Which Was Harder Right Handedness or One Handedness?

Having to switch dominance was a greater challenge, because I had, I thought, 4 months to accomplish it; an unrealized, self-imposed goal. But the blessing in the challenge was that it gave me something to do while I was experiencing chemo therapy and waiting for amputation of my left hand.

Being the only left handed child out of 7 in my family, I was raised with very little accommodation. I was fortunate that my parents and early education did not punish or try to change my preference for my left hand. I even got to angle my paper to the right, so that I did not curl my hand around to write. I smudged more than one assignment written in ink, however. There was no such thing as left handed scissors and I had to sit next to my right handed brother at the dinner table. He did not like bumping elbows with me during meals, good training for keeping the elbow in close! I was always surprised, as an adult, to realize the things I did right handed – knitting and ironing come to mind. Undoubtedly, it was being taught by a right handed person that brought that about. I caught and threw a ball with my right hand, too. That made wearing a glove challenging. On the other hand, when I was trying to show my daughter how to play pool, I was very surprised to find out that I played that left handed!

Changing dominance and adjusting to one handedness required focus, determination and persistence. In the first 5 months, I interacted with no fewer than 12 OT’s. In my best experiences, I worked with creative, problem-solvers focused on my needs with an understanding that I was a highly-motivated, fiercely independent patient, with a good sense of humor and no small amount of persistence, impatience and fear. In my worst experiences, I worked with threatening, didactic individuals, focusing only on giving me the easiest, basic, perhaps even rudimentary solutions to my needs rather than working together creatively at solving the problem at hand.

Please bear in mind that this was a process for me. I was sent home from my first OT appointment with an expired adaptive equipment catalog; to explore all the possible – and very overwhelming – options for the solutions to my perceived needs. Needless to say, my imagination went wild. I then realized that I would have to become better at identifying what I perceived my needs to be and hoped that I would find someone who could help me prioritize that list and help me discover and explore the reality of one-handedness. I am grateful for the success achieved, with the help of family, friends and professionals.
My goal, when I began my journey, was to be able to do, by myself, all that I had done before amputation. Within 6 months, I was successfully negotiating my new life. I had worked hard to prioritize what I wanted to keep and what I was willing to let go. Everyday, I am still confronted with something that is “two-handed”. Everyday I have the opportunity to learn to do that thing a new way, to ask for help, or to decide, gracefully, never to do that thing again.

Here are some lessons I learned:

  • With patience, persistence and grace, all things are possible!
  • There are 3 secrets to navigating life with one hand: BODY POSITION, 4 FINGERS AND A THUMB and GADGETS
  • My husband’s advice? “Hold it between your knees!”
  • Adapt
  • Accommodate
  • Accept

Leave a Comment