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Amputee on mission to climb St. Louis arch

January 20, 2019

HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Curtis Gill Jr. is ready to pick up his bed and walk.

After losing his right leg to the rare bone cancer osteosarcoma and dealing with depression there after, Gill is on a mission to get his strength back — both physically and mentally — and to show others it’s possible to overcome.

Gill has made it his mission to walk all 96 steps to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

“I want to show people that it’s possible and raise money for other people who might be experiencing this,” he said.

Before he takes on the Gateway steps, he’s practicing with smaller staircases in the area. The Gateway Arch is also closed due to the government shutdown, according to its website.

Earlier this month, Gill and his brother went around town to take pictures on steps in Little River Park, Trail of Tears and on top of a truck in front of the Justice Center. Vanderbilt University Medical Center has also agreed to let him film his walk up a flight of stairs on the Nashville campus, he said.

Gill, who is originally from Georgia, moved to Hopkinsville in June 2014. Before the move, Gill admits that a doctor told him he had cancer in his leg after an unexpected fall landed him in the hospital, but he didn’t want to believe it.

“Being young and indestructible, I said to myself I’m too young to have anything like that,” he recalled.

Gill said he went on working and landed a 12-hour job here in Hopkinsville. He had his daughters, his significant other and life was seemingly good.

“The pain I had in my leg was gone so why wouldn’t I work long hours,” he said. “About six months went by and life was good, so I decided to go out and have some fun, and that’s when again my leg gave out and I fell on the floor in the club.”

Again, this time a doctor at Jennie Stuart Medical Center told him he had cancer. He had two options chemotherapy and radiation plus having his right leg amputated, or to just have the leg amputated. Gill chose option B.

“Before it was time for my surgery, I trained my mind and my body to adjust my life to prepare to live with one leg,” he said. But the reality of it, hit him unexpectedly.

He was unable to work and started to feel worthless, that led to depression and contemplating his purpose at times.

“I felt like a charity case,” he said. “The best thing people can do for someone who is disabled is to let them contribute in ways that they can.”

Since his amputation surgery in January 2015, Gill said he has spent a lot of time reflecting and getting to know God.

He now believes his purpose is to tell his story of triumph to help others overcome depression.

Along with hiking the stairs, he wants to start a nonprofit that helps others pay for the cost of prosthetic legs.

Gill needs a prosthetic leg himself. Because he is on Medicaid, he said it doesn’t cover the cost of a quality and properly fitted prosthetic. The one he has now is fitted for a 70-year-old, he said.

“Any time I put it on, I can tell it’s not for me,” he said.

A properly fitted leg could cost up to $75,000, he said.

In the meantime, Gill gets around on crutches, but he doesn’t want to use those when he gets to the Arch.

He plans to take the walk on his own.

“It was hard to go through this, but thank God that I’m on a better place and he’s given me a vision.”

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Information from: Kentucky New Era, http://www.kentuckynewera.com

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