Movement & Joy

It’s been a little over five years since my amputation. Add in the three and half before the amputation, and I’m pushing a decade since being able to play—and truly enjoy playing—basketball. Now, playing too much basketball is what trashed my ankle in the first place and indirectly set in motion the events that ultimately led to my amputation, but I’d still do it all over again.

Since that first surgery almost ten years ago, I lost something when I lost basketball. It wasn’t just the basketball, though. It was the movement.

I’ve spent the years since looking for things that could replace it. Lots of things have helped, but every activity brought some level of pain. Some activities, the pain removed any chance of enjoying it. Other activities offset the joy with pain just enough to make me think twice.

I have a relatively short residual limb. That means less leverage and less surface area to distribute weight-bearing across. So every activity has its own challenges.

Then I found sit skiing, and I was finally able to remove my leg from the equation. It started great, and it’s only gotten better.

Snowboarding as an amputee, I could tolerate maybe four to five runs once or twice a week. Even then, I had to stop regularly for pain to subside before continuing. One day, after I got home and took my leg off, I had a quarter-sized blister on the end of my shin on my residual limb. Not a horrible injury in and of itself, but I couldn’t really wear my leg for a few days after that.

Staying active didn’t just mean doing the math on balancing pain and joy for that day. There was always the risk of accidentally overdoing it and the consequences trickling into daily life if I couldn’t wear my leg due to injuries. So if the pain didn’t suck the joy out of it, the risk management sure did.

And with snowboarding, no matter how supportive friends were, it never felt great being the one regularly asking the group to stop and take a break so your pain can subside a little bit.

But with sit-skiing, the equation is heavily weighted in favor of joy, and I’m moving without pain again. Today, on my fifth straight day sit-skiing, I managed eleven runs—something I never dreamed of on a snowboard.

And after those eleven runs today? No leg pain at all. Just soreness. There’s no equation to balance. There’s no risk of being legless for a week if I overdo it. It’s just pure and simple joy.

And that’s just the physical side. Despite pushing my body more than I have in almost ten years (and being 10 years older on top of it), I’ve never felt better physically or mentally.

And where volunteering with the local Adaptive Sports Center was effectively impractical at best on a snowboard due to pain, on a sit-ski, I’m capable enough that I can volunteer and help others as well.

And while I don’t want to get ahead of myself, it feels like I may well be on a trajectory where friends and family will have to start asking me to stop or slow down. Wouldn’t that be something?