New Chapter, New Blog

Hey there, blogosphere friends!

Well, since I’ve officially ditched the crutches, the title of this blog doesn’t really fit anymore.  Along with the crutches, I left behind a lot of hopelessness and fear.  I’m now reclaiming my life of joy and freedom, and with that, I’ve been gradually transitioning to a new blog!  I started it when I came home from the hospital in December.  The new blog focuses on life, the little things, and learning about how to live as an amputee.  I probably won’t be posting here much, so if you want to keep up with the happenings of Rachel, feel free to head over to my newer location: The Elephant In The Room.

Sending lots of love and well wishes to you all 🙂

Living.

It’s been a while…but that’s not necessarily a bad thing! It just means that I’m living rather than sitting on my couch all day. I’m spending my time going to meetings, attending school, hanging out with my boyfriend (yes, that happened as an indirect result of my amputation…life is weird), and babysitting. While I mostly write on my other blog (which I’ve allowed my parents, friends, and the rest of the world to read), I don’t want to abandon this one completely.

There’s just one thing…I might have to change the name because for the first time in 2.5 years, I’m not on crutches!

I’ve traded in the aluminum sidekicks for a rockin’ cane that I only use when I go out in public. At home, I’m able to walk without holding onto anything. It’s like a giant weight has been lifted from my shoulders…or, really, my hands. The amount of healing that has taken place in the past 3 months is incredible.

I am hesitant to post too much about how much my life has changed for the better. Why? Well, I know how hard it is to be stuck and feeling hopeless, only to read about someone else’s amazing accomplishments. Good for them, you think while throwing yourself a pity party, wishing to be well. I don’t want to add salt to other peoples’ wounds, and since many of my followers are dealing with chronic illness, I don’t want to make things worse. I guess that’s part of the reason why I don’t post as often anymore. It goes back to that survivor’s guilt thing.

Know that my silence isn’t bad, and that I am still checking in on you guys when I can. Wishing all the best to each and every one of my blogosphere friends out there. I hope you, too, can embrace the joy of living rather than simply surviving.

First Steps!

In my crazy health journey of ups and downs, I’ve had several “first steps” experiences. There was the first time I stood up after being unable to walk for months as a 12-year-old. Then there was the time a few months later when I once again got up on two feet after losing function of my legs. I could add more to the list, but I don’t think anything was quite as exhilarating as what happened this past Monday.

I normally don’t let people join me in my doctor’s appointments. I just like to do things myself. However, I knew that Monday was going to be a BIG day. My boyfriend was going to take me, but since my mom had the day off of work because of snow, she was able to go. It was the day I had been waiting for…the day I would get my new leg.

I didn’t expect to do much walking when I got my leg, but within a few minutes of trying it on, I was cruising down the parallel bars without even holding on! For the first time in almost 2-1/2 years, I was walking. WALKING. ON TWO FEET. I almost cried, but my unemotional self didn’t let those tears fall down. I was a mushy mess on the inside, though.

After about a year of the crutch life, I had just accepted things as they were. I was told that the chances of walking again were slim. After my amputation, I was told that my RSD may prevent walking from ever happening. I wasn’t sure if my legs would ever feel the freedom of working together to move around again. Needless to say, the fact that I walked right after receiving my leg was pretty surprising and incredible.

My mom excitedly took pictures and videos as I practiced my steps. I don’t think the smiles left either of our faces. I started PT this week and she said that I should be off the crutches in just a few weeks! (Uh oh, does that mean I need to change the blog name???) I can’t believe how well things are going, and I am soaking in every moment of happiness and freedom.

Anything is possible if you try hard and don’t give up.

Be well, my friends 🙂

School, Take 2!

Remember that time when I was kind of sad and unsure of what to do because I had to take time off from school…again? As it turned out, taking the semester off was the best thing that I could have done. If I had stayed in school, not only would it have been near impossible to focus and do well with the excruciating pain from RSD+Lymphedema+Wounds, but I would have missed the last few weeks because I was in the hospital. Not good. So, even though I wasn’t sure if taking the time off was a good decision at the time, I am now grateful to my doctor and parents for helping me to make that choice.

Today I was able to return to the classroom, and I was SO excited! I woke up early and couldn’t help but smile. I haven’t even been home from the hospital for a month, and I’m already back to doing the things I love. I am amazed by the progress that I’ve made, both physically and mentally/emotionally. I feel like a different person in every possible way. My pain is incredibly low, without meds. My mind is clear…gone are the days of feeling like my brain was full of thick fog. My emotions are (mostly) stable. I’m happy 90% of the time (I’m not a ball of sunshine all the time…after all, I’m human). I am hopeful that my future will be filled with great things, even though I know that it won’t always be perfect and easy. Oh, and I should be getting my new leg soon!

It’s so crazy to look back, even to a few months ago, and see how much has changed. I am thrilled to be back in school. I swore I’d never return to this place (the first college that I attended…my RSD came back at the 2nd one), but now, it just feels like it works. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. It’s so nice to wrap myself in a heated blanket while I write and study instead of having to awkwardly lay with my leg hanging off the bed. I can’t wait to crack open my books and learn all that I can.

This semester is going to be great. I can just feel it.

Goodbye, 2014.

There are several things that I am leaving behind as we say goodbye to 2014 and hello to this new year. I love having a fresh start,  and like most people, I strive to do better each year, whatever that looks like. Obviously I’m leaving behind a leg this year, but there are also many other things that do not deserve my attention as I begin this new chapter of life.

What I’m Leaving Behind in 2014

Guilt. I don’t need to be attacked by guilt for my past, nor do I need to feel guilty for my present circumstances.
Fear. Fear of the future, fear of pain, fear of relationships, fear of failure. It’s time to be bold and fierce. No room for fear here.
Apathy. I’m tired of simply floating through life without really caring. Emotions scare me at times, but it’s time to allow myself the freedom to feel and to be more involved in my own life.
Laziness. It’s so easy to put off studying, cleaning, or any other productive activity in favor of stuffing my face while watching TV. There’s a time and place for rest, but the flat-out laziness needs to stay in the past.
Insecurity. I am who I am, and I need to be unapologetic about that. I think having an amputation has made me more secure because I’ve gotten used to the fact that I’ll aways be different, but all the other insecurities have no place in this new year.
Shame. There’s no reason for me to be ashamed of my life and my story. Sure, I’ve had a less-than-normal 20 years of life, but that doesn’t mean that I should feel shame about it.
Gossip. This is one that I have to work on each day. It’s easy to want to talk about other people, especially when they get on my nerves, but gossip never produces anything good.
Crutches! Okay, actually, these will always be part of my life in one way or another. I mean, with one leg, I’ll need them. But I should be getting a fake leg in the next month or two, so I’ll no longer use my crutches 24/7!!!
Negativity. I try to be a positive person, but sometimes it takes extra effort to look on the bright side. I always feel better when I’m more positive, though, so negativity can stay away.

Realistically speaking, I know that I’ll have to battle these things daily and make a conscious effort to leave them behind. However, now that I’ve named them, I am making it a personal goal to keep the items on this list as far from my life as possible.

 Here’s to hoping that 2015 will be filled with overflowing joy, happiness, and health for us all! Happy New Year!

Survivor’s Guilt

Here’s something that I have been sort of struggling with lately…survivor’s guilt. The guilt of knowing that while I am finally on my way to better health, so many of my friends, both in real life and online, are still dealing with their problems, some of them even getting worse. I try not to let it get me down too much because I know that there’s nothing I can really do about it, but it is something that I think about.

Whenever my RSD friends would reach remission, I always felt a bit of a separation there. Like, they were on one side of the fence and I was stuck on the other. While I am not in remission, I am feeling this sort of tension again. Only this time, I’m on the brighter side of the fence, looking back at my friends. I think it becomes harder for those who are struggling to really connect with people who are in remission. I know that that’s not always the case, but in my life, I’ve experienced that scenario on multiple occasions. The reverse can also happen; people in remission don’t always want to talk with people who are still battling their pain. They’re ready to close that chapter and move on. When I was younger, that was definitely what happened. I didn’t want anything to do with the phrase RSD, let alone people who dealt with it.

Here’s the deal: I’m still in pain. Yes, it’s different than what I experienced before my amputation (now it’s like I’m being stung with lots of bees instead of flames), but it’s still there. That being said, I can still relate to pain. I’m not running and dancing…well, not yet. I’m still here for my pain peeps. I will always be here, because even if my pain lessens over time, I will always have the reminders of it. I mean, come on, I have a pretty large gap between my knee and the floor…that’s a pretty permanent reminder.

I did start a more public blog (as in, even my parents know about it) so I might not update here as much, but I’m not leaving. At least not right now. I’m still not making this one as public, but it is nice to post on the new page because I don’t have to cover it up! I’ll still be using crutches, in fact, I’m stuck with them for life because I’ll need to use them as backup in case my prosthetic leg malfunctions, so that’s not changing. I’m still me, just a happier version 🙂

Has anyone else felt like this, whether it’s survivor’s guilt or ‘victim’s’ guilt? I hate the word victim, by the way. Just saying…

The Importance of Support

It’s really interesting how people start talking to you all of the sudden when they hear that you’re going through something as extreme as amputation. In the past two weeks I’ve been able to reconnect with and meet so many people. Old babysitters, classmates from elementary school, friends who I had lost contact with. Even strangers who had heard about my story through friends. No matter how we are connected, I am so very grateful for all the support I have received during this whirlwind of a time.

I try my best to be independent, but there are some times when a girl just needs a little support. It has been refreshing to have people around me to care for me, offer encouragement, and just be there. Not necessarily physically, but in spirit. The thoughts and prayers of so many people out there have been carrying me through my amputation process, and for that, I am grateful. Sure, I’m in good spirits and I am feeling great about my amputation, but it’s still nice to have people to lean on.

Each new card, Facebook message, text, and note brings a smile to my face. I often wonder how I even deserve to be so loved. I also know that soon, the words will die down and I will blend back into the world again. But for now, I will rest in the peace that I am surrounded by care.

In other news…I am at home, resting comfortably, and still in less pain than I have been in since 2012. I’ve been doing well in PT and I will soon have my staples removed so that I can be on my way to getting a new leg! Life is good and I couldn’t ask for anything better. 🙂

Home Sweet Home

Hello! Now that I am home from the hospital and have my computer available, I can finally write a new post!

It has been a crazy few weeks…I went into the hospital 12 days ago with 2 legs and came out today with 1-1/2! It’s all for the best, though. Life with my stumplet is so much better than how it was with my nasty wound-covered, RSD and lymphedema-laden foot. The pain has been controlled for the most part and I don’t have to deal with any more nasty dressing changes! I am so grateful for my doctor who saved my life by believing me that something was wrong. He caught the infection in my leg before it took more of my limb or my life.

The amputation process hasn’t been perfect and easy, but it went a lot better than I had expected. The fear beforehand was the worst part. I went to a different hospital this time and it made all the difference in the world. The staff were kind and compassionate, going out of their way to do whatever they could to make my stay the best that it could be. They said that they were used to elderly people, so having a 20-year-old amputee on the floor was a change.

I was supposed to spend a few weeks in inpatient rehab before coming home. However, the fact that I’ve already been on crutches for 2+ years helped a lot and I was cleared to go straight home instead! There’s a bit of a balance issue since I lost a few pounds in my leg, but I’m getting used to it. I have to rest up and take it easy for a while so I don’t do anything to damage my healing stumplet. I do have a cool blue rigid dressing (cast) on it, both for protection and to shape it to fit a prosthesis.

I’m still dealing with some medication side-effects so my thoughts are all over the place. Life is good, though, and I really can’t complain. I’m home, I’m happy, I’m enjoying the warmth of my fireplace and the beauty of my Christmas tree, and I’m in less pain than I was in two weeks ago. Win, win, win….win.

Time will tell if things with my RSD will complicate this whole process. I am hoping and praying that the RSD stays away so that I can have a normal healing and recovery. If all goes well, I should be able to start walking in just a few months! Some of you have sent me twitter messages, comments, and e-mails and I wasn’t able to get to all of them, but I want to say thank you for your kind words, thoughts, and prayers that you have offered to me during this time. They are much appreciated!

I can’t wait to catch up on everyone’s blogs! I feel like I’ve been gone from the blogosphere for too long 🙂

Grateful For Life

I hope you all had a most wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday! I enjoyed seeing some friends and eating a delicious meal that my buddies brought to me here in the hospital 🙂

I had my second surgery today and I am now recovering from that. Amazingly, I feel pretty good! I’m sure the leg catheters help since they numb my stumpy leg :). I can’t help but think about how grateful I am for life. I am happy to see another day. Things are not always sunshine and rainbows, but having the ability to take another breath and have hope for a better future is amazing.

A few years ago, I wanted to end my life. I had lost every bit of hope and thought that things would never be okay again. I was just plain done. But then, gradually, and through a lot of counseling and care, I began to see the light. My smile returned, my joy was overflowing, and I felt peace.

If this situation had happened a few years ago, I’m not sure I would have made it. I would have been too depressed and hopeless to even want my life. Today, though, I am filled with hope and gratitude for life. It is such a gift to be alive.

I could list a million things that I am thankful for–friends, family, fuzzy socks, cozy blankets, mashed potatoes, doctors, nurses…but when it comes down to it, life is the most sacred blessing. Without life, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy all of those lovely things.

If you’re reading this, it means that your story is not over yet. Life may be rocky, as it tends to be sometimes, but better days are ahead. Don’t give up on yourself. Don’t let go of the gift of life. You matter, you are amazing, and you still have adventures to take and new stories to make.

Counting my blessings helps put things into perspective. I find that by thinking about the happy things in life, the yucky moments don’t seem so bad.

What are you thankful for???

Change of Plans

Hello, people of the Blogosphere!

Things have been pretty empty here lately…that’s because things in real life have been a crazy roller coaster! Here’s what’s been going on…

I went to the doctor for a consult on Monday. While there, he discovered that I had a terrible infection in my foot. He decided to admit me to the hospital so I could have IV antibiotics. He wanted to amputate my foot that day, but I begged for it to be Tuesday so I could have time to process. Thankfully, he (hesitantly) listened to my request.

I had my foot amputated on Tuesday and I will be having part of my leg amputated on Friday. They have to do two surgeries because of the infection–they didn’t want to do it all on Tuesday and have the infection stay in my leg.

I will be in the hospital for a few weeks. My doc said I should be home by Christmas, which is great! My hospital room is decked out in lights and Christmas trees, thanks to some little elves who I babysit. They came in while I was getting catheters placed in my leg today (for numbing) and decorated!

Emotionally/mentally, I’m doing pretty well. Trying to always see the bright side of things and using humor as a way to cope. Physically, I am in pain (duh), but the catheters are helping to numb my leg.

I guess that’s it! If I don’t post for a while, that is why…recovering from some big surgeries! Thanks for stopping by 🙂