DENVER, Colo. — As soon as you enter her Instagram feed, you can appreciate a space of inspiration and heart-warming moments. After 25-year-old Annika Nadine Hutsler decided to electively amputate her leg in April 2019, she was determined to inspire others through her social media posts on Instagram by showing how practicing different types of sports would make her and others feel incredible.
“I found recovery through sports so beneficial for me,” she said. “I wasn’t a very athletic person growing up, but I realized that I loved being active and trying out all these new things that I never even had thought about trying before losing my leg.”
Hutsler enlisted into the Marine Corp in 2017 and quickly after that, she started to feel some pain on her right foot. At first, she didn’t think it was something to be worried about since she was involved in boot camp. However, the discomfort continued and was misdiagnosed with a stress fracture. Medics decided to treat her, but after months of continuous pain, they chose to do an MRI and found a tumor on her right foot.
“The complication was that the tumor I had typically didn’t happen in the foot, rather on the brain and spinal cord,” Hutsler explained. “Therefore, the doctors weren’t pretty sure how to treat it. They tried shrinking it a couple of times, but that didn’t work. Then they tried removing it but that just caused infection and nerve damage. I was just miserable. I spend time on a wheelchair, crutches, even on a walking boot over 400 days. This wasn’t living for me anymore.”
After 14 months of several attempts to remove the tumor, Hutsler decided to amputate her leg.
“After my first removal of the tumor had failed, I asked the doctor what my scenario looked like, since I had researched that the tumor might grow back,” she said. “The doctor said that, if successfully removed, the tumor might grow back about five to 10 years from then. I was not going to suffer no more if I could get my life back now. That’s when I decided to do it.”
April 2, 2019, is a day Hutsler will always remember.
“It was a really great day for me,” she said. “It felt very surreal going into the OR knowing that I was coming out not having a tumor no more. I knew that the recovery was going to be long, but I was on the road to getting better. Whereas when I was trying to save my leg, I was just existing. Knowing that I had the chance to improve myself made it one of the best days in my life.”
Hutsler utilizes social media to brighten up people’s lives, posting pictures with motivational messages.
“I feel I have two main goals,” she explained. “One is to show people that just because you’re disabled doesn’t mean you’re incapable of living a normal life. I also want to make an impact on other amputees who are hard on themselves and demonstrate that they can do anything they want to do. I want to remove the taboo of handicap and disabled. Yes, I am disabled, but I can still do everything I want to do.”
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