Disability Awareness Month
Are you aware this October?
October – pumpkins, witches, cooler weather – and Disability Awareness month.
The above picture was taken a few days before my book signing for CC’S Road Home last Saturday. I’ve edited as it includes my friend Melissa who works at PJ’s Coffee and who helped me put together the event. I preferred to show my side of the photo.
Why? A better question is what happens when you finally see yourself, not even as others see you, because they don’t- see you I mean. But there comes a moment when you finally take a long look and try to process what life has dealt. Actually, the first look was not a long look, but a short one because I looked away after first glance.
But nothing prepared me for the first time I looked at this photo above. And honest to God, my first thought was ‘ I need to remember to make sure my right arm is in the picture and not the left. Not that arm – or hand.’ Why? Because, of course, it’s grotesque. Ugly. Deformed.
My second thought occurred the next day when I consciously decided it was time to give the image the time it deserved. Or so I thought. My appraisal did not change. It still looked grotesque to me.
(I will reference at the end of this piece where to read what happened to my arm and hand.)
Suffice it to say for now, my arm and hands are the result of a shoulder replacement surgery that went off the rails. In previous surgeries for breast cancer and neuralgia, I signed the consent form without blinking. For the shoulder, I paused and considered the possible consequences, like more physical therapy. I had just completed one year of PT for a regular shoulder surgery which didn’t take. On this day, I read over the lengthy list of negative consequences. I could write several pages about listening to your intuition, but not here. For now, it’s about reacting or dealing with what life throws your way.
It has been four years since this happened. I know no one is going to fix this. After three years of physical therapy, there are no miracle exercises to make me write with that hand. After two induction shock tests, there is no cure for drop wrist or a missing radial nerve. After a nerve replacement surgery and tendon transfer surgery, there are no more surgeries to fix it. I have total wrist drop and about 40% function of the arm and that’s it.
I can type this paragraph with my right index finger or talk into the laptop, but I cannot get my hand and arm fixed. I cannot make it look prettier in a picture.
I will tell you I have spent two days writing this blog post. Trying to make sense out of my reactions. The best I can come up with the Serenity Prayer.
God, grant me the serenity to change the things I can, the courage to accept the things I can’t, and the wisdom to know the difference.
That rings true for tonight. What I can change is my attitude. My arm and hand still look ugly in that picture. I still cannot write with my left hand. I still cannot lift my arm to its original height or even halfway.
But there is hope in changing what I can. I can now type with the index fingers of BOTH my left and right hands. I have discovered and use WORD’S wonderful speech to text technology which recognizes my voice without additional effort. I am driving without additional technology and can reach over with my right arm to close the car door. I can use a Glide ballpoint pend and complete a lovely signing on my novel. I can chop onions, slice lemons, peel garlic and ginger.
This growing list is important to my daily existence and a result of my need to function and to be self-sufficient. And my acceptance of what I cannot change, and, yes, courage to change the things I can.
I started writing this blog with statistics in mind, such as sixty-one million adults in America have a disability. One in four women live with some kind of disability. There are more occurrences of disability in the South.
But today, I’m letting you into a snippet of my journey. The story of a person who faced unexpected life change and who tried to make the best of it. And in return, has learned a lot about herself.
Learn more about how this happened to Leah and how she completed her novel,
CC’S Road Home, on her website blog posted on 10/28/20.