Teen Expands Lifestyle After Amputation

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By Alan Kercher

In most ways, Shelby Robin, Woodlands, Texas, is an active, typical teenager. The 15-year-old is a member of the high school student council and a competitive cheerleading squad. She recently received her learner's driving permit and negotiates driving rights with her mother before their shopping trips.

Unlike a typical teenager, however, Shelby has been an amputee--and a cancer survivor--for over three years. While her life has changed dramatically, Shelby is, in her own words, proof that "There IS life after amputation."

After a fall from a horse, Shelby's injury wasn't responding to treatment. This led to additional testing at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, and the diagnosis of Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. Shelby's left leg was amputated below the knee.

Shelby's parents, Jon and Barbara, worried about how their daughter would handle the stress and challenges of fighting cancer and adjusting to life as an amputee. However, her approach to the amputation and cancer mirrored her approach to life--face it headlong and succeed. "As a parent, you try to be a hero to your kids," said Barbara. "Through it all, Shelby has become our hero."

Rising to the Challenge

Photo courtesy of Robin family
Photo courtesy of Robin family

Fitted with a prosthesis within six weeks of surgery, the teen didn't simply resume her previous active life--she expanded it. Shelby resumed cheering--including participating in first-place finishes with her competition team--and became involved in modeling. She also played a lead part in a short film that focused on the spirit, relationship, and resolve of two young girls who meet in a hospital and forge a friendship.

Shelby became active in The Sunshine Kids, an international nonprofit organization focused on creating positive, exciting experiences for children with cancer. Her enthusiasm, personality, and understated courage made her a natural choice to become the first official "Spokeskid" for The Sunshine Kids.

Shelby's role is not only to represent The Sunshine Kids, but also is to serve as a model and inspiration for the children. Here is where Shelby excels, according to Jennifer Wisler, director of children's services. "I think what strikes me most about her is that she is such a sweet person&She is very courageous and has such wonderful self-confidence. Shelby exhibits that, and the other kids pick it up."

"It's great to be chosen to represent the kids and be the voice for them," Shelby said. "It is a big honor. It's also fun to be in this setting and meet so many great kids and other wonderful people."

A girl with an indomitable spirit and a strong support network can achieve great things. Some of that support was provided by Endolite North America, Centerville, Ohio, part of UK-based Chas. A. Blatchford and Sons Ltd. "[Endolite] offered us support and assistance out of pure concern for our daughter," said Jon Robin. "That showed us that Endolite really cares."

Shelby was fitted with an Endolite Below-Knee Multiflex System prosthesis, designed for a child's leg and an active lifestyle by giving natural ankle motion. Shelby jumps, back-flips, and cheerleads, using the prosthesis.

For a special event, the school's homecoming dance, Endolite designed a component that allows for patient adjustment in the heel height, so Shelby was able to dance the night away in stylish high-heeled shoes.

"It is an honor for our company to be associated with someone as special and courageous as Shelby," said Jeff Livingston, Endolite president.

Shelby's perspective underscores the spirit behind her achievements: "I am grateful for my family and friends who know that I'm the same person I always was." She offers this advice to other amputees: "Just keep working for whatever you're shooting for and don't ever give up."

For more information about The Sunshine Kids, visit

www.sunshinekids.org

Alan Kercher is technical service & education manager for Endolite North America.