SAN DIEGO — Annika Hutsler joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2017. A year later, she got a diagnosis that would change her life forever.
“February 1st, 2018, they said, ‘surprise, you actually have a tumor in your foot’,” the Marine veteran said to FOX 5.
Hutsler says the tumor caused her constant pain and numerous infections. Her doctor estimated she would have a decade before facing a possible amputation.
“I told her that day, ‘cut it off now.’ I’m not going waste five to 10 years of my life knowing that this is going to inevitably going to end in amputation,” Hutsler said.
She had her leg amputated right below the knee and medically retired from the Marine Corps in 2020.
After losing so much in her life, the Wounded Warriors athletic program gave her reason to keep going.
“Adaptive sports saved my life, because when I was going through the limb salvage, going through all the recovery and therapy, it can really weigh on you,” Hutsler said.
The former high school ballerina now plays 19 different sports, turning her passion into competition. She was selected as one of seven Marines to represent the U.S. in September for the Invictus Games, a tournament for wounded and injured service members around the world.
“I’ll be competing in track, field, wheelchair rugby, swimming and table tennis,” Hutsler said.
Those are words the Marine-turned-athlete never thought she would say.
“When I really look back and see, it was only four years ago learning to stand up on two feet. Now I’m here and it’s been a long journey but I’m proud of how far I’ve come,” Hutsler said.