The True Perspective of a Physically Challenged Woman By: Donna R. Walton
It is believed that our perceptions shape and mold our lives. Clearly, I feel that our perceptions influence the way we relate to the world and contribute to the way we cope with ourselves. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that how we perceive ourselves, how we perceive what others perceive of us and what we think others perceive of us impact significantly on the way we relate with each other.
In this article, I will share how I perceived my amputation before and after surgery. I will discuss the impact of negative perceptions I have endured and how I perceive myself today as a woman, who happens to be physically challenged.
It has been fifteen years since I lost my left leg to bone cancer. I was eighteen, terrified of hospitals, scared to die and extremely vain. So much so that throughout the cancerous ordeal, I would sometimes find myself looking into a mirror to see if the cancer was spreading over my face. You see, I knew that losing a leg was going to force me to adjust to a prosthesis, but my vanity would not give way to thinking about cancer spreading over my face. It was most ridiculous, I confess. However, osteogenic sarcoma was a foreign word to me and I had not a clue as to how my life would be affected by this disease.
Spending months in hospitals and arduous hours with physical therapist, I grew to understand the meaning of osteogenic scarcoma. It meant serious! Serious changes my body would go through as I received numerous doses of chemotherapy. A serious attitude adjustment, and serious confrontations with people who would negatively characterize me as handicapped, crippled, disabled. However, despite the seriousness, I knew I could receive support from the medical community. I honestly believed that doctors, prosthetists and therapists would be sensitive to the need of their patients.
I was mislead. As a matter of fact, it was doctors who introduced me to negative terminology associated with amputated limbs. For example, stump, a term associated with an amputated limb and commonly identified by veterans was used throughout my convalescence.
Years later, I learned that my amputated limb could be called a residual limb a term used to reinforce and build positive self- esteem.
Still after fifteen years of dealing with challenges, I am amazed at the perceptions and comments I confront. I tolerate all kinds of questions ranging from what happened to your leg? to are you wearing a wooden leg? to why are you limping? and were you in an accident?
I am most disturbed at the curiosity of strangers who confront me in the subway, at the grocery, concerts, banks, and in the parking lots just to ask what happened to me. When I see an individual with a cane, I am not compelled to query them about why they walk with a cane. Are you?
There is another situation which forces me to give thought to how people perceive me. It occurs when I drive into a parking space embossed the wheelchair symbol. For instance, when I drive into the space, driving a sporty car, I am challenged by strangers who echo penalties for parking in the space reserved for handicapped individuals.
However, when I get out of the car , ambulating with my cane, their perceptions of me change. When I confront them, they say, Please accept my apology. You dont look handicapped. Sarcastically, I retort, Neither do you, but your comments are.
I have observed treatments of people who physically challenged. I have learned that people with disabilities are treated differently according to the way they look, dress, speak and interact. These perceptions, however, are prejudiced and must be challenged.
I have developed a strong perception of myself by realizing that I am not handicapped. I am physically challenged. And I will always be challenged by my physical limitations as well by the mental limitations of others. I have had to overcome many obstacles and barriers for some people may appear to be daunting.
Finally, despite the difficulties, I will continue to educate and enlighten individuals who possess limited perspectives of people who are challenged by visible and invisible conditions.