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Tamara

Conscious about body "image"

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Although I do my best to take care of myself and look presentable, I began thinking about how the general public views the physical appearance of amputees. I ask this because of a woman I met who recently lost her arm. She isn't interested in getting fitted for a prosthesis and is not self conscious about how she looks.

I notice more and more movies have small or major roles for disabled people. I also notice that several young people seem to embrace their disability as a uniqueness and show it off in costumes for parties, Halloween etc. (think Cherry Darling from "Planet Terror") I have mixed feelings on this.

Until recently I saw many amputees want a prosthesis that looked as real as possible. Now it almost seems some want an artificial limb that looks futuristic or mechanical. While being fitted I saw some amazing artwork on some leg sockets. I never really asked my prosthetist. Am I mistaken in my observations? Or has anyone else noticed this too?

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Although I do my best to take care of myself and look presentable, I began thinking about how the general public views the physical appearance of amputees. I ask this because of a woman I met who recently lost her arm. She isn't interested in getting fitted for a prosthesis and is not self conscious about how she looks.

I notice more and more movies have small or major roles for disabled people. I also notice that several young people seem to embrace their disability as a uniqueness and show it off in costumes for parties, Halloween etc. (think Cherry Darling from "Planet Terror") I have mixed feelings on this.

Until recently I saw many amputees want a prosthesis that looked as real as possible. Now it almost seems some want an artificial limb that looks futuristic or mechanical. While being fitted I saw some amazing artwork on some leg sockets. I never really asked my prosthetist. Am I mistaken in my observations? Or has anyone else noticed this too?

Hi Tamara

I think you are right and I have noticed this too, but I think society has generally changed and this all reflects also on the attitudes of amputees also.

I lost my legs nearly 40 yrs ago as the result of a road accident, and this period was really still in the 'dark ages' for those with any sort of disabilities. I think it was either a case of being 'locked away', or, if they didn't do that they tried to make you look as 'normal' as possible, I think we were 'conditioned' to fit in. My mother had to really fight to get the local education people to 'allow' me to return to my regular school following my accident, must admit I didn't really see myself as having a disability but obviously others did, I think a lot of people then were quite ignorant and in the early days I was quite openly called 'a cripple' by various people.

The first limbs I wore, didn't really resemble leg prosthetics as we would recognize them today, but they did allow me to be mobile without too many problems quite quickly. In some ways this was good because it made you get on with things, and you did need to because there was very little extra help given then to anyone with a disability, which was fine most of the time but if you had problems walking it did make things difficult and it was often a case of just sitting it out indoors for a week or so, so in my case anyway, people never really saw me without my prosthesis on.

Limbs at that point probably hadn't changed much since the War, all made of metal, with leather and lots of belts and buckles, which actually, as a teenager I did want to 'cover up' and in those days I 'always wore trousers' to cover up my legs.

I think that the technology aspect of new types of prosthetics is making a big impact on things too, people are interested in the technology and how it works etc. etc., it looks contemporary and I don't think it carries the same connitations as the older style limbs which although were designed to look like 'legs', did have lots of metal, leather and belts and buckels and were heavy to manouvre.

Recently I had a revision and spent some time in a rehab hospital, and noticed how things had really changed. I noticed quite a few young people, male and female, opting for limbs that didn't have foam covers over them, they were proud of what they were wearing, and quite rightly so, things were much more relaxed. The attitude has changed completely from how it was first time round for me, hey, I even have been out and about not wearing my prosthesis, (which is quite a big thing for me) and have been amazed how peoples attitudes had improved and how much more informed the public is nowadays. I am sticking to my foam covered prosthesis at the moment, but at least I have a choice.

So don't think you are mistaken in your observations Tamara, things are really changing, I really do think its for the better and its good that people feel confident and that there is choice.

Ann

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I've noticed too and I think it's good... the amputation after all is an irrelevance, why not have a laugh with it, or take advantage of it, make the most of it.

It makes me different in a good way as far as I'm concerned, if other people have a problem with that it's just that.... THEIR problem... simple as that.

If you're confident, people soon see through the physical side and it become less important in their minds.

It's in our hands (or hand :blush: ) how people look at us.

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I think most people didn't know how to react to an amputee. Should they pity us? Don't stare, but you can't help it. How did it happen? Is it painful?

All kinds of questions go through their minds. It's only human nature to be curious. I'm human, I still look at someone in a wheelchair or on crutches or with a prosthesis. The difference is I go up to them and let them know that are just another human making the best of what they have. We can pass a joke or two and go on our way.

It takes awhile for us to get comfortable with our own new body image. I think that's one of the hardest parts of becoming an amputee. Once we are comfortable with it, we can start passing it on.

I think it's up to us to make people more comfortable around us. I don't hide my leg or try to act like I'm not an amputee. I don't mind talking about it. I even joke about it with others. I think this helps them understand that I'm not ashamed of my own body image. I also think this is why a group of amputees seem so happy when they're together. They don't have anything to hide. They don't have to worry about what others think. They welcome the questions because we aren't afraid to ask. We can all sit around and talk about the pain, the hardware and the frustration knowing that the others have been through the same situation.

Great topic.

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Tamara, what a wonderful subject to bring up! Yes, I do think that society has become much more accepting through the years to people with disabilities. Having been disabled for many years before my amputation in Feb, I have always been very aware of changing attitudes.

My main battle right now is not other’s perceptions of me; it is the perception of myself. I had been walking with crutches for 14 years before my amputation and before that, had walked with a severe limp since the age of 11. I was used to being different, to people’s stares. By the time I had my amputation, I was 42 years old and had come to a place in my life where I was completely happy with who I was and rarely ever felt self-conscious about the crutches. I was completely comfortable in my skin. I always took pride in myself to dress nice. I am very much into fashion and have always gotten many complements on my style.

After my amputation 3 months ago, I just felt completely different about my body image. I found myself feeling ugly and unattractive. I didn’t feel good about myself at all. There wasn’t much difference, except now I had an empty pant leg. For some reason, that felt like such a huge change. My body wasn’t “whole” anymore. I lost interest in how I looked and for the first two months after my surgery, I didn’t feel I could look presentable anymore. I did nothing but wear my hair up in a ponytail, no make-up and the same sweat suit! Finally, my sister told me she had enough and she was tired of seeing me that way. She was taking me to see my niece’s school play and she told that I was to put on makeup, do my hair, and put on nice clothes! When she saw me, she said I finally looked like myself again. I felt strange, but it was a first step to redeveloping a healthy self-image. I am back to work now and dressing how I used to, but I still don’t feel the same about my self-image just yet. I don’t know how things will change once I have my prosthetic. For now, I am just the “One Legged-Wonder.”

There has been one strange thing I have noticed since my amputation. I don’t get nearly as many stares now that I am an amputee. I think before, my diseased leg just hanging there uselessly confused people. They had no idea just what was wrong with me or what to make of me. I think being an amputee is something people can much better understand and accept.

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Chrissy, I can relate to your story. For me, I went through 10 years of corrective surgeries on a leg that just kept getting worse. Always in a cast, brace, splint bandage, you name it! I was growing increasingly impatient with people asking me how I got hurt and how long until I got better. When I finally had my amputation, the questions stopped. I guess my appearance missing a leg was enough to shut them up.

But yes, now I get some really interesting questions about my condition and prosthesis. People seem genuinely interested in the technology. That's a good thing!

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Hi All:

Today I am 6.5 years old as an amp. When I am out and about..........in legs or out, I very seldom ever see another amputee even though this part of my country has a lot of them. I suppose many are hidden under their clothing etc. Me........my legs are "naked"........always have been.....always will.

Way back when I would get lots of stares which I was very concious of and at the time did bother me. Nowadays I find more and more "people" are approaching me directly to comment and talk about my legs. For the most part, many of these peolpe tell me that they have NEVER SEEN a person missing both legs "walking" before.

I also think that with the results now happening from the wars in Iraq and elsewhere, that there are now many more amps out in the public who refuse to be hidden away....................and this is a good thing that is helping to recondition the public's attitude towards amputees.

ED

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I've noticed too and I think it's good... the amputation after all is an irrelevance, why not have a laugh with it, or take advantage of it, make the most of it.

It makes me different in a good way as far as I'm concerned, if other people have a problem with that it's just that.... THEIR problem... simple as that.

If you're confident, people soon see through the physical side and it become less important in their minds.

It's in our hands (or hand :blush: ) how people look at us.

I agree completely with this. My leg isn't covered up and it never will be, my leg is much cooler than anyone else walking down the street, why would I want to cover it up?

I think this acceptance has largely come from America, over there, more people stay uncovered than get it covered.

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When I had my amp and was being fitted for my first leg, I got a lot of questions from family and friends, and a lot of assurances from the "leg team." The questions focused heavily on the appearance of the prosthesis — "will it look like a real leg?" — and the assurances were similar, as in "it will look just like a natural leg." The odd thing was that I didn't really care about "the looks" of the leg... I just wanted to be able to walk again!

That said, I have to admit that my leg guy does a truly beautiful cosmesis, and I've gone ahead and kept my leg covered for four years now. It's good-looking for the office. But sometimes I think a "naked" leg might be more practical. I'm starting to go through the process of having a second leg — a simple water leg, sans cover — built for me, and I have to say that I'm looking forward to having a "choice" of sorts!

My technician and I were discussing legs a while ago and I mentioned how odd I'd found all the questions and assurances back in my newbie days. "I didnt' care if it was green with purplee polka-dots," I said. "If it let me walk, I'd be happy with it." This, I was informed, was an attitude more in line with younger amps and male amps than with the typical "old gal." But there are some really fascinating legs out there with the technology visible for all to see, and I can see claiming that as part of your "personal style."

As for arm amps, I know several who do not wear a prosthesis, mainly because there has been so little progress with artificial arms until only recently. For them, it doesn't seem to be so much about "caring about how they look" as it is about "being free to move comfortably." Perhaps some of the new computer assisted arms/hands will change that.

Personally, I view my prosthesis as a "badge of honor." It's a sign that I'm a survivor, and that does a lot to improve my self-image!

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When I got my first one about two and a half years ago (my, how time flies...) I got a skin-colored stocking of sorts to go over it, to make it look a bit more "normal".

I don't bother with that now. It was too flimsy and always tearing up, so I just do without on my walking leg.

When I run--something that I now do more days than not--there's no hiding or camouflaging a running foot. But I don't worry about it. I figure I'm out here RUNNING, and that means that I'm doing as good as any other runner and a hell of a lot better than anyone NOT running, so let 'em look .Look and be amazed, people. Check out what I can do!

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I've met people, mostly the older men in fitting rooms, who wouldn't be seen dead showing their leg off! They have a cosmetic cover and wear long trousers all the time. They will never wear shorts... god forbid they even thought about it!!! No way! I guess it's an age thing... though I can't imagine I'll be like that, I think maybe it's more about the time they come from... it was shunned to have a 'fault', a 'disability', a 'handicap'... more and more it doesn't matter... the media helps... people of all sorts are seen for what they are and who they are, not how many legs or arms they've got!

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Personally, I view my prosthesis as a "badge of honor." It's a sign that I'm a survivor, and that does a lot to improve my self-image!

Say it sister....oooh I do like that! :biggrin:

I got a foam & stocking cover with my very first leg. Nobody asked me if I wanted one. I hated it! It looked so unnatural when I sat down and it made me feel clumsy and plastic. What an eye-sore. They do make stunning cosmetic covers now, incredibly lifelike, but there's no way in my life time that I could ever afford one.

So I choose to go "naked". And I have a beautiful socket - the material was chosen by the prosthetist...he said it was "so Ally". And I love it.

I recently got a casting call for a TV ad where they wanted to use an AK amputee. I was like...YAY director!!!!! Getting the South African amps out the closet!! I found a girl to do it, and she went on the shoot day - they did about 50 takes of her walking straight and around a corner on a green screen. When the ad finally flighted, what we saw was....picture this now.......the inside of a small supermarket, a young adult male custormer browsing, this PHANTOM LEG WITH NO BODY ATTACHED TO IT creeping around the corner and scaring the be-jeezuz out of him!!! For an energy drink ad. Lawdy lawd, we laughed till we cried. So much for an educating advert for able bodied people! Too funny though! :laugh:

As OBL said, I reckon it's an age or era thing. Yip, so glad we're moving along.....

:smile:

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Personally im not too worried what people think. the way i see it is its there problem not mine.

i wear shorts out as much as i can weather thats on Bournemouth beach or through tescos, my friends often tell me ppl are giving me funny looks sometimes but it doesn't bother me, i don't notice, i live in my own little world.

But saying that down my local pub there is me a lak, an old bloke who is also lak a mate of mine who is lak but who uses crutches and a woman who is an arm amputee all turn up in one pub so people there don't think anything of it!

apart from that i never see an amputee except for the limb center.

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As OBL said, I reckon it's an age or era thing. Yip, so glad we're moving along.....

I think it goes a bit deeper than that, Ally - I think it's a personal thing.

I know there are tons of you on these amp boards that think it's great to show your prosthesis/es off ... almost like a badge of honour (and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that :biggrin: ). And, that some of you think that it's healthy to do that (which it is :smile: ). However, there are also a few of you that think there must be something wrong if you don't show it off - that is something I don't agree with.

I've grown up with mine (prostheses), in fact I would say that I've fully embraced my limb loss :wink: - I swim without prostheses (which, at times, takes a lot of courage in a public pool, I can tell you :ph34r: ) and, when my legs are playing me up I go out in my chair, without limbs :smile: ). When I was younger I didn't have a problem showing my legs off (in the 1960's they looked 'rather different' to the pretty ones they have now) as, after all, I was very proud of them. :cool: (I remember I used to have a little trick, where I could ease myself out of the socket and turn my AK around 180 degrees :rolleyes:) But, now, several decades on, I like people to know me for who I am - sometimes that means that I share information about my legs and other times I don't. Wearing cosmeses, apart from covering my very unsymmetrical legs (and believe me, they are! :wacko: ), is easier for me, as I can choose when to talk about my legs. That's important to me, as sometimes I like to share and other times I don't ... I could never be a celeb as I don't always like to be in the spotlight.

We shouldn't be judgemental about this 'to wear a cosmesis or not' thing. People should do what they feel happy with - if they feel happy and comfortable, they will naturally embrace their limb loss. :smile:

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I have only had my prosthetic leg for about 2 weeks now they asked me if i wanted the cover to make it look like a normal leg i told them no its me now if people want to look so be it , i wear shorts and really don't care if i get looks, to me i can walk again :biggrin: & thats all that counts to me i not going to hide my leg

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As OBL said, I reckon it's an age or era thing. Yip, so glad we're moving along.....

I think it goes a bit deeper than that, Ally - I think it's a personal thing.

I know there are tons of you on these amp boards that think it's great to show your prosthesis/es off ... almost like a badge of honour (and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that :biggrin: ). And, that some of you think that it's healthy to do that (which it is :smile: ). However, there are also a few of you that think there must be something wrong if you don't show it off - that is something I don't agree with.

I've grown up with mine (prostheses), in fact I would say that I've fully embraced my limb loss :wink: - I swim without prostheses (which, at times, takes a lot of courage in a public pool, I can tell you :ph34r: ) and, when my legs are playing me up I go out in my chair, without limbs :smile: ). When I was younger I didn't have a problem showing my legs off (in the 1960's they looked 'rather different' to the pretty ones they have now) as, after all, I was very proud of them. :cool: (I remember I used to have a little trick, where I could ease myself out of the socket and turn my AK around 180 degrees :rolleyes:) But, now, several decades on, I like people to know me for who I am - sometimes that means that I share information about my legs and other times I don't. Wearing cosmeses, apart from covering my very unsymmetrical legs (and believe me, they are! :wacko: ), is easier for me, as I can choose when to talk about my legs. That's important to me, as sometimes I like to share and other times I don't ... I could never be a celeb as I don't always like to be in the spotlight.

We shouldn't be judgemental about this 'to wear a cosmesis or not' thing. People should do what they feel happy with - if they feel happy and comfortable, they will naturally embrace their limb loss. :smile:

Definitely am with Lizzie on this one. Wondering if the different schools of thought are because we both have worn limbs for a long time, since we were young, as I have more or less the same take on it.

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I think either way is good. I don't mind, in fact, I like wearing shorts with my leg uncovered. But if I have on a dress or skirt, I want it covered. Go figure. I think it has something to do with my sense of femininity. Shorts are sporty - skirts and dresses are girlie. :smile:

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We shouldn't be judgemental about this 'to wear a cosmesis or not' thing. People should do what they feel happy with - if they feel happy and comfortable, they will naturally embrace their limb loss. :smile:

Who was being judgemental?? :rolleyes:

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We shouldn't be judgemental about this 'to wear a cosmesis or not' thing. People should do what they feel happy with - if they feel happy and comfortable, they will naturally embrace their limb loss. :smile:

Who was being judgemental?? :rolleyes:

Well, as I implied, it's not me. :smile:

You're an intelligent bloke, I think you can work things out for yourself. :rolleyes:

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To me its up to the person if you want to show your prosthetic limb or not . i'm a right below the knee & i know i'm so glad to get a 2nd chance in life to walk again i can care less if mine shows or not , its part of me now & people can stare or accept it you know its just like a guy who is going bald on top might wear a hat to hide it and some guys won't , & some amputees might not want to show thier prosthetic leg its all up to the person .

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To me its up to the person if you want to show your prosthetic limb or not . i'm a right below the knee & i know i'm so glad to get a 2nd chance in life to walk again i can care less if mine shows or not , its part of me now & people can stare or accept it you know its just like a guy who is going bald on top might wear a hat to hide it and some guys won't , & some amputees might not want to show thier prosthetic leg its all up to the person .

Do agree JL. Do think we have to remember that not every prosthesis is technologically 'cool' to look at, definitely some of mine have not been and the one I had prior to my revision last year had to be held on with an elastic stocking - hardly what you want to reveal to the world.

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To me its up to the person if you want to show your prosthetic limb or not . i'm a right below the knee & i know i'm so glad to get a 2nd chance in life to walk again i can care less if mine shows or not , its part of me now & people can stare or accept it you know its just like a guy who is going bald on top might wear a hat to hide it and some guys won't , & some amputees might not want to show thier prosthetic leg its all up to the person .

Do agree JL. Do think we have to remember that not every prosthesis is technologically 'cool' to look at, definitely some of mine have not been and the one I had prior to my revision last year had to be held on with an elastic stocking - hardly what you want to reveal to the world.

your right & i wasn't meaning that all are cool to look at , the one i have i have to pull a gray rubber looking elastic looking sleeve from the part my stump fits into over my thigh , the part my stump goes into is white and that sleeve is gray and i wear shorts i really i'm not caring how it looks guess its just a guy thing , i'm sorry i wasn't meaning they are all cool to look at all i just saying about me not everyone

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To put this "judgemental" thing into perspective.......

I would not hesitate to have a cosmetic cover on a 2nd leg that was (expensively) lifelike. If I couldn't have a decent cosmesis, I wouldn't bother.

It's all personal preference, as everyone has said......

:smile:

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I really think it IS up to the amp in question as to how they want their prosthesis to look. I more or less agree with Marcia: I like the look of my cosmesis for "dressy" occasions, but wouldn't mind having something "sporty" for more casual times. Whatever one chooses, that decision should be respected...by everyone, but most certainly by other amputees, who know what wearing a prosthesis entails.

I've seen "naked" legs that are literally works of art...and "covered" legs that are amazingly lifelike...and "naked" legs that are strictly utilitarian...and "covered" legs which may not look all-that-natural, but are the "best thing possible." All of those should be valid choices, depending on the person involved.

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I really think it IS up to the amp in question as to how they want their prosthesis to look. I more or less agree with Marcia: I like the look of my cosmesis for "dressy" occasions, but wouldn't mind having something "sporty" for more casual times. Whatever one chooses, that decision should be respected...by everyone, but most certainly by other amputees, who know what wearing a prosthesis entails.

I've seen "naked" legs that are literally works of art...and "covered" legs that are amazingly lifelike...and "naked" legs that are strictly utilitarian...and "covered" legs which may not look all-that-natural, but are the "best thing possible." All of those should be valid choices, depending on the person involved.

I agree 100% with you and few others it should matter only to the person involved , the guys usually wear pants so dressing up isn't so much of a problem for us guys if we dont have a natural looking leg , the ladies would prefer something more natural for the dressy occasions & casual as cheryl has mention .

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