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Fighting cancer with a passion to dance

Kidsday reporter and dancer Delaney Unger with her

Kidsday reporter and dancer Delaney Unger with her new prosthesis. Photo Credit: Unger family

In the beginning of December 2016, I was 11 and was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, which is a type of bone cancer. I had a tumor in my left femur (upper leg) and was getting treated at Stony Brook Children's Hospital.  The day after Christmas I started my first chemo treatment.

After a few months of getting chemo in the hospital, I was told I had three options for surgery. The first one was to save the leg but basically do nothing in my life except walk and maybe swim. The second option was a full amputation. The third surgery is called rotationplasty — that’s when you have a full amputation, and since the bottom half of your leg is perfectly fine, they take that off and turn it 180 degrees and reattach it to the top of your leg. Your calf becomes your thigh, your ankle is your knee joint, and your heel is your knee. So you have a backward foot joint that helps you move. This surgery allows you to do basically anything you want.

Since I had been a dancer at Chorus Line Dance Studio in St. James, that’s when I knew I wouldn’t be able to give it up. And that has also helped me get through, thinking of being on that stage dancing again. I went with the only sensible surgery since I am a high-impact girl.

On April 5, 2017, I had a 13-hour surgery at Stony Brook University Hospital. I was wiggling my toes in recovery, which isn’t supposed to happen till a few days later. They said, “Oh, you’ll be in the hospital for two to three weeks.” I was in for less than two weeks.

I had a few more months of chemo. My last day of chemo was Aug. 15, 2017. In September, I found out I was cancer-free. I couldn’t get my prosthetic till I was done with chemo and cancer-free, so I went to get a fitting at A Step Ahead Prosthetics in Hicksville. In October 2017, I got my first prosthetic. It was decorated with rainbow sea turtles and hibiscus flowers with a dark pink background. The doctors and therapists   said it would take six to eight months to learn how to walk. It took a month for me, which they couldn’t believe.

Once I got my leg, I instantly thought of dance and asked if I could go. They said I could do the stretches when I was still on the crutches. As I got off the crutches more and more, I did better in dance. That made me feel good because I knew in the hospital, all I was thinking about was dancing again, and now that dream was coming true. In January this year,  I started to work on my recital dances. In May, I got to dance in my recital with three routines: lyrical, hip-hop  and jazz. It was amazing!

This year I am doing almost everything again, but I still don’t know because I have to try out for some things. All I know is that I am excited for my next recital! What I’m saying is if something in your life ever crosses your path, you shouldn’t just give up your passions. If you love doing something that much, you will do anything to do it again while being happy with yourself. That’s what I did.

Lara McNally’s Girl Scout Troop 730, Centereach

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