Saanich, B.C. woman inspires others with viral video after life-altering surgery
The first time Emily had her head shaved, she was a healthy Grade Five student raising money for a children’s cancer charity.
"It was important to me," the now 24-year-old smiles, before showing me a picture of her bald younger self beaming into the camera. "I’m happy that I did that."
The second time Emily shaved her head was after she felt a pain in her knee during a hike that led to the then 21-year-old being diagnosed with osteocarcoma (bone cancer).
"And it almost hits you the hardest when you’ve finished the chemo and the surgery," she recalls. "You look back on it like, 'Holy crap! What have I just gone through?'"
What Emily did was beat it. And thanks to this metal support inside her, she was able to save her leg and keep doing her favourite thing — hiking.
"I just enjoy being out there [in nature]," she says, before showing me photos from the mountains she’s ascended. "And you have a nice view at the top. That's good!"
A big hike was likely one of the ways Emily was set to celebrate being two years cancer-free, until she was told she wasn’t. And to win this new fight she’d have to lose her entire leg.
"It took me a while to just look down under the blanket in the hospital," Emily says, fighting back tears. "I wasn’t able to do it for a couple days because it's so much information, that you wake up without a leg."
Although her family was there to support her, Emily felt compelled to connect with others who experienced the same thing and posted a video showing the countdown to her amputation.
It begins with Emily showing her leg a week before the surgery, followed by similar moments during the days and hours leading up to it. The final image shows Emily without her left leg.
"My whole world flipped upside down," Emily cries, before smiling through the tears. "But I beat it for a second time, so that’s cool!"
And focusing on what’s good is now Emily’s goal, which is why she titled her countdown video, "50% off pedis let’s gooooo!"
She followed up that video with others that mix both humour and hope, including one that begins with Emily standing on two legs, before her amputation, asking "Is it terrifying?" The video then cuts to her casually leaning on a crutch with one leg. She answers her pre-surgery question with a smile: "No. I don’t think so."
"If I can post that and show people that it’s okay," Emily says. "I think that’s what’s important to me."
Her positivity has inspired 43 million views of the countdown video on TikTok, and a fundraiser for a special prosthetic leg that should allow her to return to being in nature on GoFundMe.
But just like when she was in Grade Five, Emily says the most gratifying thing is simply being able help others.
"If I can be [a support] to someone else, it helps me too," Emily smiles. "So it’s a win-win!"