Monday, December 26, 2011

Ending 2011

I am at my sister Rhonda's house for the Christmas Holidays. This is the first time I have celebrated Christmas at Rhonda's since the loss of my second leg. Last year as you recall I was actually in the hospital during the Christmas holidays having just lost my left leg. The previous year I still had my left leg but while I was home I started having problems which resulted in an emergency trip to a hospital in Indianapolis. The year before that I had lost my right leg and was unable to go home to Indianapolis and Rhonda and her family brought Christmas to my house as a surprise.

Needless to say I am thankful to have a medically problem free Christmas celebration this year. I guess the day after Christmas my thoughts are turning toward this upcoming new year, what goals I will set and what I hope to accomplish in 2012.

I have recently talked about the short leg program I am currently undertaking, thus far I have made some strides (figuratively). At physical therapy I have been learning how to fall properly
and get back up from a fall. I know it may sound strange to speak about falling properly, but there are ways in which to fall that can help prevent serious injury to your face and head. It is surprising to me that learning to get back up onto these shortened legs from the ground is fairly easy, maybe it is because I am not that far from the ground to begin with.

I feel that after these holidays have passed it is time to really focus on learning to walk proficiently and undertake household chores and the like while wearing the "baby legs." As I have already mentioned, this graduated short leg protocol dictates that before the legs can be lengthened, the prosthetist and therapist will determine that I have reached the highest level of skill possible on the shortest leg length and I will then ready to move up to a longer length of legs.

Based on what I have experienced thus far, I don't think this will be as quick as I has originally hoped. This entire leg loss experience has been wrought with the usual complications of getting the legs to fit properly and comfortably, the short leg procedure has demonstrated already it's share of problems.

Visualization and a willingness to succeed are qualities I will invoke to assist me in achieving my goal. I know that it really doesn't matter how long it takes to achieve a goal, what really matters is reaching the summit and the self satisfaction I derive from my accomplishments. However, I hope to move on to a longer length within the next four to six months if not sooner, time will tell.

Life is always full of ups and downs, twists and turns, fear of the unknown and if we are going to grow as human beings we have to learn to go with life's flow. Part of the flow is learning to take the situations that are  beyond our control and use them as life lessons. Imparting the knowledge we have gained through our life lessons to others and being receptive to knowledge given by others to us through their experiences.

As a new year is upon us, I look forward to a year of hope, happiness, prosperity, accomplishment and joy, all of these wishes I impart to you.

By the way I got a book from my younger sister, Delpha, called, "Writing the Memoir, From Truth to Art" by Judith Barrington, thus has begun the research into how I will write a book. A great way to start a new year....

Saturday, December 17, 2011

One Year Later

On Wednesday December 8, 2010 I had just returned from a ten day Caribbean cruise with my friend, Shawn, his sister Lisa and her husband Dan. I worked out everyday at the gym on the ship, I was tan, fit and happy.

I was excited to get back to my regular routine of working out at Cheetah  Gym, and seeing my friends, while at the same time anticipating the holidays with my sister, Rhonda, her family and all the joy that it brings.

Before I embarked on the cruise I had gone to Rush University Medical Center to have a blood flow test, conducted as a precautionary measure to help alleviate any worry that I would have any vascular issues while at sea or portside in a foreign country.

Fortunately the test found the blood flow through the remaining left leg and foot satisfactory, that finding gave me the green light I needed to go forward with the cruise.

Bear in mind I  had undergone quite a lot of problems with my left leg earlier in the year 2010 and in the latter part of 2009. During the course of 2009-2010 I had three vein by-passes, one bout with compartment syndrome, and tests too numerous to mention.

Of course since the loss of my right leg in July 2008, I had entertained thoughts about the possibility of losing my remaining left leg (who wouldn't?). These thoughts gave me pause. I never dwelled on the thought of losing my left leg because such thoughts I felt were unhealthy and counterproductive. However, I wouldn't be human if had not considered the possibility of losing my one remaining leg.

I remember disclosing the thought to my friend, Ruth, that I didn't know if I could carry on, if I lost my left leg. I felt that life would be too difficult and I would have no quality of life left.

On Saturday December 18, 2010 I went to Cheetah Gym at 7:00 am as I did every Saturday that I was physically able. I did my usual ninety minute workout, hugged my friend Rick good bye, as I always did, then took the elevator downstairs. I bumped into another friend of mine, Carl, we talked for a few minutes and I was on my merry way.

I was by the locker room when I finished the conversation with Carl, I walked about sixty feet to an area with couches, computers and the entrance doors. By the time I had walked that sixty feet something dramatic and forever life altering had occurred.

The blood clots I had experienced in the past and have spoken of often,  I describe as a water faucet being turned on or being turned off. At first the water (my blood) is flowing, like the turned on faucet and then the faucet is turned off (an occlusion or clot) and the flow stops.

One of the most insidious things about blood clots is their unpredictability, one moment you are fine, the next you are in a dire situation.

I suppose it is human nature to teeter on the brink of denial, especially if you have medical issues.

I knew when I sat on the couch near the entrance to Cheetah Gym, I was experiencing a blood clot, after all I had many similar  physical symptoms on numerous previous occasions. In that sixty foot walk from the locker room area to the front of the gym, a blood clot had solidified, significantly, if not completely, compromising the blood flow to the lower part of my left leg and foot.

It took about thirty minutes for sufficient blood flow to be established before I was able to walk to my car and drive home. I knew in my heart of hearts I was in deep trouble. I immediately dove into the pool of denial.

I prayed to God to not let it be true. I am no stranger to God or to prayer, I do not use prayer only in times of trouble. I prayed and pray regularily not only for help but also to give thanks. My prayers of praise and gratitude to God for the blessings bestowed upon me were and are a part of my everyday life.

The rest of that Saturday I tried to believe that I was mistaken about this blood clot. I knew I wasn't mistaken but you want it to be imaginary, a self deducing miscalculation. You may deny something all you want and wish it to be untrue, but the physical truth is there to be felt and seen whether you want it to be or not.

I was afraid to remove my shoe and sock, out of the fear of what I would find. Sure enough when I did look at my naked foot, it was as cold as ice and as white as snow. The sight of that frightful paleness and the feel of that coldness hits you in the pit of your stomach.

Tears began to stream down my face. I realized that something I had hoped would never happen, had in fact, happened.

I spent the rest of that long day and sleepless night lying in bed with my left leg draped over the side with a heating pad trying to warm my cold semi-lifeless foot and leg.

Of course this feeling of denial is superseded by the pain of muscles starved for their life sustaining blood. It is an achiness difficult to describe in words and about as uncomfortable as is possible. The relentless coldness, numbness, lack of color and utter helplessness I felt, led me to call my assistant to drive me to the hospital emergency room, early Sunday morning December 19.

The rest is  bit of a blur. I know they were obiviously unable to save my leg. A complete collapse of all the bypasses had occurred.

I had contacted one of my sisters, Rhonda, either before I left for the hospital or after I arrived to inform her of the occurance. I waited because I did not want to alarm her unecessarily.

I am not sure of the exact day or date of the amputation of my left leg, somewhere a day or two before Christmas 2010.

You may be thinking why is he recalling all of this? Well, tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the beginning of the end of my left leg. Monumental events that occur in our lives leave indelible scars that shape our present circumstances and our present day outlook.

This blog,, came about as a result of losing my left leg in December 2010. I always strive to be honest about what has happened to me. I thought the recollection of what led me to where I am today, would help you understand me, what I have overcome, and where my life is.

Please don't think I write these things to evoke sympathy or as a way of fishing for compliments about my ability to overcome adversity.

My hope is that these words will help someone, anyone, realize we as human beings and with God's help, have the ability and strength to carry on.

If my words reach someone who is feeling the same helplessness I felt or grappling with hopelessness, I want my words to be a beacon of  hope for them or for you.

As The Bible says, and I am paraphrasing, "a lamp is not lit to be hidden under a basket, but to be placed on a lampstand to bring light to the entire room." My interpretation is that if my experiences can be of service and or comfort to another I am going to share them and perhaps make someone see things from a different perspective.  

I feel privileged to be in a position to tell my story and share my words with others and there by be a small glimmer of light and hope to someone else's future.

I think the drastic manifestation of my complete leg loss was meant to bring me here to share my story and to help my fellow man live better, more hopeful and thankful lives.

I hope this path I walk, this blog I write and this life I live, brings love, hope and compassion to you and to our world.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Finding a Creative Outlet

Art has kept me sane. I have found that throughout all of my medical ordeals it has been my passion for creating art that has helped keep me on track.

When I paint or draw or even contemplate my next art creation those processes help  me to release negativity, frustration and boredom. When you are in a situation similar to mine, keeping your hands and mind busy with constructive endeavors help to eliminate stress.

While focussing on creating a painting for example, my mind is preoccupied with what I will do, how I will do it, and then the actual creation of my art. If I did not create creations my mind might want to wander into dangerous territories like self pity, worry, anger, frustration and the like.

I have always been interested in artisitic types of things, drawing, painting, or anything that involved creativity. I am so thankful I have that type of mind, a mind that looks for and seeks to create beauty.

If you are disabled or become disabled it is particularily important that you seek out for yourself a passion of some sort. That passion could be just about anything, reading, cooking, music, putting together model airplanes, sewing, it doesn't matter. What really matters is that you find something that interests you in your life and pursue it.

For me, art is almost a spiritual experience. I get lost in my artwork, creating it, improving it and analyzing it. It is hard, if not imossible, to worry about the problems in your life while you are focussed on your passion, be it art or something else. It is this concentration of  focus in areas that bring you joy, that become a healthy escape from sometimes unpleasant life circumstances.

I remember my beloved best friend, Kevin, and how he always complained to me he didn't have any hobbies. I never understood that about him. Unfortunately, he was unable to develop a mindset that enabled him to see that he had great people skills and an ability to make people laugh. He could have become a comedian if he had worked at it. He was also a great cook, but he never pushed himself in that area. His lack of focus in a particular area of his life caused him much frusrtation and self critizing, leaving him with unfounded feelings of worthliness and failure.

As you may know, before the loss of my legs I used  to be an interior decorative painter. I created faux finishes, murals, gold leafing, and a myriad of wall and ceiling treatments. Naturally after the leg loss, I am physically unable to continue doing such demanding types of work. Fortunately while working as a decorative painter, and even before then, I drew and painted on paper and canvas. After I was unable to work at such a physical level, I still had my canvas painting to fall back on.

Without my art I  would not be in such a good psychological state, with respect to my outlook, in essence, my art has greatly enhanced, if not saved my life.

Lately I started a small business creating 12" X 12" paintings on canvas that feature children and baby's names. It brings me such joy to create these "mini murals" on canvas. It is reminscient of when I created full room size murals for children's rooms and nursuries, but on a much smaller and more managable scale.

Creativity in all of it's forms, I believe is a gift from God and through God. Your creative outlet whether it is visual art, music, writing or whatever it may be, is an outlet by which we as human beings can funnel our energy to an area that not only benefits us as an individual but to society as a whole.

It was by suggestion of my nephew, Justin, I started writing this blog. What has happened is I have discovered another creative release for myself, writing. I have thoroughly enjoyed putting my thoughts together and voicing them through the writing of this blog. It has not only improved my writing (some readers have told me) but has been a cathartic valve releasing what could have become pent up frustration, while at the same time giving me the opportunity to analyze myself and my thought processes, and finally, perhaps saying something meaningful and benefical to others at the same time.

I had a bumper sticker one time that said, "Everyone is an Artist." I believe that is a true statement. Everyone has some type of creativity, the secret is to learn to tap into it and let it bring you joy,  the elusive joy everyone is always seeking.

The writing of this blog segment has been part of my creative release valve for today and I thank you for participating in that joy with me.

By the way if you want to see some of those mini paintings I mentioned earlier, you may want to check out my website: I hope you like what you see. Bye for now. 


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Sometimes I think to myself, will it never end? It seems I am at the beginning stages  of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

In case your are unfamiliar with carpal tunnel, I will elaborate briefly. Your carpal tunnel is located at your wrist, it creates a "tunnel" under which a major blood vessel and a large bundle of nerves travel. These nerves control the complicated movements of your hand and fingers.

Through repetitive motion, these blood vessels and nerves become inflamed, increasing their size and becoming somewhat compressed, resulting in numbness in the fingertips and thumb.

I am reasonably sure that this occurred in my right hand for several reasons. First of all, it is the repetitive motion of my hand moving the wheelchair, something I hope to lessen as time goes on and I can walk more frequently on prosthetics.

I also put a lot of pressure on the palms of my hands while walking on a walker. Additionally, I put a lot of weight on my hands and shoulders when I transfer from the wheelchair to the bed, shower, etc. And last but not least, I work out five days a week using dumbells ( no one I know).

It is not an uncommon syndrome to develop given the fact my arms, hands and shoulders are doing a lot of the work my legs used to do.

Where do we go from here? Well, Although I haven't been officially diagnosed yet, the physical and occupational therapists are pretty sure it is CTS. I will be tested for this on Wednesday. I am going to my vascular surgeon, Chad Jacob's office, just to be sure it is not a vascular related problem.

After the diagnosis I will begin guess what? more therapy. This time it will be occupational therapy, doing excercises that will "open up" the carpal tunnel.

I have already begun wearing a wrist brace per Dr. Jacob's physician assistant's advice. This brace helps keep my wrist in a straight position, this is particularily imporant during sleep. I have also googled CTS and have viewed some YouTube videos of excercises that are supposed to be beneficial. I have already begun my own therapetic regimen pending the upcoming diagnosis and occupational therapy.

I would be lying if I said all of this does not bother me. What frustrates me most  is that I have been able to maintain my independence in spite of losing both of my legs and now through some of the actions I take to remain independent,  I have developed yet another problem.

Hopefully I have caught this syndrome in it's early stages, the beginnng of which is the numbness I now experience. CTS left untreated can cause an inability to grasp and hold items (like a paintbrush or pen) and eventually causing severe pain up the entire length of your arm. The worst case scenarios result in corrective surgery.

I am definitely not going there. I believe CTS can be treated successfully through excercise and diet.

I have often felt that in a world of too much information, too often, we can get information overload. This is the case with this whole carpal tunnel thing. I don't want to focus on what can happen, I want to focus on now and what I can do  to help myself now.

I am remaining optimistic and proactive about all of this, but sometimes I think it would be nice to have a  break from my medical issues.

As we get older it becomes a game of maintenance. We try to maintain what came so easily and freely when we were younger. As has been said many times before, "it sure beats the alternative."

Another quote I like is what Cher says, "Getting old sucks."


Saturday, November 19, 2011


Some of you may not be aware of the fact that I had my hall bathroom remodeled this past summer. I had the bathtub and shower doors removed and a walk (or wheel) in shower installed, to better accomodate my disability.

I was able to have that work done through a program called HomeMod, short for Home Modification. This is a city sponsered program for persons with disabilities under the age of 60. Fortunately I qualified for the program.

Not only did they lower the floor where the tub previously resided, but they also completely retiled the floor and the shower walls. Additionally, they replaced  the vanity sink with a pedestal sink and a new mirror.

The bathroom looks fantastic and better suits my needs, adding safety, ease of accessability and beauty. What more could you ask for?

The workmanship was exemplary, the entire project was started and brought to completion, including clean up and disposal, in five days.

Mark Nobriga, the man in charge of the program, had originally come to my home to discuss at length what my remodeling needs were, with respect to my particular disability, and how the HomeMod program could be of assistance. Several weeks later after the remodeling was complete, Mark came back to my house to take pictures of the remodel.

While Mark was here he said that the HomeMod program was going to be featured on an ABC Channel 7 News segment. He then asked me if they could film my bathroom and interview me for the segment. I explained that I would be happy to participate in anything that would glorify the program and help insure it's continued success.

On November 8, Karen Tamley, Commissoner of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, along with Mark Nobriga came to my house for the interview.

Karen Tamley, a wonderful lady, is in charge of all affairs concerning programs, accessability issues, and potential grievances for the disabled here in Chicago. She heads a department of the Mayor's Office specifically geared toward equality of opportunity for those who are disabled. Her position with the city and the importance of her work cannot be understated. It was an honor to have met such an accomplished woman and have her visit my home.

I know this may be confusing but there is another woman named Karen Meyer, who has been with ABC Channel 7 News for many years. Karen M. has been actively addressing the concerns and introducing programs for those with disabilities for a very long time through the news media. I have seen her on the news many times.

You can imagine my surprise when I learned it was Karen Meyer who was going to conduct the interview for an upcoming segment on Channel 7 News, promoting the HomeMod program.

First, Karen Meyer of Channel 7 interviewed Karen Tamley Commissoner. (I told you it was a little confusing with two Karens). Karen T explained to Karen M the importance of the HomeMod program. She continued to elaborate that the city of Chicago faced many challenges regarding accessability issues for the  disabled. One of the primary problems is that most residential buildings built before 1980 were vertical in structure with staircases, causing major hurtles for those with mobility related disabilites.

Listening to Karen Tamley speak made my admiration for her grow even stronger. She has devoted her entire career to helping the disabled live better, safer and easier lives, what a wonderful accomplishment.

Likewise, Karen Meyer of ABC Channel 7 News, has devoted her career to helping the disabled. She has been instramental in getting information out to the public regarding programs aimed at assisting the disabled. Karen M. through the news media, has helped countless persons with disabilities.

The entire process of filming this news segment has allowed me to meet these wonderful people, who have accomplished so much for others. It was an experience I will never forget.

I don't know the exact time and date this news segment will air onChannel 7. When I do know, rest assured I will pass that information to you either through my blog, email, facebook or the good old fashioned way, the telephone.

I have said this before but it bears repeating, "through great losses come great blessings." That statement was made to me by my friend and author, Michelle McKinney Hammond.

Meeting these three people Mark Nobriga, Karen Tamley and Karen Meyer has been one of those blessings I have received through my loss and I am truly thankful.

If  you are disabled or know of someone who is, this program HomeMod, could be of great assistance in helping  live happier and easier lives. You may contact this program through the website: to download an application.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A New Order

At a recent physical therapy appointment I was surprised to learn that Chris, my therapist, and Jason, my prosthetist, want me to try a completely new approach to learning to walk. The new procedure is called, "Short Leg Graduated Protocol" (SLGP).

Jason, a lifelong amputee himself, and a very accomplished athlete, had recently attended a seminar with other prosthetists, physical therapists, and doctors who have taught many bilateral above knee amputees to walk quite proficiently.

Short Leg Graduated Protocol (SLGP) was developed by Kevin Carroll, MS, CP, FAAOP, to train bilateral transfemoral amputees (like me) to confidently ambulate within the community on full length legs. The SLGP was developed to clearly define and systemize the key elements for bilateral transfemoral amputees to achieve successful prosthetic use.

The above paragraph was taken directly from a handout given to the attendees of the aforementioned seminar called, Prosthetic Management of Multiple Limb Deficiency.

This method has helped many war veterans with limb loss regain their mobility, many of whom were taught at Walter Reed Medical Center.

What the technique involves is quite different from what I have been trying to do. Instead of continuing the  way I have been for the last five monthes on two full length prosthetics, I have now been fitted with shortened legs that do not have knees.

Over time the length of the legs will be increased and the knees will be reincorporated into the legs. The purpose of learning to walk using shorter legs is multifaceted. First of all, the closer your center of gravity is to the ground the better your balance will be, hence the shortened legs.

The idea of this SLGP program is for me to live in these legs as much as possible and become as proficient as possible at a myriad of tasks, not the least of which is learning to fall correctly and standing back up.

When I speak of shortened legs I mean shortened! It is similar to having your feet attached where your knees would normally be located minus the knee component completely. The first time I tried on the preliminary shortened legs, my appearance almost brought me to tears.

I have been 5'10" tall all of my adult life and while wearing the shortest legs I am about 4' 8" tall. Visually this was quite a dramatic and shocking change.

Since this idea was introduced to me about ten days ago, I have experienced many ever changing emotions. One of the first things Chris said to me, upon presenting this idea, was not to look at changing from the full length legs to the shortened legs as a failure.

One may ask, as I did, if it is not a failure then why are we changing the status quo (learning to walk on full length legs)? There are at least two reasons. First of all, because I was so adept at walking on one prosthetic leg and a walker within days of losing my second leg, the doctors, prosthetists, and therapists thought maybe I could walk directly on two full legs, which I have, however not as proficiently  this new program has demonstrated.

The second reason is because many feel that losing a second leg and then being put in shortened legs and introducing SLGP immediately would have been too much of a loss all at once.

Whatever the reasoning may have been, I have decicded to give SLGP a try. I could not live with myself without exhausting all the possibilities presented to me that will enable me to regain as much normalcy as possible.

I must admit that when the idea was originally presented to me I felt somewhat discouraged. I still do not have the final shortened legs. I will receive them this Tuesday and I will begin my new learning process.

I have been accused of being an "A or Z" person, looking at situations as all or nothing, disregarding the entire area inbetween. It is true I do have a tendency to overlook the middle ground. I am choosing not to do that in this particular instance. I will try living my life and learning to walk on shortened legs, but at this stage only in controlled enviroments, i.e. the therapy gym and at home alone.

I really have to stay focussed on my goal of  walking on full length legs in order to put myself through the stringent SLGP program. I know it must be difficult for you to understand the emotional and psychological affect using shortened legs  has on me.

The reason I am writing to you about all this is because I want us, you the reader, and me, the participant  to go through this procedure together.

This Shortened Leg Graduated Protocol is completely foreign to both of us. I thought by writing about this to you we could witness, figuratively, the emotional and physical changes of the next few monthes.

I know in the end I will walk better and live a more normal life, I must keep that thought in mind at all times, although that is easier said than done. As my dear friend Ruth pointed out, "it is just as easy to look at this positively as it is to look at it negatively, possibly easier."

As I have always done throughout my limb loss scenario, I will remain positive and optimisitc about my success, knowing all of you, my readers, are rooting me on, gives me strength. I thank you for that understood encouragement. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Few Kind Words

I had originally written this blog on October 25 but I left my blog notebook at the prosthetist's office, so here it is now.

I am sitting in the prosthetist's office having yet another "top" put on my left leg. It seems as though these appointments are never-ending and perhaps they will be. I have come to the conclusion that the fittings and refittings are just a part of this whole leg loss scenario and I have learned to accept and appreciate it as a part of wearing and walking on prosthetic legs.

What I would like to address is something I experienced yesterday (which was really two weeks ago now).
I was going to my usual Monday morning physical therapy appointment and when I wheeled past the glass doors into the reception area, another waiting patient said to me, "you are amazing." I thanked her and it was then I realized she had seen me at previous appointments.

As my therapy continued with my beloved Chris, everything was going reasonably well. After walking with the walker, we decided we were going to practice walking a few steps backward on the Canadian crutches. The previous week, I came as close as I ever had to falling, while attempting to walk backward and sit down. Both Chris and I were surprised that I had such difficulty walking a few steps backward.

As I was walking past the same patient who had complimented me earlier, she asked me if I "worked out?" I said that I did. She commented to her therapist, David, that she could tell I worked out because of how strong I appeared. She went on to say that her physical problems paled in comparision to mine. She continued to say that she had never seen such determination and again she thought I was amazing.

I thanked her for her comments and told her how good she made me feel. Actually those positive comments she gave me set the mood for my entire day.

It is astounding how far a few kind words can go in making someone feel good about themselves. Receiving positive feedback from others has an  uplifting and longlasting affect on the person who is the object of kind words. I have believed for quite some time that passing along a compliment or two to another makes that person and you feel better. It is a win win situation.

Why then are people so hesitant to compliment others? It doesn't cost anything and the potential benefits are incalculable. I have always tried to applaud the good works or deeds of others through my words because I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of a compliment.

It is kind of like telling someone you love them, people don't tell each other how they really feel because often times, they think the other person already knows how they feel; that is not always the case.

A few kind words can go along way in making another person feel better and generally have a brighter outlook on their day and even their lives.

Steve has told me on numerous occasions that he feels people are very guarded with respect to being open about their lives. He feels when you are too open about your life you make yourself vulnerable to others. It is this vulnerability that prevent people from complimenting others. Sometimes individuals are concerned that their kind words may be misconstrued, as a "come on" or otherwise misunderstood, consequently they say nothing. I say, "who cares." I cannot be any other way than what I am. I do not live my life in secrecy as this blogs attests. I am pretty much an open book, what you see and hear from me is pretty much genuine and true.

If I like your outfit, I will tell you, if your hair looks good, I will tell you, if I am proud and thankful you are a part of my life, you will already know it because I have already told you so.

If we could all pay more attention to trying to be kind with not only our words but also our actions the world would be a better place. I have been trying to do my part for a long time and I will continue to do so.

Please join me in making our world a more pleasant place to live. By the way I have I told you lately how happy I am that you take the time to read my blog? Your participation in my life, in and of itself makes me happy, thank you.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Getting There

I remember back in the early to midnineties I was taking a shower and I noticed some numbness in my right leg. Additionally, I had always been plagued with leg cramps, an occurance that is usually associated with adolescence, often called "growing pains." However, my leg cramps continued to bother me for many years past adolescence.

As is human nature, I really never gave it much thought except for the usual complaining that one would casually mention to others.

Little did I know that these were the first signs of a disease that would eventually lead to loss of both of my legs. As time wore on, I began to have trouble walking distances, this was something I could  not understand.

It took many years for my blood disorder to progress to the point of bloodclots. Perhaps five years had passed before I experienced my first bloodclot, that was the beginning of the end for my poor legs.

I recall a time in the mideighties, I was selected and served on a jury. The case presented to us jurors was a woman in her late eighties who had fallen in a restaurant, claiming the fall had caused her to lose her hearing. Much of the testimony that was presented was by medical professionals. It was determined the woman suffered from precpicuous, a medical term describing the gradual loss of hearing due to old age. I remember a doctor stating with respect to hearing loss, most people do not notice their hearing loss until fifty percent of their hearing is gone.

Such was the case with my gradual difficulty in walking distances. It is with great trepidation that I bring to light the feelings of fear I experienced when in December 2001 I was admitted to Cook County Hospital, which incidentally was the last year of operation for that one hundred year old decrepit hospital.

As I was lying on a gurnee I looked up at the ceiling with old paint hanging in sheets, about to fall, that I began to cry. I wondered how my life had deteriorated to the point where I was in such a situation and in such a place.

Never in my wildest dreams could I have foretold what lie ahead for me in the upcoming decade. A decade of never ending surgeries, recoveries, loss of income and a general downward spiral.

Have I gotten your attention? I hope so because this is how I will start the book I plan to write.

The idea of writing a book about overcoming adversity, has never left me. I feel this blog has given me the confidence I need and has helped me develop the skills necessary to put down on paper my life experiences in a cohesive and comprehensive manner.

As I have explained  previously in other blog entries, this book which may end up being called, "Overcoming Adversity" is a book written to and for the everyday man or woman who find their lives embroiled in seemingly overwhelming circumstances.

What can we as individuals do for ourselves to remain optimistic and positive while facing serious ostensibly insurmountable odds?

How do we face medical challenges head on?

Where do we find strength, courage and perseverance?

For me it has been a journey of introspection, going deep within myself and pulling forth a strength that I believe everyone has within themselves. I have done this not even realizing I had that kind of strength to begin with. The inner strength I speak of, for me is God, you may prefer to call it inner spirit, divine knowledge, an innate wherewithal or whatever you chose to call it. Most importantly is the acknowledgement of a inner supply of will or determination available to us simply by seeking it out. The essence of the Bible scripture that states, "Seek and ye shall find." illustrates my point exactly.

It is a matter of believing in yourself and wanting to maintain quality, dignity, self-repect and grace in your life. I have never allowed myself to be resolved to a life less than what is actually possible in my circumstances.

As we know I am still on my journey of relearning to walk, which is key to my happiness and survival. My path has been a rocky one to say the least and there are certainly moments of discouragement and sadness.

I am constantly monitoring my mental state, paying particular attention to how I speak and think to myself about my life. Everyone has negative thoughts from time to time but it is up to us to not allow negativity to get a grasp on us. We will continue to seek happiness and fulfillment if we keep negativity, in all it's forms, at bay.

Paying attention to what we say or think to ourselves has a large impact on how we feel and what we do. Recognizing negativity in all of it's forms, either overt or the most insidious type of negativity that seems to rear it's ugly head at every opportunity, for no good reason, is paramount.

Happiness coupled with positivity are merely different states of mind. We can learn to control our thought patterns and be alert to negative thoughts as they emerge.

One of the ways that has been most beneficial to me is to immediately change my thoughts of helplesness or hopelessness to thoughts of appreciation of all the good things in my life.  By focussing on family, friends, pets, your home, your hobbies or the passions you have in your life, will redirect your energy flow in positive constructive directions.

Sometimes I wonder do I have what or it takes to write a book that will be uplifting  and beneficial to other people? Can I put into words how I have managed to maintain a level of happiness and fulfillment in spite of the dramatic and life changing loss of both of my legs?

I believe I am getting there or perhaps I have already arrived. What are your feelings?


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shaking Things Up

I am standing in those Canadian crutches, no easy task

We all have a tendency to allow our lives to fall into an established pattern or routine because  it is familiar and easy. My physical therapy sessions have fallen into that category until Chris, my physical therapist, decided to "shake things up" a bit--a successful attempt to get me more motivated.

Trying to maintain the line between professionalism and frendship between Chris and myself has become somewhat skewed. Because she and I enjoy each other's company so much it was easy for friendship to blossom.

Last week Chris said, "I have to talk to you about something." I said, "Chris you can talk to me about anything." She went on to ask me what I hope to achieve through my therapy and what my ultimate goal was? I replied that I thought we had already eastablished my goal-- to walk unaided.

Chris continued to explain that I had completed forty PT sessions in twenty weeks and although I had made great strides in that period, I had reached a plateau of sorts. I realize that the conversation we had was not easy for her, as she did not want to belittle my achievements thus far, but at the same time we had to move further along, if that is what I wanted to do.

She went on to say she has a responsibility as a physical therapist to report my progress and she felt that in order to get closer to my ultimate goal, we had to become a little more daring, trying bolder and more advanced techniques.She had even mentioned that perhaps I should take a break from therapy so that I could perfect what I had learned by putting it into pracitical everyday use.

The next logical step in my progression is to move from walking with a walker to walking with Canadian crutches. Canadian crutches are the type of crutches that have the bands that wrap around your forearms.

After our conversation something must have struck a chord in me and I walked within the parallel bars, but not touching them, on Canadian crutches. This was the first time I had done that and it was yet another milestone in my progression.

After completing the walk I asked her if I should just finish my already scheduled appointments and then take that break she had mentioned earlier. Chris said, "well not now, not after you have just walked on the crutches for the first time. I think we should keep going."

At today's session I stood up from my wheelchair using one bar and one Canadian crutch and proceded to walk within the parallel bars on three seperate occasions. These recent accomplishments were a result of our conversation from the previous week. I don't think Chris set out to deliberately put pressure on me to perform at a higher level, but she got her point across. Serendipity at it's best!

Progressing in my journey to learn to walk on two above knee prosthetic legs is going to involve some calulated risk. If I want to remain walking on my walker, that of course is my perogative, but anyone who knows me, knows that will never be good enough.

Walking those few times on those crutches has remotivated me to continue down my path to see just how far I can get. Sometimes we all need to have things "shaken up" a bit to get ourselves going again.

Stepping outside our comfort zone is not always easy, it is even harder to "step out" with prosthetic legs, but great strides and achievements are not always easy. (Excuse those puns).

Thank goodness Chris and I had  our little talk, it has helped me tremendously. I hope all of you have someone like Chris in your life to help "shake things up" from time to time, it keeps life interesting.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Being Human

Let me try to paint a portrait for you of what it is like to walk on two above knee prosthetic legs. Imagine if you can walking on two stilts. I used to describe walking on my prosthetic  legs in that manner, however it is not quite accurate.

Imagine trying to walk on two stilts that both have hinges in them (the knee), that is actually a better description of what walking is like for me.

A couple of weeks ago at physical therapy we tried something different. The exercise was to try to walk without using a walker outside the parallel bars. My therapist, Chris, was in front facing me with my hands on her shoulders. My prosthetist, another Chris, was behind me trying to help me get my hip motion correct, by moving my hips as I attempted to walk.

It was one of the most terrifying things I ever attempted to do. Suffice it to say I was not successful. The reason I am writing this is because I was shocked at how much fear it evoked in me. Rarely, if ever, do I have such feelings of fear with respect to this whole leg loss scenario.

I am almost at a loss of words to describe the feelings of being completely out of control that I felt. A lot of what I do when I walk, stand, sit and reach for things in a standing position involve some degree of loss of control but I have learned to recognize those feelings and over time have developed a degree of control that doesn't involve fear.

Of course the terror I was feeling was evident not only my face but I practically decapitated Chris by grapping her neck to keep my balance. After I calmed down from the incident I tried to explain why I reacted the way I did, which by the way was completely unexpected. Chris, my therapist, said she understood and admitted although she is in a profession where people in my situation are not uncommon, she still cannot accurately feel what I feel.

I guess the question that remains in my mind is where did that feeling of fear come from and why is it there? I suppose anyone could have or would have reactly similarily and yet I was surprised and disappointed  that I did not handle it more successfully and with more dignity. I have looked at You Tube videos of bilateral above knee amputees who walk unaided up and down hills, play golf , etc.and that is still my goal, however the unexpected fear I felt sometimes makes me wonder if I am being unrealistic.

I am trying to understand fear and I already know that a lot of fear is caused by lack of faith.

Another bewildering reaction occured last week that was also surprising  to me. I had been having a really good day. Bill and I had gone to Costco and we were back at my place. I stood in the kitchen and for some reason my left leg became detached, probably because I inadvertantly hit the release button. Be that as it may, although I was slightly irritated I went to the bedroom,  reattached it, and never gave it much thought.

A short time later I heated some black bean soup for lunch. I had already given Bill his portion and had my bowl of soup balanced on my lap as I wheeled into the living room.  It fell off my lap, the bowl broke and the black bean soup flew everywhere.

My intial reaction was anger and irritation quickly followed by an onslaught of tears. I sat there momentarily crying not over spilt milk but over spilt soup. I do not know why I reacted the way I did. Fortunately Bill could see how upset the incident had made me and without speaking a word jumped into action, cleaning up the broken soup bowl and wiping up the spilled soup.

Again I don't know why I reacted the way I did and it bothers me. I talked to Steve about it and he said it was probably pent up frustration that had been building over time. He continued to say he realized to a greater or lesser degree how difficult and frustrating doing everyday tasks must be for me.

Now you may be asking yourself why is he writing about all this?

After having read Eckhart Tolle's book, "The Power of Now" several times, the book advises that we step back in a nonjudgmental way and look at ourselves observing our various reactions in various situations. My observations have made me aware of myself. In an attempt to be nonjudgmental, it has revealed to me that perhaps I could begin to get a better grip on my emotions and reactions and find that inner peace which we all harbor within ourselves.

After I had begun writing  this particular blog entry (yesterday) and before it was completed, I had my usual physical therapy appointment with Chris. I told Chris what I  was writing about and she said we are all human beings and anyone could have reacted in those situations the same as you. She went on to say that most people in my circumstances would have similar or often times worse reactions but that my adverse responses were few and far between.

I remember reading in a book about an exmarine who became a bilateral AK amputee as a result of a land mine. He explained in his book that his anger was so great intially he used throw his prosthetic legs across the room and at the wall.

Observing my reactions and being aware of  what circumstances prevoke negative ones, may help me with future outbursts. If that doesn't work, I have to realize that those feelings of fear,anger, frustration and disappointment are normal and even expected given my situation.

I have to give myself permission to be a human being......we all do.


Friday, September 9, 2011


In our society everything is about money or lack of money. What you wear, what your educational level is, where you live and even how straightened and whitened your teeth are, is all determined by how much money you have or do not have.

It has always troubled me that we don't or can't look beyond our  socioeconomic boundries that seem to determine a person's worth in the eyes of others.

In the final analysis as we approach death we are stripped of all of the worldly things we have accumulated over our lifetimes, what we are left with is our actual worth. What kind of person were we? Were we kind? Were we loved by others? Did we give back to others?  The answers to these questions are what actually determine how wealthy we really were in our lifetime.

As we live our day to day lives it would  seem advantageous for all of us to pay more attention to the inside of ourselves rather than by being consumed by external appearances.

Anyone who knows me already knows that I have struggled with issue of money all of my life and still continue to do so. Lack of money can become a real source of depression and anxiety if you allow it. On a daily basis we are subjected or rather bombarded with advertising that tells us over and over again we are nothing without the best car, the biggest house, the latest electronic gadget, etc.

I believe that bombardment of advertising has led to a lot of economic hardship for people who believe their self worth is determined by material objects. Naturally I have become somewhat affected myself by all of these advertising ploys.

As I get older and I think after having suffered the loss of my legs, I have begun to pay more attention to the inside of myself and less attention to my outward appearance. The loss of my legs has forced me to look at myself more analytically. I have had an epiphany of sorts. I understand more fully that my outward appearance physically has little to do with what kind of person I really am.

All the money in the world would never buy me the God given legs I was born with. Having legs or not having legs does not define me, similarily having or not having money does not define me either.

I want to live my life with grace and dignity remembering the most important things in life, loving others, being loved by others, and having compassion for my fellow man and woman are just a few of my life's goals. It might be beneficial for all of us to occasionally take a step back, look at our lives and see if we like not the car we drive or the home we live in, but rather do we like the type of person we are on the inside? Are we happy with who we are rather than what we own?

I am not foolish enough to believe that having money does not make your life easier, but we have to be careful not to allow money to completely dictate our lives. We all know of someone who has spent their entire life accumulating wealth and power but it has been to the detriment of the more important aspects of their life; like not being present for their family or friends, not spending those precious moments with their children growing up etc.

I understand the constraints money or lack of money places on us as human beings in our society. However, sometimes with the lack of money comes the ability and time to really take a look inside ourselves--to examine our souls.

I have mentioned something my friend, Michelle McKinney Hammond, said to me in the hospital after the loss of my second leg, which I feel bears repeating, "out of great losses come great blessings." I want to be able to look at my life in hindsight and be proud and thankful for how I have lived and learned in my lifetime.

I want my life to be a life not full of regrets of what I did or did not do, but rather to know in my heart that my existence has been one of love, compassion, faith and perseverance. It is my wish that we all will feel that way about ourselves. How do you feel about yourself at this very moment of your life? After all this very moment is the only moment we really have.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Remembering My Mother

It is hard to believe my Mother has been gone sixteen years today.

I remember when my youngest sister, Delpha, called to tell me she had passed away  in her sleep. Apparently the paramedics were still at Mom and Delpha's apartment when Delpha called. I was so shocked by the news that I asked to speak to a paramedic to be sure that what Delpha had told  me was true.

After hanging up the phone I went into hysterics, crying and lying on the floor. My Mother wasn't  a  well woman, she had COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), a result of years of smoking, however, she wasn't in imminent danger of dying, or so I thought.

I had spoken to my Mother just two days before she died. It was Labor Day weekend approaching and I was planning a pool party and barbeque at my friend Mark's house on Saturday. When I talked to Mom I had invited her and Delpha to the party,  then she went on to say she wasn't up for coming over. I practically pleaded with her to come, offering to pick her and Delpha up and bring them back home after the gathering. I'll never forget what she said, "Please don't be mad at me if I don't go."

I told her I wouldn't be mad at her but that I thought she would have a good time and she would not have to lift a finger. I think one of the reasons she said "don't be mad at me" was because sometimes I had to be firm with her when she was contemplating making decisions I felt were unwise.

I'm not sure why but I had not been home to Indianapolis for two years but I had decided to come home for Labor Day weekend. As I do not believe in coincidences, I feel in retrospect that she passed away because finally all of he children were in town at the same time. My youngest sister had just turned twenty-one years old on August twelfth and I think Mom felt that her work as a mother was complete.

Another strange thing occurred a few monthes previous to Mom's passing. There was a photograph of my Mother that was taken in 1959 when she was twenty-one years old. She looks beautiful in the photo, dressed in a teal colored dress with her trademark red lipstick and painted nails. She had made copies of that photograph and had given or mailed a copy of it to all of her children.

My Mother did not have an easy life. I think her problems began in her childhood after the loss of her father when she was just thirteen years old.

My parents had a tumultuous relationship, having been married and divorced from each other twice. I feel as if my parents both loved each other and yet could not sustain a life living together. I'm sure my Father's alcoholism added a great strain to their marriages and the loss of a child at one year of age was more than their relationship could bear.

I also believe my Mother had longlasting  feelings  of guilt about giving custody of her first three children to my father. I now realize what a difficult decision that was for her and I wholeheartedly believe it was a sacrifice she made out of love for her children.

I'm not sure what my Mother's home life was like when she was growing up, but I have a feeling that there was not a lot of physical affection shown toward her from her Mother.

I think this lack of affection was passed down from her Mother to her and then to her children. I think it was difficult for my Mother to show physical affection. Consequently, showing physical affection has been an obstacle I have strived to overcome in my own life, as have my siblings to a greater or lesser degree.

My Mother was not a doting mother, we were not smothered with hugs, kisses and "I love yous" all the time, in fact,  rarely was that the case. I don't blame my Mother for this, I think she did the best she knew how to do.

After my parents second divorce, life became much harder for my Mom, physically, emotionally, and financially.

I have a portrait of my Mother that my youngest sister, Delpha, painted just a few monthes before Mom passed away. What I like most about the painting (which Delpha has so graciously given to me) is the despair etched in my Mother's face. She was exhausted by life, you can see it in her face in the painting, a true reflection of what she had endured in her life.

Ceratinly Mom had many happy moments in her life also. One of my favorite memories of being with her was a visit she made to Chicago in the mid-eighties to visit me and Michael. We took her and Delpha to the "Ripley"s Believe It or Not Museum." We were looking at a display case that housed  what they described as the world's smallest violin. Mom said "it is so small I can't even see it." Michael said to her "it's not down there it's up here." We roared with laughter because she was looking in the wrong place. When Mom laughed really hard, the laughter would make her eyes water, and this was one of those occasions. She laughed so hard it looked like she was crying. I love that memory, it still makes me smile.

In a way I am glad Mom wasn't around here physically to witness all that I have gone through medically which of course culminated in the loss of both of my legs. I would not have wanted her to add my physical burden to her already heavy load.

As I have stated before, I have a picture of my parents together that hangs in my bedroom. I talk to both of my parents all the time, asking for advice and for strength. I know their spirits are with me always, I take solace in knowing and feeling their spiritual presence.

Know Mom how much I Love and miss you on this sixteenth anniversary of your physical passing. Love, Glenn

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Out and About

  It has been a while since I have written, I apologize for that, it's just that I have been busy. Being busy is a good thing these days, it means I have things to do and places to go.

I was at my sister Rhonda's house for six days at the beginning of August. As always I had a great time, floating around the pool, soaking up the sun, and eating like a pig. My thoughtful brother-in-law, Peter, built a ramp in the garage for my wheelchair to make getting into their house easier. While I was in Indy I got to see two of my dear friends, Mark and Jena along with Jena's little boy, Hudson.

Bill, yes that Bill, has been very kind and thoughtful with regard to picking me up and making sure I get out of my condo. Bill and I went to the Andersonville Farmers Market a couple of weeks ago. This was my first real venture out into my neighborhood since the loss of my second leg. I will admit I was a little selfconscious about being in my wheelchair, but more about that later.

Bill and I have also been out to eat three times. I appreciate the time and effort he puts forth to help me get out to see and be seen by other people. We went to see the movie "The Help" at the Northbrook Mall, even though it was a lot of wheeling through the mall, we had a good time.

I know how this may sound but I feel it is necessary to share my feelings. I'm not sure whether the feelings of selfconsciousness I have are normal for people in my situation or if perhaps I am overreacting. I feel like people are staring at me because I am in a wheelchair. I realize that people see others in wheelchairs all the time and probably don't give it a second thought, however, when it is you that is in that wheelchair it changes your entire perspective. These feelings of selfconsciouness are perhaps because since the loss of my second leg, I haven't really been out in the public all that much.

I think this adjustment will take some getting used to. Now you may be wondering, why is he talking so much about the wheelchair, what happened to the goal of walking? That goal is being accomplished a little bit more each and every day, but as I have discussed in previous blogs, these things take time. In the meantime it would behoove me to begin to get out and try to socialize more, learn to become more comfortable in my new circumstances.

As we know sometimes I am hard on myself, not allowing myself to have feelings of loss and the sadness that goes along with loss. I attempt to share my feelings with you honestly at all times, and if I acted like going out in public in my wheelchair didn't bother me, that would not be the honest truth. It does bother me.

The question then becomes which bothers me most, not getting out and socializing or staying home too much? One of the reasons I started this blog was to share my feelings with my readers, to let you know how I feel about what is going on in my life and how I cope with this monumental loss of my lower extrementies. Having said that,  sometimes my feelings are not all that pleasant. One of the most benefical aspects of this blog is that it is a carthartic means by which to vent my feelings. I thank you for allowing me to do that, as I feel it is a healthy approach to living a happier and more meaningful life.

I know that what I am going through, with respect to being seen in public in my wheelchair may be hard for you to understand. Some may think I am overreacting, why should I care if people stare? The more likely scenerio is that people aren't really staring at all and if they are it is just a passing thought.

My friend Steve has said to me on more than one occasion that he wished he could see himself through other (not another) eyes because he would like to know what he would think about what he saw. Another friend of Steves said to him, "me too I want to know what others think of me." Steve said to him, "I don't care what others think about me, I care about what I think about myself."  I love the fact that Steve doesn't care what others think--I want to be more like Steve in that respect. I shouldn't care what others think, I should care most about what I think.

Suffice it to say I am glad to be out and about and once again it  is yet another aspect of my adjustment that will take some time.   


Saturday, August 6, 2011

What Does Walking Really Mean?

At my last physical therapy session, my physical therapist, Chris said that she had "caught up" on reading my blog. Of course she was, as she always is, very complimentary in her comments, however, she said that if she had read my blog and solely based on what I had written, she would be left with the opinion that I was unable to walk at all.

I think she got that impression because in much of my writing I refer to the word "walk" as if it were something I am going to accomplish in the future and not something I am accomplishing already. I take responsibility for that  impression because until she pointed this out to me, perhaps that IS how I am looking at the whole "walking thing."

I think it would  be of benefit to me if I changed not only the way I write about myself , but also how I feel about the whole concept of walking. It is true that I can stand up and I can move myself from one place to another while in an upright position, does that define walking? Previous to Chris' comments,  maybe I felt that I wasn't really walking because it is difficult and for now I am not walking as proficiently as I would like.

As I  have written about previously, I sometimes have a tendency to belittle my accomplishments, I suppose this whole personal concept I have of walking is an example of just that. My perception of walking and how I define it needs to be modified to reflect the accomplishments and give them their justifiable credit. Now this may all sound well and good, but I am not sure it will be as easy to implement in practice as it is to write about in words.

Sometimes the way we refer to a concept is a true reflection of how we really feel inside our own heads about that concept; given that precept, I feel some verbal as well as mental or intellectual restructuring may be not only required, but also be beneficial to improving my mental attitude and my performance in general.

I realize that most people, my age, and given my physical restraints are not able to do nearly as much as I am able to do. These declarations are not feelings that I am better than they are, far from it, but rather feelings  of appreciation and gratitude. When I refer to walking in the future tense and not the present tense than I am not acknowledging my appreciation, my accomplishments or expressing my gratitude. This is troubling to me and warrants closer examination, I want my writings and feelings to truly reflect how grateful and appreciative I really do feel inside.

Am I able to walk? Yes. Am I where I ultimately want to be? Not quite yet. Something a lot of people do not realize when you see someone who appears to walk well on one or two  prosthetic legs, is the fact that their accomplishments took a very long time to complete. As I have touched upon in previous blog entries, we have to be careful not to compare ourselves and our accomplishments to others. I know somewhere in this world there is a person in a similar situation as myself,  who probably wishes they were able to do what I am already able to do. This thought helps me put my life in it's proper perspective.

Thank you Chris for pointing out the fact that I am not referring to myself in the proper context that truly reflects my ability to walk and   acknowledges my accomplishments thus far.

Walking, what a wonderful gift we all take for granted. Walking, something I do and I appreciate being able to do, and hopefully my words and thoughts will reflect that appreciation in the future.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dad's Seventy-Fifth Birthday

If my father were alive he would have turned seventy-five years old today. I remember fifteen years ago on Dad's sixtieth birthday we all had a surprise party for him. Everyone was there, all of his children, all of his grandchildren, his girlfriend and his only sister, Lynda.

My mother had passed away the year before, at the age of fifty-seven and I was determined  to have this celebration for my father's birthday, as my mother never realized her sixtieth birthday.

It was a wonderful event and Dad was quite surprised. I think of that party often and what a happy occasion it was. I think of my father frequently and the influence he had and has on my life. Dad was a troubled man in some respects and yet a wise and humorous man in a lot of other areas of his life.

I have thought many times about the fact that I  am glad neither one of my parents lived to see me go through the loss of my legs. I know how devastating it would have been for them to have seen one of their children  endure  such a traumatic ordeal.

I have one of the only photographs of my parents together, hanging in my bedroom,  I look at it and talk to my parents often. I ask them to help me, to give me strength and guidance. Sometimes I wonder would my parents be proud  of the way I have chosen to handle my leg loss situation. You know, I think they are proud, at least I hope they are.

In spite of all the drama that existed in my family, all the dysfunction, my parents did a good job raising all four of their children. My siblings are all good, loving and caring individuals. Mom and Dad despite all odds, instilled within all four of us the most important virtures of life. I am thankful for my parents.

I believe that my Mother and Father both endured a lot of hardships in their respective lives and yet they perservered. I think my strength and perservence comes in part from my parents and of course a great deal comes from God. My God and my parents what a perfect combination.

Despite my fathers's three failed marriages (two of them to my mother), losing a baby son many years ago, and losing three homes, he perservered. At the end of his life he had his own home and a seventeen year relationship with his live-in girlfriend On, the most successful relationship of his life.

I remember sitting with my Father during his final days, suffering from bone cancer, and he said to me, "this cancer thing wasn't part of the plan."

His starement really resonates with me now, this leg loss thing wasn't a part of my plan either. What would my Father have done if he were faced with the loss of both of his legs? I suspect he would have done exactly what I feel I am doing; remaining optimistic, diligently confronting the situation with determination and perservence.

I am not foolish enough to have canonized my Father, in the wake of his death, putting him on a pedestal, however, there are so many things about the way he lived his life that make me proud to be his son. I know in my heart, he sees and realizes what I go through in my day to day life.

Both my Mother and my Father have greatly influenced the type of person I am today and for that I am truly thankful.

Happy Birthday Pop, I miss talking to you but I know you are always watching over me now and forever.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Home For Six Monthes

Today it has been six monthes since I arrived home after losing my second leg. I thought this would be a good time to review and evaluate my progess during the last six monthes.

Anyone who knows me already knows how self critical I can be. I always try to  push myself and set high but I feel attainable goals. Sometimes, however, I have been told by others that I don't give myself enough credit for my accomplishments and for my fortitude in general. It is difficlut for me to be satisfied with my accomlishments, ultimately because I am not where I feel I could or should be.

During the course of my recovery it has been easy to forget the place I was at even just six monthes ago and where I find myself now. By looking back at what I was able to do six monthes ago and what I can do today will put things in their proper perspective.

When I arrived home January 23, in the dead of winter, I wasn't even able to take a shower. One reason I wasn't able to shower was because I still had over sixty stitches in my left residual limb, in addition to those stitches, I had not yet developed a workable and safe method by which to shower.

Today of course those stitches have long since been removed and I have figured out a fairly easy method to transfer from my wheelchair to the shower bench and back again. I have also increased the speed in which I am able to shower.

Six monthes ago I was still heavily medicated, particularily with pain meds. Now I take only the basic medicine I need and will have to take for the rest of my life. I realized some time ago the psychological impact pain medication has on my mind. Being an emotional person by nature, and then taking mind altering types of medication, put me on an emotional rollercoaster. Sometimes I had difficulty controlling my emotions. I would cry easily and would put too much emotional weight on situations that did not warrant such reactions. I am so pleased to have stepped off of that rollercoaster, not only do I have much less emotional reaction to situations but also the reactions are more appropriate.

Needless to say I was not able to drive six monthes ago. Those of you who continue to read my blog already know that I have taken driving lessons, have had controls installed in my car and am now able to drive. Not only am I able to drive, I drive with a lot more ease and confidence. I am so thankful for the freedom driving has given me. I am equally thankful for my sister, Rhonda, who encouraged me and helped financially to accomplish this very important goal.

Naturally I did not have my second prosthetic leg six monthes ago. Although everything has not been perfected to the point I know it will be eventually, I have at least begun the process of learning to walk again,  on now, two prosthetic legs. I would like to elaborate a  little on this process of walking on two above knee prosthetic legs. The magnitude of losing both of my legs, both above the knee, has begun to be realized by me. Many of the medical professionals I work with, my vascular surgeon, my rehab doctor, all of the prosthetists, and my beloved physical therapists, have told me time and again the depth of my accomplishments, given my loss, my age, and vascular issues. I was rather dismissive about their comments and encouragement, making statements like, "I don't think I am doing that well" or "What is the big deal so I can stand on two prosthtetic legs?"

It has taken me a while and even now sometimes I don't realize the actuality of what has happened to me. I have no legs. By putting things in their proper perspective, appreciating the ecouragement I have received and being gentle with myself has made me a happier person. I  now realize that I am a person who has lost both of their legs, both above the knee and yet I have been able to retain a great amount of automony. I am able to drive, to take care of myself with respect to personal grooming, I can cook for myself and eventually I WILL walk again.

I understand and appreciate what  I have accomplished  in my life so far. I also understand and appreciate all of the assistance and encouragement  I have received along the way in every avenue of my life; medically, from friends and from my family.

Another interesting and wonderful aspect of my life has emerged; this blog. Writing and sharing my thoughts with all of you through this blog has forced me to look at my life in many areas I may never have visited otherwise. I enjoy sharing my thoughts and feelings through these writings and I also understand how cathartic it has been for me.

Am I where I want to be ultimately in my life as a bilateral above knee amputee? Certainly not. I am however, pleased with my accomplishments thus far and know things will only get better from here.

The other day I took my walker and stood and walked to one of my barstools, sat at my kitchen breakfast bar and I thought  I like this view much better than the view I have from my wheelchair. Sitting at the bar, a seemingly small accomplishment, should not be minimized in my mind, these are the small steps that lead to overall feelings of self-satisfaction and pride in attaining goals.

Those of you who have shared my journey with me either through direct participation or by taking the time to read my blog have contributed to my well being and my sense of accomplishment. I thank you all and look forward to sharing more of my story and accomplishments as we WALK down the path of my life together.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Blessed Friendships

I have been so blessed with an unusually large number of friends. These are friends whom I know would and have done anything for me, friends who have remained steadfast in my life for many years. I thought I would list their names and how long we have been friends. I cannot emphasize enough the value I place on my friendships. All of these people have played a pivotal role in my life and have helped shape my character.

                                                        Tricia          38 years
                                                        Mark          34 years
                                                        Kevin         28  years
                                                        Michael      26  years
                                                        Ruth           22  years
                                                        Shawn        22  years
                                                        Jena           10  years
                                                        Marguerite   8   years
                                                        Bill               8   years
                                                        Steve           6   years
                                                        Rick            6   years
                                                        Patrick        5   years

I met my friend Tricia when I was a sophomore in high school way back in 1973. She is the only person from high school with whom I have remained in contact. She currently lives in London and has recently embarked on a new romantic relationship. I last saw her in April 2009 at her mother's memorial service. We facebook and email several times a year. She like so many others has greatly enriched my life in so many ways.

My friend Mark and I have the longest friendship of all my gay friends. I met Mark when I was nineteen years old. We dated briefly in the 1970's but that quickly turned into a platonic friendship that has lasted many years. We have had lots of happy times and memories but also our share of sad times. Mark and I have one of the most special friendships in my life.

If you have been reading my blog, you already know the relationdship I had with my dearest departed friend, Kevin.

Michael, who lives in Montana, and I were lovers for five years in the late eighties. He is a wonderful person. Since our relationship ended many years ago, he has gone back to school for his master's degree and has adopted a son. It is only through the perservence of Michael that we are still in contact and are friends these many years later. I appreciate his friendship and I know I can always count on him for anything. Knowing Michael has made my life better in many ways.

Ruthie or Ruth Anne and I have been friends for twenty-two years. We met in the late eighties. We worked together for six years, she ended up getting married and moved first to Alaska and finally to Seattle where she lives today. I love my Ruthie, she has been a confidant of mine for many years. She is one of the first people I turn to for advice, she is a wise and compassionate friend. After a period of seperation, caused mostly by her bigotted, now exhusband, Al, we have a friendship that is stronger than ever. Ruth is someone whom I know in my heart will always be a part of of my life, for that I am so thankful, Shalom.

I have mentioned my friend of twenty-two years, Shawn in a blog titled, "A Tumultulous Friendship." He and I have been through a lot together but our friendship remains intact and stronger than ever.

My friend Jena, is actually my best friend Kevin's niece. I have known Jena since she was fourteen years old, however, we didn't become friends until a few years before Kevin's passing. After Kevin left this world, Jena and I became much closer. I know Kevin is responsible for our friendship. Jena has helped me in so many ways, I have such respect and admiration for her. One thing I like about Jen is her ability to "cut right to the chase." She has a way of seeing a situation and knows instinctually what action to take to resolve problems. I also see myself in her in some ways, her decorating style, her way of doing things in original ways and her taste is top notch. She is always there to lend a helping hand either intellectually or financially. I cherish my friendship with Jena and her entire family.

My dear sweet friend, Marguerite, you have already read about in the blog entry I titled "True Friendship." Marguerite and her husband, Paul, are such good friends to me. They have played the most participatory role, other than my family, throughout my leg losses. Visiting me at the hospital on several occasions, bringing me home from the hospital many times and staying with me during my recovery at my home. Marguerite is someone who has made my life so much more positive. Who would have known when we first spoke to each other from our respective screened-in porches, that many years later a cherished friendship would still be going strong? She and Paul hold a special place in my heart and always will.

And then there's Bill. Those that know me will realize to whom I am referring. I don't know what to call the relationship I have with Bill, maybe I don't have to label it at all. Bill has been a part of my life for over eight years, we have had a lot of ups and downs, on again, off again, but deep down I hope he knows I love him. Bill and I have travelled extensively together before all of my medical issues have made travel much more challenging. Even today Bill has shown his concern for my well being, offering to take me out to lunch and other ways he finds to "get me out of the house." I appreciate his efforts so much because I know it is not easy. Bill has brought a lot of excitement to my life and a fair amount of drama. I would certainly say my life has been greatly enriched knowing Bill and certainly not boring!

I would call my friend, Steve, my best friend. After the loss of Kevin I thought I would never have found the comradarie that I have found with Steve. We met at the gym and because we have shared similar circumstances in our respective lives, we became friends fairly quickly. I love Steve, I can talk to Steve, believe me when I say neither one of us is ever at a loss for words. Ours is a very easy, open and honest friendship, I feel I can tell him anything and I hope he feels the same way. Steve has a unique style in a lot of ways. I have great admiration for him, his discipline, his taste, and his personality. Steve makes  me laugh and is generous to a fault. We have know each other for six years and yet I feel as if I have known him much longer. Steve has been very encouraging to me throughout all of my medical issues. One thing I know I can always count on with Steve is his honesty. He always tells me the truth, if I ask, even if sometimes the truth isn't necessarily pleasant--I love that about Steve and so much more.

I have met so many great people at Cheetah Gym. Rick is my Saturday morning workout buddy. Although I haven't been back to the gym in seven monthes I know I will eventually WALK in Cheetah on a Saturday morning and Rick will be there. Rick is always the first one to offer his help to me at the gym, even without my having to ask. A couple of times when I wasn't able to go the gym because of guess what?  leg problems,  I always  go back on a Saturday morning specifically because I know Rick will be there. I guess I kind of consider Saturday morning, Glenn and Rick time. I miss that so much and am anxiously awaiting the day I walk in Cheetah Gym on Saturday morning and see Rick's smiling face.

My friend Patrick is such a great person, so kind, so considerate and so caring. My friendships with both Rick and Patrick, I believe began by my asking them individually and on seperate occasions, questions about working out.  My five year friendship with Patrick, (which I feel is just beginning), just escalated from there. I would see him working out nearly every morning and we just started talking more and more and our friendship blossomed. Patrick has visited me on several occasions during my various hospital stents and in fact brought me home from the hospital one time. We talk on the phone frequently and we have made a vow  not to let our  friendship drift apart even though he now goes to another gym and I haven't been able to go back quite yet.

One of the reasons I chose to write about friendship is because it is so important to me. My friendships, all unique unto themselves, are an anchor in my life. Surrounding myself with loving and caring people has made a tremendous positive difference in my ability to handle the challenges my life has brought to me.

If you combine all of the years of friendship I have been privy to and blessed to be the recipient of, it would total 213 years, just based on the friends have  mentioned here in this particular blog. Isn't that astounding?

If the statement, "You are not measured by how much you love, but rather, by how much you are loved by others." is true, which I believe it is, than friendship is the greatest blessing I have been fortunate enough to be apart of, and for that, I am thankful beyond words.  


Friday, July 8, 2011

Part C: A Tumultuous Friendship

Have you ever known a person and although you would in the final analysis consider yourselves to be friends, on a day to day basis you frequently clash? Such was the case with Shawn and myself.

I say the word "was" because now we are closer than we have ever been in the twenty two years we have known each other. I'm  not sure what happened between us except that we have both been through very tough medical issues.

Sometimes when we are faced with debilitating medical challenges we can rise to the occasion, demonstrating strength, courage and perservence or not. As I have discussed in previous blog writings, we all have a tendency to judge each other. Although I try to monitor this when trying to reserve judgment, I sometimes fail, as I did originally with Shawn.

Shawn has been dealing with cancer for a couple of years now. He has demonstrated as much courage and strength as anyone I have ever known. I would never have thought he would have risen to this level of courageousness had I not been akin to his situation personally.

Shawn and I used to work together starting in the late eighties. We had an on again off again  friendship. A few years later I found myself doing work for Shawn. Shawn is a successful realtor. During the course of his career, Shawn experienced prosperous times, which did not surprise me, he has always been a good sales person.

As Shawn was developing his career as a realtor, I was developing my career as an interior decorative painter. Shawn was frequently "throwing business" my way,  this was a mutually benefical proposition for both of us. He was sending business and I was providing a product that enhanced his ability to sell property.

Our relationship was not without it's problems. Sometimes I felt Shawn expected me to do things with unreasonable notice or for an inappropriate price. I think Shawn felt underappreciated by me for sending so much business my way. Needless to say there were verbal exchanges between the two of us that I am sure we have both regretted.

It is not unusual for friendships  to feel strained-- sometimes to the breaking point. Shawn and I were at this point many times. In fact I know a couple of times we mutually felt our friendship and working relationship was over.

As my medical issues became more serious, Shawn was there for me and still is. He never hesitated to offer help and was a frequent visitor  to the hospital during all of my admissions. I really appreciate that.

A few years ago Shawn learned he had cancer. When he first spoke of the cancer to me, I was immediately struck by his candor and his resolute optimism. He was not going to let this "cancer thing" get the best of him.

He made me realize after all these years the real importance of our friendship. Sometimes I feel as if perhaps I have not been participatory enough in his journey through the mine field of cancer.

Fortunately Shawn has a devoted significant other who has conducted himself with an all encompassing love and devotion I find heartwarming. Not unlike myself, Shawn is very close to his sister, Lisa. She has been there for him just like my sister, Rhonda, has been here for me.

Even though Shawn and I have been going through our own personal "medical hell" at the same time, we have talked openly and freely about what we have felt about our respective health issues. I have told Shawn many times how proud I am of him and of the admiration I have for the courage he has shown during such a dismal period of his life. He has voiced the same feelings toward me.

Last August Shawn asked me to go on a Caribbean cruise with him, his sister Lisa, and his brother-in-law Dan. I was of course somewhat apprehensive,  at that time I had only lost one of my legs. Suffice it to say, I had a great time. At that time I had  come a long way in my adjusting to living with one prosthetic leg.

Shawn however, was not doing as well with respect to his cancer issues. In fact he was very close to cancelling the trip. He told me not to worry his sister and brother-in-law would take good care of me. I told Shawn there was no way I was going on this cruise without him. I'm not sure whether Shawn felt better, or why he decided to go forward with the trip, but nonetheless we went.

It wasn't too long before I realized just how bad Shawn was actually feeling physically. I had anticipated that there were going to be moments of sharing our deepest feelings and vunerabilities about our respective health issues, and there were moments. Without devulging too much let me just say there were tears from both of us.

At one point after realizing Shawn was really too ill to have taken this cruise, I asked him point blank, if he had decided to come on the cruise because he wanted me to experience such a trip? He said yes. What can I say about that  kind of sacrifice?

As the saying goes, "these are the times that try men's souls," these are the times that have tryed our friendship. We, Shawn and I, have weathered a lot of storms together and in the end it has solidified and strengthened our friendship.

Perhaps one of the most benefical things to come out of our respective illnesses has been our friendship, stronger than ever, all the way to the end, and I am so thankful. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Part B: Disappearing Friends

Back in the eighties I had a friend who was very dear to me named Betty. Unfortunately, I inadverently blew off our friendship. Bear in mind back in the early eighties I was somewhat of a party boy. I drank, I did a few drugs, I had a good time. My friend Betty did the same for a while, but she felt she was getting out of control, so she sought help to stop drinking. We continued to be friends for a while but because we were not in the same place after she stopped drinking, our friendship faultered.

Between the early eighties and 2003 I had also quit drinking, doing drugs and changed my lifestyle completely. I had become a different person. Today, I work out, try to be more health conscious with my food choices and generally take better care of myself physically, mentally and spiritually.

Flash forward to 2007, I was laying out in the sun by Lake Michigan and I sat up and was looking around. I saw a girl jogging with her dog, I thought to myself, she is pretty. Within thirty seconds of that thought, she stopped and turned around and she said, "Glenn?" I didn't recognize her at first, but when I realized it was my old friend Betty, I was thrilled.

Subsequently, we made plans to get together and catch up on each other's lives. We renewed our friendship with vigor. I had remembered her  sister, Jennifer, who was in law school way back then. Jennifer is now a successful lawyer, owning her own LaSalle Street law firm. We went to a barbeque at Jennifer's beautiful home in Andersonville, just a few blocks from where I was living then.

I ended up becoming friends with Jennifer and did extensive decorative painting in her beautiful home. I worked feverishly for six to eight monthes on her house and had met her mother. Fran, her mother, was living with Jennifer and her two daughters. Fran was a wonderful lady in her late seventies or early eighties, she was living with Jennifer because she was dying from cancer.

Everything between Betty, Jennifer and myself I thought was going great until I got a blood clot in December 2007. I was out of commission for a six week period and I had scheduled work at Jennifer's home. I called her and explained, she then reassured me I could resume the work when I was physically able.

Right before I was to complete the prescheduled work, I got a late night phone call on my voicemail telling me Jennifer had  decided not to go forward with the prescheduled work. I tried relentlessly to call her to see if the work was permenantly cancelled or just postponed temporarily. I have never heard from her since.

A few monthes later Betty and Jennifer's mother, Fran, passed away from cancer. Betty called me with the news, we talked briefly because she was in the throngs of grief and dealing with her mother's death. I tried  several times to reach both Betty and Jennifer but it was  of no avail.

Since I was unable to reach them, I made them a sympathy card. I also wrote them a beautiful letter telling them how much I enjoyed their mother Fran. I went on to say in the letter, how proud Fran was of her daughters and her granddaughters because she had told me so herself.

In addition to those things, I  was given a wonderful book called "Nobody's Child Anymore." This book was given to me after my father had died, my last living parent. I had hoped the book would bring them comfort  after the loss of their mother, as it had for me after my father's passing. I took all of those things to Jennifer's house and left them with her live in boyfriend.

I  have never heard from either one of them since January 2008, neither Betty nor Jennifer even know of my leg losses.

I don't know what happened. I will never know what happened. This has troubled me for a few years now. I was speaking to Bill about this when it first happened and was blaming myself for the friendship loss. He asked, "Why are you blaming yourself?" "Do you feel that you did something to cause them to 'cut' you out of their lives?"

I have probably spent way too much energy on this loss of friendship and in spite of all the expended energy, I honestly do not know why our friendship ended, I haven't a clue. Losing  a friendship does not go easily for me, I greatly value friendship and mourn the loss of people who were friends, especially when I can't pinpoint the cause.

I have spoken to numerous people about this incident and everyone I have spoken with have themselves experienced a similar occurance. What do you suppose causes such things to occur? Do some people place less value on friendship than I?

Inexplicable friendship loss could have a few explainations. Perhaps you have done something to upset them and they won't let you know because the don't want to hurt your feelings. Another possible reason could be that you have overestimated the degree of friendship you felt existed between you and the other person.

In my case,  sometimes I wonder if it isn't medical issues that make some people feel uncomfortable. They don't know what to say or what to do, so the easiest way out is to just ignore the other person and thus eliminate the potential discomfort. I have been told by some friends that if that is the type of person they really are, than you don't need them in your life anyway.

Once again, the key to lasting friendship is continuous open communication. When people whom you consider to be your friend, all of a sudden distance themselves from you, for whatever reason, it becomes a self-perpetuating situation. Your "used to be" friend hasn't  called for example, all the while  they may be thinking , I should call them, however they don't take the time to do so. As time goes by, they feel gulity for not calling and can't really justify their not calling and so they never call out of embarassment, thus ending the  friendship.

I really find this type of behavior hard to understand, at least with regard to myself. I don't consider myself  a difficult person to talk to nor do I condiser myself unforgiving. I understand human nature and those who have felt uncomfortable  with dealing with my medical problems, but they need to understand that I am more than my medical issues.

If you are dealing with serious medical issues you should anticipate at least one or two of your former friends to alienate themselves from you. I know this is a sad truth. I take solace in the fact that almost all of the people I consider to be my friends are  still here for me.  I am thankful for them.

If you should find yourself being one of those people who find it hard to deal with a friend's medical problems, do them a favor and give them a call. Simply picking up the phone and voicing your support can make a real difference in their lives. Take it from me , I know, I live it everyday.