Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's What You Do




Sometimes people ask me how I coped so well when I had my leg amputated. How I picked up and went on with life, adapting where I needed to and remaining optimistic about the future. The quick answer that rattled around in my head was "It's wathcha do."

It's what you do when life hands you a deformed leg that slows you down and makes keeping up with your young kids impossible. It was really the only choice once I saw what great options were available in prosthetics. I geared up mentally and tackled the problem head on. The alternative was to whine and fuss about how I was handed a bum limb and make everyone in my life suffer as much as I did. That didn't seem like an option I'd want to choose. Living life to the fullest with a new bionic leg seemed like more fun and reworking my daily life didn't seem like that big of a deal once my leg was gone. So it all boiled down to," It's watcha do".

It's not uncommon for people to ask me how in the world Jeff and I balance life with two full time working parents and four kids, three of them teenagers. How we keep everyone fed and clothed and delivered to their respective activities. How we keep them all up to date on shots and yearly physicals and dental appointments and thank you notes to the grandparents. Again my answer is "It's whatcha do."

Fortunately our children joined the family one at a time and with each one we adapted life to make room for one more. Even though having four sounded scary when we had three, by the time our tail end baby was six months old we couldn't remember life with only three. You watch their personalities unfold and adapt your parenting practices accordingly. You stay organized, you stay in tune and in contact with each of them, and you do your best to raise them one day at a time. Whether you choose to have one child or five, tackling each day as it comes is a natural coping mechanism. It's whatcha do.

I have several friends who have had major health setbacks. Head injuries and debilitating issues with organs that failed and bodies that broke down. Each of them has amazed me with their bravery and determination. I love talking to them about how they adapt their lives and keep going. They make plans for the future and remain optimistic about what's ahead. I have no doubt that if I asked any of them how they do it, how they keep moving forward and keep the smiles on their faces, they would give me similar answers. And it would all come down to, "It's whatcha do."

You hear the diagnosis and you hope and pray for the best case scenario. You cling to the idea that you will be the one in a hundred who recover fully or end up with a normal life span. It doesn't seem unreasonable to believe new cures will come down the pipe and new medicines are being developed every day. You take the endless pills, endure the painful tests, show up for daily rehab appointments and take each day as it comes, feeling lucky you got to wake up again. It's not a hard choice to make because it's just whatcha do.

I recently read a book about a child who survived the Nazi concentration camps. He was a spoiled child with wealthy parents and had not a care in the world. Then in one sweeping day his life changed. His family was stripped of all their worldly possessions and became wandering refugees hiding in barns to avoid capture. He spent the next three years enduring the camps, the starvation, the abuse and the frost bite. And he kept going. He kept hoping it would all end some day. He held tight to the hope he'd see his parents again. He had very little to live for and yet he did. He clung to every shred of life he could muster up. I am sure I could not be as brave or strong. But I think I can predict his answer if you asked this man, now sitting in a law office in Washington D.C., how he did it, how he never lost hope and never gave up. When he forgot what milk and hot food tasted like, what made him keep plugging away? I know what he'd say. If you're lucky enough to wake up in the morning you do all you can to live. To survive another day and hope the future will be better. It's human nature. It's whatcha do.

No matter what life hands you, no matter how painful or sad, you cry the tears, you punch the bed pillows, you scream at God if you have to, and then you keep going. You plug away and do what needs to be done. No matter how hard it is, you take each day as it comes and you hope with all your heart that this is just a small chapter of your life and things will be better in a few months, or a few years. You go on and tackle life. You don't give up because it's not really an option. Surviving and thriving sounds like the better way to go. So the new day arrives and you greet it with new hope.

It's just whatcha do.

1 comment:

Kelley said...

I have to say first that I am not a huge reader but I found your article from the inmotion magazine and the MILLS amputee forum. After reading that article I found this blog have have to say that your writings about your leg are so amazing! I am a new amputee who had to make the choice to amputate much like you for a deformed foot. Long story short, your words and attitude are so refreshing to hear. They are exactly how I feel about this decision and hearing them from someone else makes me feel even better about it. Please keep up the writing as I am a hugh fan now, who knew reading could be so healing! Thank you

Jason