Meet the Aberdeenshire mum tackling fitness with a prosthetic blade
Now 33 and mum to five-year-old twins Emmie and Ethan, Kelly has carved out an incredible life since her diagnosis at just 15 years old.
She has cycled from London to Paris to raise money for bone cancer research, and now wears a prosthetic blade to enable her to run.
Kelly is determined to encourage other people to embrace fitness, be that those with disabilities or fellow amputees who perhaps don’t have the confidence to exercise in the first place.
“As a working mum, it can be hard to fit it all in,” said Kelly, who lives in Pitmedden in Aberdeenshire.
“But I wanted to be the best role model for my children.
“When they first saw my running prosthetic, they said ‘you look funny mummy’, but now they say it’s cool.
“I do expect people to look sometimes, but when I’m running, I try to embrace it and focus on beating my personal best – rather than look at those who may be staring.
“I can’t hide from myself, and if I can inspire one person to get off their bum and try some fitness. Or if one person who is also an amputee sees what I am doing and finds the courage to go back to the gym.
I may have to adapt to how I do things, but I will never be told that I cannot do something. If I do, I just try to push myself harder to achieve it.”
Kelly, who previously took part in Courage on the Catwalk which is Friends of Anchor’s flagship fundraising event, has always been open about her journey so far.
At the time of diagnosis, she enjoyed sport right up until doctors discovered she had a rare form of bone cancer called an osteosarcoma, which was in her right shin bone.
Kelly had just two months to come to terms with the diagnosis before she was told that amputation, followed by further chemotherapy, was the only way to prevent the disease from spreading.
“The way I choose to look at it, amputation means I have had 18 years of life cancer-free.
“I would not be here were it not for the amputation.”
Rather than focus on life before diagnosis, Kelly has always chosen to look forward and went on to become a mum, after it was uncertain whether she would be able to conceive.
“I am doing this for my gorgeous twins,” said Kelly.
“I am very open about my prosthetic, I always have been.
“I think for me, it’s about education and overcoming any kind of stigma.
I am OK with who I am, especially since becoming a mum. By taking up running, I am showing my kids that mummy can do it.”
Kelly decided to give running a shot after lockdown saw her fall back in love with long walks, and improving her fitness at home.
The prosthetic, which has a curved shape blade, had not fitted properly in the past.
But after retrieving it from the loft and dusting in down, Kelly realised that as the years had passed and her body had changed, it felt comfortable after all.
“When I put it on, I beamed,” said Kelly.
“I felt like Tigger.”
“I couldn’t go to the gym, so I focused on improving my fitness at home. When I started seeing changes, that really motivated me to keep going.
“I think the prosthetic I now use for running was in the loft for eight years. Obviously your body changes, and having my blade leg, as I call it, actually fitting me again, was the encouragement needed to really push my fitness.
Not content with trialling the blade for running, Kelly also signed up to bootcamp classes with Aberdeen-based Formation Fitness, plus personal training with the co-founder, Katie Sutherland.
“I wanted to be able to push myself, and Katie definitely helps me to do that,” she said.
It’s an amazing feeling to know I can just put this prosthetic on and away I go. I actually feel like Tigger in it because it gives me bounce.”
“Everyone battles demons, I know, as I have many.
“But having a positive mindset can help change how you see things. I would say that becoming an amputee hasn’t stopped me being able to achieve what I want in life, it has just pushed me to do more.
“For me it was just the beginning of a new way of life.
“I would say I have grown as a person, as I had to adapt. Of course I have my wobbles, like everyone does.
“I remember the first time I came to the park for a run, and I actually sat in my car for 10 minutes trying to find the courage to get out, but I battled my demons and got out the car and did my first three kilometres round the park.
“It’s easier said than done sometimes, but you should try not to worry about what anyone else thinks and just do what makes you happy.”