Happy Anniversary Cyborg Leg

Six months ago to the day I took my first steps with my new hardware. Day by day yo can’t quite see the progress but looking back it is incrediable to see how far I have come. The difference is incrediable.

imageSix months ago four laps on the parallel bars was exhausting. A task akin to running a marathon. To celebrate my leg-a-versary Mum and I went for a four km walk. Something pre-surgery I would never have voluntarily done, let alone for fun.

And then dinner with the family at Supermex. The last time we were there I was legless. Not from too much sangria but rather I was on crutches two days out from my first surgery. There was a large flight of stairs to navigate and it was a mission.

Tonight the stairs don’t even factor in in the slightest.

That night nine months ago feels both a life-time ago and yet like it was only yesterday.

That Miranda nine months ago, or even six months ago had no idea what was coming which makes the prospect of my one-year anniversary even more exciting. Who knows what life has in store next…

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It’s Actually Happening

A few days passed and I hadn’t heard anything back about Florida. Was it all just a beautiful dream?

But I am strangely calm about it all. If there is one thing this whole journey has taught me is to trust that it will all work out. What ever will be, will be. If it is supposed to happen it will evenuate. If not then it wasn’t supposed to happen.

But then the call came.

“Hi Miranda, it’s Mark. I’ve booked your flights, you leave Wednesday week. I’ll send through the confirmation details and I’ll see you there.”

I hung up the phone and turned to Mum and grinned.

We both laughed and squealed. I’m going to Florida!

What a crazy adventure this cyborg life is.

“Who knows were this leg is going to take you,” Dad remarked later that night.

Cyborg life is exciting like that.

 

Can You Believe It’s Been Nine Months?

“You’re femur looks longer,” Dr Al Muderis remarks as he peers at the x-ray.

“It looks like it has moved.”

I’m confused and slightly concerned.

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“What do you mean? Is that possible?” I ask puzzled.

Bones don’t just move do they? Surely I would have felt that?

“I’m not sure. Maybe it’s just been a while since I’ve seen your x-rays,” he responds.

“There’s some very good bone growth from the weight baring.”

He smiles.

“I’m very happy.”

Mum and I grin at each other. This is great news.

I can’t believe it’s been nine months since I had my first surgery. It feels surreal really. It feels simultaneously like it was only yesterday I was nervously being wheeled into that operating theatre and yet at the same time a life-time ago.

So much has happened between then and now. So much has changed. I was a different person back then. Mentally, physically, emotionally: the difference in the Miranda who first embarked on this cyborg journey and the Miranda that writes this today is remarkable. Looking back and reflecting it is mind-blowing.

And I have to say I love it. I quite like this new improved Miranda 2.0. I often find myself almost having to pinch myself that I could be this happy. That my leg could feel this good. It hasn’t been an easy journey and there is still much ahead of me, but boy am I glad that I stumbled upon that brochure almost a year ago.

A year ago I had no idea of this surgery. I had no comprehension of the dramatic turn my life was about to take. Thinking back on this makes me incredibly excited for the future as we really have no idea just what exciting adventures are in-store and on the horizon. Life can change in the blink of an eye.

“How’s your hip going?” Dr Al Muderis inquires.

I tell him there has been no dramas, no real pain.

“Good, we’ll leave it then. If you haven’t had any pain by now it looks like you could be set for life.”

I grin. This had been the biggest gamble about me having this surgery. It was the great unknown and from day one I had been warned ‘I would piston and I would have hip pain,’ but (touch wood) none of this has eventuated.

I do like to prove people wrong after all.

It’s kind amazing what the human body is capable of.

“So are you going to the conference in Florida?” He asks me.

A couple of weeks back when I had called Dr Al Muderis about a cyborg leg related matter he had raised the possibility of this trip.

The conversation had gone something like this:

“I would like you to go to an Amputee Conference to talk about your story and the surgery. Would you be interested?”

“Of course,” I had replied.

“Oh good. It’s in Florida at the end of the month.”

I think my heart had stopped beating for a second. I worried I had heard incorrectly but dared not clarify in case I had.

“Oh awesome, that sounds great,” I responded in what was probably the biggest understatement of the year.

Florida! I pinched myself to see if I was dreaming.

“Good. We’ll see if we can organise the funds and someone will call you in the next couple of days.”

But then a couple of weeks had passed and I hadn’t heard anything so I thought perhaps it was something that wasn’t meant to be this time around.

But here it is raised again. I dared not hope.

I told him I hadn’t heard anything from Mark, who works for Orthodynamics which is the company that manufactures the implant in my femur.

He pulled out his phone and immediately dialed the number.

“Mark its Munjed. Miranda wants to go to Florida. Yes she’s here, I’ll pop her on and you can organise it.”

My heart quickened like a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert.

He explained that since Osseointegration hasn’t been FDA approved and is still in clinical trials in the US that we weren’t allowed to openly promote the surgery at the conference. The keynote speaker is a surgeon who is wanting to launch the surgery over there and wasn’t too keen on Dr Al Muderis speaking or presenting any competition.

So we had to be a little sneaky in our approach. We would go over under the banner of of Mitch’s gym, Good Vibe Fitness. We would focus on the importance of fitness and keeping active for amputees. And it would just so happen that Mitch, myself and Fred (who had recently come over from the US for the surgery and had been training with Mitch) would all have had osseointegration and we could share our personal stories, our experiences and our triumphs and successes.

He said he hadn’t contacted me as he wasn’t sure where I would fit in the with the fitness aspect.

I laughed a little. Fitness, me? Well it’s pretty much my life. I explained that I train at the gym three hours a day, have rock-climbed, done my first 5km fun run/walk and was just about to start my Cert 3 in Fitness.

“In that case I’ll look into some flights today,” he said

And that was it, I was in!

But until I saw the official confirmation I dared not yet believe it was actually happening.

I couldn’t be that lucky could I?image

In what now seemed like perfect timing I had arranged to meet Mitch at his gym that afternoon as he was hoping to take some photos and footage of me working out to show on a screen at the conference.

I excitedly told him I would be joining him in Florida and he grinned before handing me a Good Vibes shirt and putting me through my paces doing some strength and cardio exercises that showed off the leg’s capabilities.

Ah my second fitness shoot. Now I just need Woman’s Health to give me a call.

Since day one we had heard nothing but how amazing Mitch’s recovery and journey to walking had been. While we had been told not to compare ourselves we had constantly heard how Mitch pretty much just strapped the leg on and away he went. A few weeks later he threw the crutches away and that was it. During those rehab days oh how I envied him. Chris would constantly tell me not to compare, that everyone was different, my journey was my own. I knew he was right but at the some of the time I would find myself only half listening as my my inner negative voice chirped away telling me I wasn’t good enough, working hard enough or strong enough.

But talking to Mitch today he told me he wished he had stayed on the crutches for longer. He had thrown them away on a boys weekend to Melbourne but really should have used them for longer and he had noticed a difference in his walking.

imageThis was a surprise. That first day back at the clinic nearly a year ago when I had met him he had made walking seem so simple, so blasé and here he was telling me that it was important to take it slow and not rush things.

I had just days ago been again beating myself up for not being further progressed after seeing the videos of Fred walking. He was only 20 days with the leg and he was already walking to what I perceived to be better than me. I couldn’t help it but I cried when viewing the footage. I had felt so inadequate. Just the day before I had felt so elated with my progress and then like a ton of bricks slamming down I realised how far I still had to go and perhaps I wasn’t doing well enough. I worried I hadn’t achieved enough. This has been a common theme for me throughout my life, not feeling good enough. Not being ‘enough’. I have come a long way but there are still days when the doubts weight heavy.

“Everyone is different and how long they need the crutches for really well depend,” Mitch said sagely.

“It’s not a race. Or a competition.”

He is right. No one is scoring us. There is no medal for walking unaided first. They are happy with my progress and I’m making progress and getting stronger everyday. Already I am able to do so much more than I was six months ago and more than even before the surgery.

I need to focus on my achievements and what I can do rather than what I can’t do and what I still need to work on.

This is the key not just to cyborg life but happiness and life in general. Be grateful for what you have rather than sad about what you do not.

I had been emailing and keeping in touch with Fred throughout his whole journey and surgery process and was looking forward to finally being able to meet up with him in person.

Mum and I gatecrashed his physio session. It was strange, we had just met this guy and yet we were privy to what was something quite personal but it didn’t feel awkward, forced or unnatural at all. It almost seems like there is this unspoken bond, this understanding between us cyborgs. We are part of an elite group after all.

imageHe’s a pretty incredible guy. He started looking into the surgery a couple of years ago, organised an event for Dr Al Muderis to speak to amputees in the US and then came out for the surgery this year. He and his daughter have been living in Mosman for the three months he is over here and he travels across the city to train with Mitch and for physio via public transport in his wheelchair. Not an easy feat when you are in another country and recovering from surgery. He has lost about 20kg since training with Mitch and like me this surgery has completely changed his life. Like my journey it’s not just about the leg. The flow on effects this surgery can have is just incredible.

Nine months ago I was heading into surgery unsure how it would all turn out, now I have quit my job, have a whole new life purpose and am heading to Florida to talk to other amputees about it.

Who would have thought? If this can happen in just nine months, what does life have in store for me next?

I’m back!

Firstly let me apologize.

I should have written this earlier. Weeks, no months ago.

I am terribly sorry for the lack of posts of late.

I had so loved and enjoyed the process of blogging my way throughout this whole journey. I loved being able to look back on my posts as a record for myself and I loved being able to share my story and connect with others.

I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say

I found it a therapeutic way to sort through my emotions and feelings and would often surprise myself with what came out. I once read a quote ‘I don’t know what I think I read what I have written’ And I have to say I find this  quite accurate. Writing helps clarify my feelings and helps to sort through the tangle of thoughts, they are easier to deal with when they are nicely arranged and packaged into neat little sentences.

But like when I originally set out to start this blog life simply got in the way.

I was ejected from rehab and within a few days catapulted back into real life. It was an exciting time but also an incredibly busy and at times overwhelming time.

While rehab certainly hadn’t been an easy ride there was a certain sense of safely of being in there. Chris had told me before I left that often patients were nervous to leave the security and routine of the place. I did identify with this to a degree.

In a way I feel it was a similar feeling to when I was at university. I was working hard and doing my best to achieve my goal for the next stage of my life but at the same time real life hadn’t started yet. It was a safe bubble of time where the future glittered and shimmered with possibility just ahead of me.

And then the real world hits. My days had been so ordered and organized and then real life came along like a bounding slobbery dog and suddenly life was chaotic and not at all neat and orderly. It was an exciting time, don’t get me wrong but it certainly was an adjustment.

I missed Chris terribly. I missed being able to talk through anything and everything with him. He understood all the things that come with being a cyborg and had been such a huge part of my journey.

I missed his guidance with my walking and his constant support and encouragement. I missed his friendship and I even missed him telling me to ‘take it easy’.

I missed my daily gossip sessions and chats with Nicole.

And I missed being able to work on my physio exercises three times a day.

But the hardest thing was how tired I was all the time.

There were days where I would be so completely exhausted and drained staying awake was physically painful. Like Fifi Box remarked once, I was too tired to blink.  At times I didn’t even have the energy to talk.

I worried that I was a failure and not strong enough as the other cyborgs didn’t seem to be this low in energy and this utterly exhausted and drained by everyday life.

But in saying that I was working out for two hours at the gym as well as an hour of physio each morning on top of working full time in a stressful job with constant deadlines. And then there was all the socializing to catch-up on. Five months away from my friends, there was a lot of ground to cover.

And I discovered I was low in iron so the tiredness wasn’t entirely cyborg leg related.

But between the exercise, work and socializing and heavy weight of exhaustion there wasn’t much time nor energy left over for writing and blogging.

I fell behind. And then I fell even more behind. And suddenly I was so far behind the enormity of the task of catching up on all the posts I had missed loomed so huge in front of me it was easier to hide in the corner.

I still had been writing notes and bits and pieces but no proper fully formed posts. Just skeletons really.

And the more the days went by the more and more daunting the task seemed. I felt paralyzed whenever my fingers touched the keyboard.

But the guilt of not writing weighed heavy around my neck and followed behind me like a dark shadow as each night I hoped into bed without updating my blog.

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My perfectionist nature kicked in and I was afraid of my blog not living up to the expectation I had established in my mind and I simply couldn’t start to write again.

The guilt and pressure was too much. I felt like I was being squashed under it, like an obese elephant had taken up residence on my shoulders.

So consumed with guilt and worried that I had failed, really I was just sabotaging myself in not writing.

The longer it went the worse I felt about myself and the more people asked about my blog the guiltier I became.

But it’s time to just bite the bullet and launch back into it.

So many incredible things have happened throughout the past four months, I can barely believe it.

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I have been filmed for a story on Totally Wild, appeared in the Fernwood magazine, had the weekend cover story in the Sunshine Coast Daily, and been contacted by Lorna Jane to share my story.

It’s also been a huge time of transition for me, from rehab to real life, back into work and the gym and sharing my story with my co-workers and gym friends. Most have been incredibly supportive. Some haven’t. One particular girl who I considered one of my best friends was particularly nasty, constantly making snide comments to my face and then viciously talking about me behind my back. The fallout was very unpleasant and incredibly upsetting. Seems not everyone likes a cyborg.

But I have also been blessed with new friends who rather than tear me down like she did, they constantly lift me up and support me.

5Km Walk

On the leg front, I could not be happier. I have already ticked off two of my cyborg goals, I have returned to the gym in almost full capacity and more and I completed my first 5km fun run/walk three months ahead of schedule.

 

I have trained with Commando from Biggest Loser and made Michelle Bridges cry when I met her and told her my story.

I sometimes have to pinch myself at just how incredible this leg has made my life. Gone are the days of constant pain and rubbing and bulky sockets. While there have been painful days and moments it is not like before. My leg gets sore but it’s more like a muscular sore just like when you have completed a tough gym session.

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I am loving being able to wear exercise tights and any type of pants I want.

I love being fit and mobile and more active than I had ever imagined.

I thought I was happy before. I think I even wrote earlier in the blog just before I left for the surgery that my life was pretty much perfect.

But I have never been happy like this before. I feel like I have become the person I was supposed to be. I feel like my life makes sense and I am on my true path.

Physically, mentally and emotionally I have changed and for the first time in my life I truly like myself and accept myself.

After years of hiding my disability I want to embrace it and celebrate what my leg or lack thereof, is able to do.

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And so the life changes keep coming. Returning to work I realized that this job in the media, this world of gossip and entertainment reporting no longer was my passion, it was no longer the right fit for me.

I want to help people in a more tangible way. I want to inspire people, help them to find their true selves and live their best lives. Like how Chris helped me.

And so I have quit my job and decided to return to uni and become a physio as well as get my Cert 3 in Fitness as health and fitness as become a huge part of my life and one of my greatest passions.

A pretty dramatic career change right? It’s not going to be easy but it sure will be worth it. And since when have I ever shied away from hard work?

My last day is tomorrow and then my next adventure starts. It will be sad to close this chapter of my life and if nine months ago someone had said to me I would do this I would have laughed in their face and told them they were crazy. But it feels right and exciting.

Oh and I’m off to Florida next week to attend the USA Amputee Coalition Conference in Orlando along with Mitch, Fred and Mark from Orthodynamics.

But more on that shortly.

Cyborg life sure is exciting!

So the plan is this, I will continue to blog this crazy adventure each day but I will also work on catching up on the posts I have missed as there is still a lot to fill you in on. So don’t feel too cheated. I will flash back to these shortly. Better late than never right?

But for now I will keep on top of everything that is currently happening and get back to updating regularly. Please forgive me for the delay.

Sincerely,

The Girl With The Cyborg Leg