(NECN: Jack Thurston, Burlington, Vt.) - Eileen Casey enjoys visiting her friend Brianna Bailey-Dodge, someone Casey likely never would've met, if it weren't for what the two have in common.
"It's a huge loss," Casey said, describing amputation. "A huge loss."
Both Casey and Bailey-Dodge use prosthetic legs following surgeries to battle cancer. "I don't know what I'd do without her," Bailey-Dodge said of Casey.
Casey, an advertising salesperson, volunteers to support new amputees, leaving her name with medical facilities including Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vt. if anyone wants to talk.
"You're not alone," Bailey-Dodge said. "It's just nice to have someone to talk to who knows what you're going through, because they've gone through it, too."
Bailey-Dodge said her mentor helped her with advice on bathing, coping with changing body image, how to navigate the process of finding the right prosthetic limb, how to get back into exercise, and more.
"I didn’t know anyone who was an amputee," Bailey-Dodge remembered. "I was really nervous what it was going to look like, physically being different and mentally overcoming it as well."
"Even now [several years after the amputation], sometimes I get up in the middle of the night, and forget that I don't have a leg," Casey said, describing how adapting to life without a limb can be a lengthy process.
Now, the pair is thinking of the more than a dozen patients who lost limbs in the Boston Marathon bombings. The attacks left individuals like Jeff Bauman of Chelmsford, Mass. with life-changing injuries. Trauma from the first blast stole both legs from the race spectator, below the knees. A similar injury meant another spectator, Karen Rand of Portland, Maine, required an amputation to one of her legs.
Adrianne Haslet of Boston lost her foot. It was a stunning blow to the dance instructor at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio. "I absolutely want to dance again, and will dance again," she said. "I also want to run the marathon next year."
Eileen Casey said Haslet's spirit is just what she loves to see. "There is life after becoming an amputee," Casey said.
Casey got back to running after her surgery; skiing, too. She and Bailey-Dodge told New England Cable News that Boston bomb amputees, whose physical and emotional recoveries may be long and challenging, should work toward being confident, and not be afraid to ask for help when they need it.
"And remember, you're alive," Casey said. "You're alive. You're still here with us."