“My leg is backwards…really.”


When I was diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of seven, having a backwards leg at the end of the months and months of treatment didn’t ever cross my mind. And I suppose, that’s normal, right? Would you think “Oh, bone cancer. Ouch. Wonder if they’ll turn my leg around.” Maybe you would. I don’t know, really. But nonetheless, I didn’t. And I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t either, right? 😉

In fact, I had no idea what a rotationplasty (the official name for this backwards legged-ness) was until I was viewing videos of it in another language given to me for purpose of further explaining what the rest of my life would be like. The people in the videos were playing ping pong. As a child who was accustomed to jumping from trees, I wasn’t entirely sure that was my goal in life, and wasn’t so keen on the idea. And I didn’t get keen on the idea for quite some time. I would have done whatever my parents said, and I sure liked the doctors, but I was an honest kid, and I wanted to run. I wanted to play. And I wanted to jump from trees. And I wasn’t sure that this leg thing was going to make that possible. Plus, I would look different.

Note, not strange. Not ugly. Not a freak. Just different. Just an adjustment. Something of which I wanted no more.

To be honest, the emotions I felt were similar to those present at the death of a loved one. I felt as though part of me was dying. If even for a moment, as a 7 year old, I had to learn that I was a soul, not a body. Or else I would have cried myself through the rest of life. I would have grieved the loss of part of me, rather than realizing that I was only becoming more of me.

Fast forward.

Rotationplasty has been the greatest blessing of my life. If you would have asked my thoughts on it 15 years ago, I would have laughed at you, probably. Well, maybe not laugh. I was young. I probably would have smiled at you and walked away thinking that wasn’t going to happen – ever. But, in the mantra of Justin Bieber – never say never! Right, JBiebs?

In June of 1998, I had the surgery done. Three days later, I was walking. A year and a half after that I was running, swimming, riding bike, walking with my friends, skipping, and most importantly – climbing trees. I am a soul every day. With a totally awesome body. After all, as I learned, the only disability we have is a poor attitude.

Check out videos of the surgery on my website here: http://www.becauselovewins.com/media.php?type=2

ImageThese days, they don’t give children facing this a video in another language. They give them a video of me rollerblading past a video camera. And then they give them me. I get to walk with them. I get to be what I didn’t have when taking my first steps again.

Here, you see me with my good friend. He’s got a backwards leg too. He just turned five, and you can’t tell from this photo, but we don’t need legs. We have each other. And we have full hearts. And nothing will ever stop us. Sometimes we tell people that our legs are on backwards. And finish each other’s sentences when no one believes us with… “No, really.”

Life is beautiful beyond words. Dance on your legs – one, two, three, or eight of them. Backwards or forwards. Just live everything.

…because love wins.

*Shanna speaks worldwide on a variety of topics. She is a professional fundraiser by trade and also a program coordinator for a non-profit her family was a part of founding to support families with childhood cancer. She is a dreamer. She is a do-er. She instills hope in all she meets, and she’ll talk with you about how all tragedy is an opportunity – and that we just have to learn to live that way. Contact her manager for booking information at http://www.BecauseLoveWins.com!

Have the most beautiful of days. And if you don’t know what to do, love. It always wins.

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