Conversations that matter usually happen in relationships, after time spent building trust and rapport. But this wasn’t one of those occasions, which just goes to show you that God will break out of all your boxes. The conversation I’m referring to took place when I was 22-years-old and recovering from the amputation of my left leg to treat a rare form of cancer. For several months I lay on the couch of our student apartment, too ill to return to work, too raw to be fitted with a prosthesis. I’d also been told that the treatments which saved me would probably render me infertile. It felt like the movie of my life had just broken in the projector, leaving me seated alone in front of a black screen.
I don’t remember the young woman’s name who came to visit that day. I don’t remember our connection; was it through my husband’s grad school, our church or some family association? I don’t even remember her face. But I do remember the sweet 2-year-old girl who sat and sucked on a lollypop as she rocked on her mother’s prosthetic knee. Our whole conversation took place at a 90-degree angle because I was lying down, and that’s still how I see it in my head. This young mother had come to see me because she’d also recovered from a type of cancer which left her with an amputation and inoperative ovaries. She wanted to encourage me and to describe her life to me. We talked about a lot of things – ordinary things and unusual things, like returning to work with a disability. We talked about the “phantom pain” which often accompanies limb loss. We talked about whether you can wear high heels on a plastic foot. (You can.) And we talked about the fact that you can love a child which grew in someone else’s womb just exactly as much as one which grew in your own.
Her words turned the lights back on in my life again; they gave me a vision for a redefined future. The movie which resumed on the screen was a different one this time but still a good one. I hope that I will know her again someday. I imagine she wonders about me and how everything turned out. I’d like her to know. She was very vulnerable and courageous that afternoon. I’d like to tell her that the hour she spent with me was a conversation that really mattered.