By Aimee Braniff Cree
THIS INSPIRING woman became a one-legged pin-up girl after having her leg amputated at the hip when she was diagnosed with a ONE-IN-TEN MILLION form of cancer at just 30 years old.
Cairn Atkinson (35) a model, actress, and limb difference/differently abled advocate from Los Angeles, California, USA was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Epithelioid Sarcoma in July 2018.
In the United States, the incidence of upper extremity epithelioid sarcoma is 0.1 cases per million per year.
It was in December 2018 that Cairn had her upper extremity amputation at her hip. The hemipelvectomy surgery kept her in remission for almost four years.
Unfortunately, in early 2022, she started to notice some new pain and discomfort, so she went to her oncologist and they confirmed the cancer was back but this time there were three tumours instead of one large one.
Cairn’s oncologist said the next process is chemotherapy, which was not an option years ago so there is more hope this time that it will destroy and keep this aggressive canceraway.
This news was devastating to Cairn and everyone who loves her, but it did not stop Cairn in her tracks. She continues to power though and do the things she loves and persevere towards her goals and desires all the while maintaining a positive attitude.
After her amputation, Cairn also discovered that many places in Los Angeles are not accessible for all bodies and abilities.
Cairn started competing in Pinup Pageants since October 2021. She has been in 14 pageants and has come in first place three times, second place four times and recently won third place at her latest pageant where she dressed up as a 1950’s zombie diner waitress.
Cairn had some very touching moments with the people who attended the group and is looking forward to hosting the group again next year. She created a private group on Facebook called Rockabilities and she encourages others to join the group who also have an interest
in the pinup/rockabilly scene.
She eventually wants to turn it into a non-profit organisation where she can help people with things such as medical costs, rides, resources and visits where she and her pinup gal pals can visit people all dressed up and sing, talk, and spread joy and positivity.
Cairn has been published 12 times in pinup magazines four of which she made the cover. Cairn is very humbled and excited to help raise awareness for people with limb difference, and to be the first amputee in most of these magazines is such an honour to her.
She hopes it will encourage others with limb difference and/or disabilities to compete in pageants and apply to be in magazines. Representation and inclusion is very important to Cairn.
“I was first diagnosed with a rare cancer called Epithelioid Sarcoma in July of 2018 and had my leg amputated at the hip in December of 2018,” said Cairn.
“The hemipelvectomy surgery kept me in remission for almost four years. Unfortunately, in early 2022, I began to feel some new pain and discomfort, I paid a visit to the oncologist and they confirmed the cancer was back but this time there were three tumours instead of one large
“Most recent change is that all the tumours have been getting bigger in centimetres, and one of the tumours has invaded the colon and is breaking through causing a lot of pain and discomfort, and bleeding.
“The systemic medicine I was on was working, but now is not as effective. My oncologist said the next process is chemo and radiation, which was not an option years ago so there is more hope this time that it will destroy and keep this aggressive cancer away.
“This news was devastating to me and my family, but I did not let it stop me. I will continue to power though and do the things I love and persevere towards my goals and desires all the while maintaining a positive attitude.”
Following her amputation Carin was shocked at how unprepared the world was for an amputee, she has a lot of problems with accessibility and decided to use her platform to raise awareness for it.
“After my amputation,I discovered that many places in Los Angeles are not accessible for all bodies and abilities. My new passion in life after amputation was to create a YouTube Channel guiding other hip amputees during the process before, during and after a hip amputation,”
My channel also includes, more recently, honest reviews of different locations and their accessibility, in hopes to inform and make changes and accommodations for all.
“I recently dove into the pinup culture scene where I compete in pinup pageants and have the honour of being on different stages in order to raise awareness for hip amputees, and to encourage others there is always a positive life to live even during or after grim circumstances.
Cairn won “Best dressed” at the most famous pinup and rockabilly event, Viva Las Vegas. It was her first time attending the event which was their 25th anniversary and the creator, Tom Ingram, gave her the opportunity to hold a group meeting called “Rockabilities” where anyone who has had any medical/health issues could meet up and encourage one another and share stories and build relationships.
Cairn used one of her most recent photos she posed for at a Breast cancer fundraiser fashion show for her GOFUNDME.
This fundraiser will help with the financial burdens that she will encounter with her chemo treatment. She is very grateful and touched that she has over $5,000 of her $10,000 goal.
“I am trying to make it to the silver screen, become a professional model, and an aerial straps performer. Although these aspirations have unfortunately had to take a back seat because of the cancer returning,” she said
Cairn will be placed on a new treatment regimen of chemotherapy and radiation and while it is a scary time for her she realises it is the only way to save her life.
“For the first time I will have chemotherapy that will be continuous for six months,” said Cairn.
“I am very upset and concerned because the type of cancer I have is very rare and hard to treat, and chemotherapy is my only hope.
“I have a GoFundMe to help me and my husband through this challenging time, the money we receive will go towards what insurance won’t cover such as procedures and medicine. Travel expenses, caregivers, food, house cleaning services, sanitising items, radiation cream,
head scarves to keep me warm, and bills.
“I had to quit my most recent job and my husband Joseph will need to take time off to help support and be a part of this journey with me.
“Speaking of my husband Joseph, he recently went on dialysis because he has an autoimmune disease that attacks his kidneys and causes him to have high blood pressure.
“So we have been paying for the machine and supplies that he needs to stay alive until he can receive a matching kidney, which we are in the process of acquiring.
“Our medical issues have not created anything but a deeper love between us, we will be celebrating our fifth year of marriage at the end of October.
“I have not let this dim my light. I remain enthusiastic and positive and once I am healthy enough after treatment, I plan to go skydiving to celebrate.