Take The Detour

By Herb Kolodny

Have you ever come to a closed road when you were driving? If so, you may have experienced surprise, shock, denial, irritation, frustration, anger, or even fury. Still, in the end, you likely accepted the reality and looked for a detour so you could reach your destination.

Sadly, when confronted by a roadblock in life, we don’t always have the same instinct to adapt and find an alternate route. Instead, we accept the obstacle as our new limited reality and give up.

As a goal-oriented person, I used to decide what I wanted to achieve, develop a plan, and go after it with no thought about obstacles. Then, at 65, I came to a major roadblock in my life.

Seven years earlier, my doctor cut an odd lump out of my leg, I went home to recover the same day, and I soon returned to work. Then, a few days later, pathology reported to the doctor that the lump was cancerous. Whoops! Huge pothole ahead!

Kolodny on a trip to Budapest, Hungary. Image courtesy of Herb Kolodny.

At this point, I experienced all the previously mentioned states: surprise, shock, denial, irritation, frustration, anger, fury, and finally acceptance—plus fear.

This time, the surgeon took a larger chunk out of my leg, but I still went home the same day. After five days, I returned to work again. I also underwent radiation treatments for seven weeks and walked with a limp for about a month longer. It slowed me down but didn’t stop me.

After five years, I was pronounced cured.

Then, in the sixth year, the cancer returned, and I realized that I was facing more than a pothole.

In 2012 and 2013, I had to have more radiation treatments, my wound became infected, I underwent multiple surgeries, and I spent a lot of time in a rehabilitation (rehab) hospital.

The wound still didn’t heal, and my doctor gave me the news: I needed to have my leg amputated above the knee. Strangely, this bad news was a relief. I didn’t know how my life would be after amputation, but I knew dragging around a sick leg was lousy.

Over many difficult months, I began following a different philosophy than the goal-oriented one that I normally followed. Strangely, I had been exposed to this new philosophy years before in a sales seminar when the speaker loudly proclaimed, “Life is a journey and not a destination.” At the time, I didn’t understand. I was used to setting goals, pursuing and achieving them, and then setting new ones. If I was unable to achieve a goal, I would chastise myself and consider myself a failure.

I could not comprehend life as a journey and was uncomfortable with any chaos. I didn’t know how to enjoy the moment. The shift in thought for me came about when I realized that my cancer had returned and that the road ahead would be uncertain. I decided to let go of my to-do lists and goals and enjoy the journey the best I could.

Taking this detour meant that I could enjoy life again. I returned to work. Now, I go on vacations. I run errands. I drive my car using my left foot. I go to movies, and I visit my family. In other words, I adapted. If you want to and are willing to accept help, you too can get past the roadblock and get on with your life.

Be like me, and take the detour.

To learn how I got my life back after amputation, see the next issue of Amplitude.

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