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CBN.com "I didn’t like who I was," says Amber Cook. "I had these scars on my legs. I may never be able to dance again. It was just like I had nothing. I didn’t think I was good at anything else."
Amber Cook of Mesa, Arizona, had a passion for dance. In fact, at age 17, it was her chosen profession. Amber started dancing early -- before she was 5. Even then, everyone knew that her flexibility and grace would take her far in the dance world. And it did. Amber was constantly performing.
"I have a shirt that my mom gave me. It says, “Eat, Sleep, Dance.” That’s totally the truth. I went to school, came home, and was there at the studio until close, and I mean just consecutive classes."
Amber’s entire life was wrapped up in her art. While she earned a scholarship to a prestigious jazz company in Chicago, underneath it all, Amber had a higher purpose.
"Everybody has their own form of worship, either music or singing," she says. "Mine was dance, and I just felt like that’s when I felt closest with God."
Like any committed athlete, Amber pushed through the normal blisters and injuries --until one Christmas performance when she was stopped dead in her tracks.
"It was a different pain," Amber recalls. "It was a pain that I was like, 'Wow, I’ve never felt that before.' I remember I came off stage and I was just in tears. That’s when I knew something was wrong."
Adds Amber's mother, Renee, "In the beginning we thought, 'This is going to be a stress fracture, something torn, she just needs time off and then she’ll be back to dancing.' "
But she wasn’t. Instead of improving, Amber’s hip began locking up on her. Eventually, she couldn’t even move it.
Amber and her mother visited six doctors in the Phoenix area, and not one of them could pinpoint a solution to Amber's problem. What they could agree on was that Amber would never dance again.
The news crushed Amber’s heart, leaving her angry at her situation and at God.
"I’d be in my room and I’d punch my pillow or I’d cry so much that my eyes would be swollen the next day," she says.
Despite her anger and disappointment, Amber encouraged herself through prayer.
"I think as I continued to pray, my faith grew stronger. That trust was just there. I knew that He was watching over me and He had a plan," Amber explains.
Meanwhile, Amber’s parents, Renee and Arlen, dealt with their own disillusionment.
"It was one of those times," says Renee, "where there was nothing that we could do that was going to change anything, so it just really put us in a position where we had to really trust the Lord."
That trust paid off.
"In the out of control, I really felt the peace of God," notes Amber's father, Arlen.
Through it all, God started changing Amber’s perspective about who she really was.
"I think what the Lord was definitely trying to teach me is identity because I identified myself as a dancer, not just as Amber. There were times where I’d really look back at it and be like, 'I’ve really put dance over Him.' You can’t love the gift more than the Giver of the gift. I really felt that I was doing that at times," Amber admits.
So Amber completely surrendered her desire to dance again to God. As she encouraged other girls in the studio with their gifts, her own breakthrough came. Amber ended up at Duke University in North Carolina where an MRI indicated what previous X-rays could not.
"All this white area of the bone is dead," says Dr. James Urbaniak, Amber's doctor, pointing to the X-ray. "Then it has this big indentation where it’s collapsed here, so it’s not perfectly round. This part of the bone is dead, and when it’s dead, it’s weaker and it collapses."
Dr. Urbaniak predicted that without treatment, there was a 100 percent chance that Amber’s hip would completely fail her, so Amber opted for surgery. Dr. Urbaniak removed the dead bone from Amber’s hip. He replaced it with live bone from her fibula and hooked up blood vessels to keep the transplanted bone tissue alive. Within months, Amber’s hip healed, and she was back on the dance floor.
"We thought we could correct it to relieve her pain and maybe go back to walking, not even normally again. The thoughts of her dancing and the types of dancing she’s done, it’s incredible really," says Dr. Urbaniak. "It’s not always what we do; it’s what the patient does. It’s the way she’s rehabilitated herself and, I think, had faith that it was going to work maybe more than her doctors had. I think this has all been very important for her to be at the stage she is now. I’m totally amazed."
Amber’s defining moment came when she performed publicly for the very first time after surgery. She danced to a song that told her story well: "Yes, God has been good to my bones."
"From the moment she stepped on stage, I started to cry," Amber's mother says. "It was just like she was home again. I felt like she felt she was home."
How does it feel to be dancing again? Amber bubbles over with enthusiasm.
"It feels amazing to be able to move," she says. "I’ve never felt more excited to get in dance clothes."
Amber’s family believes that God used this painful experience to bring spiritual profit to their lives.
"We as Christians a lot of times want to have blessings all the time and think that nothing could happen. It’s easy to serve God when we’re getting blessed, but how are we when something’s going on? Where’s our faith? Where do we stand?" Amber's father asks.
As for Amber, she’s chosen to stand on her identity in Christ. She says it’s the only thing that will never fail her.
"It’s not like He likes to see us suffer or go through painful experiences, but He loves us and He knows that’s what we need to do to become closer with Him. I mean, He could take all these gifts away, but I’m still here, and He’s still living inside of me," says Amber.
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