I love the beach!

I hope everyone had a happy labor day weekend! I spent it at my favorite place on earth: our beach house in North Carolina. Every chance I get I run down there and never want to leave! In case you were wondering what makes it so great, here is a video I made over the 4th of July that I think sums it up pretty well. Normally we fish, but every once in a while we go crabbing, which is one of my favorite things to do. This is a video from one of our crabbing days. Not too bad for a 1-legged cameraman hopping around with a little GoPro! Haha

Crab Feast from Rob Gregory on Vimeo.

Reddit

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Push Yourself

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This is a self portrait I did for a fun internal project at work

This has been on my mind a lot lately since I saw a note from an amputee posted by the Amputee Coalition on Facebook. The Amputee Coalition does a pretty cool thing where they post people’s messages and allow the community of amputees to help the person out with problems they might be having, or just to give them encouragement along the way.

The particular message that struck such a chord with me was a note telling everyone that it was this person’s one year “ampuversary” as they called it, and even though they haven’t tried walking outside yet and spend most of their days in a wheelchair, at least they haven’t fallen in their first year as an amputee!

This person is my age. Everyone was congratulating them and saying how great it was that they hadn’t fallen in their first year, but I couldn’t possibly disagree more with this sentiment!!! Not falling is by no means a measure of success. It means you have taken so little risk that after one year you are still locked in a wheelchair when you could be back at work, out playing golf, seeing the world and taking advantage of the precious little time we have on this earth!

I have no idea how many times I fell in my first year. I fell a lot. The first day I decided to go out in public without my crutch I fell trying to walk on cobblestones. I probably fell at least 5 or 6 times playing golf. I fell hitting baseballs in a batting cage. I fell trying to walk on a squishy floor at the rock climbing gym. I fell really hard trying to hop from a dock onto a boat. The list goes on and on. But each time I fell I learned more about how my leg acts and got better on it. Now, every time I see a new prosthetist they immediately remark on how incredibly I’m walking on my leg being only 2.5 years out. I can tell you this: it isn’t easy, but it is worth it.

I think that’s a pretty good metaphor for life. If you’re doing it right you are going to fall and fall again, but each time you get up you are going to be better prepared and will ultimately be more successful in a time frame that others consider impossible.

No matter what you decide to do in life, push yourself. Don’t settle and don’t be afraid to fall.

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A Long Time Coming

Chicago The BeanIt’s been far too long since I’ve updated my blog. A lot has happened in the past few months, and I keep thinking about how I need to post an update, but for whatever reason just haven’t been able to find the time!

But this week I have received 3 emails from people who have mentioned my blog and I feel like that is too strong a sign to ignore, so I’m going to start trying to keep this updated more regularly from now on!

The biggest piece of news is that I have now officially moved to Chicago! I am really loving this city, but I have yet to endure a winter here, so we’ll see what I say about it in a few months! Haha.

Moving is never an easy thing to do, but I have once again been shown how lucky I am to have the family I was blessed with because I have no doubt that I couldn’t have pulled this off without them! Carrying heavy objects with a prosthesis creates a really weird, unstable feeling. Your knee buckles based on the amount of weight that is put on your toe. When you are carrying something that weighs you down, you feel like your knee is always breaking at the wrong time and you are going to fall because your weight distribution is off. The technology in these legs is incredible, but this is one instance where it really comes back to bite you! I think I only fell once, but once is enough!

I’ll put up more updates in my next post, but for now, I just wanted to get everything up to date. New city. New job. Still living the best way I know how.

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Heart wrenching, but great

This is a great video and story, but very sad as my title warns. I love the way they talk about how experiences are what matter. It’s a hard thing to explain, but I think it’s a chord that resonates with people who have seen how delicate life can be.

Zach recently passed away from osteosarcoma and this is his story.

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2013 Masters

What a great Masters this year! This year was the first year I have ever had the opportunity to go down for a practice round too, which was something I have been eagerly anticipating! Being an avid photographer, it has been slowly eating at my soul to not be able to take pictures in such a pristine setting. That was finally remedied though, and I could not have been more excited.

I loaded my mobility scooter to the gills with camera gear and strapped a GoPro video camera to the front of it, which captured what I am calling a dog’s eye view of Augusta. I still need to go back and edit the video, and will as soon as I have time, but in the meantime, here are some of the pictures I took at the Monday Practice Round!

Augusta National hole 16

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DuffnerBunker

TaylorMade

Crenshaw

Vijay

PearTree

KJ

Guan

DrivingRange

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Genium

dee075267f6bda1ce92182a465c00cd3On Monday I spent the day up at Procare (my prosthetist’s office) serving as a patient model for a new knee they were being certified on, called the Genium. Beyond just helping them get certified, I also had the opportunity to try out the new leg.

It was very cool. It made walking feel more natural than my C-Leg does and made things like walking up hill MUCH easier. My prosthetist and I are going to write a letter of justification to my insurance so hopefully they will approve it and I can upgrade to this new technology.

While I was there I started taking pictures for a photography series I am doing called “Amputee” where I am taking a series of documentary style pictures that show the various things you see living life as an amputee. Here are the shots I got the other day.

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2 Years as an Amputee

Yesterday marked the 2 year anniversary of my amputation, and the 2 year anniversary of being cancer free! While you might not celebrate the day you lost a limb, the day you successfully eliminated cancer from your body is definitely a day to think of happily. It just so happened that in order to get rid of my cancer I had to amputate my leg. Not a day goes by that I am not happy with my decision.

This picture is a picture I took in the back room at my prosthetists office. These are molds of people’s legs. Each one represents somebody overcoming the difficulties of limb loss. Mine is the one of the far right in the middle row.

Yes, life is more difficult with one leg, but that doesn’t mean it is bad by any means. Just like everything in life, I think the attitude you bring in with you goes a long way towards determining your outcome. I’m pretty much back to normal life these days. I’m working, playing sports, going out with friends on the weekends and doing a lot of photography.

Life as an amputee can be as normal as you want it to be. Nobody should let their difficulties define them. Yes there are things that you are held back from, but those aren’t the things you should focus on. Concentrate on what you can do, and go out and make the most of it! But also never stop pushing yourself. There are a lot of things that I have done since I lost my leg that I wasn’t sure I could do until I did them. Don’t mentally limit yourself more than you are actually limited. I bet you’ll be surprised at what you can do!

Today I am going up to my prosthetist and being a patient model as they train and are certified on the new Genium Bionic Prosthetic System by Otto Bock. Basically this is a new knee that allows you do to things like walk up stairs foot over foot using a gyroscope in the knee itself. It also has a number of features like a knee that locks when you are standing still, which gives you more stability and saves the battery so that it can last up to like 17 days or something. My current leg gives out after about 4 days without a charge. And yes, I have found that out for myself!

While my current leg isn’t bad by any means, this leg would be MUCH more suited for me and my lifestyle. Currently I avoid going up stairs as much as I can. I hate the way I feel walking up them with the C-Leg. You have to take a step up with your actual leg and then pull your prosthetic leg up onto that step, then take another step with your real leg and pull your prosthesis up onto the next step. It is slow, awkward and both looks and feels really weird. I hate it and avoid it at all costs.

So we’ll see what I think when I test out the Genium this afternoon, but I’m thinking we might try to justify it to insurance as a necessary step up (literally! haha) for my lifestyle and see if they will approve it. I think I’m also close to hitting my out of pocket max for insurance this year, so if I do get it approved this will probably put me over the top and all of my medical bills will be covered for the rest of the year. Never a bad thing!

So anyway, I’m off to start my day and enjoy the fact that I’m still here, still cancer free and able to live life to the fullest each and every day! I hope everyone is so lucky!

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Been too long

It’s been entirely too long since I’ve updated my blog and I have a few minutes right now, so I thought I’d stop putting it off! I’m including some shots of my wheelchair basketball team that I got at a tournament last month in the post.

I’ve been staying very busy lately. My leg is doing better than ever thanks to the help of Jacob at the new Procare Midtown office. It could still probably use a little tweaking, and I avoid going up stairs as much as humanly possible, but it is the best it has been to date, so I am definitely encouraged right now.

I’m still really enjoying wheelchair basketball. It is a lot of fun and a great way to stay in shape since I can’t run or anything yet. If any amputees out there are looking for a fun way to be active, I highly recommend checking it out. Most major cities have a wheelchair basketball team, so it isn’t hard to get involved if you are interested. Places like the Shepherd Center, where I play, even provide chairs for you, although they wont fit as well as getting one yourself. If you are interested in getting a chair, apparently there are a lot of grants and stuff that can help make the purchase more affordable.

Basically life is good right now. I’m entirely too busy and continually overbook myself, but that’s a good problem to have!

I’m going to start trying to update this more often and hope that anyone who may still read this is doing well!

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Travel Team

I just wanted to make a quick update about something that I’m pretty excited about. I was informed last Thursday that I made the travel team for wheelchair basketball! Shepherd Center has 2 different teams, one is the championship division, which I am obviously not on, and the second team is the Division III (DIII) team. The Championship Division team has about 10 people on it and everyone else is DIII.

We have about 25 people on the DIII team, and only 3 of us started this year, with the next newest guy starting 3 years ago. We are only taking 10 people when we travel for tournaments because of cost. I wasn’t holding much hope for being included, seeing as this was my first year, but the coach talked to me the other day and asked if I could make it because he wanted me on the travel squad.

Needless to say, I was pretty excited! We are going down to Augusta on Friday night and have 3 games on Saturday. Should be an interesting way to start out my wheelchair basketball career, seeing as I’ve never played a single game, let alone three in one day!

I’m really happy I started doing this. It has been incredible getting out and being active again. I’ve missed the feeling of this type of competition and am happy to finally have it back in my life!

Wish me luck!

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Two Years Out

It’s hard to believe that today marks the two year anniversary of the day I was diagnosed with cancer. Driving home tonight I was kind of bowled over emotionally by it… as much as I am ever “bowled over emotionally” anyway. Looking back, it was such a bigger day than I thought it was at the time. I guess it just kind of struck a chord thinking about how precious our lives are.

I remember thinking that this wasn’t that big of a deal. Everyone freaked out but I was going to be fine. And I am fine. My life is entirely different, but not really. Honestly, this experience has made me cherish each day more than before. I truly do find myself stopping doing things that are wasting my time. I find myself in situations where I genuinely think “this is wasting the precious few moments I have on this earth and I’m not going to do that anymore.”

Each day we have is a gift, and it is up to us to make sure that we are using our time in the best possible way. I would challenge anyone who reads this to take a serious look at your life and what you do on a daily basis. Are there things that you are worrying about or fighting about that aren’t worth your time? If there are, stop! Are there things you do that don’t add any enjoyment to your life, but absorb hours of your time each week? Obviously we all have to do things that we don’t enjoy, but there are some things that we just do out of habit. Life is entirely too short to allow ourselves to be unhappy. Do whatever it is that you need to do to start living life to it’s fullest.

God has graced me with the opportunity to take advantage of the days I have left and I intend to do just that. I would encourage you to do the same!

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Life as an amputee

I wear a prosthesis every day. I don’t think of it as weird. It is just my life now. Honestly I don’t feel different or think of myself differently than I did before my amputation. The fact that I wear shorts with my metal leg exposed every single day is probably the greatest testament I could give to that fact. But not being any different means that every once in a while I’ll see a picture of me in my prosthesis and say to myself, “Man… that is so weird!”

Today is one of those days. It was an incredible day. I played golf with my dad and Jack and while none of us played particularly well, we all had a great time. We also took several pictures together. I was just looking at one of our pictures and had one of those “Man, that is weird” moments. Here is the picture:

My dad asked me the other day, “Do you notice people looking at your leg?” The answer is yes. Every 20 seconds. Everywhere I go. Every step I take. I see every eye cut, every glance away from my face shooting down my body to my prosthesis. Of course. How could you not? The point is, I don’t care. If I cared I’d wear pants. You wouldn’t be able to tell. But not caring if people know you are wearing a prosthesis doesn’t mean you don’t notice and it doesn’t mean you won’t see a picture and go “Man, that is so weird!”

Because I am the one wearing it, I don’t see it. I honestly don’t know how weird it looks to others, but if I can see a picture and it makes me stop and go “whoa!” then that is probably a 50th of what the average person I run into every day thinks when this unexpectedly enters their vision. No wonder kids stare so intently!

It’s interesting how this doesn’t feel like it has changed my personality, yet it has changed so much. I don’t hold myself to any lesser standards though. My brother and I both played horribly today. He beat me by a stroke. Our dad beat us both by 10 strokes. I am going to be going out to the range this week because I need to get used to hitting in my new socket and next time out, metal leg or no metal leg, I am going to hold myself to an equal standard and do everything in my power to beat them both outright. Handicap is a mindset. Although that mentality still doesn’t make walking up hills any easier! Haha.

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Amicalola Falls

This past Saturday I woke up at 5:30am and drove up to Amicalola Falls in Dawsonville, Georgia. Amicalola means “tumbling waters” in the Cherokee language. It is the largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River, at 729 feet.

It was an absolutely gorgeous morning and was very nice being out there before the crowds moved in. So peaceful and beautiful. They have some paths that are made of recycled tires which made it a pretty easy hike to the foot of the falls, which was very convenient and a welcome change from my hike through the woods at Stone Mountain last week. Here are some pictures I got while I was up there!

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Photography

I have been an avid amateur photographer ever since I took my first photography class back in 1996. Back then I used an old canon camera my dad had, rolled and developed my own film and spent entirely too much time messing around in the dark room. I was hooked right from the start. I love how photography makes you take a step back and look at the world a little bit differently.

I recently upgraded all of my photography equipment and am taking full advantage of being back on my prosthesis by using it every chance I get! It has been a lot of fun learning a new camera and having an excuse to go out and shoot. Not to mention all the exercise I am getting from getting up early and going and walking through parks!

I am posting my favorite shots that I have gotten over the past 2 weeks here. I hope you like them!

Piedmont Park Sunrise

Park bench

Park Drive Bridge

Early Morning Reflections

Motorcycle Detail

Moon

Atlanta

Park Pond

Hands

Legs

Trestle Bridge

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Hickory Pig

The Hickory Pig restaurant in Gainesville GA serves amazing bbq.

Today, after going to the prosthetist and having some tweaks made to my prosthesis, I went by a BBQ place called the Hickory Pig for lunch. The Hickory Pig is in Gainesville, GA and is an incredible place. It is a dive restaurant that serves the juciest, possibly most delicious, pulled pork sandwiches I have ever had. I read about it after I left and saw that people rave about their hickory burgers too.

I was the only one in the restaurant and was served by “Lil Bit” a waitress who has worked there for the past 8 years. We had a good talk as I inhaled the amazing sandwich and then she showed me around the small operation they are running. She took me out back and showed me the smoker, loaded up with meat being infused with the hickory smoke that is their signature, as you could have guessed by the name of the restaurant. Phil the owner was out back and was a very nice guy as well. We had a quick chat before I took a few pictures and headed back into town.

If you are ever in the neighborhood, you should definitely make it a point to swing by. You won’t be disappointed that you did! Their address is:

The Hickory Pig
3605 Thompson Bridge Rd
Gainesville, GA 30605
(across the street from Kroger)

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Wheelchair Basketball Begins!

Shepherd Stealers first wheelchair basketball practice of the 2012 seasonTonight was my first wheelchair basketball practice. It was mainly administrative, but after we were done with the boring stuff I took part in a 5v5 game. I was the only new guy out there (I think the next newest guy had been playing for 3 years) and unfortunately it really showed! Haha. I had a few good plays including a couple of steals and a rebound that I put back up and made, but those were the lone bright spots in a lot of awkward attempts to not block my own players from getting in the right position or driving for the hoop!

I am definitely going to have to put in a lot of work to get better at this, but it was a whole lot of fun being out there and really being active for the first time since I had my amputation. I’m looking forward to a great season!

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The reason I started this blog

Today I received an incredibly nice note from a lady that is on a synovial sarcoma forum I have been on since I was diagnosed with cancer back in 2010. I have my blog linked there. The reason I started this blog was to be a resource for other people who are going through similar circumstances with cancer and amputation. I talk with a lot of people who have just been diagnosed with sarcoma and email me because of my blog… probably around 3 each month. I always feel fortunate that I can help people going through difficult circumstances and love to hear that I have been able to help in some small way.

Now that I am finally back on my prosthesis I am going to start trying to find ways to help people dealing with amputation and cancer. These things are definitely life changing experiences, but they don’t mean that you have to stop living!

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Wrightsville

Just a quick update because this was so cool. Today after fishing, we ended up stumbling into a pod of dolphins at the Masonboro inlet here at Wrightsville Beach, NC. We followed them around the inlet for about an hour. It was an incredible experience! Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a shot of them jumping, but there were a few jumps that looked like the stuff you see at Sea World! It was absolutely incredible. Here are a few of the shots I was able to get!

 

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Google Doodle Hurdles

googledoodle gooogle doodle hurdlesThis Google Doodle Hurdles game has been a huge hit on the internet today and has been entirely too addicting to me! My best time is 10.0 (as you can see in the screen shot), but a girl I work with was able to break the 10 second mark, putting her best time at 9.9 seconds! Give it a shot and you’ll see just how hard that is. Have fun!!!

http://www.google.com/doodles/hurdles-2012

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The Olympics

amputee olympics sports olympic ringsI love the Olympics. You spend 2 weeks watching all of the sports that you would normally never watch and cheer your country on to victory. It is such a cool global event and always brings out the best in the athletes who compete. The highs and lows you see at the Olympics are truly inspiring and incredible to watch.

Two of my favorite Olympic moments occurred in the 90′s. One was Kerri Strug in ’96 and the other was Derek Redmond in ’92. Both of these athletes overcame injury to finish their event and as a result inspired millions of people around the world. If you haven’t seen either of these, I’ve attached the videos of each below. This is what the Olympics are all about!

If you have any other favorite Olympic moments, please post them in the comments. I’d love to see them!

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Blind Leading the Blind

The other day I was stopped at a stop light. As I sat in my car I watched a blind man walk across the street in front of me. He was by himself and using a cane to guide his way. He did incredibly well crossing the street, but when he got to the other side he started walking into a parking lot. I watched as he walked into the lot, but suddenly, about five feet in, he stopped. He turned around and started walking back the way he came. Feeling around with his cane until he felt the curb, he found his way back onto the sidewalk and then continued on the right path. I can’t explain the feeling of accomplishment that came over me watching this man find his way.

This simple occurrence struck me as a perfect metaphor for life. Sometimes we wander off course, but it’s up to us to find our way back. The further we veer off course, the harder it is to return, but it’s never impossible. We just have to constantly monitor our own lives in order to stay on the right path.

Matthew 7:14
Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

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