Gillian McBain is at her happiest when she is outside breathing in the fresh air. Having grown up in the West of Scotland, Gillian has always appreciated having the beauty of her surroundings on her doorstep and having her leg amputated certainly hasn’t stopped her from doing what she loves.
Gillian was diagnosed with bone cancer in her right leg. The first tumour found by her doctor was approximately the size of a golf ball and by the time they operated it had nearly doubled in size. Gillian was then told that she was producing tumours every six months and it turns out Gillian had a very rare form of bone cancer. The second tumour had spread slightly into her knee-cap and by the time she was diagnosed with the third, Gillian had decided enough was enough and asked her doctors to “Just take it off”. Doctors offered to try a pioneering operation but Gillian opted to have her leg amputated.
Making such a life-changing decision is never easy but Gillian insists that this was the right choice for her and the fact that she is still here today is testament to that. In truth, it was almost a relief for her as she was now free of, “This thing”, as she puts it, that was slowing her down from life. Reflecting on her life after amputation Gillian comments, “Being an amputee isn’t that bad. It isn’t the worst thing in the world”.
Gillian was a competitive swimmer for the first 10 years after having her leg amputated, back then she was only concerned about getting from her car to where she wanted to go and back again, “As long as my prosthesis got me from the house to the car and the car to the pool or gym that was all I asked of it”. Gillian admits that in those days she didn’t do a lot of walking and when she did it was mostly on level ground. Unfortunately she had to give up swimming, however at that point she was offered the chance to wear a C-Leg. This was the start of her life returning to something along the lines of what she used to know and allowed her to do the things she loved doing before her amputation. She has since been able to upgrade to a C-leg 4 which has opened up even more possibilities for her.
Elaine Miller, Prosthetist, said, “The C-Leg 4, which Gillian at times wears together with a Triton Smart Ankle, has given her the confidence to navigate terrain she would have avoided or been hesitant to walk on before. Several of the new functions in C-Leg 4 such as intuitive stance, being able to walk backwards without Gillian having to think about it and the smart phone app have made every day activities and hobbies for Gillian so much easier and effortless.
The C-Leg is the original and one of the safest microprocessor-controlled knee joints available and extremely reliable. For optimum comfort the C-Leg also has an intuitive relaxed standing position with a slightly flexed knee. The microprocessor swing and stance control in the C-Leg allows Gillian to walk at varying speeds more naturally, safer and effortless.
Gillian has been helping out at the University of Strathclyde for the past twenty years. Her first ever prosthetist asked her if she wanted to help the students learn how to fit an amputee. This is something Gillian relishes as it is a nice way of giving back to the future of prosthetics.
Gillian has four fantastic dogs which make her get up and go outside no matter what the weather is like. They also help her exercise and she enjoys activities with them such as beach and climbing walks.
Gillian also competes with her dogs in fly ball, agility and currently competitive obedience. People have come up and commented on how amazing it is that she is able to do these sports considering her disability. Gillian however doesn’t look at it like that and explains, “It’s just me and my dogs doing something together, having fun. I suppose the world sees me as disabled but I don’t see me as disabled if I have my leg on”.
Overall, the C-Leg 4 has allowed Gillian to reclaim her determination and the confidence to explore the unknown and absorb the environment without having to think about her walking. “You can walk and take in the scenery around about you because you are not thinking about every step. I can do anything I want to do. It has opened up a whole new world. I just go out and do what I want and live life to the full and my leg comes too”.
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