This isn’t yet a certain outcome, but the odds have shortened significantly from 20% likelihood when they first found the blocked artery in March, to just 50-50 when I visited surgeon Jo on Friday. So I really need to start thinking about this properly and how my life might look afterwards.
Of course, this whole thing depends on what they find this coming week, but I have been preparing myself for life without a left leg.
It is both a curse, and also a blessing that I am self employed at the moment. it’s a curse because I don’t get sick pay, like an employee. So I have to make damn sure the business is rock solid and trading well so I can keep getting paid while I am not there. For a lot of small business owners I know that this is a very difficult thing to achieve, so I feel incredibly blessed that Ryding2Health is in a solid position right now, despite the impending global recession and current Covid climate. But I know that this could change.
My job, as I used to recognise it, is likely to never be the same again. I was planning a phased return to work – over the next few weeks until this happened. Now I am facing the real possibility that I might never be a personal trainer again. Not because I will never physically be able to after an amputation, but because my job as I knew it cannot remain empty and waiting for my return indefinitely. I now have absolutely no idea how long it will be before I will be fit enough to return to work in that way. So I have had to start the recruitment process to find a replacement for myself. So my role as a personal trainer will be gone. If I ever do return, it will be a considerably long time down the road.
What is even more uncertain is being able to return to being a massage therapist. On the other side of an amputation there is a significant amount of rehab over many many months – so it will be years before I can come back to this. So again, I am presently working on interviewing to replace myself with a new massage therapist. Part two of my role, gone.
But here is where I am very lucky. I am already planning these things and have already started to map out a back office/ admin/ marketing manager role for myself, so I can keep working while I am presently unable to physically do much. I was my own advocate in adapting my job to fit my new limitations. This will stand next in good stead and will probably do the business some good too!
Physically losing a leg
The actual surgery itself is the thing I am most frightened of, and the significant post operative pain in those first few weeks. Because I am so allergic to so many pain meds I cannot quite grasp just yet how this phase will be successfully managed.
Once an amputation takes place, the stump is covered with gentle compression to control the swelling. For the first 4-6 weeks it’s all about allowing the surface scars to heal. During this time I would be either on crutches or in a wheelchair.
Then, at around 6 weeks the prosthetic leg fitting takes place. This is like buying new shoes, it doesn’t fit the first time and will take some adjusting. Plus, the skin on the end of a stump was never meant to be load bearing so this tolerance needs to be built up gradually before anyone is able to wear the prosthetic leg all day long.
To begin with I will be on crutches or in a wheelchair. My shoulders are so reconditioned from all this sitting around!! And I am completely aware that walking on crutches with one leg is waaaaay harder than with two legs and partial weight bearing! So that’s why I think a wheelchair will be useful too at this time.. once I have sorted out how to steer it! Mark has made it quite clear that I have to grow strong enough to propel myself around in it pretty damn quick because he has no intention of pushing me! I have no intention whatsoever of staying in a wheelchair, I will he stood up again to my full 6 foot height… with a prosthetic leg, once it is made.
A limb weighs more than you think. So balance needs to be re-learned and walking on the prosthetic limb will need to be re-learned. Usually this is an intensive 2 week stay at the limb centre for physical training.
As far as I know, the leg can have various foot type attachments so I could have a cycling leg made as well as a walking leg. Obviously I would need to start on an indoor trainer till I have learned how to start and stop safely outside. I’ve been thinking about cycling a lot and the extra load it will put through my TKR leg. Plus the loss of my left ankle will mean loss of power from calf activation. I think regaining an even rotation on a bike will take some considerable practice.
I can’t wait till I can ride my bike again, whether that be with one leg or two. I miss it a lot. It was my single biggest motivator after my knee replacement and I think it will form that same function again this time.
I am seriously missing swimming. It was the only thing I could still do throughout all this drama, but surgery has stopped me in my tracks because the reduced blood flow is making healing a very slow process. The will most likely have opened me up again for the angiogram before I’m even waterproof at the ankles from the surgeries 6 weeks ago!
Swimming is the least of my worries. I have no qualms about this whatsoever – apart from trying to figure out how the heck to get out and up on my feet (well, foot!) – when I actually only have one! might have to problem solve this before hand!
Longer term goals
I cry every time I think about this. These mean a great deal to me.
Last year I was unable to complete the OxMan middle distance Aquabike race. At the time we had not yet figured out what was causing all my pain. It was my first ever DNF. I really need to return to this race at some point a few years from now and complete it fully. Whether that will be as a paratriathlete or as a triathlete remains to be seen. Either way I’m sure Mark is willing to be my guide in transition and carry the spare leg if need be!
This was a race I was entered in for in 2020 and had to withdraw from. I have a score to settle here too, probably also at least a few years from now.
Meanwhile I had offered to be the swimmer in team Tortoise again in 2021 (which I did instead in 2020 after having to withdraw).
Timing wise it’s touch and go whether I will actually make this start line as a swimmer in 2021. It’s already September (5 months to go) and we still don’t know if or when I might need that amputation. So if I physically can’t make it it won’t be because of my lack of effort, it will simply be because surgically, time ran out for my this time. 🤞🏻 I can get there, either on two legs with crutches or on one, with crutches.
Is something I have never ever been interested taking part in – but I always go down to support etc. So they know me. Mark entered me when park run first started up in Invercargill yet I have never ever stood on a start line.
I think a very fitting first goal is to complete that park run as a walker. Either, with two legs because we managed to successfully rehab and save the left leg, or with one (on a prosthetic leg or in a wheelchair) to mark the start of my brand new fitness journey.
I can’t say, wish me luck, or anything like that. It’s got nothing to do with how much effort I put in (because if it was I would be acing this out of the park right now!) It’s all completely out of my control.
Meanwhile I will continue to do everything that I can to try and save this left leg, but I do know that realistically my options are rapidly running out.
So all I can say is, what will be will be. Either way – I think I’m prepared and have made peace with either outcome. Well, as best I can.