Following is an article recently released on one of my cousins. She is an inspiration to many. Go Lacey!
definition of inspiration
Lacey Henderson running all the way to London
By Terry Frei
The Denver Post
Posted: 05/26/2011 01:00:00 AM MDT
Cancer survivor and amputee Lacey Henderson has a berth on the U.S. Paralympic team for the London Games in 2012. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post )
Often, someone who doesn’t know Lacey Henderson will spot the prosthesis replacing much of her right leg and blurt: “What happened to your leg?”
“I had cancer,” Henderson routinely answers.
“Oh, that’s horrible! I’m so sorry.”
Henderson smiles and responds, “I’m not. I get great parking.”
Three weeks short of her 22nd birthday, Henderson is on the verge of graduating from the University of Denver, where she majored in Spanish and minored in French and international health. Shortly after finishing four years on the Pioneers’ cheerleading squad, she searched for a new athletic challenge this spring and last weekend locked up a berth on the U.S. team for the 2012 Paralympics in London.
The Denver native and graduate of Regis Jesuit High School needed to crack 20 seconds in the 100 meters in an official timing format to qualify for the U.S. team in the women’s “T42″ Paralympic classification, for athletes with single-leg
At Jeffco Stadium on Friday, she ran in the Paralympic exhibition 100 meters, but clipped her “racing” prosthetic with that of the boy in the next lane. After falling, Lacey got up and finished. The next day, she tried again in the Special Olympics 100 at the same meet. Her time was 19.98 seconds — two one-hundredths under what she needed.
It was symbolic. When she gets knocked down, she gets back up.
“I don’t really have time for the cancer to come back at this point, so I’m feeling pretty confident,” she said at DU’s Driscoll Student Center. “It really wouldn’t work with my schedule.”
“Tired of being sick”
When Lacey was in the fourth grade, the diagnoses were that she had baker’s cysts or, simply, “growing pains.” Doctors then detected a tumor in her right knee. It was a soft-tissue synovial sarcoma, rare and found mostly in adult men. The survival rate is considered low, but it’s so rare there isn’t a huge sample. The most famous victim was actor Robert Urich, who died at age 55 in 2002.
Chemotherapy made Lacey violently ill and didn’t seem to be working on the sarcoma. As doctors discussed the options with her and her parents — Linda and T.J., a longtime area high school track coach — the major one was amputation.
“I just wanted to be a normal person again and go back to school and I was tired of being sick,” Lacey said. “So I said, ‘Take it, I don’t want it.’ ”
The amputation came in the spring of 1999. She also had a spot on her lung, but the chemotherapy zapped that.
“May 19 was my 12-year anniversary of being cancer free — and one-legged,” she said. “I’ve been lucky. It has brought so many amazing things into my life, it has given me so many opportunities and so many gifts.”
In early 2003, though, she was the target of harassment in her eighth-grade year at Hill Middle School. Some of it was vile or threatening online postings. Some of it was direct taunting about her prosthetic.
“It started off as people pretty sure just being uncomfortable with the leg,” she said. “Towards the end, it was girls that just didn’t like me.”
In biology class, several girls placed remains of dissected frogs in her backpack.
Her parents moved her to Dora Moore School. The next year, she uneasily started at the girls division of Regis Jesuit, but discovered she loved it. “It was like going to camp for four years and you become close to your classmates,” she said.
She was a cheerleader at Regis Jesuit, then at DU, doing all the athletic and acrobatic stunts. “I would have to watch for a while to see how people did (new routines),” she said, “and then I’d say, ‘OK, this leg of mine might make me take a little bit longer, but I’m going to figure out how to do this if it kills me.’ ”
Denver attorney Julie Warren was DU’s cheerleading coach during Lacey’s stint on the squad. She admitted she wondered before Lacey’s tryout about her physical capability and safety. “Then, probably within 10 minutes, I knew it was a nonissue,” Warren said. “She had been so physically active during her youth and high school years, and prepared herself to do these physically challenging moves, she fit right in. That inspiration happened from Day One of meeting her.
“It was never a question of her not being able to do something the other girls did. That was incredibly impressive and a credit to her mental power and tenacity.”
Advocate and athlete
While serving as a counselor at a camp for amputees last summer, Henderson started thinking more about being an advocate for their cause and about competing athletically to widen her impact.
This spring, she started working out as a track athlete, even taking up pole vaulting, which isn’t included in the Paralympics. Her father was renowned for turning out pole vaulters in coaching stints at Aurora Central, Rangeview amputations above the knee. She did so at the state high school track and field meet in Lakewood last weekend., Cherry Creek and Regis Jesuit, and now he’s tutoring his daughter.
“It’s not so much that I’m proud of her,” said T.J., a project manager for Monarch Investment Co. “I’m inspired by her. We didn’t know if she was going to live because of the type of cancer she had.
“After she got the prosthetic, when people would say ‘handicapped’ to her, she’d say she didn’t like that word and she didn’t like ‘disabled.’ She’d say, ‘I’m not disabled, I’m differently-abled.’ She doesn’t let anything hold her back.”
Chris Hoyt of BioDesign Inc. provided Lacey’s racing prosthetic leg, and Mike Mattivi and Michael Branch also coach her. While training and finishing up school, she has continued her routine of working part-time as a waitress, making visits to Children’s Hospital to speak with cancer patients about to undergo surgery, and appearing at local schools, as she did at Bear Creek Elementary on Wednesday.
Henderson tells other young amputees that they don’t need to meekly accept such things as prosthetics that don’t fit well.
“I say we’ve been through losing a limb, but it’s no reason to live any less than you had before,” she said. “And those people who are those boring, ‘I have all my body parts,’ able-bodied type of people, they need to realize too that we are amputees and missing a limb — it doesn’t mean we have less capacity than anyone else to do things.”
Terry Frei: 303-954-1895 or email@example.com
On the horizon for Lacey Henderson
In her T42 category in Paralympic competition, former Regis Jesuit High School and University of Denver cheerleader Lacey Henderson has few choices of events — the 100 meters and the long jump. She also probably could compete “up” in classification in the 200 meters, going against women with less extensive leg amputations.
Challenged by the consensus that athletes with a leg amputated above the knee aren’t capable of getting the leg push necessary to compete in the pole vault, Henderson has taken that up too and has cleared 9 feet.
The catch is that for an event to be included in the Paralympics in London next year, six women in the same or nearly the same “T” categories have to meet the qualifying standard — and come from at least four countries.
“What we’re trying to do is finagle our way to see if we can put on exhibitions in the pole vault at the Pan American Games or London,” Henderson said. “I feel like if somebody just sees that you can do it, especially T42s, that’s also a motivator for other people to do it.”
Terry Frei, The Denver Post
Lacey Henderson, second from left, was a four-year cheerleader for the University of Denver Pioneers. She also was a cheerleader at Regis Jesuit. (Photo courtesy DU athletic department )