Andrea's Journey To Acceptance
Here is something I wrote a couple of years ago when I started running again; for the first time in 28 years. As a teen, running was my love and outlet. I never wanted to pursue it as an amputee because I was convinced that the feeling could not be re-created as I remembered it. Until the blade. How I love that blade.
The journey through re-discovering running turned into so much more for me. It further cultured an acceptance of my body, my self and a respect for the way it carries me through life. It fuelled
my desire to push how society defines disability as a negative and to challenge the perceptions we all carry within us regarding our own abilities.
A Letter To The People I Encounter When I Run
Look up into my eyes, I dare you.
Within a moment of looking AT me, you have already defined me....you see an absence, a deficit, an obvious difference to you...a 'disability'.
Yes, I am missing my leg.
In looking AT me though, you have failed to notice the person in front of you. I have automatically been resigned to a label you have given me.
I am not a label.
I am ME and I am more than this.
What you'll find here is no different than what you are experiencing in this world we share.
The joy, the fear, wonder and passion, sadness....its all there. I am no different. Look closely and you will see this.
After many interactions such as these, a person builds up an outer shell of resilience
and protection from the slights of being 'less' than.
I have built up strong resistance to overcome adversity over the years. Most times, I try to oversee this avoidance, this discomfort for I have grown used to it.
And, I'm aware that it's not my discomfort, it's yours.
But heres the thing you need to know, that I have seen this lack of eye contact and the 'uncomfortableness' you feel in direct relation to a 'dis-ability'.
My experience and loss has shown me how to read the little nuances of communication between people.
I will not mince words.
It can hurt.
You are seeing a loss and I applaud you for that, for this is necessary in our society.
So go ahead.
Take it in.
Ironically, this loss does not make me less.
Look up now. Look up into my eyes.
What do you see?
The mother, sister, teacher, gardener, athlete...do you see it?
Can you notice the kindness, honesty, strength, perhaps a bit of sadness or pain?
Go a bit deeper...how about the believer of underdogs everywhere, a cheerleader of humankind and fan of compassion, love and treating each other with respect...
You are looking at me and the WHOLE person I am. Despite the lack of leg, I am WHOLE, inside and out.
So perhaps next time you are sharing space with someone who looks different than you, try suspending your judgement of what you think they may be and just smile at them. Pretty simple, right?
Unbeknownst to you, that smile will unlock a world that is more alike than different and that alone, might be an experience worth having.
We are all WHOLE, COMPLETE regardless of our differences, our losses and our abilities. That's the human experience.
So to those of you with the curiosity and the courage to ask about what you don't understand or have experienced, I thank you for opening up.
For only when we push past our own fears and insecurities, can we connect deeper with others.
And that's worth everything.
Guest post by Andrea Swallow. Andrea has been an amputee for 30 years (motorcycle accident) and it is only the last five years that she has taken a very hard look at how she sees
herself and how the choices she makes contribute to loving her body as it is. Andrea has always pursued physical activities that bring her joy, that challenge her mentally and physically and
she has been lucky to have had some amazing experiences doing it. "When you’ve experienced rock bottom, you tend to seek lightness by conscious choice:)!"
Desire to have a child as an amputee
(amputee parenthood special I)
Today we start with another special. A series of articles dedicated to a one special topic, one specific challenge or one impressive person. And this week it’s all about being an amputee parent. Even without a limb difference, the idea of suddenly being responsible for a child can be daunting. Immense joy is regularly mixed with feelings of fear and being completely overwhelmed. Often even more so if you are an amputee. So throughout the course of this week we hear from four amputees, learning about their thoughts on parenthood. Jasmin, a young women from Germany with an above knee amputation - and a regular contributor to The Active Amputee - kicks-off our Spring Special. read more
Pregnancy after surviving an avalanche
(amputee parenthood special II)
Joanna lost her leg in a mountaineering accident. She has what is called a Chopart amputation. That means that she has retained a load- bearing heel bone and heel pad. However, due to a needed shortening her amputation presents as a Symes (which is an amputation through the heel bone). Joanna can walk short distances without a prosthesis. Only a few years after her accident, Joanna is expecting her first child. In this personal article she shares her experience of being pregnant while still getting used to her new life as an amputee. read more
Oh baby, we are going to have kids
(amputee parenthood special III)
Oh no! This can’t be right! I looked at the positive home pregnancy test again. Come on, make that color change some more. I sat still for a while and waited. Pregnancy was not on my list of things to do right now. Nine months earlier I’d lost both legs above the knee and my right arm just below the shoulder in a train vs car accident. I learned to walk with prostheses using a quad cane and was planning to move back to Los Angeles where I would live by myself and finish the last nine months of my Radiology residency. My thump-thud, toy-soldier walk was loud and looked funny but got me where I needed to go. Doing things with one hand was becoming easier. But am I ready for a pregnancy? read more