I’ve been an amputee since I was 1 years old and it’s been a part of what makes me who I am.
That being said, I didn’t always have those feelings. Growing up, if I could have hidden the fact that I had a prosthetic leg I would have done it. In fact, I did everything and anything to hide it. I wore pants all the time. I had covers over the medal part of my leg, so it looked “real.” Despite my best efforts, it was always obvious I am an amputee. Besides the look of one leg being significantly skinnier than the other, I walk with a rather large limp.
While I always tried to have a good attitude about having a prosthetic, it was always in the forefront of my mind that I was different than my friends. Covering up my leg was my way of fitting in — my way to be the same. It was my way of going out in public and not always having someone stare at me, or do a double-take, or sometimes make a comment about my leg.
It took many, many years to embrace those stares and the comments. It took a long time to be okay with being different. It took a long, long, long time for me really and truly embrace being an amputee.
I wish I could tell you my secret to not caring. I wish I could give advice on how to accept who you are and what God gave you and just really be happy with it. But, I’m not an expert. I don’t have it all together. All I know is it takes way less energy to not think about my leg and about who will stare or who will say something than it ever took to second guess myself every morning before I got dressed.
These days, I never put on a pair of shorts or a skirt and think, “oh man, people are going to look at me today, I better change my outfit.” Sometimes, I wear outfits knowing those things will happen and do it in spite of that. I like to be different now. I enjoy people asking questions. I love to talk about my leg. I have a passion for prosthetics and teaching people about them and how amazing the technology as come just in the last 25 years.
The other night I was at my cousin’s soccer game and one of her teammates came up to me and told me how much she liked my leg. I talked to her about my leg and why I have it and the whole situation reminded me how important it is for me and for her to have this conversation. For her it was a learning lesson and for me it was an opportunity to remember how far I have come.
There may be a lot of things I haven’t done and a lot of things I still want to do, but those things wouldn’t be possible if I was never able to overcome this disability and turn what most would view as a negative (me included) into a positive. If I can do that, I can do anything. And if I can do it, anyone can. It may take time, but all the good things do.