So, are you sick of hearing about my blisters and chafing yet? Too bad; there's more.
The title of this post does not contain a typo. I do mean girdling not girding. I will explain.
When the weather cooled this fall and I could no longer wear lightweight skirts or shorts comfortably outdoors, I just pulled out my jeans and continued on my merry way. However, even fabulous high tech bandages could not protect me from what my own pants had in store for me.
I think I mentioned that I'm big and that I move a lot, and that therefore my socket moves around a lot when I wear it, as do my clothes. The first day the weather forced me to wear them again, my jeans, specifically the thickest seam in my jeans, the part where all four main pieces of fabric are joined, kept getting stuck in my socket and then popping out while I walked to work, which meant that I got pinched and scraped at every step, which meant that just on the way to work I got pinched and scraped on the inside of my thigh near the top over 2,000 consecutive times. I ended up with a 2" scab in an unbearably sensitive area, and thus had to stay out of my leg for the next two days, which meant I had to sit on my butt for two days, which is not why I bothered to go through the whole amputation thing in the first place. Grrrrrr!
No one ever warned me this specific thing could happen, nor did anyone IRT or online have any viable solutions to suggest. And yet with the number of active, large, and fleshy female amputees in the world, I cannot believe I am the only person ever to experience it. Another female amputee who had not yet experienced this type of problem did suggest boy-cut undies, but they are not woven to withstand much and would have gotten chewed up very thoroughly and quickly by my socket. Same with bicycle shorts. Fortunately, I was able to work out my own solution.
Now, I had also been told by my prosthetist's boss -- who is neither a woman nor an amputee but who assures me he has lots and lots of experience with people who are both -- that it is "not really recommended" to wear things that come between skin and suction socket. Of course, I understand why; anything between skin and the socket has the potential to reduce the amount of surface area to which suction can be applied effectively. However, there are a lot of places my suction socket does not grip (e.g., the top third of my stump), hence the intrusion of nasty, widely chafing fabric bunches. For these I needed armor. I needed reusable, washable armor, strong enough to protect my tenderest skin, thin enough to slip under my socket, and short enough to leave enough space on my stump for my socket to suction onto firmly. I bought a girdle.
You know what? It has worked out great. It's a very, very warm garment, and since I've been on one long hot flash since I turned 40 it's not really appropriate for me to wear in weather over 40 degrees F. But that's okay; I don't wear heavy-duty fabrics from whose seams I need protection in weather over 40 degrees.
Frankly, I was pleasantly surprised to find something I could bear in any weather. Nothing makes you feel ninety years old like buying a substantial support or control garment, nor are many things more embarrassing than browsing publicly for such things when you are still relatively young, especially when you're also on the plump side. My skin loathes unbreatheable synthetic fibers, but I needed their strength, so I dreaded the rashes I was sure I'd develop.
I was distracted by appalling and mysterious stains on the flimsy walls of the Sears "foundation" department dressing room. Also, the one pasteboard wall of the one and only "handicapped" dressing room, which was only distinguished by the other dressing rooms by virtue of being both the largest and the only one with a chair, was literally falling down around a door that wouldn't latch shut. Meanwhile, this kind of garment fights back as you try to align it with your own shape. Since rails and chairs were unavailable to me unless I agreed to abandon modesty, and since I had to get out of my prosthetic leg in order to try each garment on, and since I was absolutely terrified lest my flesh or clothing touch the astonishingly filthy walls and carpet (was that large, gooey reddish smear old ketchup, dried blood, or...?), a preposterous one-legged dance ensued.
Nevertheless, I persevered and ended up selecting something called "Subtract firm control & waist shaper," which cost $29.00. I chose a size two sizes larger than recommended by the manufacturer because I sought neither firm control nor waist shaping, just protection against pants. I also kind of like my blood to circulate freely. I selected neither hospital white nor film diva black, just a nice, neutral, rosy beige. With this garment on, in keeping with my whole ongoing artificial body parts theme, I suddenly resembled some kind of strange, shiny, pink plastic pod creature with no navel.
As difficult as it was to find what I wanted, I am very grateful to have done so. It meant I could do whatever I wanted this winter, even learn to cross-country ski, without further hideous skin injuries. The relief was so complete that after a week I went back and bought a second one, and this time I did go for the glamour of shiny black. (Why not?) What really freaks me out, though, is that I only wore these garments for four months, alternating between each pretty evenly, and yet they are both totally worn out, worn through in fact. Imagine what the state of my skin would have been, and how crippled I would have been, without them.
It is fantastic to have a prosthetic leg that functions, a miracle really, and one which only exists because of the hard work and sacrifice of generations of people who came before me, many of whom faced challenges far greater than mine. However, in the next decade somebody's really got to work on designing a suction socket which can genuinely free chubby, liquidy female amputees and not shred them.
Until that happens, though, I'm glad there are girdles. And that, my friends, is a sentiment I never expected to utter, ever.