She’s that bad chick with the blade. You may have seen her on your social feeds lately, the striking model with the prosthetic leg who grabs your attention and doesn’t let it go. Poised, beautiful, and determined, Jessica Emily Quinn is a woman on a mission.
The 23 year old Kiwi loves running and fitness. She’s adventurous and likes to travel. A natural creative, Quinn is skilled and active on social media. Her top priorities include health, happiness, friends and family. In many ways, she’s the archetypal millennial. However, very few of us can relate to the experiences that contribute to who she is today.
At age 9, Quinn broke her leg. Lying beneath the surface of that break was an ominous surprise – a cancer that would push her to the limits of survival and change her fate. In her long and arduous battle with that cancer, she sacrificed her right leg, which was amputated at the knee.
Now she wears a prosthetic, but she doesn’t wear it like a burden. On Quinn, the prosthetic has the character of a scar and the boldness of a fashion statement. And, as with any fashion statement, the boldness of the look has everything to do with the confidence of the wearer.
Indeed, confidence is Quinn’s currency and she’s on a mission to share the wealth. With her Limbitless campaign, she’s inspiring disabled and non-disabled persons alike to be confident and proud of who they are.
As a cancer survivor myself, I was humbled by Quinn’s story. She owns a special quality, a disarming combination of grit and positivity, reserved only for those who have faced great adversity and emerged stronger because of the experience. Her courage is contagious, and I’m proud to share her story with you today.
Learn more about Jessica Emily Quinn, her fight with cancer, how she reclaimed her health and confidence, and her Limbitless campaign in the interview below.
When did you first find out that you had cancer? Do you remember your reaction?
To be honest, this memory is a little hazy for me. It was quite a long process. I initially fractured my femur; doctors had no idea that the reason my femur had fractured was because it was filled with cancer so they tried to heal the break for 6 months, but after realizing it wasn’t healing I was put through a whole heap of tests. It was then discovered that I had an Osteosarcoma (bone cancer). I don’t actually remember being told I had cancer, it all kind of just merged together.
How would you describe chemotherapy to somebody who has never experienced it?
Chemotherapy is like when you have the flu and the only cough syrup in the world that will make it better tastes like absolute shit but you know it’s worth it in the hopes you’ll feel better. Chemo literally destroys your body, it’s worse than the cancer itself yet it’s the only thing that has the potential to make it all go away.
To kill the bad cells, chemo has to destroy your good cells. This means, your hair follicles leading to having no hair; your immune system, leading to having to wipe down every surface you go near, steering clear of flowers or anything that carries bacteria, walking around with a face mask just in case you catch something off someone, not eating for weeks on end because your mouth is riddled with ulcers, vomitting up more food than you put in.
Chemo is like batman and the joker became one person, the hero and the villain.
When you find yourself doubting how far you can go, remember how far you’ve come, all the battles you’ve won and all the fears you’ve overcome. I wasn’t going to post this photo but it’s my favourite. It’s a gentle reminder that no matter how bad things get, keep a smile on your face. It’s up to you to find the beauty in the ugliest days. Note to younger self: I’m going to make you so proud. ✨
How did you feel when you learned that the only way to save your life was to amputate your leg?
Now this I somewhat remember. This was pretty tough but, being only 9, I don’t think I realized the implications this would have for my future. When you’re a kid your vision is pretty short, you don’t see the future like we see it as adults. You know that one day you’ll grow up but you don’t really know what that means, and realistically you can’t see yourself being anything other than the kid you are.
I knew I was getting my leg amputated, I knew how much that sucked but I don’t think I realized just how much that was going to impact my life and that it was forever.
What was the most difficult part of recovering from that procedure?
I think coming to terms with how hard the road ahead was going to be. Realizing that cancer was the easy part of the whole thing – and my goodness cancer was hard – but learning to live life in a whole new way, that was just unreal.
When and how were you able to regain your confidence?
I always, from day one, had a can-do attitude. I was surrounded by people who loved and supported me. Once I was in remission and walking there was no looking back for me. I charged through every obstacle that came my way, I felt pretty invincible.
This helped me a lot with my confidence, but it was through my adolescence years that this really declined. The best of us have low confidence during those years, and I was no exception, especially having been through so much and adapting to a new way of life at the same time. I really struggled. I was always hiding my prosthetic and never wanting to go out in public as I was so uncomfortable with it.
I don’t know what changed in me but I guess I matured and realized that people weren’t staring at me in a malicious way, people were simply intrigued. I started to really open up about things and it was through discovering how much of an effect I could have on people lives that I found my own confidence. It’s definitely been a work in progress but I’m at a point now where I don’t think I could be more confident. In fact, I have more confidence than a lot of people I know. I truly believe that confidence is the greatest form of beauty.
What advice do you have for those who are going through a traumatic experience?
The best advice I have is to stay positive. It’s hard, it won’t always happen, but the mind is so incredibly powerful. I am 100% certain that I am here today because of the attitude I maintained throughout my treatment, rehab and through my life. Surround yourself with the people you love and the things you love doing, and don’t beat yourself up. You may not have chosen the path you’re on. You can kick and scream and say it’s not fair and you don’t want to be on that path but the fact is you are. Climb on that beast and ride it like a warrior.
I’m not an overly spiritual person but I strongly believe we’re put on a path for a reason; be as strong as you can and push through until you find what that reason is. Trust me, it’s there. It might take weeks, months or – in my case – 15 years to find it, but it’s there.
Describe your Limbitless campaign, what you’d like to accomplish and how others can get involved.
Limbitless has so many different avenues but my main focus is using what I’ve been through to inspire people to be confident in their own skin, to be happy and to live the life they want to live.
My first goal is to reach out to brands, advertisers, marketers and promoters to look at the way we are advertising products and services, because there is so much power in advertising – you can make or break someone. I don’t want young girls to scroll through social media or look in a magazine and completely beat themselves up because they don’t look like the girl in the picture, when more often than not, the girl in the picture doesn’t even look like that.
Imagine, for example, an airline company shooting an advertisement to inspire people to travel the world. They could use somebody like myself, full of confidence, exploring the world – surely that would entice anybody to think, “shit, whats my excuse?”. Or imagine a model, modelling clothing online or on the catwalk and looking awesome, and the viewer thinks, “Oh wow, she has one leg! Maybe I can rock that dress,” instead of the usual, “I won’t look as good in it as that girl”.
There’s a market trying to break through at the moment for disabled models and I am in 100% support of it, but for me, it’s so much more. I don’t want to be categorized as a disabled model or influencer. I want to inspire anybody and everybody, from someone struggling with a disability, to someone struggling with a minor insecurity that holds them back from enjoying their life, all the way to someone who is struggling to find the drive just to get up out of bed everyday.
I want to change the way we use social media and drive a change for a more authentic approach, to just be ourselves and absolutely rock who we are. Because we are all living with things that weigh us down, and that’s life – finding the inspiration to push through those things.
I’m still working out all the things I want Limbitless to be but for now, I simply want to inspire in any way I can.
People can support the movement, spread the word for change. Share the hashtag. Follow my journey. Get the idea of Limbitless into as many minds as possible and who knows? Maybe one day it’ll be something even bigger than I can imagine.