Shanna Decker

Diagnosed: March 1998 – Osteosarcoma

Rotationplasty: June 1998

Surgeon: Dr. Frank Sim M.D. – Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.


If you’re reading this, you’re probably facing one of the most difficult decisions you’ve ever been asked to make. It is my hope that as we share our story, some of your questions and concerns will be addressed.


Our daughter, Shanna, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at the age of seven. After complaining of pain above her left knee for a couple of weeks, we took her to our local doctor. An x-ray was taken and our story begins.


We were referred to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN where Shanna underwent a multitude of tests, a biopsy, and by the third day was receiving chemotherapy.  


The chemotherapy treatments for her cancer were very aggressive and dictated that she remain hospitalized for the majority of a year. But in addition to her treatments, we were faced with a second obstacle. In order to save her life, the doctors would have to remove the tumor from her leg. We were given three surgical options; an above the knee amputation, a stiff leg, or a rotationplasty. Because of Shanna’s age (seven), limb salvage surgery wasn’t an option, as skeletal immaturity was still an issue. 


I remember this being the hardest decision our family has ever faced. When we initially learned of rotationplasty, I have to admit, it took time to absorb. We had many questions and desperately wanted to connect with others who had already chosen this procedure, but found that to be difficult.

We started the process of researching, and after much deliberation decided that the function of rotationplasty far outweighed its look. Today, Shanna is not only a cancer survivor and amputee, but is thriving! Not only has she learned to walk again, but has excelled in life by learning to ride bike, run, swim, roller-blade, ice-skate, and play most all sports. If you asked her today how she feels about her rotationplasty, she’d tell you it was the best decision she could have made. She wouldn’t change a thing.


Having had cancer and an amputation changes everything! When Shanna was finished with her treatments and fitted with her prosthesis, she asked her medical team if they’d start putting her in touch with other newly diagnosed patients and/or amputees. This was the beginning of the most fulfilling era of her life.


For the past twelve years, she’s had the privilege of mentoring, supporting, and personally visiting cancer patients and amputees, from across the nation and around the world, as they undergo treatments and/or recover from limb loss. This privilege has been made possible through a networking of social workers, oncology staff, and orthopedic doctors from the Mayo Clinic, as they contact her whenever a new patient needs or wants support. She considers it an honor to be able to provide hope and support by personally meeting or visiting with each patient. To date, she’s made over 800 visits, dedicating between 300 – 400 hours per year with these families, forming friendships that last a lifetime.  


Another way she has provided encouragement to amputees is by volunteering to create Mayo Medical Edge films, produced by the Mayo Clinic. The short films are designed to feature her abilities to excel in life with only one leg, have been broadcasted nation-wide on television, stream on the Internet and are presented to newly diagnosed cancer patients and/or amputees to encourage them and provide hope for their future. She intends to continue doing “amputee activity” filming for both the Mayo Clinic and Prosthetic Laboratories (see pages 5 -7).  

Throughout the past few years she has been volunteering to share her “life experiences” as the guest speaker at various events throughout the nation. She uses this opportunity not only to share her story in a positive light, but also to help raise funds for non-profit organizations in their efforts to support these patients. Now, as a national motivational speaker, she is presenting to audiences of thousands.


Even though she has been blessed with so many opportunities in her life, she is exceptionally honored to be involved with our most recent endeavor. In early 2007 our family had the opportunity to co-found a new non-profit organization called “Brighter Tomorrows”. Brighter Tomorrows serves as an outreach to families touched by childhood cancer. Its mission is to provide emotional, educational, and spiritual support by listening to, understanding, and supporting these families. By formalizing many of our efforts we expect to serve even more families in the future. Our dreams for this organization are endless!


Shanna has no intention of ever discontinuing her volunteer efforts. As a matter a fact, even the location of the college she attends has been affected by how she plans to grow her volunteer efforts in future. She wants to remain in close proximity to the Mayo Clinic where she can continue to serve the needs of others. While in college she plans to attain a double major in Business Administration and Management of information Systems, granting her the knowledge necessary to start her own business, a business dedicated to the betterment of others.

Ever since having cancer Shanna has always said:


 “Life” is defined by how you react to circumstances dealt you, whether good or bad. The way you chose to respond is your choice. What you take away from these experiences, and how you grow from them, defines the person you will become and lays the foundation for the rest of your life. I chose to grow, and learned the best thing I could give myself was to give “of” myself.


**Our family would be happy to visit with anyone dealing with a

childhood cancer diagnosis or to discuss the surgical procedures you are facing.

 Please feel free to contact us at