Hello friends! I wrote this on the airplane coming back from Washington DC last Monday. Since then I’ve had to slow down quite a bit as toe surgery kept me in my wheelchair for a few days and now I’m just starting to walk again. You would think, “oh, it’s just a toe” but I don’t have another foot to compensate with, so that toe is pretty important for walking or putting on my prosthesis, etc. One step at a time. Literally. Hehe.
In the early days in the hospital I told Tim once that I felt like this experience – losing my leg- was stripping me the very core of who I am, while everyone watches. I felt that way again at the Army 10 Miler, and I don’t think I am as strong or resilient or as nice as everyone thinks. It’s mostly my fault. I didn’t like running long distances before I lost my leg, sticking to playing sports and doing 5K’s, so I don’t know why I thought it would be a good idea to try now. Thankfully, I have amazing friends and family supporting me. My therapist, orthopedic surgeon, sister, teammates (other patients rehabing in san antonio),my friends stationed in Florida, and a high school friend that works in Capitol Hill all came to run with me. The wounded warriors and people with them were given a 10 minute head start at the race. I was scared of running in crowds because with my pylon/blade running leg, Bolt, I circumvent (swing the leg out to the right). Anyone that runs by me to the right will get hit with my pylon and then we’ll both go down. My friends are awesome though and made a road block so no one would get that close on that side. Maggie gets a shout-out for the amazing save she made when one lady barreled into her trying to pass us on the right in a tunnel.
We ran in short spurts and walked the first 3 miles and then I switched to my computer leg, Xena, which is much easier to walk in. I wish I could say that walking was easy – but it was not. My left foot started really aching probably due to the break in the toe or the way I was trying to compensate for that. (Surgery will make that better, hopefully!) I was really tired. I started crying at about mile three. Not tears-actually-streaming-down-my-face crying, but eyes-watering-under-my-sunglasses-so-no-one-could-see crying. Maybe my friends thought I was just sniffing because of allergies. Honestly, I was losing the mental game. I didn’t really care about the 10 miler. I knew I could walk/run/crawl those 10 miles somehow. What I couldn’t stop thinking about was my 1.5 mile PT test and how running that distance without stopping still seemed impossible. Very negative things like giving up on trying to get back to duty were crossing my mind. My friends and I were all wearing “One Leg Up on Life” and #ChristyStrong t-shirts, so the entire 10 miles people that passed us would clap or say “go Christy” or “you got it girl” or come shake my hand, etc. etc. It was pretty inspiring most of the time. Sometimes, though, it would make me sad. I would think, “oh man, I don’t want this life. I don’t want to stand out or inspire people just by WALKING. That’s ridiculous. I just want to be normal. I want to ride the metro without worrying about the steps or stairs required to get there.”
Earlier in the run, I complained about Bolt not giving me the spring or energy back that it is supposed to. This could be because it needed to be adjusted forward or back, or I need a different category of spring, or because I was running on it incorrectly or was maybe even I was just making an excuse for the fact I was struggling– any number of things. Jess texted my therapist Alicia who then waited for us at mile 9 (where I was going to switch back to my running leg) with the tools to try to fix it. She had to ask around for tools and wait for us and then when I got there I didn’t know if we could fix it and I was not in the best mood, so I told her I guess it didn’t matter. Sorry, Alicia! Thanks for always putting up with “mean christy”. My other teammates and surgeon were waiting for me at 9.5 miles. I was walking at that point. I hated that they saw me like that. I ran a little bit at a time and then walked again. I was not nice to anyone. The last hundred meters or so I started to run and tripped on the blade. 4 different people reached out to catch me as I righted myself (what awesome friends, right?). I let out a frustrated yell and a curse word I think. How embarrassing. Oh well. Then we crossed the finish line and it was over. It was humbling for me to have so many people see me struggle. That’s why I say it feels like I’m being stripped to the core while everyone watches. In the airport on the way back I flipped through a devotional book and came across these verses…
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way” -James 2:1-4 (MSG)
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” -2 Corinthians 4:8-9
As I’m feeling sorry for myself, these verses remind me to keep going forward. I have the most amazing support. My friends and teammates come to my room and demand I come out to dinner and tell me they’ll push me in the wheelchair if I can’t walk. My sister and therapist put up with me every day as I go through the ups and downs of this journey. And then I get countless phone calls and texts and emails and cards from all of you asking how I am doing. Thank you! Recently, there was a C-130 crash at an airbase in Afghanistan I’ve flown into and also a NATO helicopter crash in Kabul. I am reminded just how fortunate I am to have a life I’m fighting for.