Wayman Tisdale hiked up his black gym shorts and showed off his prosthetic right leg. His crimson and cream leg. The massive carbon fiber sleeve that fits over what remains of his leg is University of Oklahoma crimson. That familiar cream-colored interlocking OU adorns it, too. "I used to wear it on my sleeve,” the former Sooner basketball great said. "Now I wear it on my leg.” Diagnosed early last year with bone cancer in his leg, Tisdale fought the disease for a year and a half before doctors determined the treatment hadn’t eliminated it. His leg was amputated just above his knee on Aug. 25 in hopes of eradicating the cancer. Less than two months later, Tisdale is walking with a prosthetic using only a cane for balance. He is doing after a month with his prosthetic what it takes most people six to nine months to achieve. "He’s a fighter,” said Scott Sabolich, owner of Scott Sabolich Prosthetics & Research. "That’s got a lot to do with it.” But as an athlete, Tisdale battled with his body, not against it. The athletic big man was long defined by what his body could do. Run. Jump. Dunk. Those physical gifts made him a star first at Tulsa Washington High School, then at OU, then in the NBA. His basketball career spanned almost two decades, carried by those lanky legs. "My body for so many years always responded,” Tisdale said. "I was the type of person that didn’t even take a lot of medicine. I can’t even remember the last time I was sick. "Then for this to happen ... when they first told me, I was like, ‘No, not me.’”
The biggest confidence is when I came out of surgery and I was still the same me.”
former Sooner basketball star
A shocking diagnosisThe cancer diagnosis was a shock as was the news that his leg needed to be amputated. Before the surgery, Tisdale had plenty of folks tell him how terrible it was that he had to lose his leg. But he realized that while others defined him by his physicality, he didn’t see his worth the same way. "The NBA didn’t make Wayman Tisdale who he was,” Tisdale said. "I was Wayman Tisdale before the NBA. I’m still Wayman Tisdale.” He felt the same way when he woke up after the amputation. "The biggest confidence is when I came out of surgery and I was still the same me,” he said. "I’m still the same me.” That was evident Tuesday afternoon. Tisdale had an appointment at Sabolich to tweak his prosthetic, a high-tech contraption. He wears a "smart knee” with the ability to be programmed to each individual, and it adjusts to the user’s activity. The resistance, for example, changes when Tisdale goes from walking to climbing stairs.
Body has changed, but not his spiritAfter a few changes, Tisdale walked into the hall with Sabolich and his prosthetist, Kyle Wagner. "If it starts beeping and vibrating at you, Wayman, just take a few seconds for it to stop,” Wagner said as Tisdale moved slowly down the long hallway. "Don’t keep going.” Tisdale turned around and walked back toward Wagner, then broke out in a little shimmy dance step. "Be careful,” Sabolich said. Tisdale flashed that familiar grin. "First time he went down the hall,” Sabolich said, "he about fell over.” Tisdale looks steady on his feet now, but still has much to learn. "Scott,” Tisdale asked Sabolich, "is there a special trick to turning?” "You’ve got to do that choppy thing,” Sabolich said, demonstrating by planting his foot and taking little steps with his other foot until he was turned. "Try to pivot around your good leg and have your prosthetic go around.” Tisdale nodded. "That’s the secret,” he said. "That’s what I’m going for, Scott.” Tisdale’s body has changed. His spirit has not. "It’s pretty amazing,” he said, "that we’ve gotten this far.”
former Sooner basketball star
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