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Column: The little things we take for granted are big

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Editor’s note: News-Sun editor Todd Bailey was diagnosed with “aggressive Sarcoma” in his lower left leg earlier this year. After chemotherapy and radiation treatments it was determined having the leg amputated two inches above the knee on Oct. 12 was the best course of action. Todd wrote what can be considered “part one” of this column which was published in the Nov. 4 edition of the News-Sun.

Do you know how taxing it is to stand on one leg while brushing your teeth?

Do you know how easy it is to lose your balance while putting on a pullover shirt or jacket while standing on that one leg?

It’s these little adjustments in my everyday life I am getting use to.

There are answers to these new ways a life. Like getting a chair in my bathroom or sitting my butt down on the bed while I put on that pullover.

It’s two things I chalk up on the “things we take advantage of” list I have growing in my head.

What other items are on this list?

When you come to the end of a long day and you’re ready to go to bed, it’s damn hard to pick yourself up out of that Lay-Z-Boy with one leg. Your leg has been working overtime all day and it’s tired too! Now, after a couple hours of rest, it’s like a grumpy kid you have to wake up to get ready for school. Sometimes I think the leg needs a snooze button.

Laundry is another weekly chore I am trying to master. So I got it down to putting my separated clothes (you know, colors, whites and towels), into a single laundry bag that I’ve used when traveling. I can hold the bag in one hand, while also holding onto my walker and slowly (as if I can go any slower) make my way to the washing machine.

Before the untimely demise of my left leg, I would do what most ordinary people do, carry my laundry basket with two arms, walk to my washer and dryer, drop it down and separate the clothes there.

But with one leg, carrying a large basket while working a walker is impossible. I have explored the possible usage of a wheeled apparatus that I could attach to myself and pull like a truck and trailer. However, if my load of whites is too large, I may need a commercial driver’s license.

Until this past Monday, I have always had someone there to help me with my “process.” When I was in Texas, my cousin Janet and her husband Dan were there to help me with the small things. Since I’ve been back, my mom has been with me. However those small things that I had to learn to conquer dwindled. When I got home, there were new challenges to conquer.

In the beginning it was learning how to fill up my glass with water from the refrigerator before we eat. Then it was learning how to make my own bed. Then it was learning how to handle my own laundry. Of course at Janet’s, her home was large enough for me to maneuver through with my wheelchair. I don’t have such luck at my place in Hobbs. I can’t fit my wheelchair down my tiny hallway.

A hurdle I’ve learned to overcome now that I am home is getting my mail. Way back when I first got my walker, my cousin Joe gave me one of those fabric tool belts used by employees at Home Depot or Lowe’s. Joe owns his own construction company in Oklahoma City, so he somehow has plenty of these.

He gave me one of these belts, which I tied onto my walker. The belt has three pockets, the smallest of which I use to store a plastic grocery store bag. Said bag is then used to pick up all the mail I receive. Which lately consists of kind letters and cards from friends and family, my Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly magazines, medical bills and fortunately for the last time, all those damn political advertisements. Geez.

Here’s another everyday chore I’ve learned to overcome, making a meal and taking it to my eating place, which is in front of my television in the living room. Luckily there is an indoor window between my kitchen and living room that has a sturdy enough shelving for me to place my food upon. I then make my way from the kitchen to my resting place and grab my food to place on my TV tray.

Yes, I have a dining room table, but I’m a guy and it’s not in front of my television. Hello? How can I watch Monday Night Football when the view from my dining room table to my TV isn’t that great? Even if it is a 58-inch TV!

Now, as for the quality of my “meals” that I “cook?” Eh, we won’t go there except to simply to say it involves bread, mustard, sliced turkey and/or ham and sliced cheese. With some steamed veggies, Fritos and a can of Coke Zero. Hey! Don’t judge.

What are some things that I have yet to master you may ask? How about unloading the vehicle after a grocery store visit?

Now please understand that everything I have mentioned up to this point is done at one-fourth the speed that it was previously done when I had two working legs.

I figured I could grab a plastic bag or two, use the bags’ plastic handles and put my hands through them. Then I grab the walker’s handles and have the bags hang off my wrists. Kind of like when I use the bags for my mail.

Of course, this sounds like it could take some time so I’d have to strategize. Of course the ice cream and any other dairy products would go first. Then come the meats and other perishables. Bread and more Fritos would probably make the last trips.

But what about a 12-pack of Coke Zero or that 48-roll package of toilet paper? No, I didn’t make the mad rush to the store before the last state lockdown to acquire my four packages of 48-roll toilet paper. And for those of you who did, why?

That’s where my army of support comes in. News-Sun publisher Daniel Russell and I had this discussion at lunch recently and he looked at me like I was an idiot.

“Monica (Daniel’s wife) or I can help you get your groceries,” he said. “Even if we aren’t there, leave the non-perishables in your truck and we’ll get it later.”

OK, sounds good in theory. We’ll have to test that out.

Either way I am still learning my new life with one leg. Is it challenging? Yes. Is it frustrating? Most definitely. Is it humbling? To say the least. But it’s my new life and I’m doing my best to embrace it.

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