Inside Story: Canadian Woman Cut in Half to Save Her Life

09/24/2010 11:00AM



For Janis Ollson and her husband Daryl, wedding vows have taken on an entirely new significance.

"In sickness and in health" was a promise made on their wedding day – and a promise they revisited just four months ago when they renewed their vows after 10 years of marriage.

But as Ollson walked down the aisle this time, she leaned on a cane for support and had a prosthetic leg. It was, in many ways, a miracle she made the walk at all.



It's been about three years since Ollson, who lives in the Canadian province Manitoba, went under the knife during a groundbreaking operation in which her body was cut in half – a first in medical history.

"Recovery has been long and slow," Ollson, 31, said on the Today show Friday morning. "We've been continually moving forward."

The mother-of-two was diagnosed with the bone cancer chondrosarcoma while she was pregnant with her second child three years ago. Because the cancer was untreatable by chemotherapy, doctors in Toronto proposed a cutting-edge operation which had, before Ollson, only been performed on cadavers.

To get to the tumor, surgeons from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., would need to remove her leg, her lower spine and half her pelvis. Then, they would put her back together again.

Her one good leg was reattached to her body using bone from the amputated leg, a technique known as a "pogo stick" rebuild.

Today she is cancer-free and thankful for the decision she made to undergo the surgery that would save her life.

"I knew my options were either do the surgery or certain death," she said. "So I knew I had to do the surgery."

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