15-Year-Old Loses Leg to Cancer, Doctors Reattach Foot Backwards


Cancer is one of those diseases that tries to take everything from its victims.

Things can get bad very fast, and between the cancer itself and the rigorous treatment, sometimes it can shatter dreams and drastically alter your life’s path.

For one boy from Strabane, Northern Ireland, doctors misdiagnosed a rare soft tissue cancer as simply “growing pains” in his leg. He was 12 years old, and sure, growing pains are definitely prominent, but sometimes they’re not innocent.

Tristin Stewart’s “growing pains” didn’t go away for two years. He even had a lump removed that was later deemed cancerous.

Tristin was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, which appears mostly in limbs and is more prominent in teenagers.

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His mother, Mandy Stewart, said, “We were given two options — they could undergo a full amputation of Tristin’s right leg, or a rotationplasty.”

Rotationplasty is a “compromise between amputation and limb salvage … It allows the ankle joint to be used as a replacement for the amputated knee.”

This means that the foot is actually reattached to the leg — backwards — and re-purposed as a knee.

A few weeks passed before Tristin decided what he would do. As an avid football fan — soccer, here in the U.S. — he was very concerned about his ability to play any sport again.

And so, he finally decided to do the rotationplasty, since that allowed for the best possible chance to play again.

Mandy said, “…Tristin turned round and confidently said he wanted the rotationplasty, he told me ‘Mummy, that means I’ll have a knee and more function.'”

And so, on June 7, 2017, Tristin had his operation. Doctors removed a significant portion of his leg and reattached his foot to his thigh, backwards.

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“When (we) went in to see him after the operation you could see under the covers that his leg was gone, and Shane and I were nervous to see what (was) underneath,” Mandy said.

With his recovery process focusing mostly on relearning how to walk and run with his new knee and a prosthetic leg, Tristin is hoping to one day become a Paralympic athlete.

Nearly seven months later, Tristin can walk without crutches and is working on fundraising to get a prosthetic better suited to running.

We wish this fighter all the best in his journey through life and toward his goal of becoming a Paralympic athlete!

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