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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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Eadie dances without it for several reasons. The prosthetic is a "starter leg" and doesn't have the sturdy foot or flexible knee a dancer needs. (See accompanying story about a benefit McKinney is having to raise money for a better prosthetic.)
Plus, Eadie is afraid she'd give Chambers a concussion if she hit him in the head with it.
Eadie likes to do tricks with her fake leg, like gross people out with the joint-popping sound it makes when she turns it at awkward angles. She also likes hanging it out the window.
In text messages, she refers to her prosthetic leg as Felipe, but pronounces it, "Phillip-A," because that's how she said it when she was under the influence of pain pills.
Her stump, which is several inches above what used to be her knee, is "Fat Louie," and her former leg is "Blaire."
When she feels phantom pains, she says Blaire is haunting her.
"We're all pretty much theater-dance kids and pretty silly," Eadie said.
"Yeah, literal is calling it a stump," McKinney added. "Non-literal is calling it 'Fat Louie.'"
'SUCH A SIMPLE CANCER'
Eadie started dancing with Stafford Ballet Academy when she was 8. At first, she wanted to be like her big sister, then realized she was born to do the five basic ballet positions in front of an audience.
She was about to turn 15, and finishing a rigorous schedule of "The Nutcracker" performances, when her leg began to hurt. She figured it was a pulled muscle.
When it didn't get better after repeated icings, she saw a doctor.
Tests showed she had osteosarcoma, a cancerous bone tumor that typically develops when adolescents are growing rapidly.
Doctors told her parents, Jill and Jim Eadie of Hartwood, that she'd need to have about six inches of bone removed, then undergo chemotherapy for three months. They said "this was such a simple cancer," Eadie recalled, "and there was only a 1 percent chance it would ever come back."
Once she healed, Eadie started dancing again, this time with Christian Youth Theater. She played tall Alice in "Alice in Wonderland," and on the last show of the first weekend, her leg started to swell.
At this point in the story, Eadie stressed that she still did her part in the show, even when she had to use crutches.
HER WORLD STOPPED
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."