A limb lost, a life gained

Danielle Arbour decided to amputate her leg and found a whole new life in the process.

Danielle Arbour in action with the P.E.I Canada Games team. The Goulds native has played with a number of provincial teams and the national team. Submitted photo

Erica Yetman 

For most 21-year-olds, a tough decision would be deciding whether or not to go out on Friday night or spend rent money on beer and pizza. For Danielle Arbour, one tough decision changed her life forever.

“Ever since I was little, my leg really always held me back,” said Arbour. “I had a condition that caused it to be too big and full of cystic tumours … I was always kind of afraid to show it and it always caused me a lot of pain.”

Arbour says the pains in her leg got to the point where she found it a struggle to take more than five steps.

“I wasn’t going to live my life being held back by dead weight,” she said.

After struggling for years, Arbour made the decision to have her leg amputated in January, committing to life with a prosthetic; and she says she has never been happier.

“I have zero regrets,” said Arbour. “This is the best decision I’ve made in my life.”

Alexandria Walsh has watched Arbour’s evolution since childhood, and has seen first-hand the effect her amputation has had.

“She’s always been outgoing and never let her disability stop her,” said Walsh. “But she’s definitely 10 times more happy now. She can do so much more than she was able too. I’ve never seen her happier.”

Danielle Arbour says the sport of wheelchair basketball led her to amputate one of her legs. The game, she says, has changed her life for the better. Submitted photo

Since 2011, Arbour has worked closely with Easter Seals as an ambassador for young people with disabilities within Newfoundland and Labrador. Through the organization, she was given the opportunity to meet Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Little did she know at the time, these introductions would lead her down a path to try wheelchair basketball.

“The first time I sat in the chair and picked up a ball, I thought it would be my last time,” said Arbour. “But then something clicked, and it’s been my life since that moment.”

Arbour says the sport was critical in her decision to amputate.

“It played a really big part in my amputation,” said Arbour. “I met so many amputees and really got to see first-hand what happens after your limb is gone. That really had an impact on my decision because their lives had gotten so much better.”

After playing for only a few months, Arbour caught the attention of former national coach Steve Bialowes.

Since then, Arbour has worked tirelessly to move forward – and it’s paid off. She leaves for the senior national camp at the Academy for Wheelchair Basketball of Toronto in a few weeks, with an open invitation for her to attend in the fall.

“Once you’re in that chair, the disabled aspect of the sport is totally gone; people are flipping over chairs … there’s no mercy.”