Nothing can stop 15-year-old Gabi Shull from dancing—not even cancer. When she was 9 years old, she discovered a case of osteosarcoma in her knee, which resulted in amputation of the affected area only. Shull, who was an avid dancer, was concerned she might never be able to step foot in a studio again—until she had the opportunity to receive a revolutionary form of surgery called rotationplasty. In a Youtube video, Shull explains that after the affected knee was removed, “they took my lower leg and foot, twisted it 180 degrees backwards, and attached it to my thigh.” That's right—when not in the prosthesis, Shull's foot is actually pointing backwards. This is necessary so she can still use the nerves and muscles in her foot to point. She says, “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,” Shull says. “It's not for everybody, but it was worth it for me.” Especially because six years later, she can dance, ice skate, rollerblade, and move like all of her peers. “This is everything she would have done if she had not had cancer,” mother Debbie Shull told Cosmopolitan. “She’s just living her life as if this didn’t happen.” In fact, she even can dance en pointe with a custom-made ponte shoe she screws onto her prosthesis. Her mother shared with the Daily Mail, “She is a determined kid and none of us view her as disabled. At times we forget that she has the prosthetic.”
But Shull has no desire to forget what she's been through. She now is a proud spokesperson for TheTruth365—a grass-roots social media campaign seeking to give a voice to all children fighting cancer—and shares her story to inspire others to pursue their dreams despite the obstacles.
At age 9, Gabi Shull had her knee amputated due to bone cancer.
Image via Debbie Shull
Thanks to a revolutionary surgery, Gabi is dancing again!
All images via Andrew Thomas unless otherwise stated.