At 20 years old, Jillian Williams seemed to have the whole world at her fingertips. The Odem, Texas native was a regular contestant in Miss Teen USA beauty pageants and was well-known for her fabulous attitude towards life as well as her stunning good looks. She was also a college volleyball star and extremely fit.
But in February of 2016, everything changed.
Doctors discovered a cyst on Jillian’s left femur and struggled to get a good idea of how dangerous it truly was. After weeks of tests and MRIs, surgeons finally did an open biopsy. That was when Jillian was officially diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer.
But Jillian was not about to let cancer cut her beautiful life short. She fought back, getting regular chemotherapy and eventually shaving her colorful blue and purple hair.
Eventually, however, a choice had to be made about how the tumorous cyst would be handled. There was the option of removing the cyst from the bone and salvaging her limb, but Jillian discovered in her research that this option often led to cancer returning down the road.
Jillian had watched her father battle and win his fight against cancer two years previously, and her experience so far had obviously been harrowing. So relapsing was not an possible option in her mind.
To minimize the possibility of relapse, she opted for a ‘rotationplasty’, a procedure which required surgeons to remove the middle portion of her leg, where her original knee was. The foot, ankle, and shin were then rotated 180 degrees and reattached to her upper leg to act as her knee joint. Her “new knee” then slips into a prosthetic lower leg, which allows her to be mobile and even play volleyball again.
Although life may have changed for Jillian, her amazing attitude did not. She faced this entire terrifying situation with a smile and insisted her family do the same.
“She gets mad at her daddy sometimes because he cries,” Jillian’s mom, Janna Williams, said. “He’ll look at her and she’ll say, ‘Why are you looking at me like that? I’m not an alien, I’m still Jillian’. But I know why he’s looking at her like that. It’s just that you want to savor every moment you have.”
Jillian now has big dreams for her future. Jillian hopes to be the first amputee Miss Texas and to represent the American national team in Paralympic volleyball. And with the intense training regiment she’s putting her body through, we have doubt she’ll accomplish both of those goals in no time at all.
What do you think of Jillian’s incredibly inspirational story? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.