Jillian Williams, 20, from Odem, Texas is changing the perspective of amputation worldwide in a special way.
When your health is in danger, your life changes completely. You are blown away by everything and your life is not the same as before. Imagine you have a tumor and you are at risk of losing your leg. What would you do? For this former Miss Teen USA and talented volleyball player, this was the hardest decision to make. When she was in danger of losing her entire leg, she opted for something entirely different. She kept parts of her leg, parts that were still healthy.
Jillian was once a contestant in the glamorous world of Miss Teen USA beauty pageants and a talented volleyball player. In September 2015 Jillian began to experience pain in her knee while playing volleyball for Texas Lutheran University at a tournament.
Jillian explains: ‘My trainer said he thought it sounded like a torn meniscus [knee injury]. You can technically still play on that as long as you aren’t in too much pain. So I played all season on it and the plan was to send me to the doctor and look at surgery options at the end of the season.’
While she was back home in early December, she had an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon in St Antonio, who ordered an MRI. The MRI revealed Jillian had a fractured femur and a bone cyst, which was rapidly growing.
Jillian said: ‘It had grown two and a half centimeters in two months. We went to the oncologist who said ‘I think it’s just an infection but I want to go ahead and do a biopsy to make sure.’
Sadly, her world fell apart in February 2016 when doctors diagnosed her with Ewing’s sarcoma – a rare type of bone cancer.
‘So they did an open biopsy and that’s when it came back positive for Ewing’s sarcoma. When they told me that it was cancer, I was so shocked, I didn’t really believe it.’
Doctors outlined a number of treatment options, some of which could have saved Jillian’s leg – but may have increased the risk of the cancer returning.
She opted for a ‘rotationplasty’, a procedure which required surgeons to remove 36cm of the middle portion of her leg. It happened on 9 March.
The foot, ankle, and shin were then rotated 180 degrees and reattached to her upper leg to act as her knee joint.
Here she is posing on her front lawn after the operation.
Jillian says: ‘My motto of life is to make a difference by being different and I feel like that’s what I’m doing with rotationplasty, with cancer, with anything I do in life’
She also added: ‘I could have just had the tumor taken out and salvaged the limb, but from research I have done and people I have met, there is a higher relapse rate if you go that route and that’s not what I wanted.
Despite this devastating event, she managed to stay upbeat throughout her diagnosis and treatment.
She adds: ‘I don’t know how I remain so positive. I have always been a very happy, bubbly person and I have carried that into my current situation,’
After the operaion, Jillian explains: ‘I do not miss my leg, which is crazy. My biggest goal that I’m reaching for right now is to play Paralympics volleyball for the women’s national team. I hope that it is there in my future’
‘With my dad especially when I was first diagnosed, I was like, “You got to stop making the sad dog face and start, like, smiling. I am going to need your help to fight. I can’t do this alone. I don’t want any crying.”
Jillian calls her new leg ‘Leni’.
She is certainly back on the volleyball court.
Amazingly, she has started doing the same things as she did before.
This includes working out three times a week with her trainer and dreams of playing volleyball professionally
That sure takes a lot of courage, but this girl rules, so, yeah. Awesomeness.