Cameron Mathison: From Leg Brace to 'Dancing With the Stars'

"GMA" special contributor on challenge of childhood condition Perthes disease.

ByABC News via GMA logo
September 23, 2009, 11:55 AM

Sept. 24, 2009 — -- Actor and "Good Morning America" special contributor Cameron Mathison says that a large part of who he is today is a result of his childhood battle with a rare and difficult medical condition.

Mathison is a noted soap opera actor and a veteran of "Dancing With the Stars," but his mother Loretta Mathison used to think her son would never walk normally, let alone participate in a ballroom dancing competition.

"He was a beautiful little, blond-headed little boy," recalled his mom. "He had the sweetest personality."

His father, Bill Mathison, said that his son was incredibly active until he began to experience pain in one of his legs at the age of four.

"It persisted," Bill Mathison said. "So we took him to a doctor and immediately when he saw him walking with a characteristic limp, he diagnosed him."

Mathison was diagnosed with a degenerative bone disease called Perthes disease, which cuts off the blood supply to the femoral bone in the ball-and-socket hip joint, causing it to weaken and degenerate.

"What happens is there was an interruption in the blood supply to the head of the femur bone and that was causing it to soften and cause pain," Loretta Mathison explained.

He was given a leg brace to keep his femur tucked inside his hip joint, which was the standard treatment at the time.

"I remember my mom coming out of the doctor's office," Mathison said. "She'd been crying, she was really fighting back the tears. And I knew -- I really knew that something wasn't OK."

"Initially, it was difficult because everyone looked at him," Bill Mathison said. "And it became an emotional thing for him."

"He was really held prisoner in that brace for four years," added his mother. "You're just trapped in it."