In college, I went on a date with the son of my mother’s coworker. I couldn’t remember if his name was Jason or Justin, so I spent the entire night maneuvering my way out of saying his name. He... [+]
“You will never walk again.”’
“I thought I could live with that. I thought I could live in a wheelchair. There were wheelchair ramps all over the place, and I could finally park in those handicapped places. I fooled myself with those lies too many times to count. The truth was, I couldn’t get up the stairs in my own house, I couldn’t try on clothes in a changing room like my friends could, I couldn’t reach the shelves anymore, not even the counter top. The truth was, I couldn’t live alone anymore.”
“I hated it. I hated that I couldn’t do much of anything. I hated that I hadn’t looked down. I hated how I only needed one shoe. I hated the pity everyone looked at me with. They didn’t know what it was like, to have one leg that you could barely move without muscles cramping, to wake up and have no idea why you couldn’t feel your other leg. They didn’t get it.”
“The doctors suggested that I go to group therapy. I am not hurt like that. I had every recollection of what happened to me over there. What had taken my leg and hip. I wasn’t torn up about it. The images of my remaining hip gushing hot blood onto my hands, my leg only a few feet away weren’t what haunted my dreams. The pain wasn’t what killed my spirit. No, it was that wheelchair, the pity and those five words repeated over and over. That’s why I finally said, screw this, and stood up.”
“At first it was only possible because of a walker my sister bought for me. I started walking around the house with it, just small distances every day. Shuffling to the living room from the wheelchair and back, maybe ten feet. It wasn’t easy. I hadn’t expected it to be. But I did it anyway. I was sick of sitting down.”
“The first time I went out with my walker, my friends screamed when they saw me. I had no prosthetic leg, and I was hopping toward them in the parking lot of the mall we visited often. For an entire hour, I stood and walked with them. For an entire hour, my empty pant leg didn’t seem to be a deadweight. People stared at me in awe, the soldier who had come home with one leg and a couple granulated vertebrae, standing and hopping around with her friends, smiling and laughing like she’d never stepped on a bomb.”
“When I finally got a prosthetic leg to replace the one that was blown off, it took a while to get used to it. And that’s why I’m here.” I finished my story. “Can you help me walk or not?”
The trainer, Jesse, smiled, “Rachel, I’d be glad to.”
I smiled back.
I did walk.
They told me I wouldn’t. But I did. Jesse helped me make that possible.
Now I stand proud, testament to my bravery. Not an inch of doubt in my ability to stride with the best of them. I had suffered through the worst of it, and came out on top. I did conquer the stairs in my home, I did reach the shelves in my kitchen, especially the counter top, I did master the changing room, I did live alone.
I did when they told me I couldn’t. I did when even I thought I couldn’t. I did.
I made it. I did it.
You can too.