Beautiful bone cancer survivor opts for agonizing operation so she can wear heels for the very first time
A beautiful bone cancer survivor can wear high heels for the very first time, after opting for an agonizing procedure to lengthen her leg.
Sophie Hartley, 18, had always dreamed of wearing sky high heels, but after beating bone cancer ten years ago, she was left with one leg longer than the other, making wearing her killer heels impossible.
Despite more than ten surgeries, Sophie’s left leg was still almost three centimetres shorter than her right, and she was forced to wear surgical shoes that corrected the difference.
After seeing her friends strut around in glamorous heels, Sophie, from Slough, Berks, decided enough was enough, and chose to have a painful external cage fitted for four long months to lengthen her leg.
Now, the pretty teen can finally wear her beloved heels – and has amassed an impressive shoe collection since her surgery.
Sophie said: “After having so many surgeries throughout my childhood, when the doctors suggested this procedure, I knew I had to give it a try.
“Before, I could only wear surgical shoes – they were a pair black pumps that I wore every day, and it was horrible.
“I used to think ahead to my wedding day, and I’d get upset that I wouldn’t get to wear a pair of beautiful wedding shoes.
“I knew the cage would mean I could wear heels – and my legs would finally be the same length, meaning I wouldn’t be in pain or have a limp anymore.
“It was a big decision as I knew wearing the cage for four months would be agony, and really embarrassing, but I was determined.
“I brought myself a pair of black stilettos before the surgery, and each day I had the cage on, they were a reminder of why I was going through all this.
“When I finally had the cage off, I put the heels on for the first time – I could only manage it for about 20 seconds, but they were the best 20 seconds of my life.
“Now, I love indulging in a new pair of shoes all the time – it’s not great for my bank account, but I feel so much more confident.”
Sophie was diagnosed with bone cancer in her right femur when she was just eight years old.
She underwent a year of chemotherapy and a knee replacement in order to save her life, and was eventually declared cancer free.
But as Sophie grew, the metal knee replacement began to cause issues – her bones were growing, whilst the knee replacement was not – causing her legs to become different lengths.
At its worst, Sophie’s right leg was one whole inch – or 2.5cm – shorter than the other.
Sophie said: “The knee replacement stopped my leg from growing properly, so every time I grew an inch, I had to have my good leg lengthened.
“I was only nine years old when I became cancer free, and I still had a lot of growing to do, so I was always having operations.
“The surgeons even removed the two growth plates – the area that produces new bone tissue and helps you grow – on my good leg to try and stop it from growing, but then the ankle bone continued to grow instead.”
After eleven operations, Sophie was offered the option of being fitted with an Illazrov frame.
The cage-like frame is fitted around a break in the tibia bone, and inserted into the bone either side of the break.
Each day, the frame pulls the two pieces of bone further apart, encouraging more and more new bone to form whilst healing the break – ultimately lengthening the leg by 1mm a day.
Sophie said: “When the doctors told me about the frame I knew I had to do it – I was fed up of wearing plain shoes and being in pain all the time.
“But it was a awful experience having to wear it.
“I was in the middle of my A-levels and I was very self-conscious, the cage was huge and I hated it.
“But I was really determined, and if I got down I’d think about all the wonderful shoes I could wear – and the shoes that I’d brought myself.
“Finally, four months later I had the cage off which was amazing.
“I had to learn to walk again and have intensive physiotherapy but finally, after a decade, my legs were the same length, and I could start wearing the shoes I’d always dreamed of.”
Now, Sophie used all her spare money to buy a new pair of heels – the taller the better.
She said: “I love wearing heels – I feel really confident and accomplished, and I think people take you more seriously.
“Now, people always expect me to be in the highest shoes.
“I finally feel like that I can put everything behind me.
“Going through bone cancer isn’t just a physical disease, but it also takes its toll mentally.
“Adapting to remission is difficult – there is a huge pressure to make something of your life which weighs down on you everyday.
“You a weak immune system, a shot social life from being in isolation, and you don’t know what to focus on now that you’re physically ok again.
“But after all the surgeries and operations, I finally feel like I’m myself again, and I’m ready to move forward with my life.”
Chief Executive of the Bone Cancer Research Trust, Julie Harrington said: “So many of us take the small things in life for granted, until they are taken away for us. For teenage girls like Sophie, it’s more than just being able to wear pretty shoes – it’s also about self-esteem, confidence and sense of identity.
“Having bone cancer can rob you of all of this and leave survivors with long-lasting emotional scars as well as the physical ones.
“Sophie has shown tremendous courage, determination and strength since her diagnosis and is an inspiration to us all at Bone Cancer Research Trust in raising awareness about this brutal disease, which affects 600 people in the UK and Ireland every year.”
For more information about the Bone Cancer Research Trust visit: http://www.bonecancerresearch.org.uk/.