We can rebuild her! It sounds like something from The Six Million Dollar Man – but for cancer sufferer Lily Willis, the bionic future is very much here and now.
For the eight-year-old, who was diagnosed with bone cancer in February, has been fitted with metal bones which will grow as she does.
Lily, from Great Lumley, County Durham, had to have her entire knee, tibia and part of her femur removed after the cancer was discovered.
They have now been rebuilt with stainless steel adjustable 'bones'. As Lily grows, a magnet will be placed around her leg which will allow doctors to lengthen the bones in her shin and thigh as required.
Recalling the terrifying diagnosis, Mum Tori, 30, said: "Lily came home after school one day with a sore ankle. We thought nothing of it and imagined she had just sprained it while out running.
"But after a couple of weeks, the pain had travelled up her leg and didn't seem to be going anywhere so I took her to the doctors.
"I thought they were just going to strap her up and send her home again – we never thought it would be anything serious."
When the shock news was relayed, Tori said: "I think my heart stopped for a second. My little girl had cancer. No parent should have to hear that.
"I thought she was going to die. We asked doctors if she was going to be OK but it was a question they couldn't answer - they just looked at us sympathetically."
Just a week after her diagnosis, medics began Lily on a course of chemotherapy and performed a 14-hour operation on the youngster to remove her knee and tibia bones.
They then replaced them using adjustable stainless steel to act like real bones. Surgeons then managed to reconstruct all of the muscles, tendons and even blood vessels around the new bones.
But she will still need up to six months of chemotherapy to ensure all cancerous cells have been destroyed before she can be given the all-clear.
Lily's new bones will last until she is 14, when they will be replaced with adult-sized metal pieces, which will be left inside her leg for the rest of her life.
Tori said: "It will be a while before Lily can walk independently as she has to build up the muscles again in her legs but she is doing brilliantly - we are all so proud of her.
"She has never once moaned about being poorly. Occasionally when she sees children playing out in the street she gets a little sad, but she can't be blamed for that.
"Lily's an inspiration to us all and we can't wait to get her back to normal. She's our little fighter."
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