Capable, compassionate and caring for others, is how Lena describes herself. However, I have learned something even greater about Lena; this extraordinary person can also practice how to keep from getting exhausted by saying “no” and not being shy about asking for help when she needs it! Recently retired, Lena is changing her life. She is making time for herself to be creative (as a writer) and adventurous (traveling to exotic places) and bold (conducting her first gym class), all-the-while knowing when she has had enough and can say “no” without guilt. This is especially hard to practice for a person who is as capable as Lena.
Prior to her amputation, Lena learned about SideStix, with the goal of maintaining her active lifestyle. She contacted the Swedish pro-golf player, Caroline Larsson, who lost her leg to cancer several years ago. Caroline plays golf using her SideStix and reassured Lena that she could claim back a great deal of her life – post amputation, including her much-loved game of golf.
By using tools such as SideStix, Lena is constantly pushing the boundaries of what she can do post-amputation. But equally importantly, she is learning how to ‘pace’ herself, to conserve energy, and ask for help when needed. In this way she prevents herself from ‘over-compensating’ and retains energy to be more creative and playful.
Lena shared an inspirational quote with us, in the interview below, which reminds her, and us, that doing less is more. There can be no better way to support others and foster self-compassion than knowing your limits and re-energizing in the scared space you create. I know you’ll enjoy taking a trip to Sweden and reading Lena’s blog.
Lena, what do you think you do best in your life?
Lena: Oh, yeah, that’s a tough question, actually. I’m a very caring person. I take care of everyone around me. I like the people around me to be comfortable and I like to support them.
I have always worked in administration. Maybe that’s why I like to organize. I used to say I’m analytical. An ‘analytical organizer’. I’ve always been taking care of a lot of things at the same time. In Sweden we say, we have a lot of things in the air at the same time. Juggling tasks. When you get older it’s not as easy as it was when you were young, of course. So it gets more and more difficult to have everything in the air and to be supportive.
They say in the family I’m a fighter. You always want to do things that require you to challenge yourself.
How did you come across SideStix?
Lena: Actually, I found SideStix through a friend who’s a golfer. Caroline Larsson, she is a professional golfer. I got in contact with her two weeks before the amputation, or three weeks before, and we had lunch together. She was fantastic to me and we had a fantastic time talking. She told me about SideStix and I thought, “Well, if I’m an amputee I have to have the best things I can.” And what I really wanted to have was the snowshoe. I haven’t tried the snowshoe yet, because we don’t have so much snow down here where I live. It’s not very common but as soon as possible I will try them. And I have tried the sandshoes and they are very good.
Defy Convention. You said you’re a fighter, does that mean you’re someone who likes to challenge expectations?
Lena: The first thing I wanted to do after the amputation was to be on the golf course again. Therefore Caroline Larsson was one of my ambassadors. I really wanted to be out there again. And the same thing with sailing. I like to go out on the boat and it was a challenge to come back to our island where we live, because it’s a really tough way to get here. We don’t have any cars and no bicycles or anything. You have to walk to the house. So it’s not that easy to live here, actually.
Sounds like you’ve reclaimed a lot of your life back.
Lena: Yeah, I hope yes. Of course, you know how it is. Some days are terrible and some days are good. There is a quote that describes how I think: You can do anything you want, and although sometimes you want to do more than you can, you don’t always have to do everything – just because you can!
I think, it’s very important for relatives and friends to know because if you make your way and you show them that you’re tough and you fight all the time, they think you can do anything. That’s not the way. I mean, sometimes you don’t want to do what you can do. It’s important for friends and relatives to know, actually.
I think the hardest thing is, as you’re learning, you have to teach others what you can do and what you’re not able to exhaust yourself doing, even if you can do it… You have bad days and you have good days.
What is your passion in life, and can you describe a little bit about that?
Lena: Well, my passion is, except from golf, because that’s one of my passions… Would be writing, actually. I like writing. I have written a lot for my daughters — until now it’s for my daughters but maybe it will come out some someday. So that’s one of my passions.
I also like to walk in the forest and pick chanterelles.
What else… I have never tried skiing with my prosthetic. But I would really like to try that again. Because to be up in the north of Sweden, in the mountains and out on the fell, where it’s almost no people, and to see the reindeers, it’s so beautiful in the wintertime. I really miss that and I would love to be back there and to see it again.
And all my girls, of course.
And we are very fortunate to have this place here in Summer Island. We bought it twenty-eight years ago, and it was a house that had burned down. My husband rebuilt the house here.
And I am very curious about other cultures and so is my husband. We love go travel a lot and love to speak with other people and try to learn other languages and so on. Last year, just directly after I stopped working we went to Italy for two weeks. And then I took a language course in Italian.
And then when we came home for three weeks and we went to Portugal after that, I took a course in Portuguese.
What’s your favorite thing about SideStix?
Lena: The rotating foot I think is super, because as I told you, I can not be without them on the cliffs out in the archipelago and also in the indoor swimming area. They are much more reliable than the other pair of crutches I had, because they slipped. Even when I walk very slowly I’m nervous every time I walk around the pools. But with the rotating foot I feel much safer as they keep me from slipping on the floor. That is one of the best things about SideStix, but also the shock absorber helps a lot too and relieves strain in my shoulders.
How would you describe a perfect day?
Lena: Oh, a perfect thing would be when I have slept the whole night. I come up in the morning and I have my SideStix to get up in the morning, because I don’t put on my leg immediately, and I make a cup of tea, of course, and have a sandwich. And, if I can sit on the stairs here on the island, and see the sunrise. Hear all the birds… That’s a fantastic start of a day.
In the summertime, I would say it should be to prepare coffee and a good meal to bring with us out on the islands. We would sunbathe and jump into the water. That’s a perfect day. And maybe some fishing on the way back and have some fresh fish to take with us home. Make it here, and we could sit on the terrace, and look at the sunset.
Oh and in the autumn – I love the autumn because well, actually I retired last September so I don’t work anymore. Before that, I used to think that autumn was the one of the best periods because it’s very calm and you start to come into routines again – we would go out through the forest, and look at all the colors and pick mushrooms, or the chanterelles. Now every season is fantastic, actually.
What are some of the ways that you stay motivated?
Lena: First of all, of course, my family. And the weather. And friends, my social life.
I think, even if I stopped working in September, I would find something to do because it’s a little bit empty not working. I work as a volunteer with children, and we support them to read and write. It’s very important, to spend time with the children.
What message would you give to another crutch user?
Lena: In Sweden, they put all the people in wheelchairs… I don’t know why they do that, maybe because they don’t want them to fall. But I think that it’s much more free to have crutches, than to be in a wheelchair. I’m not very fond of the wheelchair, and I don’t know the English word for it, but I feel as though I’m disappearing and reduced. So I don’t like the wheelchair.
And, I think if you’re strong, or if you’re not strong, you can always get stronger, and you can use your crutches. And it’s much easier. You would be, what you say, mobile. And you’re not stuck if the elevator can’t work, you’re not stuck up there with your wheelchair and can’t get out. I mean, we can hear about that for lots of old people, that they can’t get out because they have the wheelchair, not crutches.
Of course, maybe it’s not that easy for an old person, if you become an amputee when you’re seventy-five/eighty years old and you’re not used to using your arms and you don’t have the strength. Maybe it’s not that easy. But if you’re younger, I think, you should use crutches.
Do you have any other adventures or challenges coming up?
Lena: I have another project. I had it for one year and it’s not finished yet, and that is I would like to do the stand-up paddle boarding. On one leg.
But I I’m not there yet. My husband, he never says that you can’t do that, or stop doing that. Never. He always supports me. But in this case, he say’s that that is not possible. And I think it is possible, so I will try. I have tried once and I fell, but I will try again.