“I am proud of how far I’ve come. If I woke up tomorrow and I had two legs, I would be devastated. I think my life is better with one leg.” – Sarah Gillies
This wasn’t always Sarah Gillies’ perspective on being an amputee, but through her experience as an athlete she began to see her disability in a new light. Nicole Naimer shares Sarah’s story in an article for The Good Men Project.
Sarah was born with a condition known as fibular hemimelia, resulting in a missing fibula bone and short, bent tibia. Her parents had a difficult decision to make, and rather than having their daughter undergo extensive leg lengthening procedures they elected amputation as the better choice for mobility. Sarah became an amputee at 7 months old and began learning to walk with her prosthetic. Through the years, she dealt with some physical challenges as she outgrew her leg, but the mental challenges proved to be longer-lasting as she struggled to accept her differences.
“I didn’t like it when people looked at my prosthetic or asked questions,” Sarah said. “It was a reminder that I was different, and all I wanted was to blend in.”
It wasn’t until her parents took her to the Paralympics in Vancouver when she was 8 years old that Sarah saw others who looked like her. They watched para-alpine skiing and afterwards Sarah decided she wanted to try it for herself. “I met other para-athletes who were proud of their disabilities, which seemed so foreign to me,” Sarah shared. “My eyes were opened to the possibility that I could share my disability openly and proudly.” From that moment on she noticed a shift in her perspective as her self-confidence began to grow.
Sarah even went on to compete against able-bodied ski racers since there was not a lot of para-ski racing in her area. From a young age Sarah always remembers trying to keep her disability hidden, but for the first time she was learning to love herself as an amputee. “I take pride in the things that being an amputee has allowed me to do – travel the world on the national para-ski racing team and public speaking,” she remarked. Sarah’s story is just one example that often a change in mindset is key to truly enjoying your life despite circumstances outside of your control.