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Riding High On The Snowboard

February 2019 Patient Care Survivor Story

Riding High On The Snowboard

Brenna Huckaby did not let cancer stop her from becoming a world-class sportsperson

BY Anila Mathew Vivek

Once an aspiring gymnast, Brenna Huckaby is today a gold medallist in snowboarding. As a child, Huckaby had nurtured dreams of proving her mettle in gymnastics. That was until osteosarcoma took away her right leg in 2010, when she was all of 14 years old. The teenager from Baton Rouge had been a gymnast at St Michael the Archangel High School, who was excellent enough to earn a college scholarship. At the age of 13, a dull but nagging pain in her right knee was diagnosed to be bone cancer in her right femur. When the tumour did not respond to medical treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, she had to get her right leg amputated. “I tried to go back to gymnastics after I got used to my prosthesis, but I couldn’t perform at nearly the same level, and my heart just wasn’t in it,” says Huckaby. “I tried other sports, too, but nothing gave me that same drive.” It was on a trip organised by the hospital almost a year later that Huckaby started seeing a whole new dream. The hospital took osteosarcoma amputees on a ski trip. For Huckaby, who hadn’t seen a real mountain or snow or a ski.

Brenna Huckaby
Brenna Huckaby

Resort earlier, it was love at first sight. And when she learned that there were Paralympic competitions for athletes with a wide range of disabilities, she felt she had got her previous sport-filled, competitive life back. With her mother Kristie Huckaby’s support, the feisty girl focussed on a new passion: snowboarding. Since she had not finished high school, Kristie moved with her to Utah, as Huckaby began to pursue snowboarding and soon became proficient in the sport. For a kid from the wet and sunny climes of Louisiana, it was a sport far removed from her imagination. But it gave her a new lease of life. Brenna participates in two types of Paralympic snowboard races. Snowboard-cross involves multiple racers going down a course with jumps and turns, in which the first racer at the finish line is declared a winner. Banked slalom is a timed event in a tighter course, in which competitors go one at a time.

Brenna won her first world championship in snowboarding in 2015. She went on to win world championships in both snowboard-cross and banked slalom in 2017. She also won gold medals in both sports at the 2018 Winter Paralympics. Brenna is not only a successful sportsperson but mom to a three year- old too. After giving birth to her daughter Lilah in May 2016, she returned to the sport without skipping a beat. She also became the first Paralympian to appear in Sports Illustrated’s famed swimsuit issue and has not let her amputation define her life or career. “It wasn’t until I had my daughter that I realized my body was more than an object. That was the moment I knew my body was a tool, a strong and forceful tool that takes me from experience to experience. Once I realized this, I finally loved my body.” Brenna also hopes little Lilah will be as empowered and motivated as her mom. “When she’s older I hope she is also inspired, motivated, and empowered by my swimsuit shots,” she says. “I hope she’ll know the courage it took for me to pose in a swimsuit, and I hope that motivates her.

Brenna Huckaby did not let cancer stop her from becoming a world-class sportsperson
Brenna Huckaby with her kid

Brenna participates in two types of Paralympic snowboard races. Snowboard-cross involves multiple racers going down a course with jumps and turns, in which the first racer at the finish line is declared a winner. Banked slalom is a timed event in a tighter course, in which competitors go one at a time. Brenna won her first world championship in snowboarding in 2015. She went on to win world championships in both snowboard-cross and banked slalom in 2017. She also won gold medals in both sports at the 2018 Winter Paralympics.

Brenna is not only a successful sportsperson but mom to a three year- old too. After giving birth to her daughter Lilah in May 2016, she returned to the sport without skipping a beat. She also became the first Paralympian to appear in Sports Illustrated’s famed swimsuit issue and has not let her amputation define her life or career. “It wasn’t until I had my daughter that I realized my body was more than an object. That was the moment I knew my body was a tool, a strong and forceful tool that takes me from experience to experience. Once I realized this, I finally loved my body.” Brenna also hopes little Lilah will be as empowered and motivated as her mom. “When she’s older I hope she is also inspired, motivated, and empowered by my swimsuit shots,” she says. “I hope she’ll know the courage it took for me to pose in a swimsuit, and I hope that motivates her.

Brenna Huckaby did not let cancer stop her from becoming a world-class sportsperson
Brenna Huckaby – Factfile
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