Sometimes the experiences that seem the scariest have the most positive impact on us. Philadelphia model Tessa Snyder (29) recently shared her scary life-changing moment with the goal of inspiring others. She revealed at an extremely young age she made the decision to have her leg amputated to increase her chances of surviving cancer, and while she struggled to accept her new body her story her story encourages survivors and amputees to find ways to love themselves.
“I first noticed pains around the spring of 2000 and I went to the doctors who misdiagnosed me with growing pains,” Tessa told Daily Mirror. “Little by little I would wake up every day for school and the pain would get worse every morning. One morning I woke up in tears because it took a good couple of minutes for me to be able to bend my leg.”
“Eventually, the pain became unbearable to the touch,” Tessa added. “I was then ordered in for an MRI a couple of months later.”
“I had a biopsy done on my leg, then 10 days after I was sitting in a room being checked out by the surgeon, making sure the stitches had healed. He stood in front of me and explained as simply as he could to an 11-year-old that I had cancer. Osteogenic sarcoma on my right femur bone to be exact.”
“Once I was diagnosed, things happened fast,” Tessa said. “Looking back, it feels like such a whirlwind. I had a central line inserted into my chest to administer the chemotherapy into my body. When I was first admitted into the hospital I had long brown hair which I loved. The doctors and nurses explained the side effect of chemotherapy and how I would be losing my hair, so I should think about cutting my hair.”
“I felt like I was weird looking, and it made me feel vulnerable.”
Chemotherapy completely took over her life. Tessa’s health was deteriorating from the treatment so bad, she always was lethargic and weak. After the first two months of chemo, she was presented with the idea of an amputation.
“The procedure would involve cutting above where the tumour was to limit any chance of the cancer coming back. I think my parents wanted to give me some sort of power by giving me the chance to decide what I wanted to do. Even in my 11-year-old mind I thought if I could get rid of my leg and never have to go through this again, why not?”
Tessa got her leg amputated on September 29th, 2000. “I was hooked up to a morphine drip which I’d press every time I felt the pain come,” she recalled. “My parents came over to greet me and they gave me hugs and kisses. My dad recalls a line which he’ll never let me live down, as he shouldn’t, which was ‘Dad, I did it’. That little girl had a better mindset than most adults.”
“The year of 2001 was a new year for the new me. I focused on becoming stronger while learning how to walk with a prosthesis. My first prosthetic didn’t bend at the knee, but it was specifically designed to gain strength and mobility.”
“There were countless times of frustration and anger, but not once did I want to give up.”
School was difficult. “I felt different to everyone else. I felt out of place and like I wouldn’t be accepted or have any friends. As I was so young at first, I just didn’t know any different. But when I was in my teen years that’s when I had the most difficulty liking my prosthetic.”
“It’s taken me almost 20 years to fully accept my prosthesis. There are days when I don’t want to wear it or days when it hurts, and it gives me sores. But one thing I realised is that I couldn’t keep living my life hating something that I couldn’t change. My prosthetic is a part of me and it’s who I am. It gives me the ability to take me places I want to go and to be able to experience life with my children and partner.”
“I love that at almost 30-years-old I feel more beautiful and sexier than ever,” Tessa, now mom-of-two concluded. “I can’t believe I used to let so many things get to me. Cancer sucks, and having one leg may not be ideal sometimes, but I was given a second chance at life.”
“If I get to help one person through my journey, then my purpose on earth is worth it. Almost 20 years later, I am proud to say to that little 11-year-old girl, thank you for not giving up.”