Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wednesday's Woman: Heidi Cave

When I asked today’s guest blogger to submit a piece for Wednesday’s Woman she not only said, “Yes,” but also, “It’s such an honor.” 

After reading her submission, it was I who felt honored—overwhelmed with honor.  I was humbled.

It is a story of her willingness to share her experience with another woman—a woman who has been launched into a similar journey, and ironically, a woman the same age as she was when she was propelled into her own life of "after".

The keen insight present in her account of moving towards offering support elicited a stirring reaction, an emotional response, unparalleled to anything I have read.  

It became clear.  

Today’s guest blogger is in fact today’s Wednesday’s Woman:  Heidi Cave.

Finding Ordinary in Extraordinary

Heidi Cave
Looking into the mirror I am quick with my face, my hands. I apply make-up, think about today’s schedule, this month’s calendar of field trips and practices for recitals, and as I add mascara to my eyelashes I catch the green of my eyes, the scar that curves around the right side of my chin, the faint lines around my mouth. I see someone who has lived.

On our way to school, in the car, Annie asks me about Ottawa. “Is Ott-o-wa in Ontario?” Yes, it’s the capital of Canada. I tell Annie and Benjamin how we have nothing to do after school – a day of rest! They cheer! We arrive at school in 2 minutes and they lean into me to peck my lips before they tumble out of the car in a blur of backpacks, jackets and eagerness. Annie is the last one to leave. “Bye, Mommy!” There is a moment where I see her. How our eyes are the same shape. Her face is changing, she’s growing older, determination set in her small shoulders. I see someone whose life has just begun.

I come home to a phone call from a family member asking can I talk to this girl who just lost her leg. After I find out what happened, I ask, “How old is she?” 23. The same age as me when my life changed. When I suffered burns and limb loss. When my life was divided into before and after.

I said, “Of course I’ll talk to her. When she’s ready. She has to want to see me or what I say won’t matter to her. It won’t stay with her.” Sometimes you don’t want to see the tragic turn your life has taken in someone else. You can’t bear that your future has just stepped into the room.

When I lay in a hospital bed, my body and soul undone by a car crash, I wondered if I’d have a normal life. My feet gone, my body ravaged by fire, covered in wounds and grafts and bandages ‘ordinary’ seemed impossible. I would never be the same. I was worried how I’d be perceived by others now that I had a new life. I didn’t want to be a shell, to be less than myself. Scarred and sad Heidi. Disabled and reduced Heidi. I just wanted to be Heidi.

To survive, to get better; I fought, I protected, and I created a new version of whole. It didn’t matter what others thought of me. I needed to be comfortable in my damaged skin. My feet were replaced with prosthetics and I adopted them as my own. I could not reverse time. I could not return to the 23 year old girl who hadn’t been introduced to this kind of horror. I had to heal and train my eyes to see myself as whole, even though I was torn apart. Change is always with us and I would always discover, always adjust, and always accept.

My body, my scars are a map of where I’ve been, of what I’ve fought for and overcome. Life begins over and over again.

I speak into the phone, “She can have a normal life. I’ll tell her. I’ll show her it’s possible.”

Burn Survivor Heidi Cave's tragic, yet inspiring story.

You’ll be able to read Heidi's full story in her memoir Fancy Feet, scheduled to be published by Behler Publications in 2013.  In the meantime, you can visit Fancy Feet Blog where you will find parts of her story and other writing "...about what I found inspirational or amusing or provoking. And sometimes...a platform to clear my head."

photo credit: AshtonPal via photo pin cc


  1. Kim, you honor me with your words. You are so kind and generous! Thank you for having me here today.

  2. I've only ever known this Heidi. And I'm so very grateful for the introduction.

  3. this "after" Heidi? all kinds of amazing :)

  4. Wow! I was honored to read this today.

  5. You, my friend, are so beautiful. In every way.
    And stronger than I even knew.

  6. Thank you all for your love and support. You guys are amazing!!

  7. Wow. I've been reading Heidi for years and this just left me with my mouth agape. Honored, and wow'ed to have read this today. xoxo

  8. A perfect pick for Wed. Woman and awesome post Heidi! I love these lines - Change is always with us and I would always discover, always adjust, and always accept. Life begins over and over again. I can't even image all you had to overcome but the journey is truly inspiring to us all.

  9. My gosh, Heidi, I am always blown away by your writing, by your courage, by that electric smile as you stood up. It's nearly impossible to find the words to express my admiration. My scars are a map of where I've been... Life begins over and over again. Wise and beautiful words.

    And on a lighter note, when you said in the comments, Kim, you ... I thought, who's Kim? I always think of Kim as Sperk! I had a laugh at myself.

    You are so beautiful, Heidi, in every way!

  10. This is an amazing story. I was lying here overwhelmed by my own battles, and I happened to open this article. It reminds me that what happens TO us is only a part of the story. The bigger, more important part is what we do about it.

  11. This is breath taking, you two.

    Inspiring and humbling and stunning.

    But mostly breath taking.

  12. Thank you...each of you...I am blown away by every comment, every kind word here. I'm so touched and honored.

  13. So unbelievably, wonderfully beautiful and inspiring. I was just reading the story about the young girl who fell from a zip line and got a flesh eating bacteria and thus lost some limbs and her hands and I prayed for her and thought "How in the world do you overcome that?!?" but now I see, it's possible, you just have to WANT to.

  14. Inspiring, as always - thank you for the beautiful words, Heidi.

  15. Yes, yes...I remember reading Heidi's story over at Yeah Write a bit ago. Heidi, thank you so much for showing us all what you've said...Life begins over and over again. Normal is possible after tragedy. Changing, adapting, inspiring. Thanks so much!

  16. Tremendous! So brave and beautiful to stand up and share. We need Heidis in this world! Thank you!

  17. The strength of your writing is amazing as always, Heidi, but it's the strength of you -- of your Self -- that's really inspiring.

  18. I know I'm a little delayed here, but I just wanted to say thank you again to all of you. You guys made my week!!

  19. I love this woman.

    I swear, I will do everything in my small world to get her name known.


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