Coping With a Leg Amputation and Segregation During Cancer Treatment at Age 9


A survivor of osteosarcoma who underwent treatment in the 1960s in a segregated hospital ward, shares how he was able to find strength during that time.

Woodrow “Woody” Brokenburr was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at age 9, for which he had to have his left leg amputated. His cancer treatment took place during the 1960s, and at that time he was placed into a segregated hospital ward.

In an interview with CURE®, Brokenburr explained how he managed to stay emotionally strong while facing health care inequities and losing his leg.

“I just found that my father always told me not to let what I couldn't do interfere with what I could do,” he said.


One of the ways that I survived during that period – my support system – there were two other little boys who were in the hospital with me at the same time. So we sort of became the little menaces on that floor… I guess we could have been annoying, but we were just kind of rolling up and down the hospital corridor. And because they had recently done a biopsy, I was in a wheelchair so the two little boys would just push me as fast as they could and we would just giggle, you know, during that time.

After getting out of the hospital, my support system was really with family. I think for perhaps a couple of months, they sort of doted me, because they didn't know if I was going to make it. So I was…treated with kid gloves. And you know, they were very loving and kind. And so I guess after a while they sort of determined I was going to be okay, so then I just got back to doing the regular chores, and sort of going on with my life. Prior to having the cancer, I was really athletic. So I did a lot of running and play football and basketball, and baseball as well. So, you know, I sort of got back to normal. I just found that my father always told me not to let what I couldn't do interfere with what I could do. So they bought me a bike. And I started riding the bike with one leg and, and then on Sundays, I had a crazy cousin, and we spent – I used to pick her up and she would pedal the left pedal, and I would pedal the right pedal, and we would just ride around town, just having a good time, you know, being kids.

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