SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Sioux Falls high school seniors finally got the chance to walk across the stage in a real graduation at the end of last month. But a young woman’s walk to mark this right of passage was more touching than most.
Shortly after school let out due to the pandemic, doctors discovered that Corrin Gillespie, 17, had bone cancer and told her that her right leg needed to be amputated below her knee.
The Lincoln High School in-person graduation was emotional for the Class of 2020 after the pandemic cut the school year short. But for Corrin Gillespie and her family, the ceremony was even more significant.
“I got very sad thinking of all the stuff she had to go through,” Corrin’s mother, Angie Gillespie, said.
I was super self-conscious. I was very nervous because when I first walked in, people looked me up and down. I could tell they were looking at my amputation.”Lincoln High School Graduate, Corrine Gillespie
Just one month earlier, doctors at Mayo Clinic performed the surgery, saying it was their only option to completely remove cancer in her ankle.
“We were concerned if we took it out in a manner that saved her leg, that we’d be very very close, with a high risk of cancer coming back,” Dr. Pete Rose, Mayo Clinic Orthopedic Surgeon, said.
“Of course I was very scared and I was very sad– but I just knew this was one of the things I would have to do to get a normal life again,” Corrin said.
But she wasn’t prepared for the pain that followed.
“It was constant pain. It was a lot of tears. It was a lot of both of us on either side, holding her hand and just getting through the pain,” Angie said.
Kennecke: What was the pain like?
Corrin Gillespie: It was like intense burning. It was just very hot. It felt like needles and stabbing.
Corrin worked through it.
“She was up on her crutches. She was already walking,” Angie said.
It wasn’t until after she got back home that the phantom pain set in.
“I could distinctly feel that it was in my right foot and it felt like throbbing in my ankle,” Corrin said.
“How do you control the pain that’s in a foot that’s not there? How do you treat that?” Angie said.
Next came nerve pain.
“When you have the pain for so long, and it doesn’t go away, that’s mentally draining,” Angie said.
Corrin also had to have a biopsy on spots on her lungs, which doctors feared could have been more cancer. They were not.
“We’re on the road to recovery–we’re on the home stretch,” Angie said.
Corrin says the whole ordeal has given her a new perspective.
“I think it’s really showed me to appreciate the little things in life,” Corrin said.
Now, she’s ready to move on from high school graduate to college student.
“I met my roommate, and we planned our dorm. I’m just very excited to be able to go to college,” Corrin said.
“A smart, motivated young person will recover from this and do great things. We have no different expectations for her now than had this never happened.”Dr. Peter Rose, Mayo Clinic Orthopedic Surgeon
Corrin has been fitted for her prosthesis and will go back to Mayo in Rochester next week to learn to use it and undergo physical therapy.
The family has also set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for a waterproof prosthesis that is not covered by insurance.