I’ve never named my prosthesis, which, if you know me, is strange. (For those who don’t know, I even named my tumour “Bowashin,” my residual limb “Forest Stump” and often have personified creatures, objects, and other such nonsensical things). Realizing that my prosthetic device wasn’t in my weird crew of characters made me understand the progress I’ve made and how my prosthesis is an integral part of making me feel whole.
Specifically, I think back to when I got my beige socket, how foreign it felt, and how it seemed like second nature to paint it despite the astonishment of my fellow rehab amputees. After I’d painted it was when I truly started including my prosthesis in my identity. Honestly, this helped instil the fact that I didn’t need my body to be the way it was before and couldn’t have it try to be. I was ready to move on and experiment with this new sense of identity without the baggage of mourning the loss of something out of my control. What was cool about this process was that I had to do it all myself; I advocated for what I wanted despite some weird looks and figured out a lot of things on my own.
It isn’t always easy to accept this prosthetic device as a part of you. Oftentimes, it really feels like it’s working against you, especially when you’re not able to feel comfortable or safe. The initial stages of being fitted are, for most people, when a lot of resentment builds up against their prosthesis as they go through the endless trial and error of fittings and rehab.
For me, the back and forth visits and months in which I could not wear my leg were some of the most difficult obstacles I’ve ever encountered. Yet, even with some of this difficult adaption, I still can be nothing but thankful to the functionality my leg has given me. At its heart, having a prosthesis is the difference between being wheelchair bound and walking, and amputees should be able to trust and appreciate their devices fully. While I’ve accepted my prosthesis, I also know it’s partially on the condition of being able to continue to get better with these devices and always in the hope that I will one day get a device that will be much more intuitive to my needs and save my sound limb.
It goes without saying that the better the limb technology the easier it is to view it as a part of you. It’s another reason why it’s so important that access to funding be put in place: because better technology gives amputees a higher quality of life, not only on a physical and functional level, but mentally as well. I cannot say it enough: no one should feel like they are held back by their limbs, because they are as much a part of them as any other aspect of their body, and coming to that realization can bring so much benefit.
At present, I’ve had my leg for almost three years and it’s really only now that I have integrated it into my daily life. Part of this is figuring out what I can and cannot do, along with all the little tricks. For example, silly things like I don’t have to put my leg on fully to go to the bathroom, I put my shoes on backwards and cut my tights and tie them in bows. I’ve learnt to cut things up, adjust things and manipulate them and my habits. All in all, they’re things that seem natural to do now, but I had been uncomfortable doing them when my prosthesis still felt foreign to me.
So here we are, I’ve named a part of my body, but will never name the device I put on it every morning. After my amputation, Forrest Stump felt like a new resident on my body. He is the reason I can wear my leg and a manifestation of what I’ve survived and I love my little nubby dearly; however, the thing I wear right in the morning and take off at night is my prosthetic- the thing I use to move and express myself with. Sometimes it is cumbersome and I don’t use it for every activity, but the more I learn about this new part of my body, the more it feels like it’s me, and well, I already have my name.