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EXCLUSIVE! Caylee Blosenski gets real about her life-saving amputation

"I lost my leg, but I gained more than I ever dreamed."

The first sign that I had cancer was pain. As a competitive gymnast, I was always getting injured—pulled muscles are just a part of the sport. One day, I thought I sprained my ankle, but it was slow to heal. After a week, I came home from school and bawled my eyes out to my mom. The pain was unbearable...and I just knew this wasn't a gymnastics injury.

After several hospital visits and rounds of tests, we got the news: It was osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer.

Slowly it sunk in. A painful tumor had grown on my bones. I was crying. My parents were crying. I was only 10 at the time, so I didn't fully understand what it meant—or what to expect. The doctors explained our options, one of which was amputation below the knee.

It feels weird to say that amputation was a no-brainer but, in a way, it was. Yes, I'd be losing part of my leg, but it meant the cancer would be gone for good. Keeping the leg meant always wondering if the cancer might come back. My life or my leg? It was an easy call.

Before my surgery, I talked to the other people who had undergone amputations. I had the same question for all of them: Are you living the life you had before? In a lot of ways, that was the only question that mattered. I had big dreams (in addition to being a gymnast, I had always wanted to be an actor) and I needed to know they were still possible after limb loss. They were...but I won't pretend being an amputee didn't add new challenges.

I was eager to get back to gymnastics after my surgery, but because of the cancer treatments I was going through, it took my leg longer to heal—which meant I couldn't start using a prosthetic right away.

Rather than give up, I figured out what I *could* do. Three months after surgery, I went out to my backyard trampoline and did my first post-amputation back handspring without a prosthetic. It may have scared my parents half to death, but it also showed all of us that nothing was going to hold me back. Soon, I was competing in the bars, vaults and floor—all without my prosthetic leg.

And when it came to my dream of being an actor, I didn't let being an amputee hold me back. In fact, it actually led to a really exciting opportunity.

When I heard about Disney's Cheaper by the Dozen reboot, I was instantly drawn to Harley. In addition to being funny, creative and outspoken, she's in a wheelchair—and the movie's producers were specifically looking to cast an actor with that experience. Before I was fitted with my prosthetic, I'd used a wheelchair and scooter. I knew I could use my journey to help authentically tell Harley's story, too.

Of course, there have been tough times (stares from strangers and super personal questions can be a lot when you're already struggling to adjust to something as life-changing as limb loss), but now, four years after my amputation, I can say that my limb is truly all I lost. Well, that and my cancer, which I was more than happy to be permanently rid of. 

What I *didn't* lose? My passion, dreams and drive—or the ability to do the things I had always loved doing before my diagnosis. Determination and hard work can truly carry you far, even when something traumatic happens in your life. Whatever hurdles you face on your journey, keep believing in yourself and don't give up. You will have your back handspring moment—and it will get easier from there. I promise.

Hey, girl! Just wanted to let you know that this story originally ran in our June/July 2022 issue. Want more? Read the print mag for free *today* when you click HERE.

Images: Ty Chen Photography, Deidhra Fahey Photography

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by Caylee Blosenski | 5/18/2022
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