One Arm University


When we were on the circuit of visiting universities with our sons, we heard a university counselor give some good advice to parents.

He said, “There will be times when your son calls you late at night. He will say, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m flunking out, I’ve got a big paper due tomorrow, I’ve got a huge test the next day, I don’t have any friends, and I am broke.’

You will console him as best you can and then toss and turn all night long as you worry about him. The next day you think about him all day and say a prayer every hour. After supper you give him a call. 

‘How are you doing?’ you ask with great concern. 

‘Fine,’ he says. ‘Why?’ 

‘I’ve been worried about you all day!’ you say. ‘You sounded so upset on the phone last night.’

‘Oh I’m fine’ he says. ‘Well, I got to go. I’m meeting some guys for pick up basketball game so I’ll talk to you later. Bye.’

The counselor concluded, “Your son just needs to share with you his worries. He will feel better after he tells you his troubles, but you will feel worse. It’s just the way it is. Eventually these phone calls will be less and less.” 

Tom and I found this to be good advice throughout the ten cumulative years of university that we journeyed with our boys. But I didn’t realize we would find that same scenario with our sarcoma journey. 

We arrived home from Houston late Tuesday night. I immediately bedded down for the night. Tom was already gone for work when I woke up Wednesday morning. When he called me to check in I gave him my whole list of worries.

“The pain is so bad,” I cried. “I don’t know how I’m going to learn everything to adapt to living with just one arm. I can’t figure out what to wear and I don’t know if others will see me as disfigured.”

Tom tried to comfort me as I cried on the phone. He finally said goodbye. After lunch he gave me a call again.

“How are you doing,” he asked with great concern.

“Oh I’m better,” I said. “I took a nap and I feel better.”

“You’re better?” he asked. “I worried about you all morning! Is this going to be like freshman year in college?”

I don’t think it will be quite the same as the dramatic worries of freshman year in college. I like to think that I’ve developed a little more maturity since then. But I do have a lot of worries about adapting to my new life. And the overlay of pain only makes it worse. 

Now when Tom calls in the morning I take a deep breath and try to filter my response to him. I keep in mind all the prayers and thoughts that are coming my way from all of you good people. I don’t always hold back the tears, and I know I don’t need to. But I also know that with the support of Tom, so many good friends and my family, I’ll get through my freshman year of One Arm University.