By Josh Saunders
A brave teenager who lost his leg due to a deadly form of bone cancer is now showing off his new knee – after it was formed from his backwards foot.
Jacob Bredenhof, 14, from Abbotsford, Canada, was discovered to have two osteosarcomas in his femur so large they had taken over his entire upper limb.
Doctors previously believed the teen was battling a sports injury and growing pains when his knee began to ache last year.
But as his pain increased, leading to him limping every day and after developing a solid lump on his lower thigh, blood work and scans revealed the giant cancerous tumours – one measuring up to 23cm – were putting so much pressure on the bone that it could have ‘snapped at any moment.’
At first, the avid sportsman couldn’t think of having rotationplasty – where surgeons replace the cancer ridden bone with parts of the lower limb that have been turned 180 degrees.
But after realising he would never be able to run or play basketball again through other options, he made the courageous choice to opt for the unusual surgery.
Despite its appearance and stares from strangers, Jacob proudly shows off his new knee, flaunting it in eye-catching socks and sharing his recovery with others.
Now on his 14th round of chemotherapy, he can walk around on crutches and it’s hoped by next year he will be fully rehabilitated and using his prosthetic leg.
Proud mum Tracey, 34, who is her son’s full-time carer, said: “His femur was almost entirely full of cancer and the bone inside was so brittle that any pressure could have caused it to break.
“Jacob’s first reaction to rotationplasty was ‘not a chance’ because of the unusual appearance, which I totally understood.
“He was told her could have the metal rods inside keeping his leg, but would never be able to run, play sports or jump on a trampoline again because it would damage the metal.
“He’s very mature and his decision to have the rotationplasty showed a lot of foresight after getting over the social implications.
“Before the surgery I told him people would stare and look at him, and that he would forever bear the mark of have bone cancer.
“I also warned him, that people could say rude things that could hurt him and may not understand, but he told me, ‘I don’t care I want to play sports and be active’.
“Right off the bat he decided he wasn’t going to hide the surgery from anyone.
“He explained, ‘this is me and I won’t hide it’ and since then has continued to exemplify that attitude, even when people stare at us.
“He often chooses socks to add a little to it, like a Superman one, pink flamingos, pineapples, palm trees, and other designs that are a bit more out there.
“He is not in pain anymore, he uses his crutches to get around the house and if we go outside, he uses a wheelchair if he doesn’t feel well enough.
“He doesn’t let it stop him at all, recently he was even playing in the snow.”
Developing a hard lump on the lower thigh, led doctors to re-examine their initial beliefs that Jacob was suffering with a sports injury.
This would lead to him being diagnosed with osteosarcomas, which are cancerous tumours that grew inside the bone and if broken spread cancer cells throughout the body.
Tracey said: “We noticed a swelling above his knee, when I touched it I was surprised because it was solid, I expected it to be soft and squishy like inflammation.
“I thought it was very strange and didn’t know what it was, we took him to our family doctor and from his eyes I could see his grave concern.
“Hours after they sent us for blood work and x-rays, they called to say we needed to come in, at that point I knew Jacob had cancer.
“The doctor told is it was ‘the worst of the worst,’ our son had a large tumour in his femur and showed us the scan.”
Later an MRI would reveal the tumours were so severely engulfing his femur that any pressure could cause the bone to break – forcing him to step using the leg immediately.
Prior to the removal of the cancer infected bone, he underwent chemotherapy rounds that left him so weak that he would have to remain in hospital for more than 150 days.
After the nine-hour surgery in October, Jacob spent three weeks unable to get out of bed without assistance and in agonising pain.
But fortunately, the operation was a success with him having clear cancer margins – even if they were only by 0.5cm, compared to the standard 2-3cm – and since then he has undergone more chemotherapy, in the hope of blasting away any remaining cancerous cells.
In spite of his challenging situation the teen remains positive, ‘trusts God’s plan for his life’ and is determined to continue fighting.
The family hope to normalise rotationplasty, after initially struggling to deal with the stares and comments of strangers.
Tracey said: “The beauty of rotationplasty is that there are no limitations for what he could do after.
“The amazing part is that they preserve the good part of your legs and ankle, which become your new knee and is naturally functional.
“I have no doubt that he will play basketball and other sports again, his drive matches his character and he has never shown any signs of self-pity.
“We don’t mind people glancing and looking, we expect that as we know it looks unusual, but when people stare with their mouths open or laugh it’s hard.
“We try very hard to find humour in it, in spite of it all, Jacob remains incredibly confident and isn’t trying to hide it away.
“One Halloween he was even asked, ‘How did you get such a real looking prop?’ we told them that it wasn’t, and they seemed pretty embarrassed.”
You can follow his progress here.