The author is surrounded by people.
What will the end of next week look like for you? I don't know how to answer that question because my calendar is open in front of me. My best friend and I will be watching the movie "House of Gucci" on Tuesday night. I will be looking at my ceiling on Wednesday. I will have my left arm cut off on Thursday.
I knew that my Thursday plans could keep me occupied for a while, so I didn't want to schedule anything after that. I know the truth might be hard to swallow for others.
Although I am certain amputating my arm is the right choice for me, I have to assure people that I didn't just wake up one morning with a sudden desire to chop off a limb. My left arm was permanently paralyzed from the elbow to the fingertips following a Vespa crash in 2013 and I have had to change how I live my life in every way imaginable.
I had to relearn how to use one arm. When someone asks what it was like to tie their shoes, I ask them to recall what it was like. I say, "Now imagine learning how to tie them again with one hand." I ask them to imagine re learning all of the seemingly simple tasks they do on a daily basis. They start to get it.
Lewis Carroll said, "I have believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." I wouldn't have believed them if they had told me I would one day learn to do everything with one arm. I believe six impossible things before breakfast every day, even though I only have one functional arm.
Try slicing a bagel with one hand. It is impossible until you discover the practicality of a tea towel and its use as a gripping aid to hold that bagel with your knees. It is possible to slice through the tea towel and my grandmother was horrified. The sacrifice is worth it.
I made a wish jar out of a box of mac and cheese on New Year's Day 2020. I am more practical than mystical, and I would be willing to become an amputee. Sometimes, desperate times call for desperate measures. New Year's Day was the perfect day to start a new resolution. I put my secret wish inside the jar with the cotton balls I had filled it with.
I want a new left arm.
The author is holding a wall with one arm while warming up. The photo is courtesy of Chloé Toscano.
I was referring to the fact that every second spent with my current left arm feels unbearable. I reasoned that having no left arm was as close to new as I could hope for.
I kept my unhappiness quiet because my wish never came true. I temporarily made peace with the inefficiency of my current left arm and my wish jar, since, like everything else, most wishes and surgeries were put on hold. I wanted this surgery to happen. My wish began to slowly unfold as 2021.
I thought amputation of my arm would be very punishing when I thought about it. The most difficult part of this process has been coming up with a way to tell everyone.
I thought about not telling anyone. It is my life and my body. My mother pointed out that pretending nothing happened might not be the way to go, as reemerging with one less arm and pretending nothing happened might not be the way to go. If possible, I want fewer awkward interactions. I told a few people who agreed to keep my plans under wraps.
I have already received some responses that have shown me that people don't know how to take the news. I was hoping that the person told me that I would be beautiful no matter how many arms I had. Several others have apologized, but I am not. A friend tried to argue with me about whether or not I should keep my elbow. I have gotten many questions about my tattoo, but two of the most frequent were "Will it hurt?" and "But what about your tattoo?"
I am pretty sure that when you remove a part of the body, there is some pain involved, and my tattoo will be removed along with the arm that it is on. I have a lot of body parts that I can get tattooed in the future.
I didn't have a specific reaction I was looking for, but I knew that none of the ones I got were what I wanted to hear about my body and identity. There is no reason for me to be sad or sorry when I prefer this method of gaining better function.
The author is on Halloween.
After telling a small group of people about my decision, I blurted out my news to a complete stranger during a meeting. I had been hoping for this support but didn't know it was there.
She had no preconceived notions about who I might have been with two functioning arms and a tattoo, since I had met her for the first time. She assured me that it would all be ok, even though I was a regular person who wanted to cut off her arm. She reminds me that it will be great to get rid of that dead weight, as my surgery date looms, and I begin to grow slightly anxious. Scary? Yes. But the right choice? Yes.
My new friend refers to my situation as having a bad case of dead arm and treats my upcoming amputation with the utmost normalcy. Her statement is in line with my sense of humor, and it is validation beyond anything anyone else has told me. The truth is that I look normal despite my impairment, and that calling my left arm what it is makes me feel understood. It is a dead arm that hangs at my side, always cold and blue, like a piece of tinsel draped over the end of a Christmas tree branch. It is time for it to go.
To those who ask, "How can I support you?" This is something to celebrate, not mourn. I want people to know that we are closer to creating a lightsaber arm than we are to finding a way to get my limb to function again. I am ready to pave the way for my future, and if I eliminate what I already feel to be as good as gone will allow me to wear a prosthesis when I want, and hold a cup of ice cream in one hand and a spoon in the other.
If that also means not always wearing a prosthesis and just feeling freed from the heavy weight of a lifeless arm, I am very much all in for that, too. I can start applying my wishes to all of the things I want to achieve in my life on Thursday, even though it is a little bit scary.
A writer and a paralympian, Chloé Toscano focuses on disability advocacy and awareness. Her work has appeared in a number of magazines. You can follow her on social media.
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The article was originally on HuffPost.
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