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 It had been replaced by a feeling of being trapped - trapped inside a body with limitations - a body that, at that moment, I hated.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.