Rosie Coronado: Shocking Cancer Diagnosis Leads to Amputation at the Hip and a Newfound Journey to Independence
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When 41-year-old Rosie Coronado fell and broke her hip, she didn’t expect to receive a cancer diagnosis and ultimately lose her right leg. After a six-year struggle and being told she would never walk again, she found hope after meeting a supportive community of peers who had been through similar challenges and are now living active independent lives. With the expert care provided by her Phoenix-based Hanger Clinic team, Rosie received her first prosthesis just in time for Christmas 2020. While she is still working on regaining her strength and stability, she is more determined than ever to get back to the activities she loves.
In 2014, Rosie Coronado fell and broke her hip. While it may sound like a common injury, it was an unusual one for a young woman, just 35 years old at the time. When she went to the doctor, she was caught off-guard by what she learned: She had multiple myeloma.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells in the blood that accumulates in bone marrow and can cause a wide range of symptoms, including bone pain.
“When I was going through the diagnosis, I kept thinking that something does not feel right,” she recalls. “I thought I had sciatic nerve pain, but the whole time it was a tumor eating my hip.”
A 6-Year Battle
Rosie had surgery to remove the tumor on her hip and later had hip replacement surgery, which didn’t heal correctly. After several revision surgeries, she struggled with a chronic infection around her hip hardware that failed to respond to treatment.
“It was a constant battle for six years,” explains Rosie, who has two daughters, 20-year-old Kaylee and 15-year-old Aleena. She was never out of the hospital for more than a few weeks at a time.
After 24 surgeries and a round of stem cell therapy, her doctors made the difficult decision to amputate her right leg at the hip. During this time, she also experienced some personal setbacks and struggled with a torn ACL in her left knee, which made it all the more difficult to get around.
An Overwhelming Loneliness
After her amputation, doctors told Rosie she was not a candidate for a prosthesis and that she would not walk again. She was left wheelchair-bound and needed to learn to do everyday tasks with one injured remaining leg.
“In the beginning, I thought this was the end of the world and that I was never going to be a normal person,” admits Rosie. “I went through a deep depression.”
During this difficult period, Rosie felt completely alone and didn’t think anyone else understood what she was going through. That changed when she began searching for others in her situation.
“I started seeing other amputees on social media who had showered and put on makeup,” she notes.
She realized that they hadn’t given up hope and that they’d found a reason to live. She would, too.
“I went on a spiritual journey,” she reflects. She began to meditate with a coach and found an inner strength that she had lost sight of during her dark days.
Hope at Hanger Clinic
While looking on social media, she found two people with the same kind of amputation up to the hip that she has—and they both had prostheses.
“I couldn’t figure out how they got them,” she says.
She was at a physical therapy appointment with her mother when they met Zachary Williams, CPO from Hanger Clinic. He believed she might be a candidate for a prosthesis, after all, and encouraged her to visit Hanger Clinic for a consultation.
She scheduled an appointment with Hanger Clinic prosthetists Mike Schulenberg, CPO and Jillian Okimoto, CPO in November 2020. Mike also had his leg amputated as a young man due to cancer above the knee, and today he is even more active than he was prior to his amputation. His success story gave Rosie hope that she, too, could become active again.
After years of believing she would never get a prosthetic leg, Rosie was overjoyed that she was actually getting a device. She decided to keep the news to herself to surprise her family.
“I wanted to see if I could get it before Christmas, so it could be my family’s Christmas present,” she says.
Thanks to Mike and Jillian’s technical expertise and supportive, compassionate care, Rosie just received her first prosthesis in time to reveal it to her family at Christmas. Her entire family was thrilled with her surprise, but her dad was especially overcome to see what she had accomplished.
An Indomitable Spirit
Rosie hasn’t wasted any time getting accustomed to her new prosthesis.
“I walked with it using the parallel bars on the day it got delivered,” she says. “Mike said he had never seen anyone do it that quickly.”
After six years in a wheelchair, Rosie has a lot of hard work ahead of her as she regains her strength and stability and becomes more mobile with her prosthesis.
“I’ve had it a month now, and I’m seeing progress,” she says, and she’s excited to keep this momentum going. “Don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I am going to do it.”
Rosie, who worked as a dental technician before her illness, is looking forward to getting back to some of her favorite hobbies, such as camping, fishing, and taking long walks. Her goal is to accomplish those activities without using crutches.
Now that her dark days are behind her, she wants other amputees to know they are not alone. “Don’t give up,” she insists. “Find a community of people like you.”
She’s so grateful to Hanger Clinic for offering her hope after living without it for so long. “They told me it was going to take blood, sweat, and tears, but they gave me the opportunity—they didn’t shut me down.”
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