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!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

September

Mile Marker 1300:

I know, I know.
It's October.

The thing is, I just can't let go of September yet.

I bet you're expecting my typical rant about what's ahead... darkness, wind, ice, snow.  NOVEMBER.  But that's not where I'm going.  (Well, technically, I am going there -- we all are -- just not in this blog post!)

Spring is usually the time for renewal, but right now it's fall, and I tell you there’s a growth spurt going on.  Life is busier than it's been for the past 3 years!  Even as the leaves drift to the ground, my branches burst and spread.  Sometimes in the unlikeliest places...

When I pull my Honda Civic into the gas station, my stamina runs as low as the fuel gauge.   I’ve just finished a two-hour drive from Baltimore to Philadelphia.  My butt bone aches.  I can’t wait to get out of this car.
The pumps are crowded for a Saturday evening.  I wait in line behind two cars and then pull into the next and only pump available.  I open the driver’s side door, hoist my legs out onto the blacktop, prosthetic side first.  When I straighten up, my hip is molded into the angle of the car seat, and I feel the ever familiar poke of my socket.  I slide a credit card into the gas pump.  But no-go.  It won’t read the card. 
I reach into my wallet for cash and find nothing but a lonely one-dollar bill.
So I hobble over to the glass payment booth.  Hold up my silver MasterCard.
“The pump won’t take my card,” I say to the woman inside.
“How high is your amputation?” she says back.
Huh?  In my driving-daze, I wonder if this is some sort of test.  Yes, I'm wearing shorts, but the question still seems out of place.

“Above the knee,” I answer tentatively. 
“I’m through the knee,” she says.  It's amputee jargon.  She motions to a door on the side of the booth.  “Come around,” she says.
I follow the curb around.
She gets up and opens the glass door, tugging up her peasant skirt to show me her prosthesis.

In the next two minutes, I learn her name is Cassandra.  She tells me she’s been an amputee for over 20 years.  I tell her my injury happened less than a mile from this gas station.   Then we talk some more.
For years, I've been nothing but an anonymous customer, paying an anonymous woman in a glass booth.  Now there's a connection.  It's random, but energizing.

The spark of September.

It's Susan's birthday, too...
The month lights up with birthday treats:  a pair of trekking poles from Mark, a Starbucks lunch with Deb, a chilly evening picnic with Mary, Susan, and Jen.

and Chase's...
My school team bakes me a cake, dotted with candles they saved from last year -- when I was still in the hospital.  (They ate last year's cake without me!)

Days pass quickly.  Evening creeps in earlier and earlier.  There's a trip to the beach, a hike in the woods.  A party with new friends in my apartment building.

Branches veer off, tracing curvy paths into the sky.

and Sam's!
I fly solo to Vermont for a "sister weekend" with Sam.  She's two inches taller, but 9 years and 10 days younger.  Yep, another September birthday!

Then Mom and I drive to visit friends Mo and Arnold, from the Amputee Coalition Conference.  Rob, my peer mentor, surprises us there.  He hasn't seen my mom since our shell-shocked hospital days!  The five of us have so many stories to share, it's like we've known each other for a lifetime.

One Saturday morning, I go out walking with friends from the rehab gym.  Dave and Robert lead the way, their crutches in hand.  I lag behind with Binal, pushing the wheelchair "just in case."  Dave and Robert are determined not to use it, but after the first hour, Binal and I are tempted!

Crisp, rippled leaves litter the road.  Each step is a feat of its own, yet we take 10,560 of them -- a 2-mile journey in all!

And yes, we obey the speed limit.  By a long shot!

September rolls on.  Each night, I fall into bed exhausted.  But it's worth it.  This year, instead of down-sliding, each new spark ignites me with energy.  Gives me the momentum I need to glide over bumps in the road.

I am undeniably HAPPY.  But as much as I try to put the feelings to words, I can't.  I can't bring myself to say I'm glad I was in an accident, glad to have experienced the last few years, glad to be an amputee.

Yet without my injuries, I wouldn't have met many of the people who now fill up my life.  The daily victories wouldn't feel so victorious.  I wouldn't be able to recognize each sunny, healthy moment as the gift that it truly is.

How can something built of immeasurable PAIN seem like a BLESSING in some ways, too?

Yesterday, on the very last day of September, my friend Shelley finally rescues me -- with, of all things, a Facebook post.

Call it a bike ride epiphany -- it captures my feelings perfectly:

As I was gritting at the headwind on my bike commute this morning, all of a sudden that same headwind brought me the most delightful chocolate aroma.... Ah, sometimes the thing that challenges you the most brings you just what you need (or at least a little bit of aromatherapy).

Thanks, Shell.

So maybe it's the warmth that lingers behind when the calendar says it's fall.  Maybe it's the fact that I can now count a whole year -- September to September -- since my last surgery.   Or maybe it's the energy of so many close friends, old and new.

Whatever it is, it keeps my branches growing.

As I blow out my candles this year, there's not much left to wish for -- except maybe 12 more months like this one.

Thank you September, and everybody.

My tank is full...


When you have a month like this, you've just gotta celebrate :)
Click here to watch the video.

7 comments:

  1. What's not to celebrate in September!! Look at all the great people who celebrate a birthday in September :)

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  2. Very nice read. You've got quite a talent for writing. Always keep looking forward...

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  3. a year without surgery, that is reason to celebrate!

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  4. This just makes my heart sing. The positive energy bursting out of this post seems palpable from my computer screen here in Chicago.
    As usual, beautiful writing (and wonderful photos!).....love love love the last line and how it perfectly ties back to the beginning. Reading this post is re-filling my own energy tank after a long day. :-)

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  5. Watched the video. It really shows the positive energy that Shelley commented about. I especially liked the balance beam maneuver you performed while hiking.

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  6. Hi everybody,
    You're absolutely right... At this point, what's not to celebrate?! Thanks for moving me forward with all your positive energy --
    And you can attribute that last balance beam maneuver to months of practice with PT Deb. I try to do her proud!!
    Rebecca

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  7. Nice "walking sticks" in the video. Jack's still waiting by the phone for you to cash in your gift certificate!

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