When teetering on the brink of adversity, how does a person stand strong? That’s a tough question — one a young woman has had to answer ... twice.
The year was 1988 when the teenager stood on the edge of promise. Racing like the wind in soccer games at Foss High School in Tacoma, the feel of her long blonde hair dancing in the breeze, life for this 16-year-old was sheer happiness.
She'd been selected as a soon-to-be Washington State Senate page — a dream come true — and such an honor for this quiet A student. But the steep stairs in the capitol building seemed daunting.
"We thought it was tendonitis," Kim Blough remembers about the pain in her left knee and an earlier diagnosis, "because I was so active in sports."
Conscientious and worried about her page responsibilities, which included hand-carrying information up and down the stairs to the senators' offices, the young girl decided to take a critical step. Kimberly confessed to her mom about her nagging worry.
Suddenly, the ground seemed to shift beneath her feet.
On a February Tuesday, Kimberly was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, a cancerous (malignant) bone tumor that usually develops in teenagers, in her knee. By that Friday she had begun her chemotherapy journey — and a fight to save her leg.
Life became a series of frequent trips to Seattle Children's Hospital, where the gentle sea breeze could only taunt her with memories of its whisper through her hair. But even more difficult to bear was a gathering storm and a precarious path straight ahead.
In June, Kimberly learned her only hope was a bone transplant and the reality she might awaken to an amputated leg, depending on what the surgeon found.
"I didn't want to have to ask whether I'd lost my leg or not," Kim recalls about her instructions to the doctor before surgery, "so I told him to just tell me as soon as I woke up."
Kimberly's leg was amputated about six inches above her knee. Still, she determined to stay strong for her mom — and herself — knowing her tears would become a river.
Through the years she adapted to her artificial flesh-colored leg, but never wearing anything shorter than capris. Sports and shorts were out of the question.
But on Kim’s recent 40th birthday — a marker of how quickly life skips ahead — she made up her mind to walk away from the comfort of the sidelines, to be a participant instead of an observer.
Even so, an unexpected stream of tears caught up to her as she sat in her car outside a Puyallup, Wash., gym, her heart stumbling at the thought of another hardship.
"All of a sudden I was overcome with the thought of people seeing my leg exposed in shorts," Kim says about that first visit, "and I cried for about 10 minutes."
But when her sobbing quieted, she took the first step to fitness, walking toward a supportive team of trainers and a new vision of who she could be. After months of determination, Kim completed her first 5K run in December 2012 to the cheers of friends and family.
"I'm getting a flexi," Kim beams with excitement about her new running leg that sports a flexible foot and knee.
Then she pauses, her voice filled with emotion.
"And if I can encourage someone else to get off the sidelines, then I’ve found my purpose."
Inscribed in hot pink on the black carbon above the knee of her clear plastic "everyday" leg are the Nike "swoosh" and the words, LIVESTRONG
Perfect advice for anyone standing on the edge of adversity — or the sidelines.