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I Was Diagnosed With Bone Cancer At 14: Here's What I Learned About Survival

Health

My name is Kirra Wyatt. I am 17 years old and I am from Gold Coast, Australia. However, I now live in Hervey Bay. When I was 14 years old, I was diagnosed with bone cancer.


I am eager to share my story with others to not only raise awareness and let others going through the same journey know they aren't alone but to also share the positive message, I need everyone to know, that I got out of my experience.

Photo Courtesy of @kirrawyatt

Growing up, I wasn't a very athletic kid. My life revolved around my friends and looking my best. At that point in my life, I had no idea what the world was about nor did I care. During this time in my life (at 14 years old), I was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer named Osteosarcoma, which affects one percent of the population. Treatment for Osteosarcoma includes one year of chemotherapy as well as a massive surgery to replace my normal bone with a titanium bone. I was not assured that I would even keep my leg, there was a possibility that they could amputate my leg if the surgery didn't go as expected. There was also a possibility I would lose my life, with only a 70 percent chance of survival. I remember the day of diagnosis I was in complete shock. I didn't know what to think.

Being so young and trying to comprehend you have cancer is almost impossible. Before going to the hospital, I had been on multiple visits to the local doctor and after hour doctors. They all told me I had growing pains or would say 'you could have just pulled something' but as I said, I was never a sporty kid so the pain was quite suspicious.

The pain was almost exactly the same as growing pains although it would get worse with movement and when I put weight on my leg. My leg was also very swollen. Other than these symptoms, I felt completely normal and fine, not even sick. To anyone reading this, if you or anyone you know is experiencing these symptoms please urge to get them checked. Late detection can be fatal and ends in death almost 100 percent of the time. As I said, the symptoms of bone cancer are very similar to common injuries or normal pains so it is extremely easy to detect it late. Please don't brush it off and tell yourself it's nothing, it probably is nothing but it doesn't hurt to get it checked.

Going through treatment, I honestly just tried to get by each and every day. There really was no time for thinking. I remember feeling angry, jealous of others, sad and ugly. I decided to shut down all of these emotions by pretending it wasn't happening and tricking myself into believing I didn't have cancer. It was the only way to cope for me.

The treatment experience was extremely hard. I suffered from blood transfusions, infections, being poked with needles almost all the time, brutal pain, surgeries, chemotherapy, hair loss, nausea all the time, not being able to walk, seizures, epilepsy, not being able to breathe and more drugs in my body than I could count. Mentally I suffered from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and loneliness. The worst experience going through it was the time I got told the cancer had spread, and I had a five percent chance of survival. It was extremely difficult to see my family having to deal with such a small chance of me surviving. Although miraculously, the next scans revealed the spread of cancer was gone.

My good days were the days when I was off chemo for a week or two. It was so amazing to spend time with family and friends and not feel sick. My mum and dad made my experience so much easier and did everything in their power to get me whatever I wanted. They truly are superheroes. I don't think I could have gotten through it without them.

My bad days were chemo days. Some chemo's I would barely be able to lift my head of the pillow, I was that sick. What was even harder was staying in the hospital for weeks on end receiving chemotherapy, not even being able to feel the sun on my skin, it was horrible. My family gave me strength, especially my mother. She was the rock in my life and still is. We would have fun chemo days and watch our favorite TV shows, thanks to her I can actually look back and have some good memories. Being in denial helped me gain some sense of normality. I would constantly wear a wig, and I would only go to the hospital and home without makeup, even then it was hard to do. I never looked at myself in the mirror and saw a cancer patient. I made sure I didn't to help me cope. Most of the time it would help even though I had tubes going through my chest which came out of my skin for the nurses to insert chemo or drugs when I needed, and these were hard to hide.

Photo Courtesy of @kirrawyatt

Currently, I am cancer free. Cancer has made me grateful every single day, and for everything my body does for me. From going to sleep to digesting food, giving me the ability to exercise, to allowing my hair to grow and for keeping me alive. I love my body and I love nurturing it.

I have a passion for health and fitness. Only eating organic, clean foods and exercising every day. My health is almost always on my mind from now on, and I wouldn't want it any other way. I am giving it something back from what it has given me; a life.

Mentally, I am so happy and grateful to have been given a second chance that almost nothing can hurt me anymore. Everybody always told me it would get better, but I didn't realize it would get this much better. My plans for the future now are to inspire and give others posit in situations not only that are cancer but any problem that they feel as if they can not overcome.

I am also so excited to start studying to become a surgeon. My biggest learning lessons that came out of the experience is that looks aren't everything and to be honest they are nothing. It only matters what you have to offer on the inside and being happy. I have learned the importance of family. I have learned what the world is really like after seeing innocent children in pain. It has taught me never to take life for granted and how to be truly happy. I need to spread the message that whatever you're going through, it always gets better.

There is always a way out, and there is always a way to think positive. There is no wrong or right way to go through cancer as everyone copes differently but if I could go back, I would change my embarrassment about the way I looked. I should have been proud of myself and loved myself more. It is so important to be grateful for your life every single day. If anyone needs any advice or needs to talk you can reach out directly to me.

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My Untold Story Of Inventing the Sports Bra And How it Changed the World (And Me)

Following are excerpts from "Unleash the Girls, The Untold Story of the Invention of the Sports Bra and How It Changed the World (And Me)" By Lisa Z. Lindahl


There is an idea that has popped up everywhere from Chaos Theory to Science Fiction and New Age memes known popularly as the "Butterfly Effect." Simply put, it is the notion that one very small thing—the movement of a butterfly's wing say, or the ripple in a lake caused by a pebble being thrown into it—can cause tremendous effect far away: the butterfly's wing a tornado, the ripple a large wave on a distant shore. Cause and effect, does it have limits? The field of physics is telling us that it takes only observation to bring a thing into being. We cannot consider these areas of investigation and not acknowledge that everything—everything—is in relationship in some way or another with everything else.

So, it is evident to me that commerce of any kind is, also, just about relationships. It all boils down, on every level to this simplicity. While we usually think of relationships as occurring between people—it is far more than that.

I used to teach a course in entrepreneurship specifically for women in The Women's Small Business Program at Trinity College in Burlington, Vermont. I made this concept of relationship and its importance central in how I taught the marketing thought process. I would stress that for a product or service to be successful, it had to meet a perceived need. There is a need, and it wants to be met; or it may be thought of as a problem to be solved. Or there may be an existing solution that is less than adequate.

For example: In my universe as a runner there already were a plethora of bras available, but they were inadequate for my purpose. The relationship between my breasts, my running body, and my bra was creating discomfort and distraction. A new solution had to be found, the relationship occurring when all these things came together had to be fixed. Utilizing this point of view, one sees a set of issues that need to be addressed—they are in relationship with each other and their environment in a way that needs to be changed, adjusted.

Nowhere is this viewpoint truer than in business, as we enter into more and more relationships with people to address all the needs of the organization. Whether designing a product or a service or communicating with others about it—we are in relationship. And meanwhile, how about maintaining a healthy relationship with ourselves? All the issues we know about stress in the workplace can boil down to an internal balancing act around our relationships: to the work itself, to those we work with, to home life, friends and lovers. So quickly those ripples can become waves.

Because Jogbra was growing so quickly, relationships were being discovered, created, ending, expanding and changing at a pace that makes my head spin to recall. And truly challenged my spirit. Not to mention how I handled dealing with my seizure disorder.

"My Lifelong Partner"

Let me tell you a bit about my old friend, Epilepsy. Having Epilepsy does not make any sort of money-making endeavor easy or reliable, yet it is my other "partner" in life. Husbands and business partners have come and gone, but Epilepsy has always been with me. It was my first experience of having a "shadow teacher."

While a child who isn't feeling she has power over her world may have a tantrum, as we grow older, most of us find other more subtle ways to express our powerfulness or powerlessness. We adapt, learn coping mechanisms, how to persuade, manipulate, or capitulate when necessary. These tools, these learned adaptations, give a sense of control. They make us feel more in charge of our destiny. As a result, our maturing self generally feels indestructible, immortal. Life is a long, golden road of futures for the young.

This was not the case for me. I learned very early on when I started having seizures that I was not fully in charge of the world, my world, specifically of my body. There are many different types of epileptic seizures. Often a person with the illness may have more than one type. That has been the case for me. I was diagnosed with Epilepsy—with a seizure type now referred to as "Absence seizures"—when I was four years old. I have seen neurologists and taken medications ever since. As often happens, the condition worsened when I entered puberty and I started having convulsions as well—what most people think of when they think of epileptic seizures. The clinical name is generalized "Tonic-clonic" seizures.

In such a seizure the entire brain is involved, rather like an electrical circuit that has gone out as a result of a power surge. I lose consciousness, my whole body becomes rigid, the muscles start jerking uncontrollably, and I fall. Tonic-clonic seizures, also known as "grand mal" seizures, may or may not be preceded by an aura, a type of perceptual disturbance, which for me can act as a warning of what is coming. The seizure usually only lasts for a few minutes, but I feel its draining effects for a day or two afterwards. Although I would prefer to sleep all day after such a physically and emotionally taxing event, I have often just gotten up off the floor and, within hours, gone back to work. It was necessary sometimes, though definitely not medically advised. I'm fond of saying that having a grand mal seizure is rather like being struck by a Mack truck and living to tell the tale.

Having Epilepsy has forced me to be dependent on others throughout my life. While we are all dependent upon others to some degree—independent, interdependent, dependent—in my case a deep level of dependency was decreed and ingrained very early on. This enforced dependency did not sit well with my native self. I bucked and rebelled. At the same time, a part of me also feared the next fall, the next post-convulsive fugue. And so I recognized, I acquiesced to the need to depend on others.

The silver lining of having Epilepsy is that it has introduced me to and taught me a bit about the nature of being powerless—and experiencing betrayal. I could not trust that my body would always operate as it should. Routinely, it suddenly quits. I experience this as betrayal by my brain and body. It results in my complete powerlessness throughout the convulsion. Not to mention an inconvenient interruption of any activities or plans I might have made.

Hence, I am the recipient of two important life lessons—and I was blessed to have this very specific and graphic experience at a young age. It made me observant and reflective, giving me the opportunity to consider what/where/who "I" was. I knew I was not "just" my body, or even my brain.

So, who or what did that leave? Who, what am I? Much has been written about trauma, and about near-death experiences, both of which seizures have been classified or described as. I won't delve into that here except to say that experiencing recurrent seizures and the attendant altered states of consciousness that sometimes accompany an episode (the euphemism for a seizure) changes one. It deeply affects you. It is both illuminating and frightening. It opens you up in some ways and can close you way down in others. For me it made it easy to consider the possibility of other ways to perceive, of other realms. And as an adult I became interested in quantum physics, where Science is pushing and challenging our long-held perceptual assumptions. Me, who was poor in math and disinterested in Science while in school! So if not merely body and brain, who am I? Spirit. And with Epilepsy's tutelage, I was encouraged to question, seek, try to understand what lies beyond.

Living with Epilepsy has also given me great strength. In realizing the futile nature of trying to have "power over" Epilepsy, I developed a deep well of "power within"—that inner strength that comes in the acceptance of that which one cannot change—and looking beyond it.

Through my experience building the business of Jogbra with the unique lens afforded me by my Epilepsy partner, I came to understand more fully the nature of power and what it means to be truly powerful.

Specifically, that having power and exercising it is not simply a manifestation of the ego. It need not be "power-tripping." It is how I wield my power that matters, making the all-important distinction between creating a situation of power over, power with, or empowering and having and creating strength in oneself and others.

Being powerful is a big responsibility.

To put all this another way: do I choose to create situations in which I am able to wield power over others? Or do I choose to empower others, sharing my strengths with them, while nurturing their strengths as well? The first is not true power. It is control. The second I believe to be the essence of true and positive power: strength. And integral to creating a more harmonious world, oh by the way.

While this may be apparent, even basic to others, it was an "aha!" moment for me. Too often in the years ahead I would give away my power and question my own strengths,. Time and again, however, my inner strength, my shadow teacher's gift, helped me survive and thrive until I could take responsibility for and embrace more fully my own power.

© Lisa Z. Lindahl 2019