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Dancer relearning steps-minus a leg
After losing a leg to cancer, Stafford County woman, 20, learns how to redo her dance moves

 Melissa Eadie, 20, lost part of her leg to bone cancer.
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Date published: 8/12/2012

By CATHY DYSON

Melissa Eadie and her dance partner were getting ready for rehearsal when she cheerily announced it was time to take off her leg.

Realizing how that must have sounded, she added: "Now that's something you don't hear every day."

It's probably no more unusual than a woman with one leg doing a pirouette, a difficult dance step because it involves a complete spin around the body.

Eadie, who lost her right leg to cancer nearly a year ago, has mastered the move. The 20-year-old also is figuring out how to redo other ballet steps she learned in her first tutus--except she's doing them with only one lower limb.

"It's so much fun, figuring out what I can do," said Eadie, flashing her trademark smile. "Dancing makes me feel normal again."

The Stafford County woman is inspiring others by the way she's coped with what could have been the biggest tragedy of her life.

"We didn't get a physical miracle in this," said Michael Eadie, her younger brother and best friend, explaining that some family members prayed Melissa's leg would be spared.

"But how she handled this is a miracle. How could she take this and flip it around in just a couple days and make it a positive?"

A FLAIR FOR THE DRAMATIC

Eadie credits her strong faith and good support system of family and friends, as well as her choreographer, Sarah Worman, who isn't afraid to push Eadie on the dance floor.

Even so, she's designing moves for a dancer who's still discovering what she can do. Worman and Matt Chambers, Eadie's boyfriend and dance partner, each regularly tie up one of their legs to determine if certain moves are physically possible for Eadie.

"It's the most challenging thing I've ever done in my life," Worman said. "Having a baby was easier than this."

Eadie's perseverance, as well as her flair for the dramatic, makes dealing with her new reality bearable--and even fun.

Eadie uses a prosthetic leg to walk, and practically glides over the floor with it. When she wears jeans or sweat pants, no one can tell it isn't real, said Emily McKinney, her friend and a fellow dancer.


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Melissa Eadie went off her parents' insurance policy when she turned 18. Four months after her 19th birthday, she had her leg removed due to cancer. VCU Health System in Richmond covered the expenses of her treatment, but her prosthetic leg is another matter.

She has a "starter leg," but would like a permanent prosthetic with a sturdy foot and a knee that's more suited for a dancer. The artificial limb will cost at least $60,000.

Emily McKinney, her longtime friend and fellow dancer, is having a benefit later this month to help raise money and bring awareness to the possibilities of dancing with disabilities. She's putting together a dance recital that includes Eadie, as well as blind and deaf dancers and those missing limbs.

McKinney recently was diagnosed with epilepsy after having 15 to 20 seizures a day.

"It's kind of the same thing Melissa is going through," McKinney said. "I'm like, 'Forget all this.' I'm still going to find a way to dance."

The recital is planned at 7 p.m. Aug. 23 and 25 at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library in downtown Fredericksburg. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for children under 10.

The Melissa Eadie Medical Fund has been set up, in care of Carter Bank and Trust. The address is 175 Warrenton Road, Fredericksburg, Va. 22405.

FAMILY: She's 20, and the third of five children of Jill and Jim Eadie of Hartwood. SCHOOL: Is finishing her associate's degree at Germanna Community College and then plans to go to cosmetology school. She'd like to do makeup for runway models and brides. ACCENTS: She recorded the voice-mail message on her cellphone in a British accent. When she's twisting her prosthetic leg around, she copies the Mexican dialect from the "Nacho Libre" movie and says: "I will take my leg off and beat you with it." HYPER? OH YEAH: Eadie says she's a good dancer, because she's really "spazzy," someone who has bursts of energy. She brought her spaz to a wedding reception recently, when she and boyfriend Matt Chambers threw out as many dance moves as possible. The only problem was her artificial leg didn't roll with the salsa. "I had to literally lift up my hip to move it, and that's kind of awkward."