I had a recent visit with an orthopedic surgeon to discuss potential surgery for a split peroneal tendon. The surgery, he said, would be pretty invasive and require approximately 10 weeks before I could bear weight followed by 8 weeks of physical therapy. He then asked me, “The real question is: When do you think it would be convenient for you to be on crutches for 5 weeks and a walking boot for another 5?” My response was simple, “When is there ever a convenient time for that?” I got a real taste of how inconvenient it was going to be after the cortisone injection set in and I lost mobility in my right ankle accompanied by severe pain every time I tried to take a step. I did manage to cook dinner as I hopped around the kitchen and assisted the kids with their never ending needs. By the end of the hour, I was exhausted and now my left foot hurt! As I lay in bed that night, contemplating the pros and cons of the surgery, I became pretty discouraged at the prospect of losing the ability to move around freely. How would I drive? How would I get to work? How would I clean my house? How hard would it be to get four kids ready for school? How was I going to go grocery shopping? How was I…how was I….? These questioned plagued me for a good portion of the night until the most random thought answered the nagging voice.
As a person without a disability, I often forget how easy it is to accomplish everyday tasks. It is easy to forget the ease with which we climb out of bed, hop in the shower, brush our teeth, and get dressed; all within 15 minutes. It is easy to forget the ease with which we maneuver a car to our job, shopping, and medical appointments. It is this freedom that we take for granted every day. We take for granted our ability to walk, run, and swim. We take for granted the feeling that comes with feeling the wind on our faces as we swing towards the skies with our kids on the playground. We take for granted the ability to hear laughter. We take for granted the ability to watch a sunset blazing in glory. As a human race, we are selfish. We believe that we are invincible and abuse the abilities that were given to us. It is only when they are taken from us that we realize how precious of a gift it really is.
I have witnessed the trials and tribulations individuals with disabilities encounter as they live life. I have cheered on athletes with cerebral palsy, equipped with nothing more than snowshoes, crutches and determination, as they crossed the finished line. I have watched them crawl to finish a race after they were too exhausted to pick themselves up after a fall. I have listened to them tell stories about how they got up at 4 AM so they could make it to class by 7 AM. Every day they are faced with the same “How am I…” questions that I so recently wrestled with yet they don’t allow those questions to prevent them moving forward. They embrace the realization that “it is what it is” and do what is necessary to live freely. Individuals with disabilities are faced with obstacles daily and attack them with tenacity and grace. Yet when we face the same obstacle, our approach is usually less graceful and accompanied with a lot of complaints and anger.
So, how am I going to make it through the next several months? Well, although the road ahead will not be easy as I adapt to life without a working right foot, I plan on doing it as gracefully as I am able. I plan on having no “Woe is me” moments and only cry when it hurts. I plan on embracing what freedoms I will have and not focus on the freedoms I have lost. I plan on healing quickly so I can focus on taking care of the body and soul I was given. After all, I plan on utilizing it for MANY years to come.
Below is a link to a New York Times article that I feel encompasses the true meaning of determination. The gentleman in the article is so humbling that you can’t help but be swept away by his story.
For more information, Google: Damien Lopez Alfonso