DL teen beats addiction, cancer

Two years after doctors told 18-year-old Tiffany Moe she'd never walk again, she stands tall - walking, working, going to school and sometimes even playing Tae Kwon Do - with a prosthetic leg.

Tiffany Moe
Tiffany Moe wears a high-tech prosthetic leg that allows her to live life like a normal teenager. (Brian Basham / Record)

Two years after doctors told 18-year-old Tiffany Moe she'd never walk again, she stands tall - walking, working, going to school and sometimes even playing Tae Kwon Do - with a prosthetic leg.

At 14, Tiffany was diagnosed with Mesenchymal chondrosarcoma, a rare form of cartilage cancer that grows rapidly and occurs more often in children and young adults.

On her 16th birthday, the Detroit Lakes teen took a trip down to the Twin Cities to start her first round of chemotherapy.

After three rounds, the treatments didn't work. Instead, they caused her tumor to grow, resulting in hip level amputation of her right leg.

It was Aug. 28, 2008, and she was living without a leg until she discovered the world's first completely computer-controlled artificial leg.


In fact, it was her sponsor, friend and fellow amputee, Coleen Sundberg, who also lost her leg at 17, that introduced her to the idea.

Sobering up

"I couldn't function without being high."

When Tiffany got sick, she would use whatever she had on hand to get high. She was addicted to prescription medications, marijuana and alcohol.

"Drugs just basically wrecked my whole life," she said.

But after being diagnosed with cancer, Tiffany said she wished things would go back to the way they were so she could sober up.

"It was kind of a wake up call that my life wasn't that bad," she said.

When she was finally cancer free after the amputation, there was a chance for her to get clean.


But although she went into in-patient treatment, she said she was too depressed and vulnerable. Life would never be the same.

"I wanted to go back and change things but it was too late. So I thought it was not even worth trying to get clean," Tiffany said.

So she began using again.

But the determination to beat addiction was still there. She went into rehab for the second time.

Still, she turned to drugs again after the 45-day treatment.

It wasn't until she paid a visit to Strawberry Lake Christian Retreat in Richwood last summer that she realized something was missing.

"That's where I met God and decided that's who I wanted to follow.

"When I was out at Strawberry Lake, I just felt a love that I've never felt before, and compassion for who I am. That just made me happy and I decided that I wanted to start following what the Bible says," Tiffany said.


'Step, kick'

Tiffany has been walking with the high-tech prosthetic leg since October of 2009. Surprisingly, it was more difficult for her to learn how to use it than to live without it.

"Every time I took a step, I had to think 'step, kick.' Those were my words. Swing hips forward to get the leg to swing out," she said.

Without a leg, she quickly learned to walk with crutches, go up and down the stairs without help and even swim halfway across Cotton Lake.

With her independent personality, she said she always refused to ask for help. But with the prosthetic leg, she learned that it's OK to get for help once in a while.

And her best friend, Stephanie Reynolds, is there to hold her hand when she needs it the most. Or just fool around like other fellow teenagers.

One night, the two were reminiscing the old days of Tae Kwon Do when Stephanie kicked Tiffany in her prosthetic leg to the point that she actually hurt her own foot, Tiffany said, with a smile.

"To me that was like saying she's getting used to this because she completely forgot," she added.


Trustworthy Tiffany

Now that Tiffany is Sober, she's confident that her life is back on track. Her foster parents, Jim and Jane Hokenson, are supportive and can now trust her to be on her own without turning to drugs or alcohol for answers, she said.

After living in three different foster homes since the age of 12, Tiffany finally feels like she belongs with the Hokensons.

"This time, I didn't mess up the relationship due to my drug use," she said.

Tiffany had initially planned to be a doctor, but changed her mind when the experience with prescription medications was difficult.

"I would have never been able to make a choice that a 16-year-old needs to lose her leg in order to live," she said. "Or to be able to give somebody pain killers like that ... knowing what it's like I don't know that I'll be able to prescribe it to somebody."

So instead, she plans to study ministry when she's done with high school in May.

"I see a young woman ready to take the world on," Coleen said. "And she has no limitation."

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