Category Archives: ‘Rite on Point with Tanya

Depression – Evil Thing

Depression is one evil thing. It controls our mind, thoughts, ideas, body and much more. Depression goes away and comes back. We all have been depressed, whether it’s for a day, or for a month, or who knows, many years. I do not know a solution to this evil problem. But I do know one thing, it will get better! 🙂

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Photo Courtesy of projectlifemastery.com

 

Let’s think of that time when we were babies. I am sure that we were not depressed then. We had this spunky attitude. If we wanted something, we would get it either by tears or cuteness!! And let me be honest with you, guys! I have my moments! There’s a not a day when I wake up and say “Yes, I have no legs again!” Of course I look at myself and see that I am not “perfect.” But who is?

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Photo Courtesy of deviantart.com

 

I don’t like it when kids point at me or all the starring I get daily. I don’t like when I have to put on those legs and they are aching everywhere. But then I smile and remind myself that nobody is perfect, and there are people who have less than me or are dealing with bigger issues than me! I bet they would give anything for my body or your body, or your problems! Or they would love to be able to run distances like me! All of this reminds me that everything is okay.

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Photo Courtesy of ekenny.co.uk

 

Depression is evil but people that it affects are not. Everyone has something in their life that makes them special. Everyone has something to give to others. Focus your attentions on your talents and what you can give to others. Seeing what you can accomplish and what you can do to help those that really need it can be uplifting, as well as change your perspective on your own challenges. Remember, it will be okay and it will get better!

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Second time’s a charm!

If you had told me 6 years ago that I’d run a marathon, I would’ve died laughing. Back then, I never believed I could run a marathon, because honestly, I didn’t even think I could ever run. But that’s where it all started…

I received my first ever running blades about 6 years ago.

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Yes, you read that right. I do not have legs, because I was born without them. But you have heard this story before so let’s get back to running. When I began my running journey, I couldn’t imagine doing a marathon because I had never run before. Running a full marathon would just be insane. But my competitive spirit and determination won over. Several months after receiving my blades, I trained for my first 5K. Training for the 5K felt like a task but I wanted to prove myself that I could do it. And I did.

Several years and several other races passed, and I finally decided to do the Go! St. Louis marathon last year. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish it.

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Last year at the medical cooling off but still smiling.

 

Around mile 20 I ended up overheating. I was devastated because it felt like all of my hard work was for nothing! I felt like I had failed. Despite my sad story, I immediately knew I was doing it again! I wanted a better ending to this story. And I am so glad that I gave it another try – because I finished with a killer time of 4:30:36! It is about 10:20 min/mi, not bad for a girl with no legs! 😉 The same race with much better results!

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At the finish with tears of joy and relief.

 

The things I learned from my training experience (from the practical to the philosophical):

Bring water. Before I ran my first marathon, I assumed I wouldn’t need water because of the many stations through the race. But that’s one reason why I didn’t finish it. Bring your own water!

Take advantage of the bathrooms along the way. On my practice 18-miler, I ran into a gas station at mile 11 because I just had to go. There’s nothing worse than not being able to finish a run because your body is just like nah. Taking bathroom breaks regularly will give your body a quick rest, as well as not ignoring your body’s basic “to go” needs improving your overall abilities.

Take rest days. They’re just as important as your long run or hard days. Without that time to recover, your body can’t perform at its best.

It’s all mental. Stop telling yourself you can’t, or don’t want to, or are too tired. If it was easy, everyone would do it. It’s not supposed to be easy. For instance, hills are everyone’s challenge. I learned to love them, because after each uphill there is a glorious downhill!

Find your inspiration. Whether it comes from other people, books, yourself, your goals… let that drive you, fuel you, push you.

Get out of your comfort zone. I ran in many uncomfortable and cold conditions during the past 5 months. I joined a group of runners on Thursdays that focused on lots of hills and speed work. I also ran new and unfamiliar routes. It better prepared me for the race because I was less anxious for the unknown in front of me.

Week before the marathon:

It was a mentally exhausting week. All I could think about was the marathon. Will the weather be alright? Will my body cooperate that morning? Will I get sick? What if I don’t finish it again? Did I train hard enough? Maybe I shouldn’t eat so much so I can be lighter for the race? There were so many “What Ifs”. One thing that helped me get through was focusing on my sources of inspiration.

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In the days leading up to my marathon, I was constantly asked, “are you ready?” At first, this was a source of irritation for me, but then I realized, people were only meaning well. It’s like when people tell me that I’m an inspiration. They mean well, but it’s often hard to hear. And boy oh boy was it difficult to answer the question of whether I was ready – because I didn’t know myself – really until after I ran it. But, now I can answer this question – yes, I was ready!

Things I learned from my successful marathon:

Bring your own water bottle and energy gels. When you have your own water, you can drink whenever you need it versus waiting until the next water station. When it comes to energy gels, it’s good to have your own because you know what goes well with your stomach versus trying new gels on the day of the race.

It doesn’t matter how fit you are if you don’t train enough. I don’t know if I should’ve practiced longer distances, strength-trained my legs more, done more hills, or whatever. Probably all of the above. It felt like I could keep going forever cardio-wise, but my hips and glutes were so painful during the last 4 miles. Because of the intense pain, I was slowed down from a 9:30 average to a 10:40 pace. I was seeing people who I had passed in the first half of the race, speed past me in the last half.

Your body is amazing. One of the things that I’ve always loved about running is just how amazing the human body is, and just how much it’s capable of. Running taught me that I can overcome my own limits. I should never say “I can’t,” because I can. Think about how crazy it is that you’ve just run 26.2 miles. TWENTY SIX POINT TWO.

Have fun with it.

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Some of the best parts of the race were when I was high-fiving my family who came out to watch; when the spectators had funny signs like “you’re hotter when you’re sweaty”; when people by the side of the road set up a mister; and when an old man I had passed, later passed me saying, “hey, smile! You were smiling earlier!”. Smiling reduces the pain (fact: it releases endorphins), but also by having fun with it, you’re making memories. A marathon – 26.2 miles – is a long way. Have fun with yourself and with others while you’re doing it.

You learn to be so in tune with your own body. Four-plus hours is a long time to spend with yourself and your thoughts. Not only do you have to be mentally strong, but you have to listen to your body and its cues. Figure out what it needs. Listen to the pain, acknowledge it, and ignore it. Pain is temporary.

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Trust the process. Listen to your trainer. If he says to reduce your running mileage the week before marathon, do it! It’s for a reason. Enjoy the training and process.

 Finally, I couldn’t have done it without the support of EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. OF YOU.

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From every “good luck” text and message, to everyone who’s ever run a marathon before, to those who calmed my pre-race jitters, to the spectators who brought a smile to my face and pushed me to run harder, to the volunteers who handed me water with a smile, to the medical staff or the race who was waiting for me with the wheelchair, I couldn’t have made it without you.

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The point of this blog is to offer my encouragement. If you want to do a marathon – do it! It is not going to be easy. It is not going to be pretty. But it will be rewarding. Even if you failed at it your previous attempt, try again!

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I see my unfinished race as a lesson of what to do and not to do. I learned more from my failure that helped me toward my success than anything else.

 

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My well deserved 4:30:36 hour medal!

 

In the last few days, I’ve heard these two questions more than any other. One: Will I do this again? And two: What’s next? My answer: stay tuned!

If you’ve made it to the bottom of this very long post, thank you! I’d love to hear from marathoners – what are your thoughts? What tips do you have? And from those of you who aren’t marathoners – what’s stopping you especially if it is something you’ve always wanted to do?

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Limb Loss Awareness Month!

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Photo Courtesy of peglegpirate.org

 

April is Limb Loss Awareness Month – my favorite month of the year! Maybe it’s because the temperatures are warmer, and we are all ready for sun and flowers to bloom! Though, it doesn’t seem like spring these days here in Kansas City! Brrr! Or maybe it’s because we get to talk about my favorite topic – amputees! This special month is designated for those who have been impacted by limb loss and limb difference. It is about celebrating diversity, spotlighting accomplishments and educating the general community about issues impacting our lives.

 

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Photo Courtesy of amputee-coalition.org

 

According to the Amputee Coalition website, there are more than 500 amputations every single day in this country. With nearly two million people living with limb loss in the United States alone, our amputee community is full of experiences and diversity. The cool thing is that everybody has their own story, and April is our time to celebrate that which is far too often shunned – or at least overlooked.

Using the power of social media, amputees across the country and around the world are sharing their limb loss stories all month long. Although every journey is different, our strength lies with our numbers and our stories. During this incredible Limb Loss Awareness Month, the community is united to empower and to educate those who are struggling with limb loss, as well as those who may be impacted in the future or are touched by limb loss from loved ones or friends.

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Photo Courtesy of Amputee Support Group by Brett Weber

 

Here’s my story! I didn’t lose my legs in an accident or from an infection or other medical issue. I lost my legs before I was even born, from the aftermath of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant accident. Shocking, huh? Luckily, I didn’t feel the pain of losing my limbs, which is good, because pain after limb loss is not fun! So I’ve heard.

Being a congenital amputee can be frustrating, but also entertaining. I’ve never experienced having 10 toes or any toes. LOL! If I break my prosthesis, I can’t be as active and can end up in a wheelchair, which takes away my independence. I always have to have two sets of prosthetic legs, one set for running and one set for walking. (No, I am not an animal, but I do have four legs, ha-ha!) For instance, if I am walking down the street, I can’t just start running. (Hopefully there are no bad guys behind me or coyotes.) When I am traveling out of town for one of my races, I have to carry a pair of legs with me. Let me tell you, those heavy babies are not easy to carry! Early mornings aren’t fun either, because my silicones are always so cold, especially in the winter. Putting a cold silicone on skin is really unpleasant and freezing. Also, we always have to be cautious of blisters and any irritations. Finally, let’s not forget the public eye. There’s always someone watching me or my legs, whether I want them to or not.

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But the advantages overpower disadvantages. I never have cold feet, because I don’t have any feet. You can step on my feet and I won’t feel a thing! I get to say amputee jokes and laugh about it. If one of my prosthetic sets breaks, the other set always comes to my rescue. I see a completely different perspective on life than most people! My favorite advantage is that I get to show to those who struggle that it is okay to be different, you just really have to want it. We are all different – some are just more than others!

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Photo Courtesy of douglasbaderfoundation.com

 

I hope you all join me in sharing your story and why this month is special to you. Who knows, maybe your story will be the one that offers some hope to a new amputee, possibly encouraging them to push forward despite the setbacks!

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TIR Experience with Team Catapult

This blog is long but it is worth it…!

Going into this trip I didn’t really know what to expect! I’ve done many races and before I ran this one, I assumed I’d be doing the same thing! But it was more than just a race, time and a finish medal!

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I was invited to do a 180 mile Texas Independence Relay as part of Team Catapult, an amazing group that brings runners with disabilities together, such as amputees, visually impaired, deaf, and others.  Their website states that they are “turning disabilities into capabilities every day,” and this is so true! This year, Team Catapult had two teams made up of visually impaired athletes and athletes with prosthetic legs (a total of only 8 “normal” legs, LOL). Some of these runners are Paralympians and Paralympian hopefuls who can run as fast as the wind!!”  It was an honor to be part of this awesome crew.

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The Texas Independence Relay is an annual distance-running competition where teams of up to 12 (or less) members race approximately 200 miles from Gonzales to downtown Houston.

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If it sounds ridiculous, it is. And, every year it attracts ridiculous humans, most of whom love fast splits, post-run beer, and Texas. I don’t think I have ever seen so many Texas flags!

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To get from point A to point B, most teams rent (and decorate) two vans and journey past windmills and wildflowers through the Texas hill country on the nonstop, two-day excursion. There’s little sleep. Few showers. No whining. Just an epic adventure of life-affirming escape for regular joes and elite athletes, alike.

Following the “prologue” mile, a team’s first runner, which was me this year, keeps going onto the first leg, and the team catches up via a short van ride to the first exchange point. My first run was over 4 miles. I remember being anxious, but so excited to do something that I have never done – a relay and it was done with amputee friends! Training all winter in Kansas City weather didn’t prepare me for the 70 degree temperature lows with high humidity in spring!

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Photo Courtesy of Cat Nguen

 

Most runs are about 4 to 7 miles in length, and team captains determine runners’ rotation, depending on factors like route difficulty, length, and time of day. Rather than a baton, we were tagged in with the snap of a reflective slap-bracelet, an interesting change of pace. Straight away, we were facing (in my opinion) harsh conditions – everything from scorching spring sun and 80-plus degree temperatures to gravel and dirt roads, seemingly endless Port-o-potty lines, and even sometimes coyotes or wild dogs. Yikes!

While most teams “compete to complete,” rather than win, many enjoy “tagging” other vans at exchange points to signify they “wuz there.”

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Another part of the friendly competition includes counting “kills,” or runners from other teams passed along the route, by marking them on van windows. I, unfortunately, didn’t get to “kill” anyone – more like they were “killing” me with their incredible speed!

Nothing about TIR is typical, even for experienced marathon runners or trail runners who are used to rockier, dirtier, technical terrain. While each TIR run is relatively short, few human bodies recover well while cramped in vans with hours-long waits between runs.

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This is especially relevant when you wear 1 or 2 prosthetic legs! We took our recovery time very seriously! I took off my prostheses after every run (I had total of four runs) to make sure that I was fully recovered and ready to do another run! Sleep was minimal due to constant uncomfortable van rides on gravel and the smell of stinky silicones from tired runners!

Spending 24-plus uninterrupted hours with many sweating friends means you almost necessarily come back a different, stronger, nicer, weirder person. I think that’s the point!

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Safety is paramount, and we had to determine how to approach such challenging conditions. For us, that meant driving the van up a mile or two to provide a makeshift aid station mid-run for our current runner. We had to be self-sufficient and able to provide our runners with extra water or cool towels, if needed.

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Another challenge was making sure runners had accurate directions and stayed on course, much of which is uncovered, with little shade.

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Photo Courtesy of Scott Flathouse Phography

 

Heat exhaustion is a real concern during the earliest runs and “bonk brain” – a runner’s proclivity toward poor choices as fatigue sets in – becomes the norm. Huge shout out to other teams’ vans for the honks and love. Their support kept us going during our runs! Speaking of support, one of my runs happened to be at 1:30am!

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The temperature was wonderful, high 60s! However, the visibility and directions weren’t too clear, and the sound of wild dogs didn’t help, so I ended up getting a little lost. Fortunately, my team got ahead of me and guided me to my finish destination! No wild dogs got hurt by my blades! LOL!

Food became scarce as small towns shut down early – many only have one store anyway. We had to pack efficiently and prepare to sustain demanding physical schedules with meals that won’t easily spoil.

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I ended up eating a lot of energy gels, almonds, protein bars and a lot of water – hydration is the key!

The finish was the best! We started the mile together and we finished it together! It was humbling and rewarding! We were all exhausted, extremely sore and stinky – but we were also happy to have one goal – finish with joy and no serious injuries!

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This was not my typical race that I get to do every weekend – it was bonding with a group of people who have gone through something incredible and are not willing to give up.

We might not have won the race but according to TIR, we won The Team Spirit Award!

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Photo Courtesy of TIR

 

I am thankful to Team Catapult for allowing me to be part of this incredible journey that I will never forget! Speaking of Thank Yous, it takes a small (or maybe not-so-small) army that generously gives their time, energy, and expertise to make the Texas Independence Relay happen. A huge thank you to everyone that made this race possible and made it safe and fun for all of us!

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5 Things I’d Tell New Amputees – From a Fellow Amputee!

I often get asked this simple question – what things would I tell to new amputees. Since I’ve been an amputee my whole life, I think I can say that I have some knowledge of how to live as an amputee.

Boiled down to five simple things, this is what I’d say:

1) Take a deep breath. It will be okay.

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Photo courtesy of betterlivingthroughdesign.com

 

Take the time to let your body heal, really heal, and take it one day at a time. Don’t pile the fear and expectation for the rest of your life in a big heap on yourself today. Tomorrow will come. Today needs to be about healing. Look around your hospital bed and see the people who will be there as you face tomorrow and the next day. Because they will be there. The people who love you will help you through this thing, as long as you will let them.

2) You might not realize it yet, but there are a lot people rooting for you – maybe some you don’t even know. You know how jazzed up people get when there is an amputee soldier who needs encouragement? That’s your gift, too. Every amputee worldwide and every able bodied person who has a heart, is hoping and praying for you right now. Close your eyes and feel our support. If you are going to let anything weigh you down, let it be the blanket of love and encouragement that your supporters are weaving today.

3) This life with one less limb isn’t so bad.

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Photo courtesy of huffingtonpost.com

 

Even if you’ve lost two, don’t lose heart. There are many stories in the news about the amazing developments in the prosthetic world. When you’re ready, the life-restoring prosthetics are there.

4) You have a lot of support out there, from people who truly understand, if you want it.

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Photo Courtesy of hauteliving.com

 

I found amazing answers and encouragement from websites like Wiggle Your Toes and Empowering Amputees. The Amputee Coalition of America is a great resource for answers you and your loved ones have. Also, their Facebook page is a community of amputees from around the world who ask each other questions and give honest, heartfelt answers. When you’re struggling, someone there will understand. When you’re confused, someone there will say, “I’ve been there. Here’s what helped.” Don’t forget to reach out, even if it’s just anonymously at first. You may be surprised how many people do understand exactly how you’re feeling.

5) This is your experience, and your experience alone. Just because other amputees climb Mt. Everest, doesn’t mean that it has to be your goal. Just because some amputees run marathons, doesn’t mean you have to. Your life is your own. Your injury is unique. If you need a fitness goal to keep you motivated, talk to your physical therapist and come up with something that fits you. But you don’t have anything to prove to the rest of us. Don’t let that pressure weigh you down. Yes, there are endless activities available to amputees today. Organizations like The Challenged Athletes Foundation can help you get back to any activity you might want to try. But every goal should be about what you want, not about what you believe others think you should do.

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Photo Courtesy of pinterest.com

 

Your main goal should be to get back to life. You know, the part of life that is about making memories with the people you love, and doing the things that make you happy? Whatever it takes to get you there, is perfect. It might mean walking unassisted on a prosthetic leg by Labor Day. Or it might mean getting used to a comfortable pair of crutches, or a wheelchair. But never forget what really matters. You’re alive. You’re surrounded by people who love you. The world is cheering for you. As long as my fellow amputees and I are around, we will be encouraging you, and you will never be alone.

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Advantages of Prosthetic Legs!

Before I get into the advantages of prostheses, let me clarify a few minor things. Prosthetic legs are artificial limbs that are used in cases of amputation.

 

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  • Photo courtesy of bbc.com

 

Either one or both legs may be subjected to amputation for a variety of medical reasons. Amputations can be performed above or below the knee, depending on medical conditions. A variety of factors can make the use of prosthetic legs easier. However, not everyone who has one or two leg amputations wants to or can wear prosthetic legs. There are, however, some big advantages to using prosthetic legs for those who are able and willing.

The first advantage is energy use. According to the Amputee Coalition, when the prosthetic legs are well fitted and the patients have good gaits, they expend less energy in walking, in comparison to walking without prosthetic legs or using crutches.

The second advantage is mobility. For people with two leg amputations, the choice is between prosthetic legs and a wheelchair. Some patients, even those with single amputations, prefer the comfort of a wheelchair or choose to avoid prosthetic legs for a variety of reasons including financial ones. But, prosthetic legs allow amputees the option of going upstairs, downstairs, in tight areas or even cars and other methods of transportation with more ease. Also, there are areas that are not accessible by wheelchairs, like older buildings.

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Photo courtesy of deviantart.com

 

Although, there has been an increased awareness of making areas available to the handicapped. Most importantly, prosthetic legs provide a greater sense of independence thanks to that amazing prosthetic mobility.

Finally, there is the psychological advantage. People can gain a better psychological outlook on life by mastering the use of prosthetic legs, whether they are using one or two.

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Photo courtesy of thebetterindia.com

 

According to the Amputee Coalition of America, amputees feel less discomfort with their conditions when wearing prosthetic legs because of the ability to blend in better with the crowd. Also, people who do not have the opportunity to wear prosthetic legs feel cheated and can become bitter and frustrated. I am proof of this situation. Whenever my prosthesis would break as a child, I would end up being in a wheelchair until my prosthesis got fixed. I always felt uncomfortable and frustrated with this, and I obviously couldn’t really blend in with my friends. Fortunately, I have good prostheses right now, and I am more careful with them so that I won’t break them again! Lessons learned!

These are the advantages that I have found for why I wear prosthetic legs. I know they are not for everyone. There are some definite disadvantages that many people find with prostheses, but we won’t focus on those today!

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6 Misconceptions About Being An Amputee!

I’d like to take this opportunity and clarify the following misconceptions about being an amputee. I am clearing up these misconceptions almost daily. Enjoy!

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Photo courtesy of wordpress.com


Misconception #1: I Was Involved in a Tragic Accident or I am a Veteran
Fortunately some amputees, like myself, have never had to go through something as tragic as losing a limb in combat or losing it in a car wreck. There are so many ways to lose a limb. Cancer, diabetes, and other diseases are major factors in limb loss and amputation. Ask me instead of assuming it was tragic. 

Misconception #2: I’m Used To It, So It Doesn’t Bother Me
This is a very common statement I hear often. I was born with missing limbs, and when I tell people this, their initial response is, “Oh, so you’re used to it, that’s good. It doesn’t bother you much then.” Wrong! It doesn’t matter if I have always been an amputee, or I just became one. This is not something that someone just gets used to. It always bothers me. It bothers me when my friends are able to go do things that I am physically limited at. It bothers me when you stare and secretly whisper to your friend. It bothers me that the first impression that someone has of me is my legs. It bothers me that you don’t think to ask about how I’m doing because you think I’m “used to it.” Being physically and visibly different than the vast majority of people I am around is never something I’ll get used to. I get over it and cope, but guess what… sometimes it still sucks.


Misconception #3: I Don’t Want You to Ask About My Prosthesis

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Photo courtesy of quora.com


Please.. Please.. Please ask me instead of gawking with your mouth wide open. Parents, if your child is looking at my leg, don’t hurry them to look away. Encourage them to talk to me because I love kiddos. It could be a very good learning opportunity for them and you. Encourage them to ask me about how I lost my legs and how my legs work. They can learn that being different is awesome. I love explaining how my legs work and what happened to me. Explaining how it works makes me sound smart and like a scientist. Any opportunity I get to share my story means I can change someone’s life and their perspective.


Misconception #4: I Always Want to Talk About My Disability
A lot of people want to remind me that I am an inspiration, and they want to know what happened. But sometimes I just don’t want to talk about my prosthesis and what happened to me! I just want to talk about my day, or my love for running (which I talk about it a lot). We don’t always want to be reminded that we are an inspiration. I live with my disability every day, and talking about it doesn’t make my disability better. It just reminds me that I have a disability.

Misconception #5: Having a Prosthesis is Just Like Having a Real Leg
“You’re so lucky you have prostheses… It’s pretty similar to walking like you have two real legs.” As grateful as I am to be blessed with prostheses and to be able to walk, this statement makes me mad… so just… No. It’s so much harder. Things break and rip and hurt… constantly.


Misconception #6: I Can’t Laugh at My Situation

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Photo courtesy of someecards.com


Having one leg or no legs is actually hilarious to me. There are so many things that I or my loved ones can say that are just funny. “Tanya, if you leave your leg outside, the dogs will eat it.” “Tanya, don’t hit your sisters with your leg. “Tanya, I will take your leg off and beat you with it.” I laugh at myself before anyone else can. That’s what makes me strong. One of my favorite quotes is from Steel Magnolias. “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”

What other misconceptions do you clear up daily?

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