“Ma’am,” a handsome college kid chased me down to say. “I have no idea what you’ve been through or how hard it’s been, but here you are, KILLIN’ IT!”
Wow. It’s not like I’d just finished a marathon or had done something actually impressive. I was walking through the mall holding my little girl’s hand, carrying several shopping bags and a Starbucks, the same as everyone else. But I’m not the same; that’s probably what amazed him.
Here’s my backstory: When I was 13, Osteosarcoma was found in my left femur. At first, chemo failed to kill it; so my leg was amputated 7” above my knee. There was no chance to salvage my limb while cancer still raged. Many more horrible rounds of experimental, in-patient chemotherapy followed. Along with the baldness, the sickness and the terrible pain, came a crushing uncertainty if any of it would keep me alive. I made friends with a few other kids who had shared my diagnosis. Every one of them died as I was being treated. The odds I would survive the year were dismal. But God doesn’t plan around statistics. Years passed and the cancer stayed gone. I began to live again and set some basic goals for my life.
I wanted to go to college and get a job with good health insurance. I wanted to live independently and carry my own stuff without falling 10 times a day. If I married, I wanted to have a family. But I also wanted to walk like my two-legged friends and be more attractive than I thought I was.
In the late 80’s/early 90’s prosthetic technology was as basic as my life’s ambitions as I rebuilt myself. I had the best technology my parent’s insurance would allow, but my leg was clunky, bulky, inflexible and often an irritating hinderance to me. I spent my entire sophomore year at Purdue on crutches because the limb was holding me back. And it was ugly. I didn’t want anyone to see it. I was self conscious always trying to hide it behind long pants or skirts. Sadly, I allowed its ugliness to color me.
I spent years idolizing something unachievable; the way life could have been, if only. It took me decades to realize that I am not a prosthetic limb. I am not ugly. I am not to be hidden. I am not to be controlled by rigid plastic and metal. I am unique; and what makes me unique makes me shine. The unseemliness of my amputated limb and the inadequacy of its replacement weaken me to a point of enviable strength. At least that’s what I believe; because the Bible tells me so.
With time and maturity of mind and faith, I’ve begun to see such beauty in the story God has written for me to tell. I no longer care if my limb is seen. In fact, I prefer it. Many questions in the stares of others are gone when the answer can be clearly seen. Confidence, along with humility and gratitude carry me now. I don’t mind when people look, because I know they don’t just see a prosthesis. They see the girl wearing it. And the characteristics of the God who created her. (My fabulous and funky UNYQ cosmetic “enhancers” don’t hurt, either).
So back to the college kid. He didn’t know his words would inspire me the way they have; but he made me see that I make a difference just by living. I hope my words can inspire you somehow. If you’re an amputee, own it. Live out in the open. Don’t hide. Don’t long for what could have been. Live in your circumstance and show your strength in the frailty. I don’t know what you’ve been through or how hard it’s been, but you’re still here, KILLIN’ IT!