Donna Lancaster and Mindy Reed

Recorded December 13, 2010 Archived December 13, 2010 40:11 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBY007297


Donna Lancaster, 78, is interviewed by friend Mindy Reed, 54. Dorothy was born without knee or hip joints and speaks about how her parents raised her to make her own choices and how she overcame the challenges she face in her life.

Subject Log / Time Code

DL reflects on what her parents must have felt when she was born, saying “I had so many body parts missing, they didn’t think I would live.”
DL remembers, at age 20, getting her artificial legs and seeing herself tall for the first time and thinking, “This is the key to romance.”
DL describes her artificial legs, which she wore for over 30 years and made her 5’8’’ rather than 3’10’’. Says DL, “Other people put on their shoes in the morning, I put on my legs.”
DL had a revelation sitting on the deck listening to the birds sing and watching the sun set; she discovered “her essence.”
DL remembers wanting to learn to ride a bicycle when she was young, even though it was physically impossible for her. She tried for 3 days, falling off repeatedly and eventually learned to ride the bike. She later learned how difficult it was for her mother to watch her go through so much pain, but was grateful that she was allowed to make her own choices.


  • Donna Lancaster
  • Mindy Reed

Recording Location

MobileBooth West


StoryCorps uses Google Cloud Speech-to-Text and Natural Language API to provide machine-generated transcripts. Transcripts have not been checked for accuracy and may contain errors. Learn more about our FAQs through our Help Center or do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions.

00:05 My name is Mindy Reid. I'm 54 years old. Today's date is December 13th, 2010. We're in Waco, Texas. And Donna is my very very dear friend and a spiritual guide.

00:23 My name is Donna Lancaster. I'm 78 years old today is December 13th 2010 in Waco, Texas and

00:35 Mindy was the editor of the first book that I wrote in 2002 and we have been really close friends ever since and have

00:45 Profited from our relationship more than I can tell you.

00:59 And first what I want to know is how was life different than what you expected or imagined it would be.

01:10 Well, I really didn't set up any expectations of myself really other than everything. I did I did the very best. I knew how

01:23 And it was interesting when I wrote this follow-up book on the first one is that I would go I would be reading the new book which was written just this year. The first book was written and came out in 2002 and I found that I was really touched by this little girl who is so tiny and yet he did things in accomplished many many things that made my life so much easier even now just like she only had eight fingers, but she learned a typing freshman typing class has been wonderful that I can do that and pewter I can type but she struggled through that and then seem to be

02:12 I'm upset about all she's did. What was before her to do. Wish I had a real tenderness for her when I read back over the pages of this new book because she really held her head up high March through things that were just almost impossible and yet really didn't I never did realize that I was doing anything other than one of the people dead.

02:49 Out from under the bed, Do you still have those wouldn't live absolutely there underneath my bed. I don't know that.

02:59 I will never wear them again, but they're they are so unique and so specially designed for Donna Lancaster that I will keep him because

03:09 I was born without any nature noise. No hip joins. My little legs were only just a 3lb. So I was so tiny a month premature and I had congenital deformities that just blew my parents away. I'm sure the shock of my birth of us was just almost devastating to him cuz I had so many body parts missing. They didn't even know if I would live and this was in 1932. And of course the the Medical

03:46 Equipment and stuff at that time. I was born at home. And of course now today if I'd been born the hospital. I spent have to boil a 5lb. Why didn't Ray five pounds, so I was four months old. So it was really they had a lot to deal with and I'm sure that the process for them of acceptance.

04:08 Had to precede what they did for me because they they were absolutely intent.

04:18 I'm doing the things for me that I needed to have done in order that I may have a life and at the first say that I didn't even think I could lay of the doctor said I wouldn't be able to live live at walk Leia, but maybe I never be able to walk. So when I was 6 months old the family doctor suggested that they take me to Kansas City to the research hospital there to see if anything could be done for my congenital deformity that seemed almost overwhelming to

04:56 So that was 1932 and of course there weren't all the roads that there are now they weren't freeways or probably must have more dirt roads and 300 miles, but they drove the truck that had to try gasoline truck and we spent some time at research hospital and I took x-rays and exam and examine me and the physician said that I didn't have enough bone structure to ever be able to walk.

05:26 But they suggested that they take Bones from my two brothers who were six and eight years older than I

05:34 And grass those bones into my legs so that they could make me like that I could walk but that is not the choice. That was not the truth. My parents made they said no will wait till Darkness old enough and let her make her own decision. And so you did Walk to Remember where they took me back home thinking that I could never would never be able to walk without some adjustment somewhere, but they better decision on the way home on that trip and no matter how painful it to them that every decision they made would be directed at what is best for.

06:18 And that decision was tested many many times. So I did go on home in about 10 months mother was outside hanging out clothes on clothes lines, which we had 19/32 and she looked up and I was walking toward her they didn't they hadn't told me I couldn't walk so by 1933 your 10 months old and you like any other 10 month old is walking and it was just like a

06:51 Because now they knew I could walk I can be competitive Lee self-sufficient. So you got to go to school like other kids went to school day march to pay off to school. I remember Daddy had when I was about three Daddy and bought a pair of them little tiny roller skate.

07:13 Extract them on my feet and Chris. We had linoleum on the floors.

07:26 And then one day mothers.

07:28 Pick me up and she said no you cannot skate in the house anymore. You're going to have to go outside and skate on the sidewalk.

07:42 Just like the other kids just like the other kid and she was telling me that I was I would have to handle the cracks in the sidewalk.

07:52 Cheapest that was my next and of course that covers a lot of thing. I had a lot of cracks and so I bought

07:59 Philosophy of life in your life

08:07 You didn't want to handle those cracks in the same way when you went off to college and you made a different different decision about how you wanted to live your life. I went to college because my brother Jack has gone to the University of Kansas and he was my hero.

08:28 Of course, we lived like almost 300 miles from a Lawrence, Kansas and

08:36 I don't mother mother daddy never did argue with my choice. I know that once I move decision about something that by golly I was going to do it but there was no way they could talk me out of it. So I went to KU and I plan to be a medical technician and then when

08:53 In my junior year my I was taking chemistry and

08:59 My chemistry professor was so cute. And I kind of like them and he we became friends and he said Donna have you ever thought about wearing artificial legs? And I said well, yes mother and I went to Wichita Kansas when I was in high school and the orthopedic surgeon said that in order for me to wear artificial legs. I would have to have my feet amputated. Well, give me a break. That's that's not even in the loop. I thought I couldn't run I couldn't play ball. I couldn't roller skate. I said no. I didn't want my feet and then I would be right.

09:38 So we we just dropped it right there. And he said this is chemistry. It was so cute. He said well, maybe there's something new. Why don't you write Mayo Clinic and see if there's something new that can be done for you. That's okay. So I wrote him a letter explaining my congenital deformity and I got a letter back from him and they referred me to a artificial limb maker in Kansas City, which was like 50 miles from Lawrence. So I wrote PW hanneke manufacturing company.

10:15 Almost the same letter describing go to the people that the Mayo Clinic and I kind of forgot about it once and a few weeks later on Sunday night. They told me at the dorm that I had some guests downstairs so I can I be bop down the steps and here's Betty and Eric hanneke. They were so fascinated with my letter that they drove over from Kansas City. And so we talked for one. He should know you won't have to have your feet amputated will fit your own legs and feet and took too long boots at the bottom of the of your leg for the leg connect will put

11:08 Legs that are artificial your your little feet will be where normal people have me so they could create a as I recall basement or wooden the first pair of

11:33 I wait a little more. So I went over and he said why don't you come over?

11:43 It's okay. So I took the bus couple weeks later over on a weekend to Kansas City and he wrapped my little legs in plaster Paris as if they were broken like you do a broken arm are broken leg and at the bottom of the plaster he has more Lakes right around the shop and he attach those legs to the bottom of the plaster Paris and his wife had a skirt. She said she wrapped the skirt around me and they felt they help me stand in front of a full-length mirror. So now you're seeing yourself for the first time tall, so your original height is difference.

12:41 You standing and I looked at that image and I could not believe it.

12:46 And I don't remember consciously thinking this but later I remembered that.

12:53 I looked at that beautiful stylish girl in the mirror.

12:59 I thought this is the secret to romance and because her I was 20 years old, and I've never had a date.

13:12 And so I bought the deal 6 months later. I walked into Eric shop and I was 3 foot 10 and when I walked out I was five foot eight. And so you live as a 5 ft 8 woman for 32 years 32 years loved every second of it.

13:33 But I had to learn to walk I had to learn to sit down and different kind of chairs. I had learned to go to the bathroom. I had to with the with the legs on because

13:44 Did you see the folks with the newfangled material that bend and do all things but these were like I said like still but I loved I loved by the clothes and have skirts and Blazers at mashed and shoes and you know, it was really impressed. Been 20 years old and in college, that's kind of what I wanted to fit in. I wanted to look like everybody else may I don't know but it was it was so much fun because people didn't recognize me and I was so excited that even though in some days I climbed as many as 400 steps one at a time and I'm sure physically exhausted in 20 lb

14:37 But this old gal. I mean I wanted to do I wanted to be tall.

14:44 I didn't use my feet. I had hand control brakes and rotors on my I had three or four different instructors years.

14:58 New us

15:00 And so in your fifties sometime in your 50s after living this life of doing everything that you thought you would want to do and and being accepted you made a different decision. I was a medical technologist in an x-ray technician for many years. I sold real estate climbing over fences and all sorts of stuff selling real estate and and then

15:38 When I was in 1982, and I was probably 50.

15:45 I decided that sooner or later. I would have to set the lights to side because of the effort that it took physically to wear these with you only had this one pair of legs. So it's not like he went back and got fitted for something different or different material. I had actually I had to set the leg one said had a low heel like for a loafer and the other set of legs had a 2-inch heel of the foot is sculptured.

16:24 To fit the shoe. So the shoe had to be a certain height that heal when I came down. It was not so much fun by remember. I made the decision that I was going to

16:40 Not where the legs

16:43 And I didn't realize.

16:46 On a tough one. My ego was so strapped into those legs.

16:53 And I remember the first day. I went out of the house without him. I was I was paranoid. I was so afraid I had to make myself go to the car and get the car and drive to town because I had these legs were part of the part of me. I never gotten up in the morning without putting on my life. That was just other people put on their shoes. I put on my end. So here I was I felt vulnerable. I felt that I was just dance Hannah over me.

17:30 And so it took me about six months to go back again to being short and being okay big short being your authentic self discovered while I know cuz you've told me you shared so much with me about The Awakening that you had by allowing yourself to be your authentic self. Yes. I think that was part of my

17:59 My script

18:01 I think wearing leg had to be part of my story because they they taught me a lot about what other people think makes no difference.

18:13 But actually

18:17 The shift came in me when I was about eight in the early 80s after Neil had died and it's what's your husband and I were married in 1958 and I would say on a scale of 0 to 10. We had a 9.5 marriage.

18:40 I didn't realize until 1975 that there was something terribly wrong.

18:48 And I thought

18:50 I'll have to be met there something wrong with me.

18:54 And so I I went to a counselor and the counselor said

19:01 Advise me to get a divorce and I got it never occurred to me because I was my fault and blah blah blah.

19:08 So anyway there I knew there was something something didn't fit something. That's not right.

19:15 So we bundled along until later in 1980. We moved to Texas and

19:22 Got me to tell about that if you want to share cuz I know that that was a very real turning point in your life.

19:33 We had a cleaning lady in the cleaning lady would come over every other week and clean house and Neil was gone to a meeting and while he was gone. The cleaning lady's husband called me and said that Neil had exposed himself to her.

19:51 And I was just shocked I said when they wouldn't harm anybody and he slammed down the receiver. He was right. So when they all came home, I confronted him with it and he said well hit it would never happen again.

20:10 But it did happen again.

20:13 And the next time he died in the first and then he said

20:18 I started upstairs to and I will follow them upstairs and we sat at the game table and I said

20:26 I feel like crying.

20:29 And he said

20:32 I have cried all my life.

20:36 And I didn't he said I thought they had a he was remember that a had been for 40 years.

20:44 I thought the AA program would take care of it. And of course, I didn't know what he was talking about. So you didn't know that he had either a drinking problem or a problem with the appropriate sexual behavior. I didn't know I knew that he'd stayed sober. I didn't think that drinking was a problem. But I knew that's how their urges were a problem.

21:07 And so I said we need some help.

21:11 So he called and made an appointment through our doctor. I went to a psychiatrist here in Waco. And when I got home after his appointment, he said the doctor wants to talk to you when I said that's great. I'm willing to do anything I need to do.

21:29 So I came down to the psychiatrist and when I walked in and he said

21:37 Neil's problem has nothing to do with you.

21:41 Neil is a child molester.

21:44 Oh my goodness. And you had no idea. I have no idea. Of course knew you both as a small person and if at all he knew everything about you you left yet, but you didn't know everything about him.

22:02 But after he said that it was like there was a big.

22:06 House of jigsaw puzzle on the wall

22:11 And there been one piece missing and when he said that that piece clicked into place.

22:18 And I knew he was right because instantly things came coming came back to me that I was troubled about.

22:27 I could say that that was what was going on.

22:32 So I'm on my way home from Waco that day.

22:39 I decided that if I feel the same way on Monday morning, I would go for a divorce.

22:45 Because I have been looking for a justification for leaving the marriage and this fit.

22:56 So I went I went to the tourney on October 5th of 1981.

23:03 And I felt like

23:08 The divorce was Final 60 days later on December 14th.

23:17 And two weeks later male died. Oh my goodness.

23:22 I felt like I had killed my best friend. Oh my goodness. I knew that Neil would not have had this problem if he had a choice.

23:33 He did not have a choice. He could not have do it differently because he could not do it differently and I had a lot of compassion for him and send and compassion seems to be a guiding principle throughout your life. And I think from what I know about how you've lived the last three decades. It was also developing that compassion for yourself cuz that seems to be the piece that was missing and so

24:11 I was very angry. I was angry at myself. Primarily. I guess although I read something once I do if I'm the least bit irritable. I'm covering up intense rage.

24:28 And so some friends and I had gone to eat lunch and there was a baby at the table next to us and the baby was crying.

24:37 And I said is that maybe doesn't quit crying. I'm going to kill it.

24:41 Well, I guess I don't have those feelings.

24:53 And I started beating that pillow telling everything I've ever wanted to say about everything you're releasing the rage. It was just awful. So I got rid of the rage, but the last blow it took me about an hour the last blow of a tennis racket. I killed God.

25:20 I hope that I killed The God Who judge me when I was wrong and rewarded me when I was good. That was the god I killed.

25:33 And when I finished beating the pillow.

25:38 I felt a freedom I had never felt before all of the preconditions ideas were gone. I didn't believe in God. I didn't believe Jesus. I didn't believe in the Bible. I didn't believe in life. I didn't believe in myself. I was empty.

25:58 Unconditioned ideas

26:01 And I guess

26:05 My ego had to be comfortable not knowing you said see the eagle likes to know. Yeah, and so I had I had bought ideas on my life that because I wanted to know.

26:21 The eye and I never checked the map it Somalia culture tells us we're supposed to act a certain way. We're supposed to look a certain way. We're supposed to have certain relationships. And so you have been buying into all of you. And when I finished with that tennis racket, I was free of all that it was gone, but you were free of everything everything everything and I guess I had to become my ego had to become comfortable not knowing

26:54 Because it took a bath.

26:58 I don't know 90 days hundred. I don't remember the time span and I was sitting out on my dick one evening watching the sunset.

27:11 And I heard the bird sing.

27:15 I thought my gosh, what is it in me to take sells vibrations?

27:22 And transforms into music

27:26 And beauty

27:29 And then I looked at the sun set and I saw the colors and I thought what is it in me to take those colors and transforms them into Beauty.

27:39 And I knew then that there was within me and essence.

27:46 And this Essence lived me.

27:49 And it made my skin warm in my my heartbeat in my eyes see and my ears hear and

27:59 That was my efforts and some people call this Essence different names some Jesus and God said all different names to me. That's that's the one thing that all of us have in common. Is this SSI which is which is life. Would you life and then I realized

28:26 What a privilege it was to be an expression of that life and it just changed my whole world and everything and then you and then you gave decided that you didn't need the legs. I can be your authentic self. Absolutely Freedom that goes beyond words.

28:50 And I could just go and I was I was free of limitations.

28:56 Maybe not all of them. But I remember Richard Bach one of his things is argue for your limitations and you're sure to keep from your favorite books.

29:16 One of the things that we've shared I remember when I come when I come to visit your house you have you have this box that has a little cards in it and you pull them out and they have little little things on the middle affirmations. I've gotten to the practice of of gave me a set of those which I cherish to this day. One of my favorite is keep your mood up and make nothing important and that's something I remind myself pretty much on a daily basis when I'm dealing with situations. So how have you Incorporated? Some of these would have believed come from from the teachings that you learned with with Bob Gibson so actually the whole teaching

30:04 Is a set of ideas that we check out to see if they work one of one of the ideas is keep your mood up and don't make anything important and it's very interesting because I can always tell when I've made something important because I'm anxious. I was a little bit anxious morning driving to this interview. So I thought making it important and then the reality is nothing is important interesting. Yes, but when I put it in a frame of reference

30:43 That life the planet was doing great before I got here and we'll do fine after I leave. So how important is it that puts it in perspective for me. It's just an experience. She I really really know in my heart.

31:05 Life provides me with my next experience that everything that happens to me is a gift whether I like it or not having it has nothing to do with it. Everything is a a gift in order to grow me into a ball and you recently had an experience with her own health where you definitely got to make that choice and decision for yourself as to whether you were going to continue in this existence. That's right. I had a marvelous experience. It was it that nearly killed me, but they ordered valve replaced in my heart and the cardiologists said I'd be two days and I see you in 10 days in rehab and then I'll be on my way Mary way.

32:04 It wasn't quite that simple because I had four surgeries my I had a cardiac arrest. I had a collapsed lung I couldn't get my heart started had to put in a pacemaker. I died for six and a half minutes do a clinical travel the universe and this is peaceful and it's beautiful and it's

32:35 It was a wonderful experience, but you chose not not to stay there. You are to stay on the planet for one moment. And this time it is that I am too.

32:51 To teach people that there is no hell and there's no devil.

32:57 And I said to myself that maybe a pretty hard sale.

33:02 Because people have been pointless been pounded into people for centuries. But anyway, that's why I came back to do that. And that's part of my my assignment today and you didn't you feel that each of us has an assignment has something that I can do to make this existence meaningful. I know we both have some similar ideas about the concept around Collective Consciousness. And and what and what that Collective Consciousness mean. Yeah. I feel like that we're in trouble times and their lot of things that are are breaking apart coming apart right now and on the planet, but that if enough people really keep their mood up and don't make anything important that raises the consciousness of the whole planet and for that I can make a contribution to that not that

34:02 And I have any assurance that my contribution will make any difference stick to the plan. I don't know that that information is not available to me, but I'm doing all that when I do that it makes the contribution to my life.

34:18 But after lease me, I don't know where it goes. But I I feel like that is something that each of us can that I can do that. I am responsible for you and and and how we treat other human being. I can contribute to a harmonious mood Wherever I Go.

34:40 That's pretty simple white but it's but it's also very profound. I know that through my relationship with you and through the things that you've shared with me about about your life that it allows me to say everyday. What can I do to be kind? What can I do to make somebody's way a little bit easier mail on this path and which is well, it's me, you're so much over this last decade of of our relationship and and working together and you know as well as I said everyday I think about something that you have taught me, but there is a another one for me is I think it was originally attributed to to Dick Gregory.

35:40 It certainly I think goes back to to what you have taught me about fear and faith not being able to occupy the same place in so I think we're at we are created with essence.

35:55 That never has to experience fear.

35:58 So it is possible to live Fearless. Like I think that is her desk for me and I refused to let fear make my decisions for me and I and I think you proved that I think you proved that in the things you've just taken on in your life whether at the you know, riding a bug flying an airplane all seems to be with that that sense of one thing I did learn about myself during this last year, which of the roads been pretty bumpy this last year is it when I went to rehab the first night people kept coming in and out of my room they bring me ice water they dump my trash that I I need anything they wake me up to see if I still alive and blah blah blah and I knew that I had to be single-minded about my recovery.

36:55 Should I put a big sign on my door said nobody can enter my room after 10 at night or before 7 in the morning?

37:04 And I called them every evening when they gave report to make sure the night shift.

37:10 And I'm sure I endeared myself to him because I knew I had to get rest in order to

37:18 In order to where I had to have in order to heal I was so traumatised there's unbelievable. But it seems like then for 78 years that goes back to what your parents gave you right at that beginning of Donna making the two choice for herself as to how she's going to live her life and and whether it was standing up to the doctors who wanted to give you an operation or standing up to the doctors that wanted to interfere with your recovery. Will this is just one little one little story that tells about my mother Daddy. I had I have I was about 12 years old and I wonder bicycle and of course, there's no physical way for me to ride a bicycle is impossible.

38:06 But I kept begging and kept back and I got tired of begging and so Daddy found a little a 16 inch girls bicycle.

38:16 And I got on the bicycling for three days. I got on and I fell off and I got all NFL off I got on I was so determined to write that ride that bicycle.

38:28 And at the end of three days, I wrote it and I wrote it all over town. I really ever worked to school. I went to the grocery store when I loved it. But mother told me later years later. She stood inside watching me take this beating and never once did she come out in Sedona. Don't do this to yourself.

38:50 She was willing to experience her pain and order to give me the freedom to choose to find out whether I can ride the bicycle are not that is unbelievable. Love if that is the essence of love that that will allow the person to live even though we might have pain in fear and watching them. But what comes out the other end is our beautiful relationship which we've had four for over a decade now and which I am so grateful for and I just want to thank you for taking the time to drive down from a Lake Whitney to meet me here and and to do this with me and we can build this friendship that. We've had the privilege to do this. I've been privileged to be a guest on this planet.

39:50 And life has been very very good to me.

39:56 All of my 78 years, there's never been anything that I've needed that life is not provided for me and that is incredible.