All Codi Leigh Sharkey wanted to do for her 21st birthday was to go out in high heels for a night of dancing and celebrating with her friends. In the summer of 2008, she began seeing a podiatrist for the pain in her foot. After all, she wanted things to be perfect for birthday, and though it wasn’t until December, the pain was enough that Codi wanted it taken care of as soon as possible.
After being treated for plantar fasciitis with no progress, she asked the doctor for an MRI of her foot. Sure enough, the MRI revealed a golf ball-sized tumor that had been causing Codi pain in her foot since she was 15 years old. The tumor turned out to be synovial sarcoma, an aggressive and rare type of cancer. When she met with the treating doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, they made it clear that the treatment included a below the knee amputation, a prognosis Codi was not terribly excited about.
“I did not hesitate to voice my hatred for this diagnosis,” Codi said. “I was supposed to be out dancing in high heels on my 21st birthday.”
On November 20, 2008, about three weeks before her birthday, Codi’s right leg was amputated below the knee. In her recovery period, Codi said her two biggest challenges were finding a prosthetist that was receptive to her wants and her needs as young female and getting a prosthesis that fit correctly.
“Before finding the great folks at Clark & Associates, I was having a hard time with my prosthetic,” Codi said. “I wasn’t able to walk more than 15 feet without frequent pain and having to stop often. My gait was off, which caused the rest of my body to be off, especially in my hips. It looked like my right leg was two times bigger than my left leg. To be honest, I hated being an amputee because of the problems I was having.”
She began working with Pat McTaggart, CPO, at the Dubuque Clark & Associates office, who helped Codi get a prosthetic that fit well. Shortly after, Codi was able to “resume my life and the hobbies that I love.” She obtained her Certified Nursing Aide license and began working at a nursing home, which meant 8-hour shifts spent mostly on her feet. She also got back to her favorite outdoor activities like trout fishing, hiking, biking, kayaking and gardening. However, Codi still has things she has to work through.
“One challenge I still deal with is accepting the look of the metal in the prosthesis. It’s not that I’m not proud of myself as an amputee,” Codi said. “I just prefer my legs to look relatively symmetrical.”
Codi has plans that will allow her to help others like her and work on improving the aesthetics of prosthetic limbs. She will be working toward finishing her bachelor’s degree in biology this fall at Clarke University, after which she intends on attending Northwestern University to obtain her Master’s degree in Prosthetics and Orthotics.
The sky is certainly the limit for Codi, and her positive outlook will help her along the way.
“I may not get to wear high heels,” she said, “but I’ve had nights where I’ve danced all night and then even walked home!”