Sunday, November 16, 2014

My Immediate Goals

Some people may not first realize what it means to have a fake leg. They may think you put it on, learn how to walk on it and then you are good to go. There is so much more to it and the quality of leg makes a huge difference in quality of life...

Right now I can admit I have it better than a lot of people. I was able to get one of the first generation computerized knees. It by all means has been a great knee to have after losing my leg at such a young age.

But now I have hit the 5 year mark and my warrantee has expired. This means if something breaks in my leg very seriously I will have to get a new one... Here is the kicker, they won't let me get the next generation of leg... They (being insurance) will give me a leg (most likely with a hefty copay) that is exactly the same if not lesser...

Right now, I cannot climb up stairs more than one stair at a time... I cannot climb up hills without exerting so much energy and tweaking my back in a very unnatural way... I can't even go on an easy level ground hike because the rocks on the ground if stepped on will make me fall... I am terrified to get even a small splash of water on my leg because it can completely short circuit the computer therefore making my leg completely unusable... That is just a few of the many issues I have to deal with on a daily basis...

Now with all that being said, there are a lot of hoops I have to go through to even find out the out of pocket price for my dream leg... This is going to be a lot of work and a lot of headache I am sure... But I know it will be worth it because my day to day life will improve tenfold...

Here is my dream leg


Friday, November 7, 2014

Life and Death, Strength and Weakness

This may become a morbid post but my thoughts tend to wander to different spaces...

I was probably my great grandmas' favorite... I was one of the few girls on that side of the family and spent a lot of time with her in my childhood...

She would let me use toys that she would never let the boys touch because they would break them. She would even confide in me that I was the only one allowed to use the little penny slot machine she had because I would never break it. "Those ornery boys will break it within two minutes". It was probably true but it made me feel special.

It was a very difficult passing and was a long time coming. My great grandma has Alzheimer's syndrome and ended up being in a home because my grandparents could not take care of her anymore. My parents had me visit her a few times before her passing.

I do not know how many actually know what Alzheimer's does to your mind... at 12 years old I was definitely not prepared for what happens when this disease takes over. But I think my parents thought I could handle it. I do not recall if my two older sisters ever visited her or not. But it is a life changing event that occurred by walking into that home for the elderly.

 I had a  jr high class assignment to do something out of my comfort zone and my parents encouraged me to speak to my grandma... I was always unsure of what to say to a human being that was losing her mind... but my parents felt I was capable of enduring this task...

We walked down this hall that reeked of old people... the smell of someone's mouth that had not been brushed in days... Babbling old people confused as to where they were... or even more sad, old people who knew exactly where they were and were abandoned by their families never to be visited again... please God, take me before I end up in a place like this...

I walked into her room which she shared with another elderly woman... I could tell the vivacious women I used to spend every day with was no longer in this weathered body... It scared me...

She said so many words that I had not even really heard before, and it was coming from my grandmother's mouth... "That fucking bitch had it coming to her. I wish these stupid bitches would leave me alone. These nurses treat me like shit." ... My parents had to remind my grandma that I was in the room... she changed her tune then talked to me like I was 6. "Oh my dear Courtney, you are such a sensitive girl, it is so nice to have such a loving caring girl around." ... she then quickly went back into delusion that some nurse was out to get her. I am unsure of my parents perspective but I think they did not expect this to happen when I visited. Needless to say this was an upsetting experience for me.

Fast forward to her inevitable funeral that we had to attend... the first funeral I ever went to... They had an open casket and asked everyone to place her favorite flower into it.

It is a bit blurry what exactly happen but this is what I know is fact...

I walked to the front with my dad and my oldest sister to place a flower into her casket... I had never seen a dead body before in my life and this was especially jarring... I placed the flower in with her and stared at her lifeless body... contemplating about life and thinking about all the things we did together... My oldest sister is extremely distraught and my dad is hugging her... I look up to witness this and he extends his hand to my shoulder to comfort me... My sister is bawling into my dads shoulder...

This has forever stuck with me... was I always meant to be the stronger one? Was I always suppose to be the one that endures the hardest things because I can? Are these strange thoughts to have?

When I had cancer both times my sisters broke down, understandably... but in some twisted way was this suppose to happen to me because the universe knew I wouldn't completely crumble and fall apart? What if the roles had been reversed on one of my sisters? Would things have gone differently? Would we be the same people we are today?

I know what ifs are crazy and never predictable... but how would things have gone? Would we all still be here to tell the tale?


Monday, June 2, 2014

Shape shifter

Psycho, you killer, you cancer, my friend
Why don't you give me an answer for when
When you'll let it go
(Local Natives)

There have been many times where I look back at who I was 4 years ago and I say... "who was that?"

There is a new app that shows you what you said 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 years ago... I was a dumbass 4/5 years ago I can say that without a doubt...

Abbreviating things like an early 20 something does... it is irritating.  BTW, OMG, B there, Where R U.... ugh.... yuck...

I struggle with letting things go that happened in the past that I felt I should have changed. Am I crazy? Should I worry about that now? Does it even matter?

I hope I have evolved since that 22 year old person... but, fuck... I want to punch my 22 year old self... hard...

No idea that soon ahead, days from now, my 22 year old self would deal with the life and death decision that I now live with... I had to trust in my dumbass 22 year old self in order to live or die... does that give you confidence? I didn't think so.

Thankfully the right, more difficult decision was made, hopefully my stupid 22 year old self learned some things. 

The next 5 years would be determined. Not very helpful that all this happened around my birthday. Because now my birthday is one of the 3 most detrimental memories of my life. Thankfully the dumbassery of my 22 year old-ness was taken over by sensible, more sound thoughts instilled by my parents from my childhood. I was able to make a sound decision and chose life over limb. Not an easy choice, but it was made...

You are not to blame for the life you ended up with. The life you chose is what you made of it... for better or worse... you made your choice... we always hope it was for the better... looking back at it and regretting will not make anything better... the choice is made... the path is laid... now you must follow it... for better or for worse... this path is what you made and it will be the thing that leads you to where you are meant to be... hopefully for the better and not for the worse...



Saturday, April 12, 2014

Boston Marathon

Via Huffington Post Photogapher Robert X Fogarty


As we approach the year marker of the bombing of the Boston Marathon I start to think about how we approach our lives...

April 15 2013... people were changed, families were changed, lives were lost, lives were eventually gained...

Is it strange that we take huge tragic events like these to effect our lives in a positive manner?? I think so, but it's true...

Many people lost lives, many people lost limbs, many people felt like they dodged a bullet, many people lost a sense of security in their lives... How can you do something so positive like a marathon and it end so so badly?

You start your day like any other... cup of coffee...simple morning conversation with your family... passing hellos to random people you pass... simple mundane things that you would never remember otherwise. But this day, you will remember every. last. detail...

 There are so many positive things, so many positive outlooks, so many positive reactions to this tragedy... These "men", bombers did not win anything... The "victims" won...

For people who are not disabled nor have gone through any sort of difficult feat as even having a family member lose a limb, you may not understand where I am coming from...

It seems like the end of the world at first... How are you suppose to live through something this tragic, this horrific, this unthinkable?

I have yet to meet an amputee that does not have a very very positive outlook on life. We know what it is like to see death in the face and say "Fck you, you are not taking me, I am going to make it through this". It is a triumph we have achieved, we are not victims, we are victors! We have gone through more than most people go through in a lifetime.

Don't feel sorry for me or any other person that is disabled. Don't give me that typical "I'm sorry" face when you see me. We have more understanding of what life is about than many many people do. We do not want your pity... we want your respect.

Whether it be cancer, diabetes, accidents, bombings, IEDs we lived through it and made it out the other side. We are loving life and appreciating every second we have of it.

 I respect these bomb survivors so much that are standing up and showing that we as human beings can rise above adversity, terrorism and say "you are not taking me down... I am still standing... even if it is on plastic feet."

Take this into account on your own lives... are you living how you should? Are little things bothering more than they should? Are you really living life to the fullest? Are you living life like you may not have another day?

This is how life should be lived... like there may not be a tomorrow... like today may be the only day you have in the sun... Are you living life like you want to?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Helicopters and aeroplanes

I tend to use a lot of metaphors in what I write. As I have gotten older, everything seems to mean something more if you put your mind to it.

I was reminded of a childhood experience I had when I was about 6 or 7. My great aunt Eva Lou was in California for a week or two. My dad and her had hit off like gangbusters when they first met. He had planned a surprise for her and all of us, and had his pilot friend bring a helicopter to the field next to our house.

The pilot took each and everyone of us up individually and did an air tour of the area around my parents house. I was one of the last ones to go.

He took me up on the helicopter and we flew over the river, Tracy, Manteca, my parents house then went back to land.

It wasn't the fly that stuck in my memory, it was the landing. The pilot let me take control of the helicopter when we were close to the ground and helped me land it. It wasn't as easy as I thought it would have been...

You have to land exactly right or you will have a rough landing. He had me move the plane up and down feet from the ground trying to get it perfect. Every time seemed scary and frustrating to me until finally I landed it just right. It was exhilarating feeling like I was in control of something so big.

It reminds me of the things after that incident that made me feel so small at the time, but once I accomplished them, I felt like I could do anything with my life. It doesn't matter if it is cancer, death, some other illness, or something much more simple than that... It matters that you conquered it and figured out your own way to do things, make things work for you in your own favor...

Think things through and land that plane steady and smooth, or make a rough landing for yourself and hope everything turns out OK... 

Life is what you make it... you better make it good... you only get one chance...


Thursday, June 27, 2013

The beginning of something new...

Year 4... I can't believe it has been that long... This is kind of a continuation from the previous blog...

4 years ago this week I had the hardest day of my entire life... I don't think I will have any day harder than it...

What do you do when you have to choose between your leg and your life? I was hesitant...

The weeks preceding this life altering day was... well... confusing...

I was extremely defiant to getting rid of my leg at first. But I thought about it more and more... recovery time, rehab, pain, the chance of cancer coming back was just too much to imagine...

I recall a young man talking very directly to me about the pros of my situation... my life was such a blur I can barely recall who he was... but I knew he knew what I was about to go through... and he was right... my leg had to go...

I don't really recall the night before... I do remember sleeping much more well than I expected...

The worst part of this whole day was the waiting... waiting in the waiting room... waiting in pre op... waiting on the surgery table...

I remember walking (insisting on walking) to the pre- op room knowing these were going to be my last steps on my left leg... I wanted to savor every second of it and remember every feeling and sensation I had...

I had to be by myself at first in the room which was line up with people (mostly older and decaying) waiting for surgery. Some people were just coming back from surgery and were very out of it... and very emotional, either anger or crying... not sure why anesthesia only brings out these emotions...

I took off everything... everything that was me... my favorite necklace, all of my clothing, stripping me down to nothing... a precursor, I felt, to how I was going to feel after all this was done... naked... defiled... maimed... disfigured...

I then had to put on those god awful shit brown grippy socks they make you wear that barely stay on your feet... the last thing that would ever be on my left foot... most likely why I have a negative feeling whenever I see them...

The nurse that was going to take care of me obviously had no idea why I was there... I am sure she was regretful when she asked...

Big happy smile on her face, pleasant woman, reminded me of one of my aunts... "So what are you getting done today?' she says with a smile on her face that was meant to be comforting...

How the hell am I suppose to answer? I can barely keep it together... I have been good all day and not cried once...

I clenched my teeth, then relaxed my jaw and answered with as much composure I could muster... "My leg is being amputated today..."

The smile on her face went away and tears started streaming down my face... the only thing she could say was "You are my daughters age" She gave me a hug, assured me she would be there when I got out of surgery, and then she never came to my bedside again...

That encounter has always bothered me... was she too upset by it? was she just busy with other patients? I guess I will never know...

My dad stayed by my bedside until they took me away... everyone came in and out to wish me luck and he stayed with me the whole time... The second he hugged me and walked away I couldn't stop crying... it was real... this was happening... I am never going to be the same again...

As I am brought into the cold surgery room, I am told to curl into a ball so they can start the epidural. I cling to my knee and look at my other leg, frantically wiggling my toes, knowing I will never see that leg again... Holding back tears... The numbness takes over and I know at that moment I will never feel that leg again...

They lay me back and cover my body with blankets. They insert the extensions where your arms rest into the surgery bed which make it form some sort of unholy cross. They strap my arms in, I have this heinous thought that I am about to be tortured by some evil doctor. I can see them lifting my leg and covering it with orange iodine, getting the tourniquet ready, and started going over the technicalities...

I am still awake..."Courtney Wilson, amputation of the left leg...." there are so many things are rushing in my head... These words, as simple as they may be separate from each other have formed this huge ominous storm cloud over my head... it impossible to hold back tears... I am incapable of moving so I can't even brush the waterfall of tears coming down my face, as hard as I may try...

The nurse next to me sees that I am awake and crying asks for me to be put under... she takes off her sterile glove, touches my face, and wipes my tears away... I can't bear to meet her gaze in fear of crying even more...

That's the last thing I remember...And I will never forget it...

Monday, June 10, 2013

Reflection

Courtney Dawn Photography
Looking back on things doesn't necessarily mean that you are regretful or sad about the occurrences in your life...

That being said I seem to look back a lot on my life... not out of nostalgia.... not out of regret... nor out of sadness... but out of reflection...

If one thing wouldn't have happened then another thing may have been different... and with that I can be thankful things came out the way they were... they may not seem ideal to most people but I am happy... 

I guess I can't say it enough sometimes... but I am happy now because I knew where I was 4 years ago today...

I had just celebrated my 22nd birthday with all of my friends. I came home for the weekend because I was interning in San Francisco. I had just had surgery a few weeks before on my leg to remove the screws from my leg that were pushing out. 

I headed to the pharmacy in Manteca after having lunch with my boyfriend at the time. Normal occurrence with few people at the pharmacy. I was wearing a brace at the time. A man that parked in the handicap spot next to me said "ACL?" I wasn't in the mood for having the "I had cancer" conversation so I said "no"... probably rudely but I didn't care...

I walked into the pharmacy and am about to get in line when I get a call from my surgeon. 

"Courtney, how are you feeling?" 

I feel optimistic about the recent surgery so I reply "I feel good! The pain in my leg isn't that bad and I seem to be healing well. How are you?"

"I am doing well thanks for asking. I wanted to talk to you about how the surgery went."

"I think it went pretty well don't you think?"

His voice gets softer and slightly more serious... I feel a huge weight hit my chest like someone threw an anvil at me.

"Courtney, when we took out the screws remember I said they just fell out right when I opened your leg up? Well I did some routine tests just to be sure... the Sarcoma is back and it is in your tendon now."

I am standing in the middle of this swarm of people in this god forsaken hospital by myself and I am being told that I am 22 fucking years old and I have cancer... again...

At this point it has not sunk in yet completely so I reply "Well I am at the hospital. Can you order labs for me so I can just get it done while I am here?"

He seems a little jarred by my response but he complies and then asks "Should I call your mom or do you want me to?"

Immediately I know I can't stand to hear her voice hearing her daughter has cancer again... "Please tell her for me... I don't think I can do it." 

"OK, it will be alright. We will take care of this. Your labs will be ordered soon."

I don't even bother getting my prescription. I just walk back to my car and sit in the drivers seat sideways with the door open. I couldn't hold my disbelief back anymore and the tears start coming. The man who had asked about my knee before is now looking at me with concern. I can only imagine he thinks that he said something wrong and that is why I am crying.

I stay in the car for a while and then drag myself to the labs. Hoping no one talks to me about anything that will make me cry. As I am sitting there getting my blood taken I am just thinking that no one even knows that anything is wrong with me yet... I have to have this awful "I have cancer" conversation with friends and family again... how am I going to go through this again... I know the statistics about re - occurring osteosarcoma and they are not on my side...

What is going to happen with my life? What is going to happen with my leg? Will I live... or will I die?

God only knows...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Six is my lucky number

Courtney Dawn Photography
Six years ago today I lost a piece of my body, lost my sense of security.... lost my mobility that would not return until three years later when I saw these screws again outside of my body...

They may look like pieces of torture but they are the things, to put it simply, that saved my life...

Three years after having half my tibia, all of my knee and part of my femur removed and replaced to get rid of the cancer, it came back...

The only way I found out... and would have found out for quite some time without it... was these four pieces of surgical steel...

The tumor just happened to be right underneath where these were... just happened to start pushing them out... just happened to cause me more pain... and I just happened to be in San Francisco interning when I needed surgery from my San Francisco surgeon...

Kind of makes me feel like I am suppose to do something important in life... because all these things don't "just happen"...

So ask yourself this... do you believe in coincidences? Do you believe that things just happen for no reason whatsoever? Or should you open up to the opportunities that come before you? Should you try not to be scared and head to that trip that may take your life in a completely different direction? Should you take risks knowing things may pan out or may not.... knowing that you may hit a dead end but you still tried?

The people I most admire take risks... they put themselves out there and grab on to whatever life has in store for them... I try and emulate them every day with everything I do, reminding myself that it's worth trying because it may be a new avenue in life that is exciting and prosperous...

And if it isn't?? OH WELL! You can say you tried...

Where is this going? You tell me... is it a coincidence you are reading this right now? Or does everything happen for a reason?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Funny things about being an amputee

It's been 3 years since I lost my leg... not a sad thing for me, but people still seem to feel sorry for me. DON'T! haha my life is so much better without it! I would have never met the people I have met, heard stories I have heard, and found a new sort of twisted humor out of it all...


Some of the things I would never thought I would say in my life:

"Hold on let me put my leg on"

"My feet are cold...I mean foot"
 "My feet hurt...I mean foot"
"My feet are wet...I mean foot"

"It's my leg corner!"

"My hydraulics are squeaky" 

"Hold on, have to charge my leg"

"EFF my leg just died!"

"Tattoo my leg, I'll be back for it later"

"I have to get my leg calibrated"

"My leg guy just called me"

"There are three dismembered feet on my bedroom floor right now..."


Some of the things I would never thought I would have heard in my life:

"If I were you and lost my leg I think I would have killed myself" (wtf?!)

"MOM WHERE DID HER LEG GO?!"

"MOM SHE HAS A REALLY SMALL LEG!"

"MOM LOOOOK" (frantically pointing at me)

"MOM SHE HAS A ROBOT LEG!"

(Man) "Did you break your leg?" (7 yr old cousin) "NO SHE DOESN'T HAVE ONE!!"
(if you haven't been able to tell children like to yell)

"Did a shark eat your leg?!"

"Thank you for your service" "I am not a Vet"...awkward silence

Some things people say to me not realizing my leg is missing (AKA awkward central) then I have to explain my leg is not THERE:

"Did you tear your ACL?"
 (apparently the most common knee injury. I hear this ALOT)

"What happened to your knee?"

"Your knee looks out of place"

"Your knee looks weird"

(walk up to cashier with crutches) "Oh did you break your ankle?"
 (I always imagine their face when I walk away...I get embarrassed for them)

And a lot more of how did you break/hurt your ankle/knee...stop being so nosy people! You make yourself look stupid!


There are a ton of jokes that I never thought I would make but that will have to be in another blog because there are plain just too many...


I never take anything serious from people about missing my leg and I just decide to find it all amusing... even the rude comments. 

Why not, right? :)
 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Different World...


Before I had cancer my life was pretty vanilla cookie cutter. It's a really strange world now that I am a minority... Even though I am not in a wheelchair I think of my friends that have a really difficult time accessing buildings, pools, houses etc...I also really notice if someone illegally takes a handicap spot...Karma is going to get you if you illegally take a handicap spot...just saying... 

That being said, I get GLARED at when seen taking a handicap spot... that is until they see me get out of my car, look down and sheepishly look away... Not only is it unusual to be missing a limb it is more unusual to be a young person missing a limb and even MORE unusual to be a young female missing a limb... 

Therefore there is not a day goes by that I don't get stared at... I have grown to live with the stares and the comments...but some days I just wish I had a rest from it... 

A rest from little kids pointing, saying "mommy look!" and their mothers telling them to shut up...a rest from "oh did your hurt your ankle...oh"...a rest from "how did you lose your leg"...a rest from awkwardly explaining to someone that I was never in the service after they have just thanked me...

 There are not many days where I feel like that because for the most part I have accepted that this is a part of my life and that people will never changed...human nature is so strange... 

 I have a new story every day of something funny/interesting/stupid/rude that someone has done towards me...I know my friends love my stories haha... 

All in all it's going to be a strange/interesting life for me for a very long time...and it will be a completely different world for me than it was 3 years ago... 

 C'est La Vie!