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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
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    IL/FL
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    Becoming/being, disabled?

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    Seems there's a few of us here, I'm curious about people's stories, how did you get here, what was the precipitating event?


    If you're gonna ask the question you have to being willing to go first:

    I still live in the land of denial, still have that magical thinking that someday I'll be my old badass self again. I became a firefighter back in the early 80's, there were less than a 100 women worldwide in the profession working fulltime, I was one of those few. The gear didn't fit, you pushed through injuries so as not to be seen as a "pu***", you put up with crap that would get everyone and their brother sued nowadays... all because the job was awesome and more importantly, best. job. ever. But I sure pay for it now; after six knee surgeries I have a new knee that doesn't work right. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat, what I did mattered, there are people alive because I did a good job, it doesn't get any more important, any better, than that.

    But, now I'm sort of disabled (I meet the criteria but won't let my doc submit the paperwork yet), there are so many things I can't do anymore, something as simple as putting on my socks requires planning. Surely not where I thought I'd be at this time in my life.

    How about you?

    Electra Townie 7D

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Columbus, IN
    Posts
    221
    Pax: I don't have anything to share (I'm old and creaky but happy to be where I am), but I did want to comment on your post.

    I'm sorry you're having to deal with knee issues/surgeries/replacements and, even harder, getting used to having everything be so much more difficult. I broke my leg 4 years ago and the 4 months with no weightbearing were tough. I try to remember that and be grateful that it was only 4 months and not my every day life. And I try to be more empathetic for those with disabilities, but I know I get caught up in my normal life and forget how hard it is for others.

    And WOW! I had no idea you were a firefighter. I can't even imagine how difficult that was in the 80s (heck, I bet it is still difficult now. Even with training and legal protections prejudice and bigotry manage to find their way into every day interactions in these types of fields). Way to blaze a trail to make it easier for women of the future! Thank you for making a difference, both for women in the field and for the people you saved.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    IL/FL
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    Thanks, Aromig, it was a very challenging time, but I loved it. Even though I finished the fire academy number two of my class, was a licensed medic with experience, and scored in the 50% of our departments strength tests (meaning I was stronger than 50% of the guys I worked with), my training officer still told me "I don't believe you have any business here so I'm going to make your life a living hell". He sure tried, but once the guys saw I could pull my weight they let up a bit.

    As far as being kinda disabled, the hardest part is coming to grips with the knowledge I won't be able to do all the cool stuff I used to do. I'm working on finding new stuff now!

    Electra Townie 7D

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    Posts
    10,932
    ((((Pax)))) I kind of know how you feel with the types of things I've had to give up over the last year. My situation isn't the same, but I certainly get how hard it is to accept something like that. It was hard enough for me to finally accept that there are certain things I will never be able to do again, but I know that my situation is minor compared to so many. It IS cool to be able to find new things to do, and a bit heartbreaking to have to give up things you love.

    Very cool that you were once a firefighter - that is just plain awesome! In the 80's as well, and I'm sure you helped pave the way for the women that have followed you in your profession.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    12,995
    I know myself well enough that I would not do well in your situation, Pax. However, I do think the key is finding a new passion. I've been thinking a lot about what's going to happen when I cannot ride the way I do now. My plan is to just ride differently, if the situation warrants it, but I was thinking about this while I was climbing up Lenox Mt. last Saturday, in the Berkshires. It's not a terrible climb, and I don't try to do it fast, but I can't imagine not being able to do it...
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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Pacific Northwest
    Posts
    3,471
    Pax, I do have something to offer. I hope it has some meaning for folks.

    I used to be a dancer. I don't mean professionally, but very serious amateur--like, two hours of ballet class six days a work, performing in some Nutcrackers, etc. I worked full time and then went to the ballet studio afterwards. It was my second home and my most beloved world. I ended up having to quit when I developed an extremely painful fibromyalgia syndrome. I probably spent close to a decade being devastated--sad, angry, not knowing what to do, gaining a lot of weight from the only medication that helped with the severe chronic muscle pain (amitriptyline, for those who want to know). I finally went off the medication and the pain stayed tamped down for many years for no clear reason. But my weight set point had changed--hard to get it all off.

    Then my husband started riding his bike again. I looked at that and said, hey, I used to like doing that. I started riding again. More and more. Then I got interested in triathlons. I got a coach and did sprints and Olympics for about five years (2008-2013). And THEN I developed a tendon deterioration syndrome in one ankle and was advised by multiple ankle surgeons not to run anymore. So...no more triathlons.

    I find I still like to ride and I ride about 80-100 miles a week (except during vacations or when workload overcomes my free time). A lot of my rides these days are on the Sammamish River Trail looking for wildlife. I've watched two seasons of osprey chicks being born and growing up. I watch otter families on the river. I've watched woodpeckers make nestholes in trees, hatch their chicks, and have seen the chicks fed and fledge. I saw a weasel lately for the first time ever. I watched two barn owl families grow up under bridges on the river trail this year. And also I still hike. We're about to do a long weekend of hikes at Glacier Park.

    I list all that to say that I have finally come to realize that no matter what gets taken away from me as my body declines to keep cooperating on some activity, I will by God get up and find other activity doors to walk through, as long as I possibly can. The losses of things I love--especially ballet--have been really hard. But I've gotten better at understanding that I will never just give up, so I might as well start looking for the next open doors that I might want to wander through. It's the best I can do with the frailty of being human.

    I too think it's fabulous that you have been a firefighter. I have solid faith that you WILL find those new things. You seem like a strong soul to me.
    "My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved;I have been given much and I have given something in return...Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and an adventure." O. Sacks

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    IL/FL
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    You have a beautiful attitude, salsabike!


    Catrin, here's me at 23, I thought I such a badass and now, when I look at the pics, I was just a baby!! LOL

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    Electra Townie 7D

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Ohio
    Posts
    163
    Kudos for having been a firefighter Pax. I am married to a retired firefighter. When he was hired there was a female rookie as well, the city's first. He would get so upset because the other guys were deliberately trying to make things that much harder for her. He said it was difficult enough without having anyone f*ck with you. As it was, she persevered with fortitude and skill , thus gaining some hard earned respect. Coincidentally I knew her from my bar hopping days and could vouch for what a badass she was. If you were anything like that... hats off!

    After over 20 years firefighting, my husband's body suffered terribly. You can only shake off those injuries so long. I've told him that I suffer from PTSD from his days of being dependent on medically prescribed fentanyl patches for pain. That was a hellish period. Enough said on that! I do have an autoimmune issue with chronic conditions and have not been able to work in my career field for a number of years. Accepting my limitations has been a colossal challenge.

    I found this site looking for other women who enjoyed bicycling that could offer encouragement. I have found it here and I am glad. It's a struggle not being able to ride as far, fast or long as I want to. I try hard to maintain focus on experiencing the joy of the ride. When it is working, all is golden. That is my reward.

    Enjoyed your added pics, you did look so very young! I will take this opportunity to ask, your avatar is interesting-- is the hand a "hamsa" symbol or just a hand? I wear a necklace with a hamsa and was curious when I first noticed your avatar.

  9. #9
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    Jul 2005
    Location
    IL/FL
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    Wynrider - can't imagine how hard it must be to be the one at home when your loved one is on the job. Kudos to you for sticking it out, almost every guy on my shift was divorced more than once.

    My avatar is just a hand, but I like the idea of a hamsa much better!

    Electra Townie 7D

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Pacific Northwest
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    Pax, those pictures are fabulous.
    "My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved;I have been given much and I have given something in return...Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and an adventure." O. Sacks

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    Posts
    10,932
    Pax - this pics are great and yes, you were a baby at the time A very strong baby, in body, mind, soul, and spirit. How could you not be? You were breaking your own glass walls and ceilings. That makes it even more difficult for you when faced with the consequences of your knee. You will persevere however, and find things that you enjoy as much as those activities that your body has a problem with now. That spirit that led you to succeed in firefighting will help you in this as well.

    I find your story so inspiring - and your example has really helped me to set aside my own internal problem accepting my own partial impairment with my knee, and increasing foot problems while focusing on finding other things I can do.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
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    Wow, Pax, you look awesome! And I am pretty sure I didn't look that young at 23.
    Again, finding alternatives is the key. During the year my autoimmune/Fibro stuff was bad, I really got into yoga and walking. When the cycling season started again, I did a lot of farm stand and errand rides, riding to my medical appts. As the summer went on, I added in more and more fitness rides, but I put no pressure on myself. The good thing is that attitude stuck with me. It kind of was the impetus to make sure I was not focused on cycling as my only sport.
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  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    IL/FL
    Posts
    3,847
    salsabike - thanks!

    Catrin - glad I could help a little. That is the thing I miss most about those days. When I stepped off the rescue or ladder truck, I knew I would be able to help. Stop the bleeding on a car accident victim while offering a little comfort, crawl into a building and search for someone left behind, or even just go to the local schools and show the kids the cool fire truck and watch the dawning on their faces as they realized "she's A GIRL" and then see the HUGE smiles on the faces of a few of the little girls. Absolutely best. job. ever.

    Crankin, my mom always said I had the face of an angel... and that it was very misleading. LOL


    We will be home to Illinois by the end of August, once we get settle I think I'm going to try yoga. There is an amazing studio nearby that offers classes for people with physical issues, so I think it might be a good place to start to see if I can get some of my flexability back.

    Electra Townie 7D

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Western Canada-prairies, mountain & ocean
    Posts
    6,966
    Very cool, Pax. Actually one of my former jobs was librarian for a provincial govn't regulatory agency on fire code enforcement, fire protection engineering (a specialty engineering area) and firefighting. So our clients including govn't folks, engineering community and fire departments. From a distance I sort of know your world Pax and of course, a ton of info. on physical demands and risks. I also met women firefighters who were the rare ostriches in their large fire depts. 1 of them lauched formally a human rights legal case against a major fire dept..

    I also met the rare....Asian-Cnaadian and black firefighters in Metro Toronto. It was so rare at that time... in mid 1980's.

    Above has nothing to do with disability post-firefighting, just being part of a time when barriers were being broken down. Some of those barriers are still there.

    I wrote this awhile ago and coincidentally I wrote it before I had my concussion: https://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com...ions-for-life/
    Last edited by shootingstar; 07-30-2016 at 07:18 AM.
    My Personal blog on cycling & other favourite passions.
    遙知馬力日久見人心 Over a long distance, you learn about the strength of your horse; over a long period of time, you get to know whatís in a personís heart.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    IL/FL
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    Nice blog post, SS.

    On my shift there was one black guy, they didn't want him there either, so they paired us off for all drills and training. They thought it was hysterical when I had to carry his 6'4" 240lb carcass down a ladder, and they were stunned that I could do it... fellas never seem to understand leverage, they just thought I was freakishly strong.

    Electra Townie 7D

 

 

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