Almost 22 years ago, Jessica Quinn was playing outside with her sister, showing off her impressive balance and agility skills. But, when she slipped off a soccer ball and crashed to the ground, she snapped her femur bone, leaving doctors puzzled when months later, the break refused to heal.
Jessica, who was eight at the time, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and to save her life, doctors amputated her leg and performed a surgery which was a first for New Zealand.
Keep reading to find out more about this inspirational young woman who today is running, swimming, dancing, and a soon-to-be mom!
New Zealand’s Jessica Quinn was only eight when she was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer and had her leg amputated in a life-saving surgery.
An active child, Jessica – who’s now an equally active 30-year-old– explained that she was playing outside, boasting her athletic talents, when her journey with cancer started.
“I was outside playing with my sister, and I decided to stand on a soccer ball just trying to balance and show off a little bit, but I fell off and snapped my femur bone.” She continued, “I got rushed into hospital and they did surgery and tried to heal the break. They spent about three or four months trying to heal the bone, like they normally would, without realizing why it had broken in the first place.”
Months later, showing no progression, the child–who was in excruciating pain–was sent for more tests to determine why her body denied her bones from healing.
Doctors discovered the cause was osteosarcoma, a bone cancer that often develops in the cells that form bones.
She was immediately treated with intensive chemotherapy, side effects that included her weight dropping down to a dangerous 18 kilograms.
“It was just the only way to really get rid of everything and save my life.” Jessica continues, “But there were a few things at play. Because I’d broken my leg, it was complicated by the risk of the cancer being spread. They had also tried to fix the leg by putting rods up my femur bone, so having a bone replacement or anything like that was just not really an option. The goal was simply to save my life.”
Jessica explained there were two options. One was “a full hip disarticulation,” that she describes as an amputation high in her hip socket.
“But that kind of gives you nothing to attach your prosthetic to, so you don’t have a knee joint, and I was a really active kid, and I was only a kid, so I wanted to live as normal a life as possible.”
The other option was ground-breaking at the time, rotationplasty, a surgery that removes the middle part of a leg, that is then rotated 180 degrees and reattached to the thigh, allowing the ankle to serve as the knee joint and her calf as her thigh.
“I was the first person in New Zealand to successfully undergo this kind of amputation,” She said.
Adapting to her new life, goals and body–her right knee now a twisted foot that holds her prosthetic in place–Jessica is now the author of “I’m Still Standing,” an athlete and a model, who strutted the catwalk at New Zealand Fashion Week .
A pillar of resilience, Jessica–an inspirational influencer to almost one million TikTok followers and another 250 thousand on Instagram–uses social media to challenge expectations of perfection.
“I wanted to tackle this cookie cutter mould of the perfect body portrayed in the media. My dream was to see people like myself with real bodies represented,” she shared with the New Zealand Herald.
And she’s also willing to answer questions from her curious fans.
In one of her more popular posts, that had 1.6 million views, Jessica answers the question, “Do you hide your insecurities?” In a six second video, viewers see her standing with her prosthetic leg, first pulling down her shorts to hide the amputation site. She captions over the image: “8-year-old me: hide your prosthetic leg so no one stares. 29-year-old me: no!”
Fans jumped in, offering praise. “You should be proud since it’s like sign of your strength so definitely don’t hide it! More like dazzle it up and show it more,” while another says, “You are so special!”
Always challenging herself, in 2018 she competed on Dancing with the Stars, raising $55,000 for New Zealand’s Child Cancer Foundation.
“Walking is hard for me, let alone dancing. That was the furthest I’ve ever pushed myself outside my comfort zone.” She continued, “Seeing the effect my message has had on all these kids who ask me to have photos with them is an awesome feeling.”
Despite earning her many successes, Jessica frequently reflects on her difficult journey. In the fall of last year, one of her viral posts captured the interest of 1.1 million cyber users. The post was captioned: “21 years ago today I was wheeled into a 14 hour amputation that would hopefully save my life. After a lengthy cancer battle my unique surgery (see my other videos) was done as a last option to survive. I wish I could go back and tell younger me the life I’d go on to live, what a 21 years it has been. Here’s to many more.”
Followers chimed in with thoughtful comments like, “I love the spirit [and] confidence you [portray] my dear…[you] are so amazing [and] unique.” Another shares, “I’m so happy you’ve made it through the bad days [because] it made the best version of yourself”
But it’s not always praise.
The beautiful woman, who married the love of her life in May, 2023, is now expecting her first child and a handful of trolls are there, trying to shatter her hard found confidence.
Addressing the negativity in a video that reached 3.5 million internet users, Jessica shows users her beautiful pregnant body, captioned with comments like: “I would like to see which man was this level of brave plz” and “who the hell pregnanted her.” She responds: “I HONESTLY do not get down about comments like this. I truly am proud of the body I live in. I know everything I went through to get to this point and it’s all an incredible miracle in my eyes.” She continued, “I also love the community I have built, it’s only when my videos go viral and are shared with people who haven’t followed my story that these comments appear and that just shows we can’t judge a book by [its] cover.”
Her devoted fans defended her with comments like, “I always think how lonely, sad and unfulfilled these faceless internet trolls are to write such things,” and “The fact these comments don’t phase you Jess make you even more of an inspiration to me.”
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It truly is shocking that some people feel it’s okay to share their negativity on a site that’s exclusive to positivity.
We think Jessica Quinn is an inspiration and really appreciate her exposing herself to an oftentimes unforgiving cyberworld, with the goal of helping others. Hers is such a beautiful journey and there’s lots to be learned from this woman!