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One-legged cheerleader stands tall

5:22 AM, Mar 15, 2008   |    comments
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"I'm not afraid of it. I'm not ashamed of it. It doesn't slow me down," she said.

Growing up in Denver, Henderson was a little girl who always asked questions.

"I would ask why the moon would be in a different place in the sky," she said.

When she was 9 years old, there was a question she couldn't answer: why did her leg hurt?

"My teacher started noticing that I couldn't walk on my right leg at all," she said. "I took an MRI and they saw it was a tumor."

The tumor, located in her kneecap, was cancerous.

"I told them I'd rather be alive and have one leg, than die," said Henderson.

Her right leg was amputated six inches above the knee, changing her life forever. 9NEWS first met Henderson in 2004 as part of 9Kids Who Care.

"I have some days when I'll just be like, 'You know, I wish I could just walk out of bed,'" she said.

But Henderson says she is not to be pitied. Some might even envy her. That's because she is a college cheerleader at the University of Denver.

When her mother brought up the idea during her freshman year of high school, Henderson says she was apprehensive.

"I was like, 'I don't know Mom. I don't know if they want to see a one-legged cheerleader," she said.

Insecurity eventually gave way to inspiration. Henderson made the team and eventually worked her way up to captain.

"I just loved the way it felt!" she said.

Before she had even arrived at DU, word had gotten around.

"Little did she know, I'd already seen her. We scouted her because I judged the state cheerleading competition," said Julie Haines, the DU cheerleading coach.

So out of 60 wannabes, Henderson made the team.

"She went through the tryouts like anyone else," said Haines.

Henderson isn't one of the cheerleaders who gets thrown into the air as part of stunts.

"I'm not about being up in the air. It just scares me!" she said.

She says sometimes she blends in and people don't even notice her leg. Of course, the stickers on the side usually give it away.

"Sometimes you just have to own having one leg and you can't be afraid to show it," she said. "My parents would get so mad at me and say 'Lacey, it looks just like a tattoo!'"

It's a typical reaction from most girls.

"I'm really no different from anyone else. I just have one leg. Otherwise, it's all good," she said. "I'm alive, I'm healthy, and I'm proud of it."

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