Childhood cancer can force us to make decisions we never imagined we’d face – decisions that, for good or bad, will alter our lives forever. Below is the story of 16-year-old MacKale, who made one of those unthinkable decisions when osteosarcoma threatened to take his leg. MacKale’s mom, Marsha, tells the story of how her resilient son turned a difficult loss into a major gain.
When MacKale was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, one of the first things our doctor said was ". . . I think we can save his leg."
But in my terrified momma brain, I was screaming, 'Take the leg, just save my boy.' That leg meant nothing to me, but I wasn't the one who would have to live with the decision of what surgery would mean. MacKale's surgeon felt that saving his leg was the best option. He was confident that by using a cadaver bone, we could minimize the loss of growth to his leg. While MacKale would not be the same and his mobility would be altered, he would have his leg. So that was the route we chose.
In many cases, limb salvage surgery is incredibly successful. It provides a way of life that the survivor can be content with and they move on. But for MacKale, that wasn't the case. His cadaver bone began to erode less than a year after his surgery. Was reconstruction an option? Absolutely! But it wasn't the best decision for Mac. So a year ago, he made the decision to be done with surgeries and hearing 'you can't,' and take his life back by leaving his damaged leg behind.
Fast forward a year, and MacKale will tell you that amputation was absolutely the best decision he has ever made in his life. For my husband and I to hear him say that only reaffirms what we have seen over the last 12 months - MacKale is BACK! Doctors fitted him for his first prosthetic in April. It wasn't long before he was walking without crutches again. And when he got his second prosthetic and new microprocessor knee in October . . . Well, let's just say that despite my many fears and concerns, there's not much he can't do.
MacKale golfed non-stop last summer, managed his freshman soccer team and conquered ropes courses and zip lines in Australia. He learned to drive, plays indoor soccer and spent a week in Utah relearning to ski on one ski and two outriggers (His instructor said it was the most progress he had ever seen in a skier in a single week!). He just finished his high school musical, Beauty and the Beast, where he danced and sang his way into our hearts as Gaston's silly sidekick LeFou.
When many are quick to feel sorry or sympathy for MacKale and the loss of his leg, he will be the first to joke about it. If you tell him to 'break a leg' before his performance, he will reply "...beat ya to it!" He is good-natured, well-adjusted and makes me crazy with typical 15-year-old boy behavior. God has blessed us beyond measure and we see the amazing power of our Lord not only when Mac braves a new activity, but in every day he is with us, every day he is picking at his brothers or impossible to get out of bed in the morning . . . every day is a day to give thanks.
Of course, when scan time comes around, many of those old fears and concerns well up inside me, but most days, we count our blessings that he has been given a second chance - a chance to do all the things he wants to do, despite the inconvenience of losing a leg. God is always good.