Twenty-year-old Jillian Williams, a contestant in the glamorous world of Miss Teen USA beauty pageants, had always been athletic and energetic. However, in September 2015, she began to experience pain in her knee while playing volleyball for Texas Lutheran University. After undergoing a rare treatment, she now looks completely different.
Initially, it was believed that the pain in Jillian’s knee was nothing more than a minor injury. “My trainer said he thought it sounded like a torn meniscus [knee injury]. You can technically still play on that as long as you aren’t in too much pain,” recalled Jillian. “So I played all season on it and the plan was to send me to the doctor and look at surgery options at the end of the season.”
According to Daily Mail, while she was back home in early December, Jillian had an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon in San Antonio, who ordered an MRI. The MRI revealed a fractured femur and a bone cyst, with subsequent MRIs showing that the cyst was growing rapidly.
“It had grown two and a half centimeters in two months. We went to the oncologist who said, ‘I think it’s just an infection but I want to go ahead and do a biopsy to make sure,'” Jillian recalled, according to Mirror. “So they did an open biopsy and that’s when it came back positive for Ewing’s sarcoma. When they told me that it was cancer, I was so shocked, I didn’t really believe it.”
Doctors offered Jillian a number of treatment options, but she opted for a cutting-edge “rotationplasty” in which surgeons removed 36cm of the middle portion of her left leg. The foot, ankle, and shin were then rotated 180 degrees and reattached to her upper leg to act as her knee joint, which slips into a prosthetic lower leg.
“I could have just had the tumor taken out and salvaged the limb, but from research I have done and people I have met, there is a higher relapse rate if you go that route and that’s not what I wanted,” said Jillian. “Instead I opted just to have the leg removed and rotationplasty offered me the best way of life once that decision had been made.”
She may have lost her hair and most of her left leg, but Jillian still has her sense of humor. “I don’t know how I remain so positive,” she said. “I have always been a very happy, bubbly person and I have carried that into my current situation.”
Jillian hopes to continue playing volleyball and compete in beauty pageants once again, where she may actually have a leg up on her competition. After overcoming so much and maintaining such a positive spirit, there is truly nothing she can’t accomplish. She is an inspiration to young women everywhere; a beauty inside and out.