Deanna Marsden has returned to the netball court after losing her leg to cancer in 2015. Photo: Jonty Dine.

‘She’s a bit of a superhero’

Deanna gets spring back in her step


After losing her right leg, her hair, and countless hours of school, ten-year-old Deanna Marsden is back playing sport with a spring in her step.

As a six-year-old Deanna battled a particularly aggressive form of bone cancer and, in 2015, the Tahunanui Primary student had her leg amputated.

She underwent a Van-Nes rotationplasty to remove the cancerous bone and wears a prosthetic limb to ensure she can continue playing the games she loves.

Deanna has spent two and a half years wearing out her prosthetic leg, which she called ‘Daisy’, and recently received a second one.

“It feels like when you get a new pair of shoes, it just takes some getting used to,” she says.

She is also waiting for a blade, so she can move even faster. Deanna tested the blade and says she is very excited to take it to the netball court.

“It feels lighter and pretty bouncy, it will definitely help.”

Deanna returned to the netball court this season for Tahunanui School, the shooter helping her side remain unbeaten.

“We have won all of our games so far.”

She says she is loving being back playing competitive sport.

“They don’t go easy on me and I wouldn’t want them to.”

A sports-mad child, Deanna also enjoys horse riding, gymnastics and soccer.

The Marsden family’s nightmare began in 2015 as most families were planning their Christmas celebrations.

“It was pretty scary because I didn’t know what it was at first, I had never heard of cancer until I had it,” Deanna says.

After colliding with another child at school, she was unable to get back up.

“She had no cancer symptoms at all, we thought she had broken her leg,” her mother, DJ, says.

Deanna ended up getting an X-ray and that’s when doctors discovered the bone cancer.

The doctor sat Deanna’s parents down and that’s when “our lives completely changed.

“I just felt numb.”

She says when they got themselves together, they decided the best thing was to be upfront with their daughter.

“We sat her and her sisters down and explained that she has cancer in her leg and that we will have to go and get medicine that will make you sick but better which was the hardest thing to explain.”

Deanna was naturally curious about what was going to happen.

She asked ‘am I going to die? Is my hair going to fall out and are they going to cut my leg off?’

“We truthfully answered and said ‘not on our watch, you’re not going to die, your hair will fall out but it will grow back and yes there is a potential that you may lose your leg’.”

Deanna’s parents were shocked to see the effects of chemo.

“She went from a happy, giggly kid to vomiting and sleeping days on end, she was literally fighting for her life.”

Following the chemo, Deanna was faced with two options.

She could have a rod inserted in her leg that would ‘look normal’ but limit her mobility and flexibility or have the leg removed.

“The thing that helped us make up our minds was when the surgeon said, ‘if this was my child,  this is the procedure I would do.”

Deanna proved to her mother the following day that she was not going to let her condition hold her back.

She decided that she wanted to haul herself into the wheelchair that was in the corner of the room and managed to do so.

“She had that look on her face, this was a day after having her leg cut off and turned the other way. It was only for a couple of seconds, but those couple of seconds made her realise she could do anything.

“I can’t imagine how much pain she was in.”

It took more than two years for her to get her prosthetic leg.

Deanna says she was excited to learn she was going to still be able to play sport and may have gotten a bit too excited when she received it.

“When I first got my fake leg, I sprained my real leg on the same day.”

DJ says Deanna doesn’t see what many people would see as a disability.

“It just is what it is.”

Deanna adopted the school’s mantra of ‘I can and I will’ throughout her recovery.

“She’s a bit of a superhero,” says DJ.

Deanna says she now feels like she can take on any challenge in life.