Hear Gabrielle's story,
as featured on KS95 For Kids.
Gabrielle was only 6 years old when she began to limp. For someone with Gabrielle's passion for physical activities and sports, this limp was very out of the ordinary. A family friend and physician recommended that Gabrielle see a doctor at the University of Minnesota.
In 2006, Gabrielle was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her left femur, a malignant bone tumor that usually develops in adolescents. The first course of action was chemotherapy, followed removal of the tumor a few months later. Inside her leg, physicians placed an expandable prosthetic device, which would grow over time with leg-lengthening procedures. Except for the scar, Gabrielle's leg looked fairly normal, but her life had become anything but normal.
She spent more than a year receiving 18 rounds of chemotherapy at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital. Her mom Tami says, "The illness, appointments and treatments became our entire lives for the next few years. It was emotionally draining."
Gabrielle was cared for by a team of doctors, including an oncologist, orthopedic surgeon and a cardiologist - needed when Gabrielle went into heart failure during her treatment. The regimen of drugs and surgeries were too much for her weakened heart.
Her mom Tami says that she adjusted well to all of the doctor appointments and medications, but the limitations placed on her lifestyle were hard to endure. When her blood counts were down, she couldn't do her favorite activities, like swimming. That was more difficult for her than being on crutches. Her mom recalls that she would hear Gabrielle say, 'I hate my blood.'
Nearly three years after completing treatment, Gabrielle is looking forward to starting fifth grade in the fall. She just had her fourth leg-lengthening procedure and continues to play her favorite sports, basketball and softball, and activities like rollerblading - which mom Tami says would make her orthopedic surgeon cringe. She also competed in a jumping rope contest and Tami watched her jump off the high dive no less than 17 times at the pool one day this summer.
Very competitive, she doesn't feel sorry for herself but recognizes that "I used to be first, and now I'm last." Gabrielle now has to hit the softball farther because it takes her longer to run to first base. "She's a feisty little kid," says her mother. "Our doctor told us that recovery is 10 percent leg and 90 percent personality. She has to work hard, but she doesn't give up."
Gabrielle and her parents are passionate about supporting research and recognize that her quality of life, compared to those with osteosarcoma and prostheses just 5-10 years ago is vastly improved. In 2008, they went to Washington D.C. where they met with members of Congress and others to help spread awareness of osteosarcoma and the lack of medical funding for this and similar afflictions in the country.
Gabrielle's dream is to be a sports reporter some day. Her mother's dream for her is simply to live a long, happy and healthy life.