Joy Ride

My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance

Non-Fiction - Autobiography
410 Pages
Reviewed on 08/03/2018
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Author Biography

These days I'm close to retiring from my 44+ year career in nursing. I love all things art and hope to continue to dance and play with friends across the globe.

However, for too many years I tried to ignore, avoid, and deny stuff that challenged my sense of myself as a well-adjusted, smart, successful, positive person. I wanted it to seem like nothing, not even the loss of a leg to cancer at age 11, bothered me. It all just rolled off my back. This, of course, led to failed relationships, eating disorders, and lots of hiding, lying, and stealing.

Somehow, the universal good energy had my back and I wasn’t so far gone I couldn’t let a little ray of it into my sphere. It accompanied me on a long journey, pointing me in the direction of things I needed to see and learn.

And then I found art and dance and writing. My body slowly rid itself of the mess that had accumulated, and there was space for feeling the whole gamut of ever-changing, present-moment emotions.

I wrote Joy Ride to come to terms with the secrets I kept. I wrote to remember and embrace all the things I tried so hard to forget. I wrote to celebrate finding a relationship with my body, soul, and spirit through movement.

And I wrote because I hoped others might find something in my life that would remind them of their own bravery and their own joy ride.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Gisela Dixon for Readers' Favorite

Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance by Karen Witt Daly is an autobiography written by Karen in her own words. Joy Ride is a story of hope and healing. In the book, Karen describes her childhood, which was a typical one in the mid-twentieth century. Her life changes, however, when she is diagnosed with cancer at a young age. In spite of treatment and radiation, the decision has to be made to amputate her entire right leg and pelvic area at the age of 11. Naturally, the physical wounds heal faster than the emotional ones and, in this book, Karen describes her school life after her surgery, her college years, the constant challenges from her disability, the psychological toll it took on her at an age where all one wants to do is fit in with their peers, her eating disorder and the resulting problems from that, her relationships, sex, and marriage, and eventually her acceptance and even embracing of her disability and learning to live a full and loving life.

Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance is a well-written book and I think it would be a great source of inspiration for anyone going through similar struggles, especially young people struggling with illness or disability. Karen’s writing style is simple and straightforward and, essentially, this is a story of healing from cancer and all of its effects from a young age. Karen seems to be lucky to at least have a fairly good family and friends support system, which is crucial in these types of cases. If anything, this highlights the importance of healthy and close connections with people to be able to find joy in life in any circumstances. Karen herself comes across as a strong and level-headed woman and her story is an inspiring one.

Lit Amri

“Loss and grief and my long and winding road to self-acceptance is the essence of Joy Ride, for it's about the power a mind stuck in denial can wield over a being, the ability of a body to survive years of self-inflicted abuse, and the unwavering tenacity of a spirit that knows it’s lucky to be alive.”

At the beginning of Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance, Karen Witt Daly tells readers how she had her right leg amputated due to bone cancer in 1962. She depicted how one’s family dealt with difficulties back then-tacit acceptance and moving forward. But her refusal to “acknowledge the reality that I had lost a leg” shows us her fear and vulnerability right away, the coping mechanism of her mind that led to unhealthy behavior patterns. Self-acceptance is something that everyone struggles and empathizes with at different levels. Sympathy from others is contextually good. However, it can also be a burden and evoke shame when one thinks that he or she receives it too often. In Karen’s case, particularly in her teen years, I feel that this is how she saw it at the time.

Through a straightforward and frank narrative, Karen’s journey to her own self-acceptance gives us invaluable life lessons that we can learn and wisdom that we can emulate. Even though I’m ambivalent about analyzing dreams, her time in the dance classes is fascinating, particularly the Authentic Movement classes. The way Karen described the dances is very liberating, and I’m glad that she included some pictures of them. It made me re-evaluate my limited understanding of the dance art form and of who dancers should be physically. Simply put, Joy Ride is a commendable and thought-provoking read in a refreshing way.

Mamta Madhavan

“A few fly bites cannot stop a spirited horse.” – Mark Twain. Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance by Karen Witt Daly is the author’s personal journey that will give hope to all readers facing difficult situations in life and teach them that the best way to handle adversity is by participating in life fully, which can open many avenues; joyful moments, inner peace, and life changing adventures. Losing her right leg to cancer at the age of eleven and her journey was motivating for Daly. The author’s personal one-legged journey shared in the book is about her loss and grief, self-acceptance, survival, and the tenacity of a spirit that is grateful to have survived. The book will give a better awareness to readers about worldly compassion, gratitude, delight, playfulness, and happiness. This book is a realization of the fact that the gateway to happiness is self-compassion.

The book is insightful and thought-provoking and, most importantly, will encourage readers to perceive life and its happenings with a positive attitude. The author’s account of her life is personal, honest, and straightforward. This amazing journey of the author will make readers look at the profundities of life and the beauty of humanity, help them enjoy life and all its colors, and accept each moment as a miracle that will not be repeated. The author’s story of personal struggle is raw and courageous, and her survival and attitude towards life are admirable. Books like this are motivating and will help readers to deal with difficult situations in their lives in a better way.

Romuald Dzemo

Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance by Karen Witt Daly is an autobiographical narrative that is as gripping as it is inspiring, one woman’s battle with physical disability and her inner journey to self-acceptance. A courageous woman pens an endearing memoir of survival, inner freedom, and triumph. Everything changed for Daly when, in 1959 and at the age of 8, she was diagnosed with bone cancer. The real trauma hit her when her right leg and pelvis were amputated at age 11. She recounts her childhood, and brings up beautiful episodes that capture what it felt like growing up in New Jersey in the ‘50s. Readers will enjoy her escapades with her brother, Billy, but life after the amputation was punctuated by insecurity, defensive walls, and exaggerated reactions — coping mechanisms that soon became problematic for the protagonist. Her relationship with her body and her self-image had been negatively affected by her experience, but how she finds healing and freedom is what makes this memoir a beautiful and inspiring read.

This is a memoir that is brutally honest, insightful, and featuring deep emotional layers. The narrative voice is strong and the prose exquisite. It is not surprising to notice the narrator’s intelligence and ability for self-assessment as she takes readers through her journey. It is poignant and utterly riveting, focused and balanced. I was struck by the honesty with which the narrator tells her story, allowing readers to understand how our defenses and coping mechanisms can transform into challenges that stop us from taking advantage of opportunities for growth. Karen Witt Daly captures her emotions in a language that is beautiful and moving. For instance, writing about an incident in school where she couldn’t accept being wrong, she says: “I burst into tears. I feel my insides tighten into a ball. Ashamed and scared, I want to disappear. I know my teacher’s mad at me. It takes her several minutes to reassure me that life will go on after an error, but I hope she doesn’t tell Mom.” Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance is a grand journey of self-exploration, self-acceptance, and courage.