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!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Stolen Goods

Mile Marker 400:

On the eve of Mile 400, I was fried.

I stood between the parallel bars at Prosthetic Innovations for the 10th time this month.  Tim listened patiently -- yet again -- as I described the poking and jabbing.  The sticking and tugging and burning. 

Then he carried my socket back into the workshop.

When he returned, he asked me a question.

 “Feel like you’re ready to jam?”

JAM??   I thought.   It's been 6 months since I've walked comfortably.  I've got surgery scheduled for next week.  At this point, I’d be happy just to sit down!

Somewhere in the 300’s, this trip stopped being new and shiny and full of wonder.

Last April when I started prosthetic training, I'd wake up EXCITED each morning.

For hours, I practiced walking across my parents' kitchen.  Tracing the same path over and over again, step by step, my hand brushing along the counter top for balance.  

Now the mornings are different.  I’m tired.  When the alarm sounds, I hit the button and go back to sleep.  I think how much easier it would be to stay in bed.

The novelty of this journey is wearing off.  Each day, it becomes more REAL.  Its forever-ness weighs me down.

Somewhere in the 300's, this journey became… my life.

So I've resorted to stealing.

I'm running low on energy, but I've discovered an unlimited supply.

I spent a spontaneous half-mile with nurses (and friends!) Elly, Julie, Doris, and Deb.  But along the way, I stole their confidence and courage.  Their memories of where I was a year ago and how far I've come.

I met up with Dad and Uncle Steve at the Oregon Diner.  Over thick pea soup, I stole their easy laughter, their warmth, and their comfort.  Then they headed to the Flyers Game, and I went home to take off my leg.  But I got what I needed.

And from my workout buddy Sylvia and our awesome PT Deb,  I stole knowledge, inspiration, and problem-solving.  Their strength to keep on pluggin'.

I used to be a member of a different team:  National Skate Patrol.   Three times a week, we organized routes for masses of skaters.  We helped keep skating safe and fun within the cluttered traffic of Philly streets.

As you might guess, I had the shortest legs.  When the group took off, I chased and scrambled with all my might!  I hated to lag behind!

White helmet, middle row...

Of course what I lacked in size and speed, I made up for in volume.  When you spend your days controlling a class of middle schoolers, your vocal muscles grow big and strong.

“Clear!” I yelled, or "Car up!" or “Left lane!  Skate left!”

If the approaching skaters didn’t SEE me in the distance, they sure HEARD me!

One Christmas, our Skate Patrol leader Rick mailed me a photo card with a snapshot from that year's Freedom Skate event.  But what I remember most was the handwritten message he attached on a yellow post-it note:

Rebecca – You are a skater who I steal energy from….

I don’t remember the rest, but those words stuck with me all this time.

Especially lately, when it seems all I do is ABSORB, ABSORB, ABSORB.

I soak up the light and power of my new team.  

Their words echo constantly in my head, too:
Smile and keep walking, one step at a time.
Puzzle it out.
Use those muscles.

I steal their energy.  And it becomes mine.

The Mile 400 moment
with my friend Karen!
At Mile Marker 400, my team stepped in as usual.  To do at least 400 things that I just couldn’t do for myself.

But most of all, to remind me that there's always energy for the taking.

With their encouragement, I suddenly felt strong again.  Reinforced.  Renewed.  I somehow found my second wind.

“So," Tim asked.  "Feel like you’re ready to jam?”

I must have shot him a quizzical look because before I could answer, he did.

“I think you are!" he said.  "As soon as we get this socket stuff worked out, I think you’re ready to JAM!”

Well, you can probably guess what I did with his comment.  

I stole that, too.

Mile 400 is for my friend and fellow skate patroller Steve, who always had energy and light to spare.
 And to Karen, who's got lots of her own.


  1. Aunt Patti just put me on a diet! We'll see how that goes! At least until the next pea soup and veal parm. at the Oregon Diner.

    Uncle Steve

  2. I remember several years ago, while on a skate, I was not feeling well. My wheels were new, but must have been made out of gumdrops (not quite as soft as jam). I mentioned to the others that I was skating back and not finishing the skate. Our friend Steve told me that he would skate back with me. I asked him if he needed to go back too. His answer was,"Nobody should skate alone. I'll go back with you." It was my "team" moment. There might not be a skate patrol any more, but the energy is still there. Hope to see you out skating again soon. Rec Roll? Thanks for the photo that included Steve.

  3. I'm afraid to admit but when I read your blog everyday I steal from you. When I'm in your company, I steal energy from you. Feel free to steal from me anytime you feel like stealing :) I have to agree with Tim after your surgery on Monday, you will be ready to JAM! It might be on crutches on the Ocean City Boardwalk making our way to George's for ice cream but you will be JAMMING!!

    And to our friend Steve who always had a smile for everyone and Karen who has a special smile of her own.