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Overcoming obstacles: Paraclimber beats cancer, goes for gold on international stage

Overcoming obstacles: Paraclimber beats cancer, goes for gold on international stage
Overcoming obstacles: Paraclimber beats cancer, goes for gold on international stage
Published: Sep. 12, 2021 at 11:02 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Climbing up a wall is no big deal for 16-year-old Memphian Micah Winkle.

This past June he competed in the USA National Championships.

“I guess I did pretty good in it, came in first,” Micah said.

While Micah is relatively new to rock climbing, he’s climbed many metaphorical walls as a kid.

“When I was nine years old I was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma Cancer which is a bone cancer. I had it in my left femur,” he said.

The Winkle family was living in China at the time. They relocated to Memphis and Micah started receiving treatment at St. Jude.

According to his mom, Felicia Winkle, “When he was first diagnosed it had actually spread to several places on his ribs and lungs and up his pelvis and all around. When they went in to remove the actual tumor from his left femur, they were able to get all of it and it was dead.”

“They replaced about 80 percent of my femur with a metal prothesis and they took out my cancer and about 50 percent of surrounding muscle,” Micah added.

It would take Micah more than a year to walk on his own will. During that time doctors told him he wouldn’t be able to play contact sports.

“I was just trying to recover from it, so I wasn’t too worried about that,” he remembered. “I was like if I’m not in pain I’ll be happy.”

At a St. Jude event the Winkles were introduced to rock climbing and Micah quickly found his sport, despite his limitations.

“I have range of motion in my hip and I have nerve damage in my foot. Also during the surgery they removed 50 percent of my muscle so it’s significantly weaker than my right leg, like significantly weaker so there’s a lot of like a lot of different movements in climbing that I can’t do at all so I have to find a different move to get around them.”

Since he started climbing after his surgery, it’s all he’s ever known. And he’s found quick success

“I knew paraclimbing was a thing,” he said. “But I never knew I qualified for it. Or there were nationals or international competitions for it.”

Micah is just three years into climbing and he’s mastered it.

Since he won the USA National Championships he’s now at his first international competition representing Team USA.

He’ll compete in Moscow this week. And the even better news.. Micah Winkle has been cancer-free for 5 years.

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