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Abby Dwyer

  • Abby Dwyer's optimistic attitude takes her from chemotherapy to a triathlon

    Abby Dwyer of Ramsey, Minnesota was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was 11 years old. Her chemotherapy treatments from 2009-2012 caused her to miss so much school that she was home schooled by tutors. She had physical therapy at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis and was also evaluated at Mayo Clinic for medical complications. Although her leukemia was under control, Dwyer had a lot of joint damage and osteonecrosis of her knees and ankles. Pain caused her much difficulty in standing and walking, and she needed orthotic devices to help her ankle weakness and foot drop.

    Dwyer's physician recommended bilateral total knee arthroplasties and suggested that she undergo aggressive rehab prior to the surgeries to strengthen her legs and regain lower extremity range of motion. Her family chose Courage Kenny Sports & Physical Therapy - Elk River for this therapy, as the location was convenient to their home.

    At the Elk River site, Dwyer's therapists, Monica Heinen, PT, CLT-LANA and Angie Dee-Ellingson, MPT, CLT-LANA, said that Dwyer never gave up. She worked hard in rehab for several months, underwent the surgeries, then returned for several more months of therapy after the surgeries. She accepted the disheartening fact that she wouldn't grow much taller because the knee replacements affected the growth plates in her legs. Her "I'm going to beat this" attitude and optimism have served as an inspiration to other children who are dealing with the challenges of cancer.

    Dwyer was discharged from physical therapy this past summer with nearly full range of motion, good strength and function, and less pain. She is now back in school. Heinen and Dee-Ellingson said that Dwyer keeps in contact with the staff; she recently let them know that she participated in a Miracle for Mitch Children's Triathlon, which included walking, riding and swimming.