MarkAllenCam's Disability Interviews

Subject: Kevin
Age: 52
Occupation: Teacher
Disability: Lost his left leg to cancer at age 17

I understand you lost your leg to cancer at 17. Which came first? The cancer diagnosis or the news that your leg would need to be amputated?
The cancer diagnosis came first.

Where exactly was the amputation made?
At the hip joint because the bone tumor was above my knee and was spreading up my thigh and would have spread into my back.

When they amputate part of a leg, do they actually remove or "unhook" the entire section of bone contained in that section of the leg, and then cut and sew up the rest. Or do they literally just cut a clean line right straight through the leg and bone?
I do not know. I did not ask how the operation was done.

What were the things going through your mind in the days leading up to the amputation?
How it would affect my parents, two brothers and three sisters. How it would change my life and my plans to become a teacher. Why God was allowing this to happen to me. What financial burdens my parents would face because of my operation and rehabilitation. Would I ever be able to walk again on an artificial leg.

When you were alone, before the operation, did you ever "say good bye" to the leg? Like really look at it and study it, the toes and everything, knowing you would never see it again?
Yes, in fact I did. I also remember taking my last walk down the hospital hallway and how dramatic it was for me.

When you woke up after the amputation operation, what was the first thing you did?
Reach down to see if the leg had been amputated because it felt like it was still there.

What were the second, third and fourth things you did?
I cried real hard. I asked God why He had allowed this to happen to me and to give me back my leg through a miracle. I asked the nurses to let me see my parents. I prayed to God that He would cure me of any cancer that maybe elsewhere in my body (five years later I had lung surgery to remove a cancerous cell from my leg tumor that had lodged in the tip of one of my lungs).

What exactly does it look like at the amputation point? Is it one smooth mound or is there any kind of scar?
Smooth, puffed with a long scar.

If I was to feel around on the part of your leg that was amputated, what would it feel like?
Puffed, soft skin.

What does it feel like when you press against the amputation point? Are there any weird nerve endings that make it feel strange? Like that feeling you get when you bang your elbow?
Yes, it feels like when you bang your elbow.

I have heard of the "ghost limb" phenomenon with people who have had limbs removed, feeling it itch or whatever when its not there. Does this happen to you? Does this wear off over time?
Yes, I experience the "ghost limb" phenomenon. It feels like the leg is still there. It feels like I have laid too long on it and cut off the circulation. It tingles and is painful to a certain degree. I have learned to live with the pain. However, from time to time, I suffer from nerve spasms that are very painful and have to take pain killer pills. Sometimes the pain feels like it is in my missing toes, sometimes the heel and sometimes the leg bone. The "ghost limb" phenomenon has not worn off over time. It is still as strong as it was when the amputation took place.

Do you ever wonder what happened to the leg?
I was told it was cremated.

Do you ever dream about the leg?

Do you ever have any dreams where you have both legs?
Yes. From time to time I dream that my leg was not amputated and I am running and walking on both legs.

Were you ever teased about having one leg?
I have been made fun of by students before. I usually respond by saying the same thing could happen to them one day and it would not be so funny to them then.

How does driving a car work for you?
I am "lucky" that it was my left leg that was amputated. It is easy for me to drive a car. I do have to have automatic transmission in the car or truck I drive.

Can you ride a bike with your artificial leg?
No. If my amputation had not been above the knee, I could ride a bike.

Have you ever tried to roller blade with your artificial leg? Is this possible?
I have not tried, but I probably could not.

How about exercise? Do you play any sports?
I walk a lot on crutches without the artificial leg at home and do a lot of yard work. I grow a lot of flowers. I do a lot of hoeing, planting and weeding which gives me a lot of exercise. I do not play any sports. I was not interested in playing sports before my amputation.

Can you balance all the way standing on your one leg?

Can you stand all the way up from a sitting-on-the-floor position without your artificial leg, crutches or using your arms? And can you sit all the way back down on the floor just using your one leg.
I have to use my arms to help push me up or to ease me down. It takes very little effort though.

Do you dance at nightclubs? Do you like to?
I have never had any interest in dancing. I do not go to nightclubs.

Is it hard to sit on a toilet? Is there anything strange about going to the bathroom since one of your legs is amputated at the hip joint?
Yes. I have to use my left hand on the toilet seat to keep my left side from drooping into the toilet bowl.

Have you ever gotten a massage?
No, but I have always wanted to get one but never have gotten around to getting one.

Did you ever go through a phase in your life where you were afraid of being touched or looked at naked, because of your missing leg?
Yes, but I have gotten over it now and it doesn't bother me anymore (no, I am not prepared to go streaking in public!)

I imagine going through puberty, having cancer, being gay and losing a limb in your teenage years probably was a very bumpy ride. Any thoughts on this?
It was a rough time in my life. I had convinced myself that God was punishing me for being gay. Thank goodness I no longer feel that God is punishing me. I also went through the phase of wanting to get married and raise a family and push my gayness into the background.

Did you ever think you were going to die while battling cancer?
No. I always had enough faith in God, that he would spare my life. I did come close to dying a couple of days after my amputation surgery and my whole family was called in. My mother never told me about this until several years later.

Do you come from a religious background?
Yes. I am a Southern Baptist by birth. I have a strong belief and faith in God. I attend a small rural baptist church whose members are mostly kin to me. However, I do not hold all the beliefs of the Southern Baptist. I certainly do not support the Southern Baptist Convention stand on homosexuality. I feel God created me as a gay person and I know he has a good reason for doing so.

Did your parents or guardians push you to do things after your leg was amputated and you were healed and recovered, or were they protective of you?
They were over- protective of me.  I am the one who pushed myself to overcome my disability and do most anything I wish to do.

Do you consider yourself a self-motivator?

Is there anything you would want to tell a teenager who has just lost a limb, based on your life experience?
Immediately accept what has happened and continue your education and face the world head-on. Do not let your disability stop you from living a normal life.

How does the artificial leg attach to your real leg? How does it stay on?
I have no stump so I wear a saddle around my waist that attaches my artificial leg to my body. The saddle is uncomfortable but I have gotten use to it.

Can you get the artificial leg wet?
Yes.  All moving parts are stainless steel.

Do you prefer to wear long pants or shorts? Do either interfere with the artificial leg?
Neither interfere with the artificial leg. I prefer to wear long pants. They seem to help when walking.

Has the artificial leg ever come off accidentally in public?
No, with my type of artificial leg it is impossible to happen.

How did having only one leg effect development of other muscles in your body? Was there any instance where things developed un-evenly?
The muscles in my right leg doubled in size. My stomach and back muscles became very strong.

Have you ever had a really bad day or whatever and come home and taken your artificial leg off and thrown it across the room in anger and shouted "I hate this stupid leg! I hate it!!! I hate the world! I hate having only one leg! I hate it! Aaaaaagggghhh!!!" and burst into tears? Have you ever had a cathartic moment like that?
Yes, on several occasions, but life goes on!

Is that scene in the movie "My Left Foot" where Daniel Day Lewis has the dream where he is breaking free of all his leg braces and running in slow motion with an ecstatic look on his face a powerful scene for you?
Yes. I look forward to heaven where I will be free to run again. Running is the thing I miss the most. I tell everyone I have to be tough because I cannot run away from danger. I have a request that on my tombstone be written "Running up and down the streets of gold!"

Have you ever reached a point in your life where maybe things were not going well at all and maybe you were bummed out and you blamed it all on losing your leg to cancer at 17?
Yes, in fact I tried to kill myself while in college when I had those feelings. Fortunately a friend of mine rushed me to the hospital and they made me drink warm water so I would vomit up the overdose of pills I had taken. To this day the smell of warm water makes me sick at my stomach.

When did you realize you were gay?
I noticed about the 5th grade I was attracted to pictures of shirtless Indians in books, magazines and on TV. After reaching puberty, I took an interest in watching guys at PE and became attracted to their hairy armpits. Thus was born my armpit fetish and my full realization I was gay.

Have you ever used the fact that you only have one leg as a part of a lie or excuse to get out of something?
Yes, I am guilty of that sometimes, I am ashamed to admit.

Have you ever been in an argument or something with someone who didn't know you had one leg, then when they saw you did, they suddenly "eased up" and were a little nicer to you?
Yes, on several times.

If people stare at you because of you having only one leg, do you feel any animosity or anger towards that person?
It use to bother me. Now I realize they really mean no harm. They just lack good manners.

What do you think of small children staring at you because you only have one leg?
It also use to bother me. Now I realize that is just natural  for children to do that. It is part of their learning experience.

Have you ever seen a parent or guardian scold a child for staring at you or asking out loud about you in public? How did that make you feel?
Yes. I actually felt bad for the children. I quickly tell the parent and child that I do not mind.

Have you ever looked at a wounded animal or an animal that is missing a limb and had any interesting thoughts?
Yes, I seem to feel a certain bond with them.

It has been a long time since your leg was removed. Looking back, how long after it happened do you think it took you to finally and totally accepted the situation?
About 10 years.

The first obvious product people buy I think of that would be affected by you having one leg is shoes (although I am sure you wear a shoe on the artificial leg as well). What other products that you buy are affected by having one leg?
In addition to making sure the shoes also fit my artificial foot, I have to make sure I buy relaxed fitting jeans because the saddle I have to wear adds a couple of inches to my seat. I also have to buy jeans one inch longer than I normally would have.  I usually wear long, pullover shirts not tucked in to help cover up my unnatural looking waist.

Have you ever walked into a shoe store without the artificial leg? Do you find the salespeople treat you in any interesting way? Has there ever been an awkward moment in a shoe store?
No. I have always worn my artificial leg to the shoe store. However, I do feel it is a waste to buy an everyday pair of shoes when I only intend to wear the right one without my artificial leg.

Have you ever bought shoes and had the store offer to sell them for half price or whatever, like they only felt obligated to sell you one shoe?
No, but I wish they would when I buy an everyday pair. If someone missing their right foot was the same shoe size as I, we could share the cost of a pair of everyday shoes.

Have you ever had someone be extra nice to you because you only had one leg? How did this make you feel?
Yes. Sometimes it bothers me and sometimes I enjoy the treatment.

Has there ever been an awkward situation where you felt someone was trying too hard to treat you like everybody else and they went too far and overcompensated and treated you cruelly or unfairly?

Have you ever been angry at any representation on television or in movies that you thought treated people with disabilities unfairly or spread untrue stereotypes about them?

Do you like the word "handicapped" or "disabled" or how do you feel about phrases like that?
It makes no difference to me as long as they do not refer to me as "cripple"

You know when you are filling out forms or whatever and where it says to put how much you weigh, your weight. Do you ever feel like writing your weight and also adding that you are missing part of a limb so your weight might not be accurate for your height or whatever? Have you ever actually done this?
Yes. I have never written it down on a form. I have mentioned it when being weighed at the doctor's office and at school.

I see weird personal ads or hear stories sometimes about people who sexually fantasize about being with someone who is an amputee. Have you ever been approached in this way?
Yes, especially on the internet chat rooms. It is hard for me to accept that fetish. There is a website devoted to this fetish. In the chat room, some people are real nice and others are truly sick minded and turn me off. I cannot understand why some even wish they were amputees.

In a gay bar or a social setting where you are meeting guys, I am assuming you are wearing your artificial leg. Have you ever had  a situation where a guy approached you and talked to you for a while, then when it came time for you to move and they guy saw you had an artificial leg and his opinion of you changed? Maybe you could see it in his facial expression?
Yes, it bothered me but I got over it.

Even though you are not bi-sexual, have you ever fallen in love with a girl?
Yes, before puberty, I was madly in love with a girl while in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades and she was madly in love with me. Later, after puberty, while in college, I fell in love with a girl for reasons I do not know. However, though she pretended to be very fond of me, I soon realized she was using me in order to get transportation to the school she was student teaching at.

Have you ever been attracted to any of your male students?
Yes, but I am not a child molester out to seduce young boys like most people think homosexual men are. I would never cross that taboo line. I have too much respect for my students and my profession to let that happen.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of not telling a romantic interest about your leg before hand? What are the benefits and draw backs of telling a romantic interest right away about your leg? What are your thoughts and experiences on this subject? What have you learned?
It is always best to let a romantic interest know that you are an amputee at the beginning. If it is a turn off for him, it is only fair to him to know right away. I want people to accept me for what I am.

Do you ever feel exploited like someone wanted to have sex with you just because you are missing a leg and then be able to tell others they had "slept with an amputee" and really were not interested in you otherwise?
No, all I have met either didn't care if I was an amputee or truly was attracted to amputees.

Have you ever had sex with a guy who was also missing a leg?
No, not because I have anything against having sex wit another amputee. I hardly ever meet other amputees.

If so, what did you guys do together that might be interesting?
I have not had that experience.

Do you have a boyfriend right now? How long has your longest relationship lasted?
No.  Longest one was 5 months.

Do you consider yourself a top or a bottom?
Mostly a top.

Do you ever fantasize about meeting a handsome guy who is missing a leg also? Like he would be the perfect boyfriend?
Not because he would make any better boyfriend than a non-amputee. I have fantasized about being with the amputee that was part of the "Survivor Series," but I also have fantasized about being with some of the other "hunks" on the show.

The urban legend is that during sex, a guy with a missing limb may be asked to use his stump to insert it into a partner. Has this ever come up in your life?
No, I have no stump to insert into a partner. Besides, I have something better to insert!

Are there any sexual benefits to having one leg completely gone in bed? Are there any things you can do specially due to having one leg?
Masturbation while lying on my left side is much better than when I had two legs.

In the pre interview you said that the artificial leg you have had for awhile finally wore out and you were going to have to walk around on crutches (like you do at home) until you got a new one. Is getting an artificial leg hard? Is it expensive? Are there different levels of artificial legs you can get, like a really nice one that is very expensive and also just a cheap one that isnít that great? Do you ever look at a certain kind of artificial leg and think like "Ohhh wow! That's so nice and expensive... I wish I had one that nice!" kind of like you would think about having a Mercedes or really nice house? Are there status levels for artificial limbs?
Some artificial legs are more expensive than others. Most of the differences in price involve the kind of foot and how high the amputation was done on the leg. The new one I had made a year ago cost $15,000. It was one of the cheaper ones of its kind. The real expensive ones have electronic devices that move the leg for you. I cannot walk as well on my new one as I could on my old one because the new one has a foot that moves to adjust to the surface you are walking on. The old foot did not move at all. I am able to walk on the new one with crutches. Someday I will learn to walk well enough on the new leg without crutches.

Do you believe the phrase "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger?"
Yes. My battle with cancer has definitely made me a much stronger person.

Do you think everything happens for a reason?
Yes. I haven't figured out the reason I lost my leg, but I am sure God has a good reason for letting it happen.

Are there organizations for handicapped gay and bisexual people? Have you ever joined an organization like this and what are your thoughts on them?
I am not aware of any such organizations.

Do you feel like your disability ever caused you to not try something that you might normally have?

The reverse of that above question, do you think your disability ever caused you to intentionally try something you might not normally have?

Has your missing leg ever been a conversation starter?
Yes, many, many times.

Do you wish people were more forthright with their curiosity about your leg?

When people do express their curiosity, do you find they ask you the same questions over and over?
Yes. "How did you lose your leg? Did you feel them cut off you leg? Did you smoke?"

If you were going to write a postcard to your amputated leg from 35 years ago, what would you say on the postcard? What would you want to tell the leg about how you are doing without it?
Weird question Mark! I would probably say, "I really miss you." "It has not been the same without you."

Did anyone ever ask about your leg and later you realized they were just trying to get to know you because they thought you were cute?
No. I am not sure I am "cute" anyway. I am not "ugly" either. I am somewhere in between the two. Modesty prevails!

Have you ever looked down on another person with a disability? Like you didnít like the way they were handling their situation and thought "That person is not handing their disability situation well. I don't approve of them." And you felt a little hatred for them?
I hate to see someone with a disability feel sorry for themselves all the time and try to make others feel sorry for them.

Do you instantly identify with other disabled people? Do you feel a bond with them?
Yes, I usually do.

I was watching that Madonna documentary "Truth or Dare" the other day, and in it they were showing footage of all these famous people coming backstage to see her during her tour, and over it Madonna was talking about how when you are famous that there is this unwritten rule that you are kind of instantly friends with anyone else who's famous even if youíve never met them and how it can be awkward. Do you think this same kind of thing exists with people with disabilities?

Have you ever used your missing leg or artificial leg to play a practical joke on anyone?

Do you ever feel like you have intentionally not been invited somewhere because of your disability?
Yes, especially on hunting and fishing trips.

Are there any celebrities or historical figures with disabilities that you admire?
Franklin D. Roosevelt and Senator Ted Kennedy's son who is an amputee.

Do you like to be the center of attention?
No. I am the type of person who wants to be sitting in the back of a room.

OK this is kind of a metaphysical question so bear with me: Two Kevins from parallel universes meet. One is the real Kevin, in the here and now (you), who lost his leg to cancer at the age of 17, the other is a Kevin that existed in a parallel universe where he never got cancer and never lost a leg (also you, but you have to fill in some blanks). They are both you but one has both legs and one doesnít. They probably have had different lives. This is the first time they are meeting and the first time they are aware of each other. What do they say to each other? How are they different than each other in what they have done in their lives? What questions do they ask each other? What does one think of the other? Do they get along?
The non-amputee Kevin is still very shy and withdrawn, who does not have as strong of a faith in God as the amputee Kevin. The non-amputee Kevin has not been motivated to meet challenges like the amputee Kevin has. I doubt they would have much in common except the same loving family and the same interest in gardening.

Thanks so much Kevin!!!
You're welcome Mark, I was glad to help you out by answering these questions.

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