The way 22-year-old Carla Kellum runs, you would never know she does it on just one good leg.
When Kellum was 15, she was diagnosed with bone cancer in her right leg. After months of chemotherapy, her doctors prepared for knee replacement surgery. But after removing the cast from Kellum's leg, doctor's noticed the cancer had spread, which left her with a very difficult decision.
She only had two days to decide whether or not to have her leg amputated.
"It was scary in a way," Kellum said. "I didn't want to show fear."
Kellum decided on amputation and, after surgery, she underwent physical therapy at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington.
Kellum set a goal of being out of the hospital in time to start school. She achieved that in a matter of months. It was not an easy journey, but her mother provided the encouragement she needed.
"Because there were some days I didn't think I could do anything," she said. "Some days, I felt worthless. I didn't like looking in the mirror, and she's like, 'Carla, I love you. You're the same person you were before the amputation. You're the same person after the amputation,' She gave me a lot of strength and a lot courage."
Kellum is now training at the YMCA in Brandon for another milestone in her life. She's competing in the Gasparilla 5K race. That race is on the anniversary of the day she lost her leg to cancer. Carla trains hard two to three times a week. Jessica Rickenbach is one of her trainers and is running the 5K with Kellum.
"She doesn't let anything stop her. She really lives without limits," Rickenbach said. "And it's just been an inspiration to me and to everyone here that's gotten a chance to interact with her."
"The prosthetic does not hold me back," Kellum said. "You can do a lot if you really put your mind to it."
As Kellum sets out on her latest journey, she reflects on how far she's come. She hopes her inspirational story will help others in the big race called life.
The Gasparilla 5K is Feb. 23 and 24.
Kellum is also a member of the LiveStrong program at the YMCA. The research-based program offers adults affected by cancer a safe, supportive environment to participate in physical and social activities focused on strengthening the whole person.
To learn more about the program and other programs offered at the YMCA, visit www.tampaymca.org.