Losing a leg has not stopped 16-year-old Melody Walker from achieving any of her goals.
The Bega High School student is a champion athletics competitor, avid horse rider, runs cross country, goes to the gym three times a week and has recently been learning karate and how to surf.
And she has achieved all this with an artificial limb.
“I’m just doing everything I can possibly do,” she said.
“At times it was hard, but it hasn’t stopped me.”
Early in her life she was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, a genetic condition that can cause bone problems.
Her father was diagnosed with the same condition, tragically losing his battle with it and passing away when she was eight years old.
For Melody, it caused her to have brittle bone in her leg that meant it could break easily – it was in fact bent when she was born.
“I was nine when I had my leg amputated, I remember I wanted to spend time int the playground but I wasn’t able to because of my leg,” she said.
She had the choice of either continuing treatment with a frame that supported her leg or have it amputated, and while it may sound surprising to some the decision was an easy one to make.
“I knew what I wanted to do straight away, I wanted to be able to run around and be a normal kid,” she said.
“Since I got it amputated I haven’t had nearly as much pain as I had before.”
The number of sporting achievements she has accomplished since her operation is jaw dropping.
No matter what anyone’s ambition is they can still do it if they put their mind to it.Melody Walker
When she entered in her first athletics carnival in the Bega Valley in 2016 she placed in the top three in the 100 and 200-metre sprints as well as the long jump, placing again in the sprints at the zone competition.
That year she was accepted into the Paralympics at the CHS State Athletics, setting a new record in her age group for the 100-metre sprint with a time of 19.18 seconds in the T44 category for amputees below the knee.
Also, last year she went to zone swimming and competed in her first gymkhana for pony club where she received three placings.
A lot of people have been interested in her prosthetic and she has gotten used to receiving looks from bystanders when walking through cities or towns.
“Younger kids especially want to stop and stare,” Melody said.
“I could walk through a shopping centre and have a few people who are really rude so when I walk past them their heads will turn and follow me.
“But it’s not a lot, these days people are really aware that there are a lot of others out there with an artificial limb.”
Originally from Bruthen in Victoria, Melody moved to the Far South Coast two years ago and now lives in Bega.
Her current plans are to focus on finishing high school and continue competing in athletics, then she may study nursing at university in Bega or go to Melbourne to study prosthetics so she can “help older people and kids move again”.
“I want to give back to the community as much as possible because people have given so much to me,” she said.
Her decision to tell her story to the Bega District News was made in the hope of inspiring others and showing them setbacks will not preventing her living her life.
“No matter what anyone’s ambition is they can still do it if they put their mind to it,” she said.
“You push through, you do what you want to do.
“I know a lot of people with physical or mental disabilities will get inside their heads and say they can’t do something for these reasons.
“But if they push through they can achieve much more than they ever planned to.
“They shouldn’t let anything hold them back.”