Having a positive attitude and never giving up contributes to Ella’s success.

Not Willing To Give Up


Year 10, Rolleston College student, Ella Benn, can never be called a quitter.

As a nine year, she was an active and fit runner representing Canterbury in the cross country team when her knees became too painful to run. Having no success with physiotherapy she was sent for an x-ray which revealed she had bone cancer and started chemotherapy immediately.

“I had treatment for nine months, which for a ten year old seemed like years,” Ella commented. “I lost all of my hair and had to have my leg amputated,” she explained. “I chose a surgery called rotationplasty, where the doctors took out my knee, rotated my lower leg 180 degrees and reattached it to my upper leg; my ankle now works as my knee.”

None of this has deterred Ella from being active and she was determined to re-learn old skills.

One such skill was swimming. “I have always loved swimming, I felt like I belonged in the water,” Ella added. ‘It wasn’t until Sophie Pascoe visited in hospital that I felt I truly wanted to be a competitive swimmer.”

Since then she has worked tirelessly to achieve her goal and many would say surpassed it.

Ella has gone on to win ribbons and medals, as well as gaining an award for ‘Sportsperson of the Year’ at her swim club. She was also named ‘Sportsperson of the Year’ at Rolleston College, and received the ‘Emerging Talent’ award from ParaFed Canterbury.

Ella set herself another goal. “I wanted to become a Paralympic swimmer,” she enthused. Ella has now become a member of the Paralympic Potential Programme (development squad) with Paralympics New Zealand. She undertakes training several times a week and also attends sessions in Auckland.

Unfortunately, she has had two relapses, the first was a small tumour on the edge of her right lung. The second relapse was last August where she had the whole lower lobe of her right lung removed.

Sandra Benn, Ella’s mother said, “it didn’t slow her down, even when in a great deal of pain she was back in the pool whenever she could. Doctors were amazed at her strength-especially when she got back in the water thirteen days after her lobectomy!

Ella told the News, her biggest challenge has been her mind-set. “Having a positive attitude all the time and never giving up is the key,” she concluded.