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KIDS WITH COURAGE: Abri Bentley

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- KTTC is honored to introduce viewers monthly to some of the youngest among us, facing the unthinkable with bravery and optimism. In our third "Kids With Courage" segment, Caitlin Alexander introduces us to 12-year-old Abri Bentley.

KTTC met with Abri and her father, Rod, at Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial this fall when they were in Rochester for a surgical procedure to remove metal from Abri's leg.

With a giggle, Abri explained that to anyone out there who may think she cannot do something... She says, "Watch me!"

She told KTTC about her medical journey that began about five years ago at her home in Arizona. Her leg started hurting.

"Everybody, they just thought it was growing pains, until this one doctor thought it was a bone infection, and so, they went to take a biopsy, and that's how they found out that it was cancer," Abri said.

Doctors diagnosed Abri with Ewing Sarcoma.

She didn't really know what that meant or what came next. For her, it was 17 rounds of chemotherapy.

Abri had more than her share of hard days. She underwent a surgery to try to save her leg, but it had complications.

Through it all, her determination never disappeared.

"It was really hard to walk, and my favorite thing ever is to dance, and I couldn't dance. So, I was like, 'Well, that's a bummer. I can't just sit around and do nothing,'" she said.

Abri knew her best chance of returning to dance, or even just walking comfortably, was with an amputation and a prosthetic leg.

That's how she wound up in Rochester at Mayo Clinic, bravely asking what her parents know, many others wouldn't: to amputate.

Rod looks back on the decisions his daughter has made with pride. "Inspiration comes to mind. Hope. Hero," he told KTTC.

Doctors at Mayo Clinic walked Abri and her family through their options, but Abri's mind was pretty well made up.

A team of surgeons worked together and had to get creative.

"We moved her fibula and the bottom portion of the tibia, and we combined it all together to create a limb segment that would then be long enough or large enough for her to be able to effectively use an artificial leg," explained Surgeon-in-Chief of the Pediatric Surgical Practice Dr. Anthony Stans. "After having battled this for two years already, I think she was really interested in the treatment option that would allow her to get back to doing the fun things, dance in particular that she likes to do, as quickly and predictably as possible."

After surgery, Abri got right to work, re-learning how to walk.

She embraced her new body with a smile, while making other smile too. Her mother shared pictures with KTTC of Abri wearing t-shirts with humorous phrases, like "Dude, Where's My Leg?"

While in Rochester, Abri drew strength from meeting other kids through Childhood Cancer Community.

She worked her way up to hiking, boarding, and yes, dancing.

"One of my doctors, they said you can do anything that you want, like with this amputation. But the one thing that's going to be really hard to do is tap dance," Abri recalled.

Nevertheless, with the help of a professional dancer who goes by Lord Peg Leg, Abri knocked that off the list too.

Abri returned to Rochester in fall 2020 to get the metal in her leg removed that was making her uncomfortable.

"I have a lot of screws and metal, and it's like a mini Home Depot inside my leg," she joked.

She told KTTC that this Thanksgiving, despite everything, she's thankful for her faith and so much more. She is recovering well from her surgery.

"I'm most grateful for family, a place to live, friends."

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Caitlin Alexander

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