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Teenage Patient Learns to Use Prosthetic Leg

Cheyenne works out with her prosthetic leg.

After losing her leg to bone cancer, a Marianjoy patient is making strides toward her future, one step at a time.  

Eighteen-year-old Cheyenne DeVelasco was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, in the summer of 2014. As she went through chemotherapy and the amputation of her left leg, sometimes all she could focus on was getting through one moment at a time. Today, DeVelasco doesn’t take the small moments for granted. She is looking ahead and planning out her future.

Prior to her diagnosis, DeVelasco had started a workout DVD series to stay in shape for volleyball season. When she started to experience pain in her left leg, she thought perhaps she had torn a ligament. Her parents took her to get X-rays at an orthopaedic clinic, where she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and referred to Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

Through chemotherapy and surgeries, DeVelasco was under the care of Terrance Peabody, MD, chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and David Walterhouse, MD, associate professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. During that time, she would play games, watch movies and listen to music with her family to help get through the tough days. She also wrote poems and calligraphy in a sketchbook to relax.

After chemotherapy and surgery to remove about six inches of her bone, the cancer came back. DeVelasco made the decision to have her leg amputated above the knee instead of trying another round of chemotherapy. Once she recovered, DeVelasco was fitted for a prosthetic leg and started using it at home. “I was very happy with the leg, but I wasn’t using it properly,” she says. “I had a lean when I walked and injured my IT band.”

In August 2016, DeVelasco sought treatment and therapy at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, part of Northwestern Medicine, to learn how to properly walk with the prosthetic leg. She started working with Natalie Reed, PT, DPT, physical therapist in the Outpatient Physical Therapy Department at Marianjoy.

“Since Cheyenne is young, athletic and coordinated, she was able to figure out how to use the prosthetic leg at first on her own,” Reed says. “We needed to work on her confidence and strength to help her control the prosthesis.”

Reed and DeVelasco worked with the ZeroG, a piece of equipment that provides body-weight support, so DeVelasco could practice walking without a fear of falling. Once DeVelasco had her confidence and strength, they started working on quick walking and jogging.

DeVelasco also recently received a second prosthetic leg with a rounded blade made for running. “Natalie is helping me learn how much force I need and where to step when I wear the blade.” After two and a half years of simply trying to make it through the hard moments, DeVelasco says, “Getting the running leg and putting it on for the first time was the moment I had been waiting for.”

Thanks to the support from Marianjoy, DeVelasco has an active future ahead of her. She plans to attend Grace Bible College outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan, next fall, where she has her eye on the volleyball team. DeVelasco also wants to pick up running and try out kickboxing classes. She plans to study exercise science and hopes to eventually be able to help other people who have experienced amputation.