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, January 21, 2017

Why I March

Mile 4760:

I almost didn't march today.

Here's why:  It had been a busy work week.  On top of that, I rock climbed on Wednesday night, celebrated Deb's birthday on Thursday night, and went to a housewarming party on Friday night.  I expected this weekend to be jam-packed as well.

It was too much leg time.  I was exhausted.  Just thinking about the Women's March pushed me over the edge.

"I can't do it all," I told my mom last night.  "I need to skip something, and that's the one event where I won't be missed."

The Women's March would be happening in all 50 states.  I am just one person.  Mathematically, I wouldn't matter a whole lot.

But when morning arrives, I can't explain it.  I just KNOW I should be there.

So I hop on the bus.  Meet Mom at the train.  And then we walk for the next 3 hours!

We stroll down Market Street, through City Hall, and toward the Ben Franklin Parkway.  Stop at Sister Cities Park and then join the crowd at Logan Circle.

It's a cloudy gray day, but Swann Fountain is transformed into a rainbow-colored playground.

This is what HOPE looks like!

And that's just the beginning.  From there, we join the marchers -- a solid MILE of people!

How could you NOT follow this family?!

Thanks for the hats,
Aunt Robin!
We bob along in a sea of Pussyhats.

Chants surround us:
Women's rights are human rights! 
Black lives matter!
This is what democracy looks like! 
...and so many more.

Signs bounce like buoys above our heads!

I don't like crowds, yet I feel safe in this one.  Reinforced.  Protected.  Like everyone might be a friend.

There are some things we all agree on!

Another sign up ahead (too far for a photo) catches my eye.  It says:  If this ship is going down, we might as well have a parade.

Yesterday I watched the inauguration from the rehab gym, and that's exactly what I thought. This ship is going down.  As the Obamas said goodbye, and Trump was sworn in, I turned up the treadmill.  I rowed faster on the rowing machine.  I did abs, and arms, and pull-ups, and push-ups.  A few people asked why I was so intense.  (Usually, I just hang out and chat with everyone!)

"I have to get ready," I said.  "Life as we know it is over."  I was only half-joking.  I felt this urgent need to get stronger, to be able to survive when things go awry.

I imagined the restricted world in The Handmaid's Tale, and the lonely wilderness in Station Eleven, and the insidious suppression in The Nightingale, and the post-apocalyptic darkness in The Bone Clocks.  Ok, maybe I read too much.  Or maybe I catastrophize too much.  But in that hour of TV coverage, I pictured all the things that could go terribly WRONG in the next four years and beyond.

The Women's March pushes those thoughts away.

At Mile 4,760, I don't think this ship is going down at all.  Not here.  Not with all these caring, kind, intelligent, open-minded, and resourceful passengers aboard!

Yes, I'm still worried.  Yes, I still feel the need to be on guard.

And yes, I can see many more marches in my future.  Because along with all the messages today, I can never forget this one:

And I thought my voice wouldn't matter?

One voice matters.  Every voice matters.

And that's why I marched.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

On A Good Leg Day

Mile Marker 4709:

On a good leg day, I walk through a metal detector at the Flyers Game.

It beeps, of course.  Dad glances at me; I glance at him.  No one else around seems to notice.  We keep going, and no one stops us.

We show our tickets to the next attendant, step onto an escalator, and finally ascend a flight of stairs.  I suspect there's an elevator nearby, but today it doesn't matter.

It's a good leg day.

For those of you who aren't ruled by the comfort of your extremities, let me clarify.  My friend Ian once said to me, "Some people have good hair days.  You have good leg days!"

That's exactly how it works.  (And when they both fall on the same day, well, watch out world!)

On a good leg day, I walk better.  I feel coordinated.  I have more energy.  It's like someone hit the mute button on the static -- all that nerve noise -- that usually runs through my body.  Of course, there's still sweating, and rubbing, and poking to worry about.  But on the rarest-of-rare days, even these fade to the background.  My Genium and I move in tandem.  We are one.

Our first time in a Club Box
At Mile 4,709, it gets even better.  A good leg day turns into a good leg night!

Dad and I find Club Box 81 at center ice.  The players are already on the rink warming up, but I don't even make it to our seats.  I'm pulled in by the buffet of snacks from Chickie & Pete's.  The counter tops are filled with food.

"Wait," the server tells us, "a huge Lorenzo's pizza will be here soon!"

Yep, it's worth waiting for!

Our seatmates are athletes from Magee's wheelchair basketball and rugby teams.  They're a friendly, welcoming bunch!  I marvel at their ability to maneuver around the tiny space, dodging bar stools and high tables.  As the clock counts down to face-off, they lift themselves out of their wheelchairs -- over armrests and stairs -- into what some would think are "inaccessible" stadium seats.  These guys make it work.  They're strong!!!

I'm in AWE before the game even starts!

Dad and I descend the stairs to the front row.  We cross in front of two other amputees, Jim and Jimmy, to reach the inside seats.

Getting my prosthesis into a stadium row is usually a dizzy, wobbly, precarious adventure.  But tonight, I'm carrying snacks and stepping over people's legs without hesitation.  It all seems like kids' stuff!

On a good leg day, anything's possible...

...which leaves plenty of room for fun!

Let's Go Flyers!
Unfortunately the Flyers are not having a good leg day.  Goalie Steve Mason's legs (and arms, and body) cannot seem to protect the goal.  And right winger Jakub Voracek's legs (and arms, and stick) are working overtime to compensate.

We cheer like crazy, but it's not quite enough.  The Flyers trail the Rangers the entire game.  End score 5-2.

Our seatmate Keith has a huge smile on his face.  He's the Wheelchair Sports Coordinator at Magee, and the one who invited me to the game. "Sorry about your team," he says.  (Spoken like a true Rangers fan!)

That's OK, Keith!  I had an AWESOME time!

As we make our way out, it's nearing 11 p.m.  On a typical night, my leg would be screaming to get out of its socket, and I'd be counting the minutes until I could take it off.  But tonight all is quiet and comfortable.  If everyday were like this, life would be so... normal.

"This is the best leg day I've had in a long time," I say to Dad.  "Maybe EVER!"

Good leg days, like most good things, don't last forever.  I know tomorrow will probably be different.  And when it is, I'll remind myself that walking -- for better or for worse -- is always a privilege.

Any day on my feet is a pretty good day.

Metal and all.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Happy New Year!

Mile Marker 4700:

At 8 a.m. the fire alarm blasts.

It's our first one of the year -- a false alarm, thank goodness!

Still it's jarring, and heart pounding, and blaringly loud.  The siren echoes off the walls of my bedroom.  At least I have my leg on.

No pants yet.  But at least a leg!

I flip my Genium upside down and pop off its shoe.  Ears ringing, hands shaking, I slide on a pair of corduroys, refit the shoe, and lock my knee back into place.  Then I grab my cell phone from the night table.  Pull on a jacket.  Head for the stairs.

Halfway down, I notice my left foot is still wearing its sock from yesterday.

Oh well.  Not bad for an emergency.

It's January 3, 2017.   Does the beginning of the year predict the rest?

It seems like it would, but experience tells me it doesn't work that way.  (And in today's case, that's probably a good thing!)  After all, I've had plenty of great New Year celebrations with not-so-good years to follow.

This week, my Facebook newsfeed was kind enough to share a few reminders of New Years past.  Ironically, one of the best was from January 2010, when I rang in the year with friends, neighbors, and hundreds of Mummers on Philly's famous "2 Street."

Wanna travel back in time?  Here's a clip of the fun:
(To view it on youtube, click here.)

Those were the good old days!  But listen.  Bon Jovi called it.  Life was about to take a dramatic turn.  Who would have guessed I'd be Livin' on a Prayer, literally, by the end of that year??

On January 1, 2011 -- exactly one year, 12 surgeries, and 7 weeks of hospitalization later -- I posted this memory on Facebook:

Shelley even flew in from Chicago!
I spent most of that New Year's Eve doubled over with abdominal pain, so being "home" only lasted a few days.  I never imagined how many obstacles still lay in my path.  Yet it was a new year.  Friends and family gathered.  I was home, and for the moment anyway, it seemed like a step forward.

Another year later, with a 13th surgery under my belt, I reached Mile 267, and finally returned to my home on "2 Street" -- just in time to ring in 2012!

A toast to 2014!
The next few years brought new apartments, new friends, and even a few new leg tricks!

Each year had its share of ups and downs, but there was also much to celebrate.

Fast forward a few thousand miles...

Make way for 2017!

Now, I live two miles north of South Philly, so when the sun rises on New Year's Day, there are no Mummers in sight.  Instead, when I stand on the balcony -- balancing on one foot -- I see the clearest, cleanest, most hopeful sky.

A blank slate.  Full of quiet possibilities...
...and, of course, the occasional fire alarm.

So here's to 2017, and whatever it might bring.  As Bon Jovi says, We'll give it a shot!

Wishing you a healthy and happy New Year!