12-Year-Old Girl With Cancer Has Surgery To Replace Knee With Her Foot, Can Finally Dance Again

by Kim Wong-Shing
Kim Wong-Shing is a staff writer at LittleThings. Her work spans beauty, wellness, pop culture, identity, food, and other topics. She is a contributing writer at NaturallyCurly, and her work has also appeared in HelloGiggles, Lifehacker, Wear Your Voice Magazine, and other outlets. She grew up in Philadelphia, attended Brown University, and is now based in New Orleans.

Delaney Unger has always loved to dance. So when the 12-year-old girl was diagnosed with cancer in her knee, her doctors knew they had to do everything possible to keep her dancing.

Delaney was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare type of cancer, in her knee when she was just 11 years old.

“You’re scared for her,” Delaney’s mom, Melissa, told CBS New York.

“You’re trying to keep her calm and not make a big deal about it, but inside it’s tearing you apart.”

Delaney went through chemotherapy at Stony Brook University Hospital in Stony Brook, New York. But eventually, doctors had to amputate Delaney’s knee to get rid of the cancer cells completely.

“I was like, ‘Alright, you can take my leg, I don’t care, I just want to dance again,'” Delaney said. “That’s all I want to do again.”

Her doctors heard her out. To allow Delaney to use her leg again, they performed a rare Van Ness procedure, replacing her knee with her own foot and ankle.

“We got rid of the cancer completely, but then we took her ankle which had no cancer in it at all and used that to form a new knee,” Dr. Fazel Khan, assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery, explained to the press. The attachment of her foot and ankle helps her to be more agile wearing a prosthesis.

Since her procedure, Delaney has been getting used to her new routine. She’s learning to walk, run, and, most importantly, dance once again.

In May, Delaney even attended a dance recital, where she performed lyrical hip-hop and jazz routines.

“People stare at me now,” Delaney said of her new knee. “But I’m kind of used to it now so I don’t care.”

She’s now celebrating one year cancer-free.

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