#SWAAYthenarrative

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.

4 min read
Health

Tropism, Mindfulness, and Responding to Your Environment

One of the few things I remember from grade school biology is the concept of tropism. In plain language, tropism is the reaction of a living thing, like a plant, towards a stimulus like sunlight or heat. You've likely seen this before but just didn't recognize it for what it was. If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action. The plant is bending towards the sunlight.

If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action.

In our everyday lives, we are all inundated with stimuli throughout the day. The driver in front of us that stalls at the yellow light and zooms through the red light, leaving us behind to wait. Or the customer service rep that leaves us on hold for an ungodly amount of time, only for the call to prematurely drop. There are so many examples both common and unique to our individual lives. The trouble begins when we form the habit of responding to everything — particularly negative stimuli. By doing this, our mental peace is disrupted and diverted making us slaves to whatever happens to happen. Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us. Now take that concept and multiply it by the number of things that can happen in a day, week, or month. What happens to you mentally with so many emotional pivots?

For me, the result is: Restlessness. Anxiety. Sleepness. Mindless Eating. Everything besides peace of mind.

Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us.

Earlier this year, something pretty trivial happened to me. I'm sure this has happened to you at some point in your life also. I was walking through a door and, as I always do, glanced back and held the door longer and wider than normal for the person coming behind me. My gracious gesture was met with silence — no thank you, no smile, not even a nod. I remember being so annoyed at this travesty of justice. How dare they not acknowledge me and thank me for holding the door? After all, I didn't have to do it. I know I spent the next few hours thinking about it and probably even texted a few friends so that they could join in on my rant and tell me how right I was to be upset. In hindsight, I should not have allowed this pretty petty thing to occupy my mind and heart, but I did. I let it shake my peace.

I've since taken some classes on mindfulness and what I've learned (and I'm still learning) is the art of being aware — being aware of the present and my feelings. Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy. We're all human and having emotions is part of the deal but as mindful adults, it's critically important to choose what you're going to care about and let everything else pass along. There are several tools on the market to help with this but the Headspace app has really helped me in my mindfulness journey. The lessons are guided and coupled with some pretty cute animations.

Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy.

Over the course of the next week, I'd like to challenge you to pay more attention to your reactions. How aware are you of how you allow your environment to affect you? Are you highly reactive? Do you ruminate for hours or even days on events that are insignificant in your life? If so, practicing a bit of mindfulness may be the way to go.