Gabi Shull’s entire life changed when she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a cancerous bone growth in her knee.
The teen’s health battle began in 2011 after the then-9 year old injured her knee while ice skating. After weeks of pain that extended beyond what was expected, doctors did an MRI and discovered a cancerous growth, Good News Network reported.
It was a diagnosis that truly stunned Gabi’s family, with her mother, Debbie Shull, describing the news as “shocking, heartbreaking, scary, unnerving and so many other emotions – all at the same time.”
The family faced a fair bit of uncertainty considering they knew nothing of her prognosis — or if the cancer had spread. But there was one silver lining: Doctors told Shull and her family that, had she not fallen and injured her knee, they might have missed the cancer entirely. So, in a sense, the accident saved her life by exposing the underlying medical problem.
After doctors confirmed the diagnosis with a biopsy, Gabi started grueling treatments.
“The chemotherapies were aggressive and rough on her system. It was a long journey,” Debbie Shull wrote in a piece for Cure Research. “Each treatment required a 4-5 day hospital stay along with several hospital admissions for fever and/or neutropenia.”
After numerous rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, doctors amputated a portion of the Gabi’s leg and performed a rotationplasty, a rare procedure in which her healthy ankle was used as a replacement knee.
It was a decision that has allowed Gabi, now 15, to get back to competitive dancing, one of her passions. In a video produced by The Truth 365 earlier this year, the teenager explained how the surgery worked.
“They took out my knee area, which is the portion the cancer was in and they took my lower leg and twisted it 180 degrees backwards and reattached it to my upper high,” she said. “So, now my ankle acts as my knee joint, and whenever I point my foot it straightens the prosthetic, and whenever I flex my foot it bends (it).”
Gabi said the surgery — while radical and not for everyone — has been worth it for her, as she’s now able to dance, ice skate, rollerblade and rock climb. It was her passion for dancing, though, that stands out, as it helped motivate her recovery from the life-changing surgery.
“It allows me to do anything I want to do,” she said, going on to encourage others never to abandon their dreams. “Live your dreams and don’t ever give up.”
And that’s exactly the mantra she’s lived by, as Gabi, a ballerina, still engages in competitive dancing.
Debbie Shull mirrored her daughter’s sentiment, saying the family opted for the surgery after seeing videos of kids who had undergone rotationplasty playing sports and being active.
“We learned that there is absolutely no cons to rotationplasty except the way it looks and if you can get past that and focus on your quality of life then you’ve gained everything and have lost nothing,” she told the Daily Mail.
Gabi’s story of battling cancer, losing a limb and fighting to overcome the odds has served as an inspiration for many, with her mother concluding her 2014 article by encouraging people who face such challenges to keep the faith.
“There is always hope,” she wrote.
As for Gabi, she has big plans for the future.
“When I am older I would like (to) specialize in pediatrics at colleges or work as a nurse or scientist looking to help find a cure for cancer,” she told the Daily Mail. “If I can beat cancer and live with a prosthetic leg and learn to do everything again, then I believe I can do anything.”
Looking for more inspiration? Check out The Sonder Podcast with Kirsten Haglund first podcast for Faithwire kicks off with a refreshingly honest take on what her podcast is all about.