblestones of Society Hill.   As Ruth and I continued with news and gossip, Asa observed my every step.  I decided he’d make a great prosthetist.

 “It’s not bending!” He called from two steps behind me. 

But really, I already knew that.

Every time I take a step, I think about bending the knee.  I think about triggering the toe.  I think about tightening my adducters.  I think about kicking out far enough so I don’t trip on the uneven stones.  

I forget that other people – both kids and adults -- are NOT thinking about my leg all the time.

I should have known.   As much as Asa was interested in how my leg worked, he was also interested in programming the pedometer, folding his napkin into a candlestick shape, and telling me about Alaska.

He had questions at first – lots of them – which, of course, I loved answering.  And I’m sure he’ll have more the next time he sees me.   But until then, there are gadgets to program, websites to explore, rockets to build, napkins to fold. 

So too, for the kids at school, I think.  Kids’ brains move fast.  If you blink, you miss your teachable moment.

Thanks for the answers, Asa!

It’s good to know some things haven’t changed.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Straight Up, With A Twist

Mile Marker 44:

What do you get when you combine a bunch of movers and shakers who also happen to wear prostheses?  But wait…. Don’t answer yet.  Throw in a team of professionals who believe amputees can do anything….  And a sprinkle of family and friends who agree.  Ok, now what do you get?

Why, a rock climbing clinic, of course!

Let me introduce you to my team: 

Michael climbs with or without his legs.

Shannon scales the wall like Spiderwoman.  Pisey anchors my foot when it misses a rock.   Zach explains the finer points of bouldering.


 And Samantha and Jake are our pint-sized scramblers that can’t be stopped.

Our prosthetists – Tim and Chris – are climbing too, and so are their families.  And John and Chris, the amazing guys who crafted our bionic arms and legs.  And Tyl, our personal paparazzi – snapping and filming as we go higher and higher.

This is TEAM PROLIMB.

Let’s just say I passed Mile Marker 44 somewhere up in the air. 

Up there, I could hear my team cheering me on.  I could hear our belayer Lex shouting directions for my hands and feet.  And I could hear myself yelling back, “Are you sure you’re holding on to me?!”

But it wasn’t about how high we went.  It was about squeezing out every last ounce of energy and helping our friends do the same.  

I can’t explain the bond I feel with this group, whom I’ve only known for a short time.  They give me an adrenaline rush.  But they also emanate a warmth that’s comforting and safe.  (In this case, we were all very sweaty, but you know what I mean!)

With every move and every conversation, I soak up what they have to teach me.  They inspire and awe me.  They motivate me and build my confidence.  And they make me laugh…especially at myself!

I climbed three times last night, till my muscles shook with exhaustion.  Yet every time I reached the ground, I was ready to start again.

At the end of the night, I was tired.  But it wasn’t the weak kind of tired you feel after surgery.  Nor the stressed-out tired you feel after trying to fit too much into one day. 

It was a satisfied tired.  The kind I so often felt after a long, fast Tuesday night skate. 

It was the kind of the tired you get from pushing yourself to the limit…and farther.    

It was the happy kind of tired you get from being part of something bigger than yourself.


From being part of a team that can raise you to new heights!

Click here to watch Tyl's amazing video of us: 


Mileage so far:  44.78

Saturday, August 13, 2011

New Frontiers

Mile Marker 39:

Sometimes signs come wrapped in strange packaging.

On Thursday night, my dad and I honored our Ruby Tuesday tradition with two special guests: my Uncle Steve and Aunt Gail. 

It was Uncle Steve’s birthday, but he gave me a gift – a piece of his BACON-WRAPPED SHRIMP. 

If Mile 40 is the "new 30,” then bacon-wrapped shrimp is definitely the new bacon!  (See Mile Marker 30 for the backstory…)

I should have known!  Uncle Steve had launched me toward my 40th mile.  

What new frontier lay ahead?




Mile Marker 40:

Yesterday morning, perhaps inspired by the bacon-wrapped shrimp, I made a critical change to my routine.

I was going where no C-Leg had gone before.   

I left my car behind and set out, ON FOOT, to physical therapy.

If you don’t have a Google Maps App at your fingertips, you might inhale a gasp of suspense here.  Please do!   It’ll make the story so much more exciting!

But if you are a techno-geek, or if you just happen to know where I live, you’ll realize--

Ok.  So it was only 3 blocks, but they were BIG ones.  Bigger than bacon.  Bigger than bacon-wrapped shrimp. 

This journey was not for the faint of heart.

It was the perfect storm.  Sunny, cloudless skies.  Low humidity.  A temperature of 68 degrees, the likes of which hadn’t graced Philly since mid-May.   It was even a good hair-day. 

Before I could change my mind, I locked up the house and crossed the first street.  The sidewalk was flat, and half shadowed by the low morning sun.  I rolled heel-to-toe.  I stayed on my prosthesis.  I walked with an even, solid gait.

But then, maybe one minute into the trip, I realized I’d forgotten something.

TO BREATHE.

In a panic, I glanced behind me at the ground I’d covered.  Maybe this was all a mistake.  This would not be a good place to pass out!  I could go back.  But the sidewalk was so long; my house, so far away.   It seemed hopeless.  I faced forward again.  I could see the rehab center ahead in the distance. 

I was halfway there.

My memory flashed back to all those early mornings on my bike.  I never knew what would happen in the middle of the ride.  Come rain, sleet, or wind, there was no choice but to move ahead -- I had to get to work. 

And today, I had to get to PT.

I pushed onward, counting backwards from 100.  It calmed my mind and forced me to breathe. 95, 94, 93, 92…  It evened out my steps.

The final street had lanes in every direction with cars crossing randomly from 4-way stop signs.  No pedestrian in the history of South Philly had EVER waited for traffic to clear on all sides!  Until this moment.

80, 79, 78…  I stepped off the curb carefully.  And crossed.  Looking left, then right, then left again.  My elementary school teachers would have been proud.  73, 72, 71…

69, 68, 67…  At 64, I could see the parking lot ahead.  And there, like a bright sunrise on the horizon, my friend Dean’s fiery-red convertible.  And better yet – Dean himself!

We’d been buddies since the beginning of our therapy. I reached his car, my heart still palpitating.  I told him what I’d done.

“That’s a big step!” he said.  And then we both laughed because it was true.  Several big steps actually.

Inside the building, therapists congratulated me.  I felt like I’d completed an Ironman! 

My PT Colleen put me on the treadmill at a 3% incline.  Then on the stairs without the railing.  She put a two pound weight in my backpack and had me walk the downhill ramp.  

Small steps for mankind.  Big ones for me.  

Bacon-wrapped shrimp?   New frontiers?   We do what we have to do.

But some steps are bigger than others.

Mileage so far:  41.36

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Bump in the Road

Mile Marker 37:

I've been an inline skater for years.  When you hit obstacles, you yell out, "Rough road!" to warn the skaters behind you.

Doctors, I learned, have their own lingo – A bump in the road.

The first time I heard this catchy phrase was in early January.  Only 5 days after my discharge, I’d landed back in the ER.

I was sprawled out on a cold, metal table in the CT scan room.  Warm dye pulsed through my body.  My intestines were getting ready to glow in the dark.

Suddenly, a surprise visitor pulled up a wheelie stool next to me.  It was my surgeon Dr. J.

I looked over at him warily.  Over the past two months, we’d become old buds.  But it was the middle of the night, and I was trying to juggle stomach pains, nausea, and vomiting.  In my hand, I clutched a blue sickness bag.

“Ok!” he said confidently.  “It’s one of two things.  It’s either a bowel obstruction or the stomach flu.  Let's hope it's the stomach flu.  My dad has it right now, and he’s really in bad shape.”

The stomach flu?  I thought.  But strangely, at this moment, it stood out as the better option.

He gave a reassuring nod.  "Either way, it’s just a bump in the road.” 

What followed was five days with an NG tube down my throat.  A BUMP IN THE ROAD???  Maybe a collapse of I-95, complete with broken pylons and a slow descent into the Delaware River, would have been more accurate.  

I couldn’t eat or drink and could barely talk.  The constant slurp of the suction machine made it impossible to sleep or even focus on TV.  And when they took the tube out, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, but my symptoms persisted.  If this was a bump in the road, it was a BIG one!

And let’s just say for the next two months, the road continued to be extremely bumpy.  We could have used an ATV to plow us through to surgery #13 in March.
-------------------------------------------------------------

Now, thinking back to that time, I feel guilty for even proposing that miles 35, 36, and 37 have been difficult.   But in a small day-to-day way, they have.


Clothes that won't fit.  Trouble getting into my socket.  Daily challenges like carrying groceries, cooking, doing household chores.  With each mile, I’m testing my strength and realizing my losses.  And sometimes my body  fights back with raw exhaustion. 

The words a bump in the road have become a little joke between me and my family.   We figure if a bowel obstruction is a bump in the road, then this stuff is no more than GRAVEL or PEBBLES!

But that phrase doesn't minimalize the struggle.  It actually does the opposite.

It takes me back to one of my bleakest, scariest moments. 

At that moment, Dr. J was really saying, We’ll get through this.  You’re going to be okay.  Better days are ahead. 

So a bump in the road tucks my day-to-day troubles into their proper place -- just a little more rough terrain.

I'm not skating yet, but my skater instincts must be kicking back in.  A bump in the road would make me call “Rough road!” for all the skaters behind me.  And, as most skaters know, once you call it out, you're through it and you can leave it in the dust.


Mileage so far:  37.35

Friday, August 5, 2011

If The Socket Fits...

Mile Marker 34: 

A dose of “retail-therapy” always gives me a boost. 

On a shopping expedition yesterday with my school pals -- Chase, Shawn, and Elvira – I marked Mile 34.  We trekked around Center City, weaving between the busy bulldozers on Market Street and the cliff-like curbs on Chestnut.  All three friends lent me a hand, or elbow, when I needed one.

Starbucks marked the beginning of our trip.   To perk up my hospital days, Elvira had sent me cheery text messages like, Hi Sunshine!  Thinking of you.  Soon we’ll be getting a Starbucks Special!  And now, here we were, drinking our Caramel Lite Frappaccinos together like we were takin’ a break on a school day.  But even better, we had a happy hour of shopping ahead!

--------------------------------------------
I’m still getting used to my new body and all its accessories.  Most importantly, the SOCKET of my prosthesis. It’s the top part, the part that fits snuggly and seals in my little leg.  Socket fit is key, but also complicated.

You see, my leg keeps shrinking as the swelling goes down.  So my socket, casted way back in February, has become roomy and loose.   When the shrinking’s over, I’ll get a new and more permanent socket.  But until then I fill this one up with SOCKS.   They come in different thicknesses (called plys) and look like sweatsocks with holes at both ends. 

Getting dressed is a process of trial and error, that can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 4 hours.  Like a 2nd grader working on math facts, I combine socks of different thicknesses until I get just the right fit.  Today I’m wearing 10 plys. 

Makes shopping for clothes look like child’s play.
--------------------------------------------

Fueled up by Starbucks, we hiked over to the Gap Outlet and a few second-hand shops. Browsing for pants that would fit over my prosthesis, I grabbed a few possibilities, but didn’t venture into the fitting room.  Trying on pants involves taking off my leg, a process best done at home!

After sampling around, we decided to lunch at MAMA’s, a tiny vegetarian place that serves huge falafel sandwiches with laughs and sarcasm on the side.  Mmmm. 

Later at home, I dredged up a last bit of energy to try on my new pants.  Not surprisingly, they didn’t fit over my socket and its 10 sock plys.  Oh well. 

I took off my leg for a rest.

But on crutches, I found myself at my bureau, fingering the necklaces and earrings I hadn’t touched for months.  Then, balancing on one foot in the bathroom, I started experimenting with make-up colors. 

It reminded me of last spring.  I'd spent months in hospital gowns, t-shirts, and sweatpants.  But one night, struck by the warm weather, my mom helped me try on some of my REAL clothes – capris, shorts, and blouses.  We both almost cried.  “I look like myself!” I said.  And from the waist up, I really did.

Our shopping trip yesterday gave me that same kind of hope.  A glimpse of my old confident self, and somewhere in there, the promise of dressing up again -- new leg and all. 

For the first time in a long time, I looked in the mirror and saw, not what was missing, but what was still there.  My own shape.  My own colors.  Me.

As the (slightly modified) saying goes, If the socket fits, wear it.   I hope to wear mine well.

Mileage so far:  35.30

Monday, August 1, 2011

Back to Bacon

Mile Marker 30:

After walking 30 miles, I thought I should celebrate big.  That I should come up with some deep thoughts about the accident and how far I’ve come.  But that task became too overwhelming, especially last night at bedtime.

It turns out there are some things I’m not quite ready to talk about yet.

So I decided to get “Back to Basics.”   Actually, BACK TO BACON.

Bacon’s a great way to celebrate my 30th mile.  Here’s why:  Bacon reminds me of so many tiny, pleasurable, and funny moments during my recovery. 

In the hospital, I didn’t have much of an appetite.  And the huge bags of antibiotics coursing through my IV made food taste metallic.  When my meal tray was delivered, I’d taste each item and then push it away.  My mom would take a forkful.  “It tastes fine!” she said.  No matter.  Even foods I loved – turkey, pasta, Starbucks Frappaccinos – tasted strange.

One morning, I was sitting in my chair, near the doorway of my room.  A cart of breakfast trays passed by in the hall.  An aroma wafted in.  

My across-the-hall neighbor had ordered BACON.

Bacon was never really something I liked.  But it smelled so good that, the next day, I ordered it too.  And the next.  And the next.  The streak was on.  Every day, bacon became my staple.  It was the only food I’d eat on my breakfast tray, and sometimes all day.   

In the morning, when my surgeon Dr. K stopped by, he’d jokingly lift off the plastic cover from my breakfast plate, sneaking a peek to see if I’d finished my bacon.  I always had.

Bacon wasn’t readily available at night, so I expanded to pepperoni.  My brother Mark braved the snow to bring me late-night pizza slices from outside the hospital.  He was a pizza and bacon-cheeseburger fan himself, so he proudly announced that he'd converted me to his world of fast food.   He started bringing me hash browns from Dunkin Donuts.  They went well with bacon.  I'd joined him on the dark side.

Why bacon?   

Maybe my body craved the salt, the fat, or the protein.  My Uncle Steve (who's also a doctor) came up with an unlikely theory that became my favorite.  While I was having a blood transfusion one day, he noticed the blood donation had come from a Wisconsin blood bank.  Altogether I’d received 19 units of blood.    He said I was like a new person on the inside – maybe one who was farm-fed.  Maybe my new blood cells craved bacon from the country’s heartland!

When I was discharged, I stuck with bacon for quite a while.  I needed to gain weight and it seemed like the perfect way to do it.  During our many IHOP nights, my parents and I dined on bacon and eggs.  My friend Sue and I discovered a great salmon BLT at lunch one day.  My Aunt Gail bought me a zany calendar full of fun facts and quotes about bacon.  I started thinking like Homer Simpson.  Greasy and thin or crunchy and thick, bacon tasted great.

Now, 8 months later, I’m weaning myself off.   The salt adds to the swelling in both my legs.  I’m trying to get back to my old, healthier eating habits.  Perhaps my own blood cells are taking over.

Yesterday, I fed the old and the new me.  In the morning, I walked three blocks to the local farmer’s market with Jen and Mary.  We bought lots of fresh veggies, and even found honey made from bees that live in my zip code!

But later in the day, I brunched with a big group of skater friends at Little Pete’s.   I ordered sensible eggs and toast, but I was lucky enough to sit next to my bud Bosco, who ordered pancakes and BACON.   She gave me a free sample.  Mmmm.  That bacon was thick and crunchy!

So as I mark Mile 30.  Here’s to going Back to Basics, or BACON. 

I’ll figure out the hard stuff eventually, but for now, I’ve decided comfort food is the way to go.

Mileage so far:  30.79

It seems a little unfitting that my mileage picture (at top) was taken today on the treadmill at PT!  But special thanks to my therapist Colleen, who snapped it while I was walking.  I tried taking a few but they all came out blurry!