True Story: My Leg Was Amputated

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/amazing/challenging things. This is the story of Ashley and the amputation of her leg at age 14.

Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hello! My name is Ashley and I come from a small town in Kentucky! I’m a southern girl through and through. I grew up in a single parent household, just me and my mother. She’s my best friend and my biggest supporter. I work as an Executive Assistant for a non-profit organization in the equine industry. I love anything outdoors from camping, boating, fishing, 4-wheeling, etc. I also love crafts, blogging, writing poetry, scrap booking, traveling, and spontaneous road trips!

How did you lose your leg?
I lost my right leg when I was 14 years old after a 2 year battle with cancer. I was diagnosed when i was 11 years old, right before my twelfth birthday. After a long bout with chemotherapy, and numerous surgeries to try and salvage my leg, amputation was the only option left in order for me to get on with my life and to do so healthily.

Did the you and family and the doctors think about other options before amputation was decided on? How did you feel when you heard that your leg was going to be amputated? -We tried every option that we could possibly think of. My orthopedic surgeon (who was absolutely fabulous) was known for “limb salvages” as they like to call it, so the word amputation was something that he tried to avoid at all costs, but this is one instance when it couldn’t be avoided any longer. Strangely enough I had been preparing myself for amputation. I was scared/nervous but knew that it would be my key to get on with my life and live it as normally as a 14 year old can live. I had come to peace within myself, which helped tremendously.

Have you ever experienced any ‘phantom pain’ that we always hear about in movies?
Oh yes! It’s the strangest feeling, ever! Right after my amputation the phantom pain was quite severe and would happen often, but now as the years have passed it only happens every now and then. It’s something that I have learned to deal with and can pretty much ignore for the most part, unless they become severe which does happen from time to time. Although, I do still have phantom sensations which feel funky! Your “missing limb” will itch, which just totally sucks because you can’t scratch it! Ha!

Do you have a prosthesis? How long did it take you get used to it? Did you try several different prostheses before you found one that you liked?
I do have a prosthesis. I was fitted for one two months after my amputation. The first time that I stood up on it, I was terrified that it wouldn’t support me. My crutches were my best friend for a long while. I endured physical therapy for a lengthy amount of time, and still learn something new every single day. (10 years later).

Do you have different ones for exercise, wearing heels, etc? How often do you need to replace a prosthesis?
About once a year I end up having to get a new prosthetic device, simply because of building muscle mass/losing weight etc, which makes the current prosthesis not fit as it is supposed to. I actually only have one prosthesis which allows me to do everything that I need to do in my daily life. I am able to wear high heels although I haven’t mastered this. I just learned to run about a year ago, and am able to do that as well in my current day to day prosthesis.

How does having a prosthesis effect your daily life?
My daily life is pretty normal compared to yours! (If there is such a thing as normal!) There are instances when I have to come up with a different way of doing things than most, but that doesn’t hinder my ability to try. Going up and down stairs take me longer than most as I have to take one step at a time, but it’s not something that is life altering. I believe your prosthesis only affects your daily life if you allow it. You have to take charge and allow yourself to live the life that you want, not what you think you can/can’t do.

How do people react when they notice that your leg was amputated?
It seems as the younger generation is okay with the fact that I have a prosthesis and have had my leg amputated. They ask the basic questions of how it happened and don’t treat me any differently than anyone else. I have come across the older generation of people reacting differently, not knowing what to say, saying crude remarks, stares, etc.

I’m sure lots of people are unsure of the “appropriate” reaction when they discover that you’ve got a prosthesis. I imagine that people want to look at it and ask you questions, but that’s not necessarily polite. How would you prefer people to behave?
I know that seeing a young woman with a prosthetic leg is not something you see day to day, so you naturally can’t help but look or stare. I would love nothing more for people to come up to me and ask questions, than to stare and gawk. If you see someone out with a “disability” of any sorts, please don’t stare or treat them any differently than you would want to be treated. They are a normal human being that just happened to have a different way of life than yourself.

Do you know anyone who’s had something amputated? A friend of mine lost his left pointer finger in a metal press when he was a furniture maker! Any questions for Ashley?

14 Comments

Han

My grandad managed to amputate his own thumb using a table saw. The doctors used a brace thing to grow the bone so although he still has a stump it's big enough that it works like a normal thumb – if that makes sense. Writing is a bit of a challenge still but he can drive and do normal stuff.

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penn

one of my acquaintances lost her leg in a similar fashion. She says she started out with a crummy prosthesis that didn't work well for much other than walking (as in, she couldn't bend her "knees" too much or the prosthesis would buckle and she'd fall over). Now, she's got a nifty computerized prosthesis, and she can do pretty much anything with it.

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Crystal

When I was little, I had a favorite great aunt who had "lost" one of here legs in an auto accident. I remember her showing me how the prosthetic leg came off and I was amazed! I remember yelling to my mom, "Hey mom! Goldie has a dolly leg!" My brother also had his thumb cut off in a work related accident, but they were able re-attach it and you can't tell that it was ever completely separated from his had – I know HE can, but it's still absolutely amazing that we have the capabilities to do such a marvelous thing!

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Alyssa

I agree, I love this series. This story was wonderful and inspiring, and I especially like the quote, "I believe your prosthesis only affects your daily life if you allow it." Amen to that!

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Stepping Eyeballs

Hi I just wanted to leave a comment for Ashley about 'phantom pain'. When I was studying psychology they said 'phantom pain' can be relieved by placing a mirror next to your amputated leg so you can see your other leg, so as if to appear your leg is still there. That way if you have an itch you "scratch" your leg and it should give you relief. Read some psych articles about it and maybe it'll work for you too.

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Kimbirdy

what an inspirational story! i had no idea. i'm so glad we live in an age when people can live completely normal lives thanks to prosthetics.

my great grandmother lost her leg because of diabetes and she basically gave up on life after that. she could no longer walk and didn't have the money or motivation to try prosthetics. it was hard for my family to watch. i'm always blown away by people who refuse to let adversity get the best of them. thanks for such a great series!

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Marie

I really enjoy this true story series too. I've met several people who have leg protheses, but I didn't know it initially because they were wearing pants. One girl ran and played sports. Such an inspiration!

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Courtney F.

Thanks for sharing, Ashley! I found this very inspiring.

I am an actress in NYC and was just scrolling through the breakdowns on http://www.actorsaccess.com today, and there is one for a documentary on amputees which is airing on a major cable network. You may want to submit yourself, if you'd be into it! All you have to do is create a profile on actor's access and upload a photo–you don't even need to be an actor for this project. And I think it costs $2 to submit to a project.

Just letting you know in case you're interested :)

Thanks again for writing this.

Courtney

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Anonymous

This story is great and came at a ridiculously useful time for me. My Dad had his leg amputated about a month ago after a car accident that occurred in our driveway, and he is still in the hospital. His spirits are good now and I hope he continues to retain his sense of humor throughout this whole ordeal. But of course no one would blame him if he didn't.

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I passed it along to my Dad, and we haven't discussed it yet, but I know your story will help to keep his thoughts positive.

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brlracincwgrl

Hello Anonymous –

I hope that my story will help your father continue his journey to recovery. Staying positive is absolutely a wonderful way to get through any hardship. Please feel free to contact me via my email if you have any questions. brlracincwgrl at gmail dot com

Best wishes!

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Chelsea

Dear Ashley,
You seem so well adjusted & strong. I'm so impressed with your open attitude & level headed way you've handled the loss of your leg. I don't really have a question that's all I really wanted to say.

My grandfather had his led amputated just below his knee when he was in his mid 30's so I have some understanding of the challenges that come along with amputation…but I also have an idea of how you can pretty much function the same as someone with both their limbs. (If not better, as I know with him it seemed to encourage him to develop an amazing) strength of character)

Anyways that's all I've got to add.
Happy wednesday!
Love Chelsea

PS Hello Miss Von hope your travels are going wonderfully well.

Thought if you're struggling for interview candidate you might like to interview me. I am currently on the waiting list for a kidney transplant & I could fill you in on the trials that come along with this …& maybe also raise awareness about organ donation in the process :)

Anyway if you interested you can contact me at chelseagaroni at yahoo dot com dot au

love the blog by the way.
Love
c
:)

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