AMY CONROY thought she was simply nursing a knee injury when she went to see a doctor at the age of 12.
The Norwich girl, who played netball, football and loved dancing, recalled: “Because I was so sporty, the doctors thought the pain in my knee was through that.
“They said it was flat feet, so I was given insoles. But that didn’t cure me… because it turned out to be cancer.”
Being diagnosed with osteosarcoma – a bone cancer – changed Conroy’s life forever.
She is now 26 and will go for wheelchair basketball gold in her third Paralympics next year.
But she was fortunate to survive the illness, which came just five years after her mum Ann died of breast cancer.
Conroy said: “When they said to me I had cancer, I just looked at my dad. It was a moment you don’t forget.
“At the time I was given a 50 per cent chance of surviving because it was diagnosed so late.
“The first day of chemotherapy I was sick 75 times. I had a few close shaves when I just was very ill.
“The cancer spread quite badly and became very serious. I saw an X-ray of my leg and the bone was so thin I don’t know how it didn’t break.
“They said originally I could either have a pole put in my leg or have it amputated.
“It’s a horrible thought when you have cancer in your bone and you know it is spreading, so I just wanted rid of it.
“I felt like if I had that pole in my leg, that limits you.
“Whereas if you have it amputated, and you work hard, you can go on to do anything.”
Conroy was in hospital for more than a year — and her dad Chris was by her side the whole time.
She said: “He is my hero. He was so strong through the whole thing.
“He stayed with me every single day. There weren’t even beds a lot of the time and he was sleeping on this wooden chair next to me. He is an absolute legend.”
Conroy returned to school when she was finally given the all-clear.
But it was not until she was introduced to wheelchair basketball by her dad that she was given a new lease of life.
Conroy explained: “I was so excited to get back to school and be a normal-ish kid.
“But I was self-conscious about my leg. I was also bald, I had no eyebrows or eyelashes and my face was quite fat from the steroids.
“I couldn’t get into a lot of the classrooms because I was in this big Red Cross wheelchair which didn’t fit through doors!
Amy Conroy (Wheelchair basketball)
Place of birth: Norwich
Career highlight: World championship silver (2018)
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“But when I was about 15, my dad started taking me to basketball.
“I was against the idea at first. I didn’t want to consider myself as having a disability and hang out with other disabled people.
“I just thought it was going to be baskets on the floor, everyone having a go like, ‘You take a shot, now you take a shot’.
“But it wasn’t and I fell in love with it pretty quickly. Seeing other people playing and thinking, ‘They look cool with their leg’, changed my whole perception of it.
“I wasn’t weird or different. It gave me a purpose.”
Conroy used to train on an outdoor court after school with her dad.
She smiled: “There was dog poo on my wheels – I’d have to clean them off before I got back in the car!”
But Conroy’s hard work paid off when she was selected for Great Britain just a couple of years later.
She represented ParalympicsGB at London 2012, yet in those days the squad only trained together monthly and they finished seventh out of ten.
Conroy said: “Sometimes people used to say to me, ‘Good job on getting out of the house’ – and I’d be like, ‘I’m in Tesco, I haven’t done anything special’.
“But Channel 4’s coverage of the 2012 Paralympics had a lot to thank for the greater awareness. They had more of a light-hearted approach.
“It’s such a dynamic, fast-paced, aggressive sport, you can’t look at it and feel sorry for people because people are flying out of their chairs all the time!
“In November, I flipped out and my arm got run over. I pulled the ligament in my elbow and was out for months – but it’s just part of the game.
“I have one leg – so what? I have done some amazing things I wouldn’t have done otherwise.
“I have three out of four limbs and I am still going strong.
“I wouldn’t change anything. I am really happy.”
Team GB lost to Holland in the bronze medal match in Rio.
The same opponents beat them when they reached last year’s World Championships final for the first time – and again in the European Championships final earlier this month.
But revenge is on the cards in Tokyo, where Great Britain will be looking for a minimum of a first Paralympic medal.
And Conroy added: “The Dutch are now our nemesis.
“But we are becoming a force, which we haven’t been in the past, and we are training like we are winners.
“The aim in Tokyo is absolutely gold. I am so hyped and I completely believe we are going to do it.”
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