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The Heroes Project 2018: Bailey

“I’m different and being different is good” — said no 16-year-old ever.

Except Bailey Moody, who is both “different” in too many ways to count and a pretty typical teenager at the same time.

She’s a sophomore at Providence Christian Academy. She’s the oldest of five so she does her fair share of babysitting and driving a sibling to and fro. She’s busy with student council. She loves drama and musical theater. And sports. Definitely basketball.

Actually, basketball is something that’s different. She plays for a USA woman’s national team that will compete in the world championships this summer in Hamburg, Germany. So Bailey spends a lot of time at the Olympic training facilities in Colorado Springs. She’s almost the youngest on the team, but there‘s this 13-year-old.

Also different? She shoots from a wheelchair. Bailey is a member of the U.S. Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball Team. She is also a cancer survivor and an amputee, who lost the lower part of her right leg to osteosarcoma.

“As spring of 2012 approached, she had been complaining of knee pain for about two months,” recalls Bailey’s dad Patrick. “She was very athletic and participated in many sports, so we attributed it to an overuse injury. But the pain did not improve and after a terrifying week that included an x-ray, MRI and a biopsy, we were given the shocking news that she had a malignant bone tumor in her lower femur that had also invaded her knee.”

“In the span of five days, we went from a normal, happy family, to a family of a child with osteosarcoma. Osteosarcoma is a very aggressive bone cancer, and so, the treatment is vigorous as well. It consists of ten weeks of chemotherapy, then surgery to resect the tumor, followed by another twenty weeks of chemotherapy,” he says.

Here’s another great thing about Bailey: She’s really honest. “I remember it all and it was pretty awful.”

“But my parents promised me that they would always tell me everything and they did,” she adds.

On June 5, 2012, the tumor-infected area of her leg was removed and the bottom portion of her leg was rotated 180 degrees and reattached, allowing her ankle to become her new knee. “While it looks unusual,” says Patrick, “it was, for numerous reasons, the most functional and least risky of any of the options.”

For Patrick and Tiffany, Bailey’s mom, that surgery was the worst part, worse even than the day of diagnosis. “The day of surgery was the most acute pain we’d ever been in as parents. It was the most difficult day of our lives. To send her back there for a 14-hour surgery… To allow the surgeons to do what they had to do… To change her body forever.  We were raw and depleted and exhausted. There was no naïveté left.”

But there was this. “Four days later, we were in our hotel room in Gainesville, Florida, preparing to return home, and we told her, ‘Bailey, we love you so much and we know this is so hard.” To which their 10-year-old replied, “Well, I don’t see it like that. I see this as a new beginning.”

Bailey’s no Pollyanna though. “From the beginning, it was so much worse than we thought it would be. Physically. Emotionally. It takes such a toll on your body and emotions,” described Bailey. “It was a three-year journey afterwards fighting to get back.”

Bailey wears a prosthetic on her lower leg, one that changes every year as she grows. “I’m pretty particular,” she laughs, “so it takes them about six months every time to get it just right.”

She finished her treatment in October 2012 and since, has shown no evidence of disease (NED). Having recently passed the five-year mark, “I am officially cancer-free, “ says Bailey.

She’s also excited about what’s to come. “It kinda sucks, and it’s hard, but it brings about all these other opportunities… I embrace it.”

Basketball is one of those opportunities. “I would have never gone this far in able-bodied basketball.” Bailey works with the Children’s Miracle Network  and with Rally Kids and speaks often to share her story, more examples of those “opportunities” she loves.

The Moodys are a family of faith and Patrick and Tiffany encourage all of their children to make a difference. “Our family motto is ‘leave a legacy,’ “ says Patrick. “As hard as this has been, Bailey has been given a unique platform that transcends all of that.”

“She’s much more mature than her years. She has a tender and humble heart. An amazing perspective of her purpose and her life. She will have lots of time to make a difference, and we can’t wait to see what she does,” says her very proud father. Neither can we.