Posts Tagged ‘About Me’

There’s No Left Turn, and No Turning Back..!
Well, it’s been just over a month since my surgery and I’m finally getting back to this blog. I haven’t forgotten; rather, I discovered many more adaptations to my “new life” that I could never have foreseen. These things took up more of my time than I’d expected.

So, no, I haven’t forgotten. In fact, there are many thoughts I’ve been wanting to share here since being unencumbered of my useless lower left arm.

The logistical sorts of things were easy to foresee, so I won’t make much mention of them here. Those unexpected things, however, are definitely noteworthy. I’m presenting them here as best I can, so read on, if you dare.

First of all, I was surprised to learn that amputations can be done on an outpatient basis. I remember thinking “Gee, anyone can walk into a hospital in the morning knowing that, when they leave later that day, they literally won’t be in one piece anymore.” Only a crazy person would do that, I believe, so I chose to spend the night where they could keep a close eye on me. Who knows what trouble I could cause, right?

Interestingly, I was actually looking forward to the surgery – shedding half of the dead weight that had been dangling from my left shoulder for over two years was a most liberating thought. As it turned out, I was right. That night, after the amputation, I felt so good for the first time in such a long time that I couldn’t sleep. I think I was truly afraid that I’d wake up only to learn that it was all a dream.

What’s more, after spending so long trying to describe to others what it’s like to suddenly have to do things with one hand, I was now in the opposite position. The feeling of freedom and liberation and just plain joy was overwhelming at first. But how to explain this to others? Then, with a little visual cue from Sophie, the answer became clear: I felt not unlike a dog who would just been left outside to play after waiting inside all day. I had so much energy and felt so light on my feet that I was almost ready to begin running in circles!

At any rate, it felt so good just to be alive for the first time in a long, long time that just existing was enough for me. Soon, of course, the real world reasserted itself and began to jockey for position in line to get a piece of that energy. And, even though I felt out of the picture for such a long time, I nonetheless felt ready to rejoin the world.

Dealing with some of those unforeseeable circumstances I’d mentioned earlier, such as being able to stand up straight and actually see the world from an upright position again was a surprise. Over time, I realized, the pain I’d been in had caused me to slump forward with my chin almost touching my chest. I thought back on all the long walks I’d taken with Kami and Sophie and realized how much more of my feet I saw then of the scenery around us.

Also, since I could stand upright again, I regained my full height once again; I literally was unencumbered of a weight that had been around my neck for longer than I cared to remember.

In the time that passed since the surgery, my sutures have healed and, I don’t know why, but my new semi-arm looks absolutely beautiful to me. It’s the picture of the freedom I’ve earned after much suffering and, for reasons I will point out later, a visible reminder of opportunities that now exist with a never could have before. How does it feel? Think of the happiest thing that has ever happened to you, and how you smiled and even left when you discovered it. That’s me!

For a guy who hasn’t been on a bike in over twenty months, I’ve been on a heckuva ride. Ups, downs, and everything in between has been the norm, and is still something I’m not used to-maybe I never will be. All that aside, I am finally reaching a point in my recovery where I can speak freely about this here on this blog, and also have consistent energy with which to make fairly regular postings. Yes, pain has been a mainstay of my life since then. More pain, in fact, than I could ever have imagined, and for longer than I’d ever thought possible. However, that’s how it went, and that sometimes how it still goes. And while I’ve yet to sleep a full night-a chunk of 2-3 hours is a lot for me-I somehow managed to stay on this side of psychotic. Understandably, my energy levels-and my corresponding sanity-has long felt pretty sketchy.

In his book It’s Not about the Bike, Lance Armstrong details his victorious battle with cancer, among other things. When I first read that book 5 or so years ago, I was pretty sure that its title had something to do with the kind of bike he was riding. A pro racer like Armstrong, I figured, could get his hands on pretty much any bike he wanted, no matter it’s cost, or the exotic composites used to make it, or whatever. Therefore, I took the book’s title as implying something along the lines that “Lance is so great it doesn’t matter what bike he is on…”

But now, I understand what the title really means, and it has nothing to do with a bicycle at all. After all, when it comes to life-and-death issues-like cancer, or car accidents, for example-material things like bicycles don’t matter one bit. In fact, no amount of money or pile of material goods matters at all when you’re lying in an ER, drugged up on painkillers with your life completely out of your control and in the hands someone whose face is hidden behind a white mask. Whether you realize it at the time or not-I sure didn’t-there can be nothing quite like that, nothing at all, and no matter who you are, sooner or later you can’t help but realize there’s a lesson to be learned from it. And it’s not a lesson that comes from the pain; rather it’s because of the pain.

In my case, I have learned from this experience both sooner and later, though the lessons I’ve learned have been very different. Early on, my lessons were more physical in nature; I couldn’t believe that within just a few days of my accident, I had been in my best physical condition ever, able to ride for hours on end and to conquer 14,000 foot plus mountain peaks on my bike. Clearly, my definition of “pain” before the crash was very different than afterward, the only similarities being that they both involved a bike and a cuss word at the moment of impact!

But seriously, although I was afraid to let it come to the forefront of my mind at the time, I had an uneasy feeling that I would spend much of the foreseeable future watching all that muscle and aerobic capacity winnow away while my body fought to regain a foothold on my injuries. Eventually, though, my body prevailed, and overcame each injury little by little, and one by one. Now, I am left with one remaining injury-nerve damage to my left arm that renders it unusable. It will take some time, I’m sure, before the final judgment will be made as to whether or not-or how much-I will get back. As the title of Armstrong’s book might’ve read if he were in my shoes, It’s Not About the Arm. But this is the place where my adventure really begins…

For some time, I have been able to actually enjoy my physical predicament by making jokes about it, sometimes unbeknownst to strangers, and sometimes unbeknownst even to me. For example, someone once asked me how I was doing, and I replied “I’m all right…” “Ha, ha, ha, that’s very funny, I get it,” he said. And I said “You know what, I get it too, and it is pretty funny!” Ever since then, silly puns like that (and much, much worse!) have come and gone, offering a little comic relief when I probably would’ve needed it anyways, no matter how many usable arms I had. “Can you give me a hand,” and “I’m feeling left out” are a couple of my other favorites.

But make no mistake-before running out and inflicting terrible pain upon yourself and rendering one of your arms or legs useless, keep in mind that it isn’t the laugh party that I am making it out to be; fun and games, maybe, but laugh party? No way. At least not yet!