By Alanna Kennedy


For Jothy Rosenberg, losing a lung to cancer has been more challenging than losing his leg

By Alanna Kennedy

When Jothy Rosenberg was 16, osteosarcoma took his right leg. But it was the loss of his lung to the same disease three years later that has had the greatest influence on his life.

Rosenberg, now 52, says it’s this “invisible disability” that drives him.

“The fact that I only have half my lung capacity means at times I feel short of breath,” says Rosenberg, an avid swimmer, hiker and skier. “There is nothing scarier than that feeling. It really drives me to stay fit at all times.”

In a December 2008 blog entry, Rosenberg reveals how having one lung has shaped his life as an athlete and a survivor.


Invisible Disabilities
Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008

A visible disability is so obvious that is what people will focus on. … Then they see that I am pretty good at a few things like swimming, skiing and biking and they sort of forget about the disability until it fades into the background completely. In fact, I have heard people say things like “well I won’t ski with Jothy because he is going to go down slopes too steep and go too fast.” Amazingly, that was a two-legger talking and I can never get used to that because I spent so many years just trying to get two-leggers to not patronize me or say things like “he’s pretty good considering.” While my obvious physical disability faded out of their view, my invisible one was never even in their view in the first place.

... What is surprising to many is that the invisible [disability] has had a bigger psychological impact and has made many indelible changes in my life and my attitudes. When the cancer that took my leg at age 16 spread three years later, it took away a lung. ... This lung removal represented the fact that the bone cancer had spread … This was a critical, short-term life threatening situation [which was] made worse by the statement from my doctor who said “when this cancer metastasizes to a new part of the body, no one has survived it.” …

… The effect on me was to fight back and prove my doctor and all of “them” wrong. … I did that by heading west … where my real goal was to get so good at skiing on one leg that no one would ever say Considering to me again. …

When I was … a ski bum for the season, I was suddenly at high altitude. I had just finished a year of doing nothing so I was not in shape and had no reserves. Every move in the lodge made me out of breath. Imagine how it felt up on the top of the mountain 3,000 feet higher and working hard. Right then, I determined that I could never be out of shape again as long as I lived. It was clear to me that I had to work much harder than other people just to stay even in the breathing department. Being driven began then.

That is what happens with an invisible disability. You notice it. Others don’t. You and only you realize its impact on you and how you have to compensate to deal with it.


To read more of Rosenberg’s blog, A Leg Up, please visit:

To recommend a blog for CR’s Cancerblog column, send an e-mail to