When I was 13, back in 1993, I was diagnosed with bone cancer (osteosarcoma) in my lower leg. Even though my tumour was much lower than my knee, my leg was amputated above the knee because this gave me the best chance of survival.
I was in hospital having chemotherapy before and after my amputation so most of my rehab was done there and at home with district nurses. I was very determined to get back to school quickly - I guess you could say I was a nightmare patient because I was very demanding and wouldn't stay still!
My main support was my family, friends and high school. I had one of my parents with me every day (for nearly a year in hospital) and saw my brother as much as possible. I had friends visit often and school provided me with newsletters and the detention lists so that I could keep in touch with what was going on. If I was at home and well enough I would go to school on crutches just to feel semi-normal.
The health teams that supported me included great oncologists, nurses, physiotherapists, district nurses, local GPs and prosthetists, who all helped me.
I also met another teenager who had been through the same as I was going through and he showed me that life does go on and not to be worried to try new things and most importantly – TO NEVER GIVE UP OR SUCCUMB!
I was very lucky that I was a fit and active teenager before I got sick and had my amputation. I think that this was a huge bonus for me. I was also stroppy, determined, stubborn and liked to laugh so even though times were hard I didn't give in and let myself get down or feel sorry for myself.
Since my amputation I have used an artificial limb. My first one used stump socks and strapped on around the waist. It had a rubber band to pull the limb through as I walked. Now I have a suction limb; it has a rotator in the knee so that I can cross my legs on the floor and I have an ankle joint that I can change the angle on depending on the heel of the shoes I have on. This part has been the bit I appreciate the most. My new-found love of shoe shopping knows no bounds. My husband is not so keen.
I wear my limb every day from 6:30am till bedtime. The only time I have opted for crutches in place of my limb was when I backpacked in Thailand and it was too hot and sweaty to wear it, so the leg went in the backpack! Other than that I am very mobile and active. Plus I hate crutches and hopping with a cup of tea is just dangerous.
When I have a bad day or my limb is rubbing, I use dressings from the chemist and generally slow down a little. My kiddies are very helpful on those days.
After the amputation I went back to high school and picked up where I left off, went to university and got my teaching degree. I travelled to Canada, America, England and Europe for nearly three years. I worked as a relief teacher in London, sometimes having to catch three trains and then walk just to get to work. Being an amputee without a car for nearly three years has been my biggest achievement – it is not easy to carry a backpack on snow and ice, rely on trains and buses to get groceries etc. I got married when I got back to NZ and now I am working on my career.
I am currently a primary school teacher. I work full time and keep fit by either swimming or cycling with my dog. As well as chasing up to 30 young children round all day at work and doing lunchtime duties in the school grounds.