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!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Running Away

Mile Marker 584:

"Run Forrest run!"

You know that scene from Forrest Gump where Forrest breaks out of his leg braces to escape the gang of boys?  And he just keeps running till all his troubles fade away?

That’s what the last 20 miles have been like.

Believe it or not, I’m coming off a string of 3 MILE DAYS – the most I’ve walked in months!

I hang with the nieces.
I haven’t been feeling my best, so I bribe myself.  I walk slowly to Philly Java for an iced chai.  I stretch my tolerance on the treadmill from 20 minutes to 25. 


We celebrate my brother Steve’s birthday (only a week late!) on the steep sidewalk of Chestnut Hill. 


I meet up with friends Ruth and Asa for a night at our old favorite, “The Noodle House.”  Asa's grown a lot since Mile Marker 46!

The days are dotted with abdominal pain.  But I tell myself if I walk after dinner, the food will digest.  If I just move my feet, it’ll distract my mind.
And I do see some cool stuff!

When all else fails, I count from 1-100. The rhythm beats out my steps.  I do it over and over again until the walk is complete.  The numbers stretch out in a calming line before me.  They’re a measurement of their own.   And they keep my mind from wandering.

I have this illusion that if I just stay in motion, the pain won’t catch up.

My other strategies were blown to bits by my last hospital stay.  And while I haven’t exactly thrown them to the wayside, it feels good to have a new trick up my sleeve.  This week it’s MOVEMENT.

"Rest is rust," prosthetist Tim taught me from the very beginning.  It's one of his little phrases I collect like party favors.  Words that give insight into my new life as an amputee.

He's right.  When I stop moving, the muscles stiffen.  My joints become less flexible.  When I sit too long, my socket digs in.  If I lose volume, I lose suction. 

But there's more to it now.  I worry about eating, and chewing, and swallowing, and breathing.  Sitting still gives the pain time to catch up.  I imagine even more scar tissue webbing around my intestines.

I know that's not really how it works.  But movement creates an invisible force-field.  It distracts me from wondering, What if this doesn’t get better?


I dreamed this week of driving on I-95, surrounded by traffic at such a speed that I could not change lanes and could not exit.  On either side of me, vehicles barreled by.  Big rigs with thick, heavy tires.  Reckless pick-up trucks.  I was trapped.

In the passenger seat beside me, rode my Aunt Robin.   We’d started out for dinner but somehow ended up on this raceway together, unable to escape.

Finally, traffic backed up to a crawl.  We WALKED down the nearest exit ramp, dragging the car beside us like a sled.  Halfway down, a group of benches appeared like an oasis.  We sat.

“Are you ok?” I asked Aunt Robin.  “Are you in pain?”

She nodded, rubbing her arms and legs.  She has trouble walking too, yet I could see she was determined to make the trip with me.   We had no other choice.

I awoke with a feeling of overexertion.  Of going way too fast.

But they say that people in your dreams show you a part of yourself.  If that’s true, Aunt Robin represents the part from which I draw strength.  The part that pushes the pain to the background.  The part that never stops moving.


This week, I RAN.  I mean really and truly!

Ok, it only lasted 34 seconds.  And my hands were planted on the treadmill rails.  And there was a gait belt securely fastened around my waist.  And PT Deb gripped that gait belt with both hands.  

I watched my running shoes, commanding my knee to bend.  I listened for the rhythm, willing my steps to stay even.

Still, it was legitimate.  Both feet left the ground!
  
It was when only I looked up that I faltered.

“4.7 miles an hour!!!”  I yelled, shocked at the speed on the treadmill display.

With that, I completely lost my footing.

Deb hit the stop button.  And when we finished laughing, we high-fived our small victory.

The abdominal pain faded for a few days.
I thought I had OUTRUN it.

But it’s back today.  So I breathe deeply.  Forcing air into its very center.  Exploding it with my breath.  

Mom comes over to help me pack and sort my belongings.  (Soon, the house'll be for sale, and I’ll be moving.)

We walk to get an iced chai that I can barely drink.  But we notice beautiful gardens and vintage bikes along our path.

So I can’t run away from my troubles. 

At least for now, I can walk.

4 comments:

  1. It was so nice to join you today on one of your miles (even though it was by telephone)! Everyday I wish I was with you, cheering you on, and helping you through this new life you are living. Maybe one day we will live closer together like I always imagine. For now though I hope you realize that I am always there walking with you, maybe not in the physical sense, but always there none the less! You are my best friend and when you are able to run I will also be there to run with you... even though I hate running...

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    1. You and Brennan were the best walking partners I could have had this morning. You helped take my mind off the painful stuff -- you always do! And no worries... If and when we run together, it'll always be out for ice cream!

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  2. There are too many things these days that remind me of your journey. I never want to trivialize it. I read ads on buses, billboards, etc. and just when I think that I've manufactured all the metaphors and linked all the comparisons, I think; that would be great for Rebecca's blog. So, from my latest Dean Koontz book, "Mitch had not believed in destiny; now he did. And if a man (woman) believes in destiny, after all, she must believe in one that is golden; one that shines. She will not wait to see what she is served. She'll butter the her bread thick with fate and eat the whole loaf." Your golden moment is coming. Run for the gold!

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  3. You ran!!! You ran!!! You ran!!! Congratulations!

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