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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.

Career

Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.


In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.

What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.

Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.

While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.

According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.

In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.


Source-Alex Brandon, AP

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.

Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.

The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.