She’d popped up on my Instagram when I searched #strongwomen. I scrolled through tons of selfies, pictures of margaritas and then landed on a picture of a woman, looking strong and confident in that signature gym-mirror-selfie…with two prosthetic legs.
“Mirror mirror on the wall, I’ll always get up after I fall and whether I run, walk or crawl, I’ll set my goals and achieve them all.”
I knew right then and there that I needed to reach out to this lady and, if she’d let me, tell her story and spread her message. When I first reached out to Darla on social media, asking to do a piece on her, I was nervous. I braced myself for rejection, or for a message to tell me that I’d upset her by asking.
So, when she absolutely jumped at the chance to share her story, I was overjoyed – and relieved.
Darla is a proud mother of two, a wife of 27 years and as you can see from her picture, is a bit of a stunner.
Darla describes her life as “pretty normal”, even as a Type 1 Diabetic. “I have always been active,” she told me, “I played sports in high school, was on softball teams in my 20s and then was a soccer coach for me children’s teams in my 30s”.
When she was in her 40s, life threw Darla a curveball. She became unwell and contracted an infection that settled in her feet. Years prior to this, Darla had developed diabetic neuropathy in her feet – a type of nerve damage which affects the way that nerves detect touch and temperature, and commonly affects the hands and feet of diabetics.
Darla had her toes amputated in an attempt to eliminate the infection but then kept developing sores on her feet, which led to bone infection in her feet. “In no time at all” Darla says, “my left foot was amputated in September 2014”. Very soon thereafter, in 2018, Darla’s right foot was also amputated.
As a Type 1 Diabetic myself, who has heard everything from ‘you shouldn’t have eaten so much crap and you wouldn’t be diabetic’ to ‘are you going to die?’ – the answer to which is, of course, yes – but not necessarily because I’m diabetic, more because I’m not immortal – I was interested to find out if Darla has experienced any misconceptions after her amputations.
“The most common misconception I get is that people think I lost my feet in the service,” says Darla, “but when people find out that I lost them due to diabetic complications, they say ‘but you look so healthy!’” Darla shrugs, “but this happens to healthy diabetics too.”
Understandably, after her surgeries, Darla was worried that she’d never walk normally again. “I thought I would have a limp” she explains. Ever the fighter, however, she says that isn’t the case. “I’m trying new things every day to see if I can do them,” she says, “I have a great walk and no limp at all…riding a bike is still a work in progress and cartwheels are very hard”. She laughs when she tells me this, and I love her spirit. She comes across so full of life, so positive, its hard not smile when I look at her messages.
I ask Darla when she felt her strongest as a women. “I have to say, I have always felt like a strong person…I have been thrown some obstacles in life, but I guess I knew I was going to be okay and that I was strong when I took my first steps in my second amputation prosthetic” she says, “at that moment, I knew I was going to be ok”.
I’m so inspired by Darla. She exercises on gym equipment three times a week, walks 2 – 3 miles per day and has such a sunny outlook on life. Despite her condition and amputations, she hasn’t let herself be limited in life and goes after what she wants with a ferocity I can only describe as admirable.
There is no better way to end this article, than with a bit of advice from the lady of the hour. When asked what advice she would give to others in her position, Darla exclaims “DO THE PHYSICAL THERAPY, DO THE PHYSICAL THERAPY! I talk to many amputees that won’t move…they’re scared to talk to other amputees and get advice from them, but most of all DO NOT GIVE UP! This is your new normal, and it WILL become normal”.