EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSBEATING THE ODDS
from Eyewitness News Online
Woman Overcomes Great Odds To Survive Cancer
Reported by: Elizabeth Noreika
Web Producer: Heath Harrison
Reported: Feb. 16, 2013 4:54 PM EST
Updated: Feb. 16, 2013 5:00 PM EST
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
As we continue our series of beating the odds, we introduce you to a brave young woman with an inspiring story.
Life isn't always easy, and, for 26-year-old Erin Deegan, that's an understatement.
This beautiful young woman has a lot going for her. She has an intoxicating personality, a contagious laugh and, most importantly, she is alive.
"I think I see life a lot differently than many of my peers," Erin said.
It is a day Erin will never forget - the day she found out she had cancer. At just 13 years old, she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer.
The tumor ran from her knee all the way down to her ankle. It had also spread to her lungs.
"It doesn't have stages. It's how many tumors you have and where they are located that tells what your chances are going to be - and mine weren't very good," Erin said.
Erin’s doctors said she had a two percent chance of survival.
“We went to visit my doctor to see what our options were,” Erin said. “It could have been an amputation or a resection. He said ‘It's grown behind the knee.’"
“The best possible option for survival was an amputation, and we agreed to it," Erin said.
Right away, doctors fitted her with a prosthetic leg, hoping to make the transition easier.
"I had to retrain the muscles because I wasn't allowed to walk,” Erin said. “My leg would have shattered, so I had to use a wheelchair or crutches all the time"
By the summer of 2000, Erin was in the clear and cancer-free. Months upon months of chemotherapy, physical therapy and numerous doctor visits, and Erin was more than ready to open a new chapter of her life - one that didn't include cancer.
"I had just started high school. I had grown my hair out again,” Erin said. “I was excited to have hair. I was trying to be more feminine and making more friends."
But, sadly, Erin’s bout with cancer was not over.
"I had a relapse, and they didn't really know what to do with me at that point," Erin said.
The osteosarcoma was back. The reoccurrence was in her lungs.
"The second time was harder on me, because I knew I had to go through the same thing all over again," Erin said.
Her second round of surgeries and chemotherapy seemed to work. By 2002, Erin was cancer-free.
“After that, I was in the clear,” Erin said. “It was the best day ever"
Erin recently celebrated ten years of being cancer-free, a milestone that makes the chance of reoccurrence less likely. She celebrated by taking a trip with her best friend to Puerto Rico.
Now this is Erin’s new normal - walking on what's called a C-Leg, a computerized prosthetic.
“It has a computer chip in it that helps control my gate patterns and, wherever I place the weight on my foot, it adjusts to me,” Erin said. “It is programmed for me"
Erin said people still stare, and it used to bother her. But now, she's anxious to share with others how her leg works.
She no longer hides what cancer took from her, but looks at what she's gained from her journey.
While things weren't always easy, and there are still obstacles ahead, Erin is alive - each day a gift that she celebrates to the fullest.
"It's part of me. It's not who I am,” Erin said. “Being a survivor has helped me become so many other things, so it's almost cheating to say I'm only a survivor. I'm a lot of things."
And Erin is still cancer-free to date.
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