Nothing would deter 15yo Gabi Shull from pursuing her love of dancing – not even cancer!
When Gabi Shull was 9 years old she was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer in her leg called osteosarcoma, resulting in its amputation below the knee.
After 12 weeks of chemotherapy, and frightened that she may never set foot in a dance studio again, Gabi was offered the opportunity to receive a revolutionary kind of surgery called rotationplasty –
“they took my lower leg and foot, twisted it 180 degrees backwards, and (re) attached it to my thigh.”
Yes that’s right, when her foot is not in the prosthesis, it actually points backwards. The surgery leaves her with the use of her nerves and muscles – “Whenever I point my foot, it straightens the prosthesis, and whenever I flex my foot, it bends the prosthesis.”
“It’s definitely a unique surgery. It’s not for everybody, but it was worth it for me.”
Her mother says that she’s just like any other kid and is living her life as if it never happened, dancing, roller-blading and ice-skating like all of her friends.“She’s a determined kid and none of us view her as disabled. At times we forget that she has the prosthetic.”
Gabi even had a custom-made pointe shoe made that can be attached to her prosthesis, making it possible to continue to dance. She is also determined to share her experience to help other people like her by being the national spokesperson for Thetruth365, a grass-roots social media campaign giving voice to other children with cancer.
Now Gabi is back dancing competitively, and is an inspiration to her dance teachers and fellow students.
She also has big dreams for the future, saying: “When I am older I would like to specialise in paediatrics at colleges or work as a nurse or scientist looking to help find a cure for cancer.”
“If I can beat cancer and live with a prosthetic leg and learn to do everything again – then I believe I can do anything.”