By Josh Saunders
A bone cancer survivor who relearned to walk TWICE so that she could become a catwalk model is now celebrating by showing off her surgery scar.
Natalia Harris, 21, from Manhattan in New York, USA, was 12-years-old when doctors revealed the agonising ‘growing pain’ in her thigh was bone cancer.
She had a malignant tumour the size of a lime in her femur, called Osteosarcoma, which risked breaking the bone and spreading cancerous cells to the rest of her body.
Aggressive chemotherapy shrunk the mass and surgeons successfully removed the femur, replacing it with a titanium prosthetic – but she was forced to learn to walk again.
In 2016, Natalia had to relearn to walk a second time after needing a revision on the prosthetic.
The student focused on her dream of becoming a catwalk model to get through the physical therapy and last year she was finally able to strut down a runway.
Now she’s showcasing the 15in scar on her thigh, hoping it will inspire others not to give up on their dreams, either.
Natalia, a part-time model, said: “From the age of two, I was putting on my mother’s heels and walking around the house, I always thought I was a star.
“I wasn’t going to let bone cancer stop me from following my life dream of becoming a model.
“The tumour was malignant and covered the majority of my right femur, it was about the size of a lime and meant doctors had to remove the bone.
“After my operation, the first question I asked was whether I’d be able to walk on the runway and from there I used my hopes of being a model to motivate my way through therapy.
“It became my goal to get better, I’d even take my mother’s red stilettos to physical therapy sessions as a challenge to myself.
“The fashion industry is very scrutinising and cut throat, so it took a lot of practice to walk properly but I got there.
“The dream of being able to model again helped me through rehabilitation and gave me hope.
“Then I surprised myself even getting on the runway after my second operation, I was still recovering and had physical therapy the next morning.
“I recently did a fashion show where I was able to show the 15-inch scar on my leg and had the words ‘cancer survivor’ along my femur.
“My scar shows other people that you can follow your dreams and despite your situation you shouldn’t give up – for me cancer wasn’t going to have the final verdict on my life.”
After her diagnosis with an Osteosarcoma in 2008, she had to walk on crutches as doctors feared her femur could break and underwent ten blasts of chemotherapy.
Natalia said: “After I was diagnosed with the tumour, I was told not to put any pressure on it or I risked breaking my leg that would then have to be amputated.
“Because it was in my leg, I had to walk around on crutches until they could safely remove it, if my bone broke the cancer could have spread throughout my entire body.
She underwent ten aggressive blasts of chemotherapy to shrink the tumour before her femur was removed and a titanium-plastic prosthetic bone put in its place.
After additional treatment, Natalia began relearning how to walk and used her dream of becoming a model and someday strutting down the catwalk as motivation.
“After dealing with my health issues and treatment, I started getting back into modelling after high school and was able to start doing fashion shows.
“I always loved modelling and used it to help motivate myself, I believe it’s always been in my blood since I was very young I’ve always wanted to model.”
Natalia had to relearn how to walk for a second-time last year, after needing a revision on her prosthetic, which she celebrated by walking on the runway shortly after.
She said: “I needed another operation to revise my prosthetic, it was causing a lot of pain, as it was rubbing on my kneecap and felt excruciating.
“They opened up the scar again, inserted a plastic component between the titanium and my kneecap so that it didn’t rub against one another.
“Then I had to relearn to walk again, it was like starting from the beginning but I was determined to do it.”
Since modelling for Mercedes Benz, she has now gone onto perform in a catwalk where she was allowed to bear the scarring from her battle with bone cancer.
She wrote the words ‘cancer survivor’ along her femur and believes this was a powerful message to inspire others.
Natalia said: “The fashion industry is known for seeking ‘pure perfection’ and I’m definitely not their typical ideal for a model because I have a 15-inch scar on my leg.
“But in this recent catwalk show I was proud because I was able to let others see I did have bone cancer but it didn’t stop me from pursuing what I love.
“When I model, I want to continue showing my scar and sharing my journey, I want it to spread hope and empower others to realise they shouldn’t give up on their dreams.”
To follow her work visit here.