Tuesday, September 14, 2010


"So, where are you from?" Such a simple question and one that is among most people's list of "small talk" starters. I've always struggled with this one because we moved so much while I was growing up. I was born in LaFayette, Indiana but moved to LaPorte, Indiana before the age of one. My family stayed there until I was 7, although I'll be honest, I don't have too many vivid memories from those early years and have never really considered myself a Hoosier. Next stop was Watertown, Wisconsin. Cute little town with a large German population. We stayed for about a year or so then moved on to Camanche, Iowa...not one of my favorite pit-stops along this journey. Luckily we only stayed there for a year then moved back to LaPorte, Indiana for a few months. The next move would be a good one...Mentor, Ohio. We moved the summer before my 6th grade year and we stayed all the way through my graduation, moving within days of commencement. My family moved to an adorable town called Hershey, Pennsylvania for a short period of time then on to Naperville, Illinios but for me these were only places to come home to on school breaks since I went on to Ohio University...Ohio remained my "home."

Awwww, OU! Now that was four amazing years! A recent article in the Plain Dealer really got me thinking about my time in Athens. My older sister attended OU and during a "Little Sibs" weekend I fell in love with all the cute shops & restaurants on Court Street and, let's be honest, the very active night-life. Keeping the tradition going, both of my younger brothers would also become Bobcats. There really isn't any place quite like OU. The campus is gorgeous and it really feels like you are in a world of your own since the school is nestled in the Appalachian hills of Ohio. My time at OU created some of my happiest memories and I've loved every chance I've gotten to go back and visit.

I graduated and got married and followed my husband to Illinois for 3 years but I was always eager to return back to Ohio...and we did. I guess I never really realized just how much I love Ohio until recently, when my sister moved back from Chicago. I found myself saying: "I'm so glad you've moved back home," and it hit me...THIS is where I'm "from." There are many gorgeous places in the world and I hope to have the opportunity to travel someday and experience all that they have to offer, but moving around as a child made me long for a place where I could put down roots - and that's what I'm doing.

So, I think the next time someone asks me where I'm from I'll simply say: "I was born in Indiana but Ohio has always been my home.

P.S. Hey Sibs - I think it's time for another trip to good old OU. Court Street is calling!

Friday, September 3, 2010

From furious to thankful

So I'm guessing my last entry was a little difficult for people to read because I haven't received a fraction of the comments that I usually do. I understand. What are you suppose to say, right? I get it. What was interesting to me though, was all of the amputees that have contacted me after viewing the cheerleading video on youtube and following the link to my blog. Side note: I have posted quite a few videos on youtube ranging in topics from autism, cancer, family fun...but I have NEVER gotten even close to the number of hits I am receiving now because the tag includes "cheerleading." It has been posted for two days and already has over 2,000 hits. Really guys??

Anyways...one of the contacts I received from youtube was a young woman in her early 20s who just lost her leg above the knee 4 months ago due to a car accident. She asked if she could email me some questions. Eager to help a fellow member of the amputee club I said yes and gave her my email. She sent me a long list of questions with a wide range of topics. What really struck me though was her last question:

"Here's a tricky one----how do you deal with guys? Did you lose your leg before or after you met your husband? If after, how did you tell guys you have an artificial leg? This is awkward for me to ask (and feel free not to answer it), but does your leg get in the way when you are close to a guy?"

This question almost broke my heart. As a woman - I get it. Publicly incorrect or not - deep down, most women know that it matters how they look. I was blessed to lose my leg after I was married but I was still nervous about whether he would find me as attractive as he did before. I knew he'd love me just as much - he's a good man - but what if the sight of my residual limb repulsed him? It wouldn't be his fault really. So after I read this woman's question I felt guilty for my belly-aching in my last blog. Yes, I have struggles but I'm not alone. I'm not out there trying to find someone to love me despite my disability. I said I would run again, but what if I don't? In the scheme of things does it really matter? No. It doesn't. I have a loving family. A family that has been there with me since the day I received the news that I would lose my leg. A family that has frustrated me at times because they try to limit what I do, but only because they are worried about me getting hurt - physically and emotionally. Being that loved is not too bad of a problem to have.

So, I still reserve the right to get angry when my leg interferes with my life, but I will always try to stay focused on the fact that - at the end of the day - I really am blessed.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I almost retired my pom poms today!

I was actually running! I couldn't believe it. Granted it had only been two strides but I can't describe how great it felt, until...I went flying through the air. Yep, I had tripped. When I went to plant my artificial leg and push off the ground to lift my real leg I didn't realize that the fake knee was still slightly bent - can't bear weight on a bent artificial knee because it just bends - so the knee bent and threw me forward. I hit the ground hard. The brief feeling of freedom that I felt was gone. It had been replaced by a feeling of being trapped - trapped inside a body with limitations - a body that, at that moment, I hated.

I'd been thinking about learning how to run for months. Other above-the-knee amputees have learned how to run and I knew I could too. I also knew that I would almost certainly fall a few times. Let me just say for the record - falling isn't fun - it hurts! Plus, I usually don't know I'm going to fall until I'm on the way down. With no feeling in my artificial leg I don't feel if I stub a toe or don't plant my foot on even terrain. I've fallen plenty of times, but I knew that falling while trying to run would really hurt because there would be so much momentum behind me...I had thought right - it did hurt! But the physical pain goes away fast. What hurts far worse is the emotional pain.

So why had I picked this morning to try to run? Last week an old friend from high school sent me a DVD of some random footage of us cheering together. I was so excited to watch it. I had loved cheering. What I wasn't expecting was how it would make me feel to see "the young Katie" - the Katie with two good legs. Sure, I've seen photos of me with two legs but I hadn't watched a video of myself. I hadn't seen myself jump or run or dance. When I turned on the DVD it felt like someone punched me in the stomach. I became transfixed with this video; watching it over and over and over again over the last few days. Rationalizing to myself that I was just watching it because I was editing it. I was cutting out extra parts and adding captions, blah, blah, blah. I just couldn't stop watching it. I wished I could whisper in young Katie's ear: "Cherish your mobility. Run every chance you get. Dance every time you hear a song that moves you. Keep moving! Keep moving! Keep moving!" But it's just a video and young Katie would probably have just said: "whatever!"

So this morning, after watching the video yet again, I decided I was going to try to run. I felt optimistic. It was early but it was already sunny out. The kids were playing in the yard happily and I felt confident that I could do this. You know the rest... I picked myself up from the cement and just stood there for a minute trying to regroup. This is the point where I usually channel my inner cheerleader: you can do this - keep going - keep smiling - don't give up! But this morning, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't find that young Katie inside me. All I wanted to do was scream at the top of my lungs: "I WANT MY LEG BACK!" I felt angry at God for letting this happen to me and sad because I knew that no matter how loud I screamed, I would never get my leg back.

Right about now you are probably thinking: "Poor Katie." No. That is not why I wrote this. I know that I am still blessed. I had to sacrifice my leg to live. I'm not going to say it was a small price to pay, but it's a price I'd be willing to pay all over again to have the chance to raise my precious children. So why then do I feel the need to unload all of this on you, my readers? First of all, it is therapeutic for me to write about how I am feeling. But mostly, tonight, I want to tell you to not take your mobility for granted. The next time it you can't find a close parking place in the rain - feel lucky that you can jog across the parking lot. The next time you run up the stairs to fetch something you've forgotten - stop and think about just how easy that was. It is human nature to take things for granted. If I hadn't lost my leg I never would have thought twice about how lucky I was to play tag with my daughter or go to an aerobics class. So I'm asking, for me, try to appreciate the freedom of your unrestricted mobility. As I sit here finishing this up I already feel better. I know that I will run. I'll probably fall a few more times, but in the end, I'll run. Maybe my inner cheerleader isn't gone after all.