My next interview is with a woman who would like to remain known as ‘Amputee woman’, the name she uses on her own YouTube channel. She is from Russia, is 41 years old and married. She lost her right arm seventeen years ago, an amputation under the shoulder due to cancer. Her tale is also one of finding strength and comfort in religion.
How did the amputation change your life?
“My life has turned around 180 degrees. My view of the world has changed. All I had to endure is difficult to describe in words. It’s like a being born again. I used to live my life, go to work, socialise with friends and all that. And then one day, God decided that I need to radically change my life.
God and my church helped me a lot during the times of my illness. And after the amputation, I received new strength for a new life, enabling me to think deeply about the soul, the inner world of man. It is my belief we are tested to strengthen the spirit. But God does not send us more trials than we can bear. He doesn’t punish and allows us to correct our faults. This, I believe, is a very positive side.
I would say the negative side is a lot about difficulties in emotional adaptation. Physically, it was easier to adapt to my new condition than emotionally. At first, my self-esteem was very low. Why me? was a question I’ve often asked myself, and there were times I have felt constantly haunted by it.”
What was the impact of the amputation on how you look at yourself? ”
Since the amputation took place, these seventeen years have been a constant working on myself. But at the moment, I am feeling quite positive. My self-esteem is back to good; I do not feel better or worse than other women.
Yes, there are problems with my choice of clothes. I prefer not to openly show my stump, so I’m always wearing clothes with sleeves, which is difficult if you like the sea :)”
How big a role in your life does being an amputee have? In which respect(s)?
“I don’t feel I am disabled , I do not like this word 🙂 I always try to be positive and feel healthy.”
Do you feel people look at you differently since you became an amputee? And if so, can you describe how?
Yes, they do. And I think people looking at other people do not like themselves. I also think this looking should be treated with understanding. I simply see it as coming with how I look.
For example, when I was riding a bike in summer, a woman who was also on bike saw me, first looked at me with mouth wide open and then almost fell off her bike from seeing me! 🙂
It’s one of many small stories. I do not know what people think when they look at me. I only care for how I feel about this myself, and my attitude is always positive, often with humor.”
Can you say anything about how Russian society looks at amputees?
“Difficult to say. It’s probably the same as in Western Europe or the USA: everyone holds the perfect body as example – of course with 60-90-60 sizes 🙂 – and this can give women a negative self-image or even self-rejection.”
What would be your main exasperations in that respect?
“I would like people to accept me as I am. I believe we are all equal. Relationships between people are not about physical but about moral and ethical.”
Are there also positive changes?
”Yes, and more than the negative changes. Beginning with my self-esteem and ending with life and people. I’m also very proud of how I learned to manage with my left hand.”
You were right-handed?
“Yes, correct. So, after the amputation I had to learn everything I used to do as a right-handed person with my left hand. This was hard and strange in the beginning, but time and practice have made me automatically do these things left-handed now, fast and without thinking.”
What would you most like to be different in how people look at you as an amputee?
Again, I do not like the word disabled. Amputation is not a disease, it is the beginning of a new life.
When did you first become aware of the existence of devoteeism?
I learned about it from the Internet. Before that, I had never even heard of the word devotee :)”
What was your initial feeling about it?
Wondering interest. I was curious to find out more about these ‘special men‘.”
Did that change over time? And if so, what changed your view or feelings, and why?
“Everyone has the right to be happy . If these men like women with an amputation, then why not.”
That sounds pretty light-hearted to me. You have no negative thoughts about men only admiring you for your amputation?
“My attitude towards these men is neutral. I take them as normal. If they feel attracted to my stump, that’s nice for me. But in a distant way. If they would seek any more serious virtual relationship, then only if the admiration is not too overt. This is why my husband is not in this category :)”
What does he think of your internet activities then?
“My husband accepts everything his wife does with a friendly smile :)”
What’s your view on how devoteeism is being ‘practiced’ on the internet?
“It seems to me the devoteeism topic is greatly exaggerated on the Internet. Also, many men and women who are dating are married in real life.”
If you could give devotees some advice, what would it be?
“I have a simple advice. Make a woman feel happy with her amputation, and then you too will be happy. Exit from virtual to reality, love and be happy.”
You have your own YouTube channel. What got you the idea to start it?
”I got the idea from seeing many amputee women have their own website, pose for websites or have their own YouTube channel. I’d never thought we would be this many, and we are all different. There are so many who admire us too, and it’s nice to understand them.”
Your choice of wishing to portray yourself in your videos is different from what other amputees chose to do. You’re not showing your face, yet you’re showing your amputation with a lot of detail. What made you decide to do it this way?”
“Yes, my channel offers movies showing every detail of my being one-armed, and of how I’ve adapted to it. My face however is part of my private life, which I wish to remain private. I don’t see myself as a model, and I’m married and have a family. In other words: my YouTube channel is a hobby, a link between the amputee part of me and devotees.”
What’s it doing to you to be showing these movies on the internet?
“For me it’s positive. I love the feeling of being admired, including how my stump is being admired. And devotees give me this feeling.”
And now that you mention the link between amputees and devotees: what do you think of my blog?
“I think it’s a good platform for communication and understanding between amputees and devotees.”
And finally, is there anything I didn’t ask that you would like to add?
“No, there isn’t, except thank you for this interview!”