All News & Blogs
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.
View More Images from this story
Visit the Photo Place
The swelling was caused by a staph infection, and Eadie had to stay on antibiotics for a year and half. The long-term medication caused a blood disorder, which had to be treated, and Eadie still needed another surgery to remove the infection.
This time, doctors planned to replace her infected bone with an artificial one filled with antibiotics.
But when doctors operated in August 2011, they saw the cancer had wrapped itself around a ligament. They had to cut it, making the leg useless.
"My world, like, stopped," Eadie said. "It was the deepest, darkest place I'd ever been."
When she first faced cancer at 15, she asked God to just let her die if she had to lose a leg.
When she confronted the inevitable at 19, she said she was comforted by God's assurance that he had bigger plans for her than she could imagine--and would she please not tell him what to do?
At first, Eadie told herself that if she didn't look at the amputation, it wouldn't be real. She cried, a lot.
Her father convinced her she'd never be able to live again if she didn't accept what had happened.
"And then the next day, I was like, you know what? I can't change it. I can't be like, 'I have a leg again,' because it's gone," she said in a video produced by the River of Life Worship Center. "I just had to trust that God wasn't going to let me fall."
She was angry for the first three weeks after the Sept. 1 amputation, but not from the loss of the leg. She was upset she couldn't do things for herself, said Chambers, her boyfriend.
"Honestly, her attitude has been incredible," Chambers said.
Eadie went back to Germanna Community College two days after she got out of the hospital. She was on crutches, so she found someone to carry her backpack.
Her boyfriend and brother carried her, from the car to the house, when she got really tired.
Within six months of surgery, she was testing her dance legs again. She realized she never would have been able to dance freely, had her right leg remained. It didn't bend properly after the cancer surgery, and her former teacher always feared she'd hurt her.
"Once it was removed, I realized all the things I could do," she said. "I'm back to where I used to be when I was little, just being able to move without hurting myself."
She and Chambers performed "Held," a duet in which Eadie twirled on one foot, easily went from floor to standing and sprang into Chambers' arms. She's steadier on her feet these days than in March, when the church video was made.
Yet, it still showcases the strength in his upper body, the graceful extension of her arms, and the way the two rely on each other.
"It helps that I have a dance partner who really wants to dance with me," Eadie said, smiling as she usually does. "And I love when people watch me dance."
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425
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."