DU cheerleader rebounds after losing leg

What do you do when you lose a leg to cancer? 

If you’re Lacey Henderson, first, you learn to walk again, and then you start skiing, snowboarding, yoga, rock climbing, running track and playing volleyball and soccer. Then you top it all off with collegiate cheerleading.

“After I learned to walk again, I knew I didn’t really have any limitations,” says a buoyant Henderson, a freshman DU cheerleader. “I try to do a lot of physical things and I’m kind of shopping around for more activities.”

It was nine years ago when doctors discovered a tumor behind Henderson’s right kneecap; they amputated at the thigh. But for Henderson, it was just a small stumbling block. 

“In my family, not being athletic isn’t really an option,” she says. Her dad is a track coach and her mom is a former dance instructor.

“We all got a little scared at first, but we all had such a positive mindset that we knew I would be doing sports.” 

She credits her family and her high school cheerleading coach for her resilience. 

“My family showed me quitting wasn’t an answer, and my coach always told us to do everything full out every time we did anything. So I just try to live life and do everything full out.”

Henderson, a Denver native, got interested in cheerleading just before high school and ended up making the squad at Regis High School. 

“It’s an overall fun sport,” Henderson says of cheerleading. “It shows the meaning of teamwork … I especially love competitions, they bring me so much energy and adrenaline I just can’t contain myself.” 

As for cheering at DU, she says she’s happy to be a part of something she loves and thanks her teammates and coach for giving her the chance to do it.

“Adversity builds character, and Lacey is a fine example of that concept,” says Julie Haines, who heads DU’s cheerleading squad. “She’s dedicated, hard working, and committed to getting the most out of life.”

Henderson is a regular visitor at Children’s Hospital, where she talks with kids who are facing what she endured. 

“I talk to them before a surgery or amputation and just kind of show them, ‘Hey, having one leg isn’t that bad! It’s not the end of the world; living life is just the same if not better now. I have lifetime handicapped parking,’” she quips.

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