By Josh Saunders
A cancer survivor whose bone eating mass was confused for arthritis now defies her disability as a BIONIC WOMAN by performing incredible aerial yoga feats.
Brenda Kennedy, 40, from El Paso, Texas, USA, was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma, a cancer forming in her right knee, after noticing a dull aching pain whenever she was resting.
The bone-eating mass initially confused for arthritis, required 15 centimetres of her femur removed nine-years-ago and for surgeons to carefully reconstruct the area.
They used a metal allograft, a rod that would provide a base for bone to grow from mixed with cadaver bone and screws to secure it all in place.
She would go onto need three more surgeries, after the screws holding the joint popped out as well as needing a knee replacement and a megaprosthesis.
Due to excessive activity the mum-of-four, dubbed ‘bionic Brenda’, would later needed three cracks in the structure repaired in 2014.
But determined to defy the odds she started aerial yoga and pole sessions, now she’s training to become an instructor and shows off her majestic movements that she uses to inspire other cancer survivors with online.
Brenda, yoga teacher, said: “I’ve always been stubborn and a fighter. I’ve always gone onto push myself to do things.
“I wanted to show others that just because you can’t do one activity, it doesn’t mean there isn’t something else out there that you can find just as enjoyable.
“I used to love running and triathlons, but I can’t do that anymore, while these activities were taken from me, I can still do this.
“I feel empowered, I started it for selfish reasons to prove I could do it but now I’m trying to show that cancer is not the end of the world and there are still a lot of things you can do
“My nickname ‘Bionic Brenda’, it started as a joke after being told I’m half bionic, now it’s a positive and light-hearted way to describe myself.
“When people say they can’t do certain aerial or pole moves, I remind them I have a knee replacement and metal femur, and if I can work it out they can too.
“I hope my children recognise my struggles as they get older and realise that for things you care about you have to go after them.”
Fitness fanatic Brenda first noticed an unusual leg pain in 2009 that would ache and continuously throb whenever she stopped exercising.
Doctors first believed it was arthritis, but x-rays revealed a nine-centimetre tumour on top of the knee joint.
Brenda said: “When moving it didn’t ache, but when I rested it would start to throb and hurt, the pain was coming from the tumour growing and eating away at the bone.
“At the University of Kansas Medical Center I was finally diagnosed, it was malignant and grade 2, it was determined there that I needed surgery.
“It was a white mass, you could see it in the bone and was a long shape, it was like a light mass on my joint.
“Chondrosarcoma, is a cartilage cell cancer, it encapsulated the inside of the bone and there was no way to remove the cells without the risk of it spreading.
“They removed the femur and the cancer, they took out a few centimetres above the knee, taking more and more slices until there wasn’t any more cancerous cells and clear margins.”
Months later, the screws used to pin her joints to the metal allograft started to pop out.
Brenda said: “I was on crutches for nearly two years, while they attempted to grow the bone and fuse it, but it didn’t work.
“They couldn’t get the knee joint and the bone to fuse, my knees started cracking as the screws popped out of my knee.
“The screws in my leg broke, I needed a megaprosthesis and a total knee replacement.”
In 2014, she underwent her third surgery to repair cracks in the polycarbonate structure and within three months she was able to discard her crutches after years struggling on them.
Despite her progress, the mum would go onto break parts of the metal rod in her thigh.
Brenda said: “I was so active that my polycarbonate cracked in half, we put a thicker piece in and reinforced everything
“Since then I’ve been good after the surgery and a month later was able to walk without crutches.”
After feeling frustrated that she was no longer able to participate in triathlons or distance running, she started other activities.
Brenda said: “I tried yoga with the hammock and fell in love with it, I started working more and more.
“I like hanging upside down especially it’s really fun and makes up for the numerous things I had to give up.”
She started posting videos online showing her defying her disability in the hope of inspiring others who have gone through cancer.
Brenda said: “From one of my posts, I was messaged by someone diagnosed with cancer in Australia who thanked me and said they didn’t ‘feel as hopeless now’.
“The biggest issue with my right leg now is the muscle atrophy following all the surgeries so the right isn’t as strong as the left.
“I try to help more able-bodied people too, I have had a lot of experience from manoeuvring my own body, I can look at other people and try to help them to work out aerial yoga movements.”