Category Archives: Peggy Chenoweth

Prosthesis Snow Tips

One of the most common questions I receive from new amputees, especially in the winter and cold months, involves footwear. Never being a shoe connoisseur myself, having to tackle footwear post-amputation quickly became an exercise in frustration. With my apologies to my fashionista friends, I admit to sticking with the same pair of shoes regardless of the rest of my outfit. I prefer to go for comfort and, with the exception of a social protocol, I would probably never change out of my sneakers.

Of course, some situations require a change in footwear. With a massive snowfall and a little boy eager to go outside to play in the winter wonderland, I was confronted with one of those situations yesterday. While I technically only need to wear a boot on my biological foot, the difference in heel height makes trudging through the snow difficult. My lower back and hips thank me when I take the time to put the same shoe on both my prosthesis and my foot.

Slipping a boot onto my prosthesis is not always an easy task. Because the ankle is fixed, guiding the foot shell into the bed of the ankle can be difficult. Thankfully I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade to donning boots onto my prosthesis.

First of all, I always try to buy the boots ½ size larger than my needs. Because I know I will be in the snow, I anticipate wearing thick socks to make up the size difference on my biological foot. The extra room makes sliding the prosthesis into the boot a little easier.

I don’t worry about wearing a sock on my prosthesis (after all my toes certainly are not going to become cold) so I have forged even more wiggle room to fit the boot. Perhaps my favorite tip, I have discovered that slipping a plastic bag over the entire foot shell helps to minimize friction, making donning the boot a breeze. Since I learned the plastic bag trick, I no longer dread putting on boots!  If need be, I pull out my extra-long shoe horn to make the final push into the boot.

While my foot never becomes cold in the snow, my residual limb can become downright icy. The compromised circulation, the result of the amputation, makes me more vulnerable to temperature extremes. On more than one occasion I have come inside after snow fun to discover my residual limb is purple from the cold.  Image

My second winter as an amputee I discovered the joys of air activated hand warmers. Typically sold in the check-out lines of the big box stores and sporting goods stores, I now buy them by the case online. Before sledding, snowball fights or fort building commences, I always activate and throw two hand warmers into the bottom of my socket. These little satchels help to keep my limb warm, regardless of the temperatures or the depth of the snow.

With a little preparation and some of my “go-to” winter tips, I have become completely UNlimited in the snow.  How do you deal with the winter weather?

Valentine’s Week Plans

Next Friday is Valentine’s Day or, as my husband refers to it, the worst day of the year. While I tend to love all holidays, he leans towards the curmudgeon side. It isn’t that he lacks a sense of romance, but he does resent being told when he has to dote. 

Regardless of his feelings towards Valentine’s Day, I plan on celebrating all week. Thankfully my little boy has inherited my love of revelry and is fully on board with all things holiday related. I am sure that my son loves holidays because he knows that he will be showered with surprises and treats. Some say that I go overboard, but I know that I don’t spend a lot of money to make fun holiday memories and traditions. Instead, I rely upon a series of no or low cost surprises staggered throughout the week to make the holiday special.

One of the best investments I made was in the Balloon Time Helium Tank.  Balloons are expensive and not always easy to obtain and hide. This little tank makes it possible for me to blow up just a few balloons at my convenience. The look on my son’s face when he staggers out of his bedroom in the morning and discovers a few colorful balloons is priceless!

He also loves shaped and themed breakfast treats. The Norpro Heart Shaped Pancake Mold is perfect for fashioning a festive and happy breakfast to start the week off right. I make enough to store in the fridge so that I don’t have to cook breakfast for the rest of the week. He’s happy because he is eating a special treat and I’m delighted with the minimal prep work.

I don’t just spend the week pampering my son, I also treat myself a little better during holiday weeks. One of my favorite, and cheapest, luxuries involves painting my nails. Of course, painting the plastic nails on my prosthetic foot shell does involve some advance planning.

The foot shell tends to become stained and discolored. I’ve tried just about everything over the years to clean it and found that the MrImage. Clean Magic Eraser yields the best results with the least amount of work.  I am always amazed with the improvement in appearance after just a few minutes of cleaning! (Save yourself some aggravation by avoiding the store brand. For some reason they just don’t work the same magic.)

I don’t have to use any specific nail polish, but I do need to rely upon an acetone based remover when I want to change colors. The non-acetone nail polish removers just smear the polish across the plastic foot shell. I guess in some situations the heavier chemicals are the best option!

I love to take long baths, but I found that using oils or bubbles is not conducive with my residual limb. If my limb is coated in a thin sheath of oil, it slips right out of the liner. Trying to walk without a strong seal in the prosthetic is definitely not safe!

Instead of oils and bubbles, I rely on bath salts. I found that the minerals make me feel relaxed and do not damage my skin. I’m not intoImage heavy scents, so I prefer the Burt’s Bees Therapeutic Bath Salts. I am always a happier and more relaxed person after a long soaking bath.

Of course, I won’t ignore pampering my husband next week. I know that he detests Valentine’s Day, but I won’t let that stop me from including him in our fun. He loves gummy bears, so when I found this 5 pound version I knew I had to get it for him. Again, it doesn’t cost a lot of money but will certainly bring a smile to his face.

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However you celebrate, I hope that you have a wonderful Valentine’s Week!

Super Bowl Prep

Rumor has it that a big football game is being played on Sunday. Admittedly, I am not a football fan but instead become the hostage companion of my sport fanatic husband during every big game/match/event.  While I doubt I’ll ever relish watching the game, I have learned to embrace the festivities. For me, the Super Bowl is all about gluttony.

In our house, no big game would be complete without chili, nachos and assorted snacks. For my husband and son, the food magically appears at the end of each quarter. So engrossed in the television, I am fairly confident that both fail to realize that I am the one in the kitchen prepping and cooking all afternoon.

I have always loved to cook but it has become more difficult during the past few months. Between my prosthetic issues and my pregnancy, it is uncomfortable for me to stand for long periods of time. Thankfully I have cabinets full of appliances to help make the task both easy and fun.

In order to minimize the prep time required for our football feast, I will be relying heavily upon one of my favorite appliances- the food processor.  I have tried a few other mini choppers over the years and have always been dissatisfied. For a growing family, the 1 ½ cup choppers simply weren’t big enough.  I found I was spending more time chopping and emptying small batches from the machine than I would have spent had I just pulled out the knives myself.

Storing and pulling out the cumbersome and heavy 12 cup food processors became more trouble than what it was worth, especially when I was looking for quick prep work.  I was more apt to let the food processor in the cabinet because the assembly and cleaning required was simply too time consuming.

This Sunday I will be relying heavily upon my Cuisinart Mini-Prep 4 Cup Food Processor. For our family, the four cup capacity is ideal. The motor is strong, providing even and consistent pulsing blades capable of chopping through everything from onions to hard cheese.  Although the bowl is larger, the machine is lightweight and compact. (Keeping appliances within each reach is a huge factor in whether or not I will use it.)

Thanks to my strong little chopper, I am saved both the time and the ensuing discomfort which comes from food preparation.  I love to cook, but I also appreciate anything that simplifies my life! With the chopping simplified, I’ll be done in the kitchen and able to enjoy my favorite part of the Super Bowl- the halftime show.  Image

Enjoying Soda- UNlimiter Style

Generally speaking, I live a relatively UNlimited life.  I suppose that living with my disability for more than a decade has allowed me ample time to adapt without much thought.  Many of my accommodations for my limb loss occur so naturally that I must make a concerted effort to recognize the adaptations.  Living a life with limb loss has become my norm.

Although I’m comfortable with living as an amputee, I have come to recognize that I have made adjustments to just about every aspect of my life. From the obvious, such as installing permanent grab bars to my bathroom, to the discrete, I am constantly tweaking and searching for easier ways. Each change, in its own way, has helped to simplify my life.

My family, especially my husband, consumes an obscene amount of soda. We used to have 2 liter bottles lined across the back of my kitchen counters, and mountains of cans stacked in the corner. Although I hated the aesthetic aspects that soda storage caused, I despised lugging everything from the car more!

Carrying heavy and cumbersome objects is something that I will never ever fully embrace. I don’t feel safe when I can’t use the handrail when  going up or down the stairs. Balancing heavy loads makes me feel precarious, especially when I can’t see my prosthesis to confirm proper step placement.  Schlepping heavy boxes of soda cans, or bags overflowing with 2 liter bottles, was a chore which I avoided whenever possible.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the Soda Stream must have been invented to make the lives easier of those with disabilities. Gone are the days of carrying heavy and awkward cans and bottles from the car to the kitchen. I no longer have 1/3 bottles of flat soda lined up on my countertop, and the soda can fort is gone from the corner of my dining room.

I admit that I was skeptical of the Soda Stream the first dozen times I saw the store display. Would the soda taste good? Did the machine work as advertised? Was the convenience worth the initial investment? Would this machine actually end us saving us money?  After finally breaking down and giving it a try, I have to say that the answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes!

My husband and I have different tastes when it comes to soda, and we are now able to easily accommodate both of our preferences. Instead of pushing around the large bottles, we now have a variety of syrups which store discretely in our cabinet. At the push of a button we can make any soda desired and we don’t have to worry about the excess going flat. We only make what we can drink, assuring that we always have the proper carbonation.

Although my husband loves the variety of flavors, I appreciate the fact that we no longer have to wrestle with moving heavy cans and bottles. This machine has completely eliminated a situation which used to render me uncomfortable and unsafe. In another small way, the Soda Stream has helped me to continue my UNlimiter status!

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Cat Duty–UNlimited

I have always loved animals. Growing up we had both cats and dogs and, although I loved both, I have come to accept that I am more of a cat person. I have nothing against dogs, but I appreciate the self-reliance and simplicity of being a cat parent.

Dogs, at least those that I have grown up with, tend to jump and knock me off balance. They grab dishrags, remote controls and cell phones and take of scurrying through the house, creating an ill-advised version of canine tag.  Regardless of the weather or the state of my limb, a dog would have to be walked. For all of these reasons, I prefer feline companionship. Of course, these experiences are also an indication of our total inability to competently teach our canine companions.

Cats, at least the two in our house, are low maintenance friends. They curl on my lap to get warm, play and entertain my little boy, and use a litter box independently. I appreciate all of those attributes. Both cats are full-fledged family members who know their roles and responsibilities.  They don’t trip me up when I walk, catch a rogue mouse occasionally and accept doting and love.  All things considered, being a cat in our household is a pretty good gig.

The only part of cat ownership I don’t relish is the litter box. Of course, it certainly beats the alternative of pooper scooping outside in all weather.  However, digging around in feline excrement is not my idea of entertainment.  I’ve quickly discovered that a primary benefit of this pregnancy is the “no litter box” rule dictated by my OB/GYN.

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I have been coveting the Litter Maid automated cat box for years and was ecstatic when he came home with it one day. After filling it with litter and plugging it in, we anxiously waited for the cats to visit so that we could watch the machine in action.  The prospect of not having to squat and precariously balance over a dirt filled, smelly and unhygienic box was almost too exciting to bear!

I have to admit that I am surprised with how well this little machine works. In one movement it sweeps the dirty litter into a self-contained receptacle. The dirty litter container has a lid which helps to control odor and mess.  Knowing that our house will again be wreaking with unsavory baby smells, any odor control barriers are greatly appreciated!

Although I can’t change the dirty litter container when it becomes full, I have no doubt that the task will be both easy and quick. I am excited that I’ll no longer be squatting over the litter box, trying to balance while digging through a pan of cat excrement.  The fact that I won’t have to be intimate with the cat box makes the prospect of my reassuming this responsibility acceptable.  The Littermaid Automatic Litterbox is just another product which has helped me to become an UNlimiter!

Cupcake Mom

I venture to guess that only a handful of my son’s classmates actually know my name. Instead of sticking with formalities, they have begun to refer to me as the “cupcake Mom.” I smile every time I hear the reference and I have made no attempts to correct them. After all, it is a title which I have worked hard to earn.

I remember being a child and feeling the rush of excitement when a Mom was spotted in the hallway, ready to deliver cupcakes. Since my little guy started school, I have made a point of delivering treats to his class on a regular, but unscheduled, basis. Of course I always check with his teacher, but the students (including my son) rarely know when I will show up at the door.

Because I have made so many cupcake deliveries over the years, I have become something of an expert in the packing and transporting of baked goods. For awhile I used to just line the treats up in a baking pan. I quickly learned that the cupcakes either tipped over or were difficult to remove from the tray. Nobody likes it when somebody’s finger goes into the icing as they try to pick it up out of the pan.

I’ve tried a variety of cupcake carriers over the years, but all posed various flaws. Many lack a sturdy handle, necessitating me to use both arms to carry the treats into the school. Because of balance issues, I feel more comfortable and I am more stable if I have at least one hand free at all times. Trust me, losing your balance and dropping the entire tray of cupcakes in front of the excited class of first graders creates a sense of disappointment which is nearly impossible to convey.

Most cupcake carriers which feature a handle only have room for two dozen cupcakes. I consistently need to carry at least 30 cupcakes. Not wanting to have to squish the treats together to make them fit, I kept looking.

Finally I have found a cupcake holder which meets all of my needs. It features a sturdy handle, allowing me to keep my balance at all times. I can carry the treat box at my side, allowing me to see where I am going and to avoid tripping up with my prosthesis. The holder has room for 3 dozen cupcake wells, providing each treat with a designated spot to avoid tipping and falling onto each other. As an added bonus, the carrier is clear. This was not a requisite but has certainly enhanced the excitement that my treats garner when I walk into the room.

Being a Mom is my greatest joy. I love when I discover a product that makes things just a little easier. It may seem like a small thing to so many, but the fact that I don’t feel unstable while delivering treats to my son’s class is important.  This cupcake holder is just another product which has helped me to become an UNlimiter.

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Journaling in the New Year

For weeks we have been inundated with commercials tempting us to eat the extra cookies, forgo the diet and indulge. It felt like it was almost scrooge-like to deny yourself.  After all, it was the holidays!

As soon as the countdown begins for the New Year, the messaging changes. Television commercials switch from “go ahead and eat the cookie” to “you’re fat because you ate too many cookies. You need a diet.” If we aren’t being told that we are fat, we are out-of-shape, disorganized or downright dirty.  Watching television this time of years feels like an exercise in masochism.  Personally, I prefer the pre-holiday commercials. At least when I turned off the television I was happily munching on a cookie instead of feeling like an overweight, out of shape, messy failure!

Every year I have fallen into the New Year/New You marketing trap. This year is different. I am working too much, too busy with my family and I am pregnant. I don’t have time to beat myself up. This year, I have resolved to grant myself holistic acceptance. Maybe it is because I am turning 40 this year, but if I want to make a change in my life it will not be because celebrities on television tell me I’m overweight and need to buy their diet plans.

Acceptance is turning into the greatest gift. Instead of starting the New Year feeling badly, I find myself feeling optimistic and happy. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t opened the door to improvement, but it does mean that I will make changes on my timeline, not based upon the changing of a calendar. Between managing my work, family and pregnancy, I am simply too overwhelmed to embark on any radical personal projects.

With acceptance comes personal reflection. With my mind freed from self-punishing dialogs, I have rediscovered a sense of enthusiasm which has missing for some time.  It is amazing the optimism that comes from switching the internal dialog from “you’re not good enough” to “what makes you happy.”  Lately I have been so overwhelmed with ideas and dreams that I needed a place to write them all down.

I suppose I could easily write my ideas into a Word document, but I spend so much of my professional life on the computer that I wanted something special. I have decided to go start an old-fashioned, pen and paper journal. I have discovered that there is something special about handwriting on paper. It takes more time, but it also allows me more of an opportunity to reflect and escape. In an effort to affirm that my thoughts, dreams and goals have value, I picked a journal which reflected my newly granted acceptance.  Writing, just for myself, has helped to UNlimit my potential.

Change is always difficult and is only successful when implemented on a personal timeline. Hanging a new a calendar, and being bombarded with negative messages is not the motivation most people need. This year, I encourage everybody to embrace acceptance instead of falling into the pattern of forced change. I truly believe that self-improvement will be a natural extension of acceptance, and that the changes will be lasting. For me, writing in a journal is my first step towards self-discovery.

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Happy New Year. May 2014 be the year of acceptance (and the journal!)

Kitchen Prep Fatigue– MINIMIZED

It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving week is here. Wasn’t it just the other day that I was shopping for lunchboxes and backpacks for the start of a new school year? After all, I still have bowls of Halloween candy on my kitchen counter.

Although I hate how quickly time seems to pass, I have to admit that I absolutely adore Thanksgiving. Christmas is special because I get to relive the childhood magic through my son. But left to my own recourse, Thanksgiving may be my very favorite holiday.  Gathering with family and friends, just laughing and eating, we are all relaxed and happy. The pressure of gift giving, looming bills and other holiday stresses have not yet crept into our psyche. Instead, we are all simply happy to be together.

I spend a lot of time cooking for Thanksgiving. Despite the fact that we’ll be visiting my Mom for the holiday, I will still be making three complete dinners. One is heading across the street to my neighbor’s house, one is going to be delivered to a friend who is recovering from surgery and the third will be eaten by a hoard of hungry elementary students in Robby’s class.

Needless to say I will be spending the majority of my waking hours this weekend in the kitchen, prepping and cooking the meals.  Holiday movies will be streaming on my little TV and my house will smell wonderful. I am also aware that my newly cleaned kitchen will quickly morph into a full-fledged disaster area. I’m a good cook, but I am not a clean one!

With so much cooking to be done, I know that I’ll be spending a lot of time on my feet.  For many prosthetic wearers, standing results in more fatigue and pain than long distance walking. I love cooking, but I do not relish the back and limb pain that result from my standing on my hard tile floor for hours on end!

Kitchen throw rugs are not advantageous for individuals with mobility problems. Although they provide a nice cushion, they often become dislodged and move. Having a throw rug shift from underneath a crutch almost always results in a painful fall.  The fleeting comfort that the cushioning provides is simply not worth the risk of injury.

Last Christmas my husband stumbled upon a perfect solution. I was a bit surprised when I unwrapped the Chef’s Mat because he knew my issues with throw rugs. He urged me to give it a chance and I begrudgingly agreed.

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This gel filled Chef’s Mat was different than every other floor covering I have tried.  First, it has a sticky backing, allowing it to firmly grip every surface. I have had it for one year and it has never slid, even when I have been on crutches! The mat is filled with gel, not fluff, which provides a firm yet cushy feel. The pressure from standing on the hard floor is minimized and relegated to an inconvenience when I’m standing on top of the Chef’s Mat.

I fully expect to be exhausted by the end of my three dinner prep, but I have confidence that I will not have the pain in my legs and lower back that have haunted me over the years. The Chef’s Mat works wonders to reduce the pressure from the hard tile, allowing me to enjoy being in the kitchen.

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I hope that everybody has a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, overflowing with happiness, laughter and love!

Being Prepared

A few weeks ago I received an email from the teenage son of a friend of mine. He was visiting Washington DC for a leadership conference and was experiencing residual limb issues.  This was his first time traveling without his parents, an experience compounded by the fact that he is a quad amputee. (He lost his limbs to an infection he contracted when he was 9.)

He has been living without his limbs longer than he had them, but time does not make somebody an expert. Thankfully for him, skin breakdown is rare. When it did occur in the past, his parents were prepared to help him deal with it. Unsure of what to do with his developing blisters, he reached out to me.

Upon reading his email I immediately drove to the pharmacy to compile an emergency first aid kit. Inside a large Ziploc bag I put Band-Aid blister protectors, large Band-Aids (careful to choose the type that does not pull) and a large tube of antibiotic cream.  I also put some gauze pads, mole skinspray antiseptic for pain relief and an ace wrap to provide compression at night.

The blister Band-Aids are idea for covering small skin lesions on the residual limb. Although the prosthesis should not be worn when a blister or sore develops, sometimes going limbless is just not feasible. He was in a new area, without his wheelchair, and eager to keep up with his peers. I knew that the blister protectors would thwart further damage from occurring while allowing him to keep his mobility.

After delivering the supplies to his hotel, I wrote to his Mom to explain the situation. He was unprepared for this emergency, but thankfully he knew enough to reach out for help. Next time he travels he will have an emergency kit with him, and he will be prepared for most issues that arise.

I wanted to share his experience because there are 500 new amputees every day in this country. When a limb is lost, everything feels foreign and new. It can feel overwhelming trying to absorb all of the information about prosthetic, skin care and residual limb health. Keeping an emergency skin kit on hand should be an integral part of every amputee’s arsenal, but it is often overlooked.

In my opinion every prosthetic using amputee should keep these supplies on hand. I keep identical first aid kits in my luggage, in the car, at my Mom’s house and in my medicine cabinet. Sores and blisters never develop at a convenient time, but staying prepared to treat them when they arise can stave off further damage.

Ready for Snow!

A chill is in the air and the leaves are turning beautiful hues of orange and gold. There is no doubt about it, I won’t be wearing my shorts and tank tops for several long months.  During the past few years my region has been relatively lucky in terms of ice and snow. Much to the chagrin of my little boy, we only had one substantial snow last year. Apparently this is a big bummer when you have a new sled to try out.

Meteorologists are already predicting that we will be receiving more snow and ice this year. Although I won’t count on it, I will admit that we are overdue for a hard winter. I know my little guy will be delighted if school is called off for snow. I can’t control possible snow accumulations, but I can be prepared!

Being a lower extremity amputee poses unique obstacles every season. In the summer many amputees complain of excessive sweating within their liners. In the spring and fall, slipping on wet leaves or nut shells poses a risk of falling. In the winter, the threat of snow and ice strikes fear into many lower extremity amputees. There is little more unnerving than trying to ambulate on a thin sheet of ice while wearing a prosthesis.

Slipping a prosthetic into winter boots is not always feasible. My prosthetic ankle is fixed, so trying to don a boot is both cumbersome and time consuming. I just don’t have a spare 30 minutes to try to put on a single boot.

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Some amputees adapt by wearing a treaded boot on the sound foot while keeping their everyday shoe on the prosthetic. In addition to contributing to instability because of the differing heel heights, the lack of winter tread on the prosthetic side can lead to slipping and falling.  Although this approach works in a pinch, it is not a long term solution.A safer option is donning a pair of Yaktrax Walker Traction Cleats. The hand-wound coils on these cleats provide a full 360 degrees of traction on snow and ice. With each step the metal coils “bite” into the ice to provide stability and thwart slipping. The cleats are easy to slip over bottom of shoes and are quickly removed. The prosthetic does not need to be removed in order to don and remove these ice grippers.

Before the forecasts have  you are stocking up on milk, bread and toilet paper, you might want to consider picking up a pair of Yaktrax Walker cleats.  These ingenious little treads allow me to walk on the ice and snow safely. Because I know that my foot is not going to slip on the slick patches, I no longer stuck inside while everybody else is sledding.

Apple Prep- Simplified

I adore apple season. From applesauce simmering on my stove top to pies in the oven, I am constantly in the midst of an apple cooking project. Needless to say, my house smells heavenly!

This time of year I tend to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, whipping up treats which always taste better when there is a chill in the air. While I enjoy cooking and baking, sometimes the prep work is laborious and exhausting.  Wishing I could find a kitchen tool that would clean up the mess, I have been forced to settle for items that simplify the prep work.

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Admittedly, I am a kitchen appliance and gadget collector. My cabinets and drawers are overflowing with specialized items, each touting promises to make my cooking experience quicker, faster and more delicious. I am an eternal optimist, some would say foolish, so I typically believe each testimonial and buy the product.

On a rare occasion, one of the kitchen gadgets actually lives up to its promise. My apple peeler/ slicer is one of those products. This ingenious little tool makes the dreaded task of peeling, seeding and cutting apples both easy and quick. I can’t believe I’ve spent so much time trying to peel bushels of apples with an uncomfortable and often awkward vegetable peeler.

Peeling apples with a standard peeler was difficult because I have some hand strength issues. Apparently spending 5 years on crutches has caused some mild nerve damage. Most of the time it isn’t too intrusive, but repetitive hand movements can exacerbate the problem. Using a standard peeler I was often forced to stop every few minutes to relax my hands. The pain certainly interfered with the pleasure I used to reap from baking.

I love how quickly I can peel and cut several pounds of apples using this tool. I am able to get my pies into the oven with minimal prep work. Because I am cranking a handle and not grasping an uncomfortable peeler, my hands do not tire and I do not feel the aching pain in the palm of my hand.  As an added bonus, the reduced prep time equates to less time standing. Anytime I can reduce the amount of time I need to stand and load my prosthesis I will do it!

Not only is this peeler/slicer ideal for apple preparation, I found that it works great for potatoes. Whether I am making mashed, scalloped or hash browned potatoes, this peeler is up for the task. Allowing me to save my hand strength and unload my prosthesis, this little kitchen tool certainly helps me to be an UNlimiter in the kitchen!

Amputee Vs. Individual with Amputation

I thoroughly enjoy meeting and talking with other amputees. There is an instant camaraderie among individuals who have experienced and are living with limb loss. It is a reality that one can truly relate to only if it has been experienced first hand.

It is difficult to explain how miserable an ill fitting socket can feel and how it can negatively impact an entire day. There is something comforting in knowing that I don’t have to explain these issues to another amputee. It is something which we all understand. Phantom pains, liner woes, socket adjustments and emotions are all common topics among amputees.

I have a theory. I have concluded that there is a difference between the “amputee” and the “individual with an amputation.” I often interchange these terms, but I believe that they have two separate connotations. The same holds true for all disabilities.  An individual can be “disabled” or they can have a “disability.”  Some probably think it is a matter of semantics, but for me they hold very different meanings.

The “amputee” is somebody who identifies him or herself through the limb loss. The amputation or their “status” as amputee is the sole source of conversation. It has become the individual’s defining feature. In a sense, the individual has been lost, or at least masked, by the loss.

I think that most individuals who have experienced limb loss go through the “amputee” phase. After all, the loss of a body part is traumatic, regardless of the circumstances. Speaking from experience, I know emotional struggles and the ensuing identity crisis make it difficult, if not impossible, to see beyond the loss.

Eventually, I evolved from being an “amputee” into the “individual with an amputation.” I cannot deny that I have an amputation. It is physically obvious. The changes affected by my amputation have been global, not just physical. I am MORE than my limb loss.

I am a mommy. I am a wife. I am a friend. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am an intelligent woman with a lot of opinions (too many if you ask my husband). I am a cancer survivor. I am also living a full life after an amputation. All of these roles contribute to who I am.

In retrospect, I probably would have benefited from a support group in the early stages of my adjustment. I tried a few, but was disappointed in the groups that I attended because there was no emphasis on moving beyond the loss. Perhaps had I sought and found an appropriate group for me, my recovery would have been easier.

Thankfully, the internet has helped to bridge the support gap, allowing individuals with disabilities to communicate and connect with each other. Support groups are becoming virtual meeting places, a change which I find to be wonderful. It is empowering to know that one only needs to log onto their computer to find support, answers or friendship.

I love the virtual freedom that my Kindle Fire affords me. I can log onto the internet from any hotspot, and instantly be connected with friends and family. If I have a question, or need to vent, I don’t need to sit quietly by myself and stew. I just need to log onto my Kindle and I can connect with my peers.

I also appreciate the fact that my Kindle Fire is light-weight, eliminating the need to carry heavy and cumbersome books when I’m traveling. Anytime I can lighten the load I appreciate it! If you don’t have one yet, I highly recommend giving the Fire a chance.  It is a great way vehicle to help you connect with others with disabilities, allows you to share experiences and you can even play Angry Birds!

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