When Kassie Whisman-Osborne was in utero, she appeared on sonograms to be completely healthy. What doctors couldn’t see was the tiny puncture in her spine, an indication of spina bifida, an often debilitating birth defect. Obstructing the hole was a piece of skin, which worked to her advantage: because of it, spinal fluid didn’t leak out — and unlike many people with spina bifida, Whisman-Osborne can walk, according to the Portsmouth Daily Times.
Spina bifida caused Whisman-Osborne to look and function differently from other kids. The affliction when the bones of the spine don’t form properly around part of the baby’s spinal cord, says WebMD, so it leads to anatomical deformities. For Whisman-Osborne, this meant that one of her feet was much smaller than the other and was turned in.
“I wear a 7 ½ on my normal foot,” Whisman-Osborne told the Portsmouth Daily Times. “My other foot was a 4 1/2-5, and it turned in. It made me limp really bad. So, because it dragged and didn’t get good blood flow, it got diabetic sores.” Eventually, she had to have her foot amputated, and later, her leg was amputated below the knee.
She did all she could to keep up with her peers — even learning to ride a bike — but she was often undergoing surgeries for her condition. In addition to her leg, spina bifida also affects the bladder. “They took a piece of my bowel to make a stronger, bigger bladder,” she said of one of her surgeries. Regardless, Whisman-Osborne came to feel like the “sick kid” all the time.
It wasn’t until her future husband, Isaac Osborne, visited her in the hospital after her first surgery that she began to see her true beauty. Osborne cared for her, didn’t judge her, and became a support system in her life. Though he had to leave town for work at one point, they continued to communicate on the phone. When Osborne returned home, their friendship took a romantic turn.
“I never had anyone who thought I was anything other than a sick kid,” Whisman-Osborne told the publication. She says that Osborne’s confidence in her helped her develop her own self-confidence. He helped her feel that she didn’t have limitations by encouraging her to push boundaries and join him in rigorous activities like canoeing. Eventually, she married the man who helped her fall in love with herself.
Now, Whisman-Osborne wants to be a positive role model for her children, and encourage body confidence in them by demonstrating how she loves and embraces her not-so-typical body. It’s been a process, but she tells the publication that in the past year she’s made a lot of progress, and “truly started to feel beautiful as a woman,” she says in the story. “I’ve always been cute – the cute, little, one-legged girl. Only recently, though, have I started to feel comfortable with myself.”
Even when she wasn’t feeling one hundred percent confident, though, she remained focused on doing things that would boost her self-esteem. She joined a performance group about eleven years ago. According to the article, she had never thought of performing before — “I always said I had stage fright, but I had never even been on a stage,” — but it helped her grow.
And now she hopes it will help her children grow. Whisman-Osborne has three of them — two daughters, 8 and 6, and a 2-year-old son. “I don’t want them to ever be down on themselves because of appearance or anything,” she told the publication. “They have their limbs, but I want them to also have strong females figures in their life, including me.”
Whisman-Osborne has no intentions of slowing down. She continues to perform, and even has a sense of humor about her disability. She tells the publication of a time she went to the pool and noticed a group of men staring and flirting with her as she swam. “I’m real cute from the waist up, but I got out of the pool and could see them freaking out with the change in their expressions. So, I started putting my fake leg on seductively,” she said jokingly to the publication. “People think because I have scars, I should hide them. I like to show them off. I earned them.”