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Amputee dancer inspires local woman

Updated: Monday, April 28 2014, 01:41 PM EDT

Rochester, N.Y. -- Anja Pierce never heard of Amy Purdy until she saw her performance on Dancing with the Stars. Purdy is wowing the crowds and the audience as she dances with two prosthetic limbs. She lost her legs after a bout with meningitis at the age of 19.

Pierce lost her right leg above the thigh after being diagnosed with bone cancer when she was 10 years old. She was living in Germany, where she was born, and she said the options for treatment back then were limited.

But Pierce said she never had a chance to get depressed about losing a limb. She was busy with sports. Though she never enjoyed dancing or running, she learned to ski and later to canoe. She said keeping busy kept her focused and positive throughout her life.

Pierce also shares something else in common with Purdy. Both are paralympians. Pierce hopes to go for the gold in canoeing in the 2016 Paralympic Games. She trains five days a week during the summer and works out every day during the year. She’s also a regular at Bristol Mountain, skiing whenever she gets the chance.

Watching Purdy dance was inspiring for Pierce because she said you couldn’t tell she had prosthetic legs and was able to move so gracefully. Pierce has a brand new prosthetic limb. It cost $50,000, but is equipped with a computer chip at the knee. It allows her to walk easier and not think so much about it as she had to before, to avoid falling.

She said she will watch Purdy and hopes this inspires others to keep working hard to achieve their dreams. She said she was told once that she wasn’t strong enough to be a physical therapist because her prosthetic limb limited the amount of weight she could lift.

But she proved them wrong. She is a pediatric physical therapist who works with young children with developmental and physical disabilities.

She said some of the children ask about her prosthetic leg, especially in the summer when she’s wearing shorts. She tells them she has a brace, just like them and that it’s not a big deal.

Pierce is also the mother of two children, Jonah, 14, and Dominique, 18.

She has won medals in the Paralympics for canoeing hopes she can bring home the gold in two years.

Amputee dancer inspires local woman

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