Life becomes more meaningful when we live it in pursuit of what we are passionate about. The burning desire we have to reach our dreams is what inspires most of us to rise above life’s challenges, no matter how difficult they may be. This is exactly what Gabi Skull had in her heart – the determination to continue doing what she loved most, even though the circumstances weren’t as favorable for her.
In January 2011, 9-year old Gabi suffered from an injury after falling on her knee while ice skating. The injury refused to heal even after two months have passed, and Gabi’s right knee remained swollen and painful. Doctors thought that she just sustained a stress fracture, but an MRI scan revealed something far worse – Gabi had osteosarcoma, a bone cancer that eats tissue and bone.
“Gabi asked me why this had happened to her and we said you know sometimes bad things happen to good people we don’t know why but we have to do our best to get through it – and that’s what we did.”, said Gabi’s mother, Debbie Shull.
Her doctors recommended a radical surgery called rotationplasty, which involves having her knee removed and her foot rotated 180 degrees then reattached to her upper leg, with her ankle serving as her knee.
Upon hearing the doctor’s recommendation, Debbie and her family began looking at videos of kids rollerblading, rock climbing, and water skiing after having the surgery.
She said, “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.”
With that, 9-year old Gabi underwent 12 weeks of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor to an operable size. She had her knee amputated so her life can be saved, and for her to be able to participate in regular activities just like a normal kid.
It was a slow process, but the surgery delivered on its promise. It took Gabi a year to learn to walk with her new leg and another year to get back to dancing. Thanks to this revolutionary surgery, Gabi can now go back to doing what she loved most – dancing!
“It’s a unique surgery,” Gabi told People. “Not for everybody, but it was worth it for me.”
It was truly worth it, especially since five years later, she is back on her toes and dancing competitively.
Now, Gabi is using her experiences to help others by being the national spokesperson for The Truth 365, a social media campaign that gives a voice to children suffering from cancer.
Debbie said that her daughter has done more than anybody expected.
“She is a determined kid and none of us view her as disabled. At times we forget that she has the prosthetic.”
But Gabi’s dreams don’t stop here; beyond what she has achieved at such a young age, she still has bigger goals 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.”
“If I can beat cancer and live with a prosthetic leg and learn to do everything again – then I believe I can do anything.”, Gabi said.
We completely agree! With that kind of determination and courage, there is no doubt that a teenager like Gabi can do anything she sets her mind to – and nothing, not even cancer, can stop her.
Watch the video below from The Truth 365 to hear Gabi explain what rotationplasty is.
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