My name is Linda Hughes, a 76-year old grandmother of four, married 56 years to my high school sweetheart! Twenty years ago I had a forequarter amputation of my right arm (I was previously right-handed) due to recurrent tumor in my deltoid muscle. Since then I have had a few people ask how I function in a two-handed world and this web site is an attempt to help explain how I get along and possibly help someone else in the process. Living with one arm hasn't been as difficult as I once thought it would be, but it doesn't come without some frustrating moments.
These are a few of my favorite things:
1. Bag sealers are plastic clamp closures for bread, chips, etc. made by Twixit. For example, they replace the plastic or wire closure that is on the end of a loaf of bread. They come in several sizes, but I prefer the larger ones because they are easier for me to handle. I have purchased bag clips on-line, from a local kitchen shop and at Bed, Bath & Beyond.
2. I use a small soft bath sponge (from Essential Medical Supply or Wal-Mart ) to wash my underarm, it is very helpful. I chose the hourglass shaped one.
3. I use these rubberized squares to keep things from slipping on any surface. They can be found at many hardware stores, kitchen shops or a lifetime supply at Costco. I use them in every room and have pieces of it all over our home, in my car, and I travel with it too. It's the same idea as having suction cups underneath whatever you're doing. It's great for opening lids, etc. (e.g., put one piece under the jar and open the lid with another piece and you'll be amazed how it works). It is the single most thing I use. I buy it in one big roll and cut it up to any size I need.
There is also a similar product called Dycem that is very good, but it's more expensive than the non-skid rubberized squares. I have a couple small pieces of Dycem and tons of the rubberized squares. They are both helpful.
4. This is my favorite cutting board and I use it everyday. It is made from tough high density plastic and has rust resistant pins holding food for paring, peeling, or slicing. It has 4 suction cups on underside secure board in place while cutting and 2 removable corner retainers for slicing food.
I have a one arm friend, Robert, that has another type of cutting board that he absolutely loves and he says he uses it everyday. He said if he could only have one item, this would be it! For example, Robert says he can slice bread and vegetables, open jars, stir batter, peel potatoes, open cans of paint, etc., etc.
5. My husband and I both love using our cordless, one-handed can opener from OneTouch. I just place the opener on top of the can, press the black button and watch it go around and whalaa! Remove the lid carefully because of the razor sharp edges on top of the can.
6. I use a Kitchen Aid mixer that is wonderful (it is stationary)---I can make cookies all by myself! Another trick is I use mixing bowls with a nonskid rounded bottoms Rounded bottom. They are light weight and keep bowls stable on countertops. I also discovered you could buy Crisco in cubes, like butter, so that it is so easy to use and works great. I use a scooper (kind of like an ice-cream scoop) that you squeeze and the dough just pops out beautifully on to the cookie sheet. I got the scooper at a kitchen shop for $14, but I thought it was worth it, in order to make my own cookies! So did my husband. The mixer works well for blending meat loaf too.
7. I use a cheese slicer mounted on a board - one hand can operate it quite easily.
8. At Barnes & Noble I found a weighted leather strap that holds open the pages of my checkbook, my journal or whatever I'm reading or writing - handy item. Barb, my one arm friend, uses these homemade weights to hold her note cards in place while she paints her floral designs. I use them for writing note cards and other projects. They are great when you just need something to hold your work in place.
9. On pants that have a zipper and button on top, like jeans, I had a seamstress sew in velcro at the closing on the top, and then she sewed the button permanently on the front, so it's very normal looking. I am getting to where buttoning isn't as difficult as it once was, so I use velcro only occasionally now.
10. For flossing, I like the Listerine UltraClean Access Flosser - I prefer the mint refills. I also use “GUM Go-Betweens." There are many other floss options.
11. On my steering wheel I had a spinning knob installed, so I have a much firmer grip on turns, it works great. The steering knob was purchased and installed by a local company near Seattle, WA that specializes in handicap driving devices. The following link looks a lot like mine. They also installed turn signals and windshield wiper controls on the floor of my previous car. I could operate them easily with my left foot.
12. I used to use elastic squiggly ties in place of shoelaces---you can find them at your local shoe repair. Later I have learned to tie my shoes. Here's a video of me tying my shoes.
13. Also from an old Smith and Nephew catalog (may not be available now), a vice -type device that can hold a jar in place while you open the lid. You hold it tight against the counter with your hip and you can use a rubberized square for help in twisting if the lid is especially tight.
14. How I dry my hair - nine years ago my husband mounted my dryer on a tripod and secured it with rubber tubing, so it is "hand free" hair drying. I also have a curling iron/hair dryer that I use occasionally. But now you can buy a hand free "hair drier stand" on the web.
15. I found that many of my favorite scissors wouldn't cut using my left hand, so I was thankful when my husband found some Fiskars scissors that come in several sizes (multiple sizes). I also bought a package of Fiskar kid's scissors and they work great. I have them all over the house, in my car and I travel with a pair. I use them every day to open numerous sealed items. They all work easily with my left hand.
16. One awesome advantage of having one arm/hand is that I receive half-price manicures, which I take advantage of once a week.
17. Pampered chef has a wonderful food chopper my husband and I both use to chop veggies and onions for soup.
18. Cuisinart Mini-Prep is another alternative for one handed chopping. I can operate this one a little easier because it is electrical whereas the pampered chef is manually driven. Both are great tools for one hand.
19. A "cardholder" comes in very handy when playing card games. There are several choices.
20. When I am at a restaurant and order something that requires cutting (steak, prime rib etc.), I ask the chef to cut it up for me before it's served. They always seem willing to help, and it will save struggling with it or having to ask a person next to you for help.
21. I like to wear a "Fanny Pack" when I can because it keeps my hand free. Also I prefer to pay my bills online and I like to use my debit card for purchases instead of writing a check.
22. My husband put my laundry soap up on the shelf above the washer so I can easily dispense the correct amount. (see picture). Works great!
23. In some public restrooms it takes two hands to wash. One hand to hold the water on while you wash the other hand. I have learned to keep hand sanitizer in my car. This picture of a paper towel holder makes me laugh every time (picture)
24. Dave Dravecky's web site, Endurance is a wonderful resource and extremely helpful. It is a ministry of encouragement to those suffering from cancer or amputation. I highly recommend Dave's books, Comeback and When You Can't Come Back - very inspiring.
The Northwest Sarcoma Foundation is a nonprofit foundation committed to providing education and support to patients and families living with this specific cancer.
The Sarcoma Alliance is striving to extend and improve the lives of sarcoma patients through accurate diagnosis, improved access to care, education and support. All services provided by The Sarcoma Alliance are provided free of charge.
Amputee Coalition of America mission is to empower amputees through education and support, to advocate on their behalf, and to develop resources toward that end.
What to do with my sleeve?
Want to make your own ponytail? Here’s a step-by-step description I found on the web several years ago by Donna Crawford.