STEP BY STEP

Bone cancer was just the beginning for survivor Jacob Farley

// photograph by Paul Mehaffey

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Farley is parlaying his experience into the development of an exercise rehab program tailored to amputees and those with spinal cord injuries. The six-week program, unofficially known as the Bridge Program, will focus on transitioning from therapy to real life through exercise.

February 2014 brought the relief of amputation. A month later, Farley was back in the gym, his crutches always nearby as he taught himself how to navigate cardio machines with one leg and swing kettle bells. Later still, for a last time he re-learned how to walk: five steps with his prosthesis, then ten, and eventually, box jumps.

StepByStepJAN16pullout1“When we made the decision to do the amputation, I was like, ‘Okay, what will I be able to do without a leg?’ For something like cancer therapy, it’s one step at a time, but it’s also looking forward to that next step. You need to have the mindset of, ‘What could the next step be? How can I make that the next best step?’”

For Farley, it was a return to school to complete his Masters. Three months after surgery, he began an internship at Greenville Health System’s LIFE Center for academic credit that became a paid training gig. Now full-time, he does one-on-one and group training, as well as oncology rehab.

“If I’d had a choice—all right, will I have two legs or one?—I would’ve picked [having two legs],” he says. “But things have opened up for me since I lost a leg. I’m able to relate to a lot more people, whether I’m training or walking down the street.”

FULL SPEED AHEAD // Jacob Farley was diagnosed with osteosarcoma the day after Christmas of 2012, and had his left leg amputated in February 2014. Today, he is a physical trainer at GHS’s LIFE Center and works with other amputees and cancer survivors.

A few months ago, Farley brought one wheelchair-bound amputee into the LIFE Center and took him around the gym. As he explained how to mount various machines, he popped off his prosthesis in the middle of the gym to demonstrate. “It was a busy time of day; there were a lot of people in there. I just wanted to show him, who cares if people look at you? It wasn’t the exercise part that was keeping him out,” he says. “It’s way more than making people sweat. There’s the whole mental and emotional side of things. It’s being able to understand people’s fears. I don’t think I could’ve convinced him to come in if I was two-legged Jacob.”

One-legged Jacob, on the other hand, has fought the demons of inevitability and lived the daily triumph of taking another step. “I think humans are pretty resilient creatures,” he says, speaking broadly. But there is perhaps no better living, breathing, walking, box- jumping testament to human fortitude than he.

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