What matters the most is how well you walk through the fire.
As a nine year old girl I was completely innocent and naive to how quickly ones life can change forever but this was a lesson I was about to learn. Being a very athletic child it would only be fitting that the transition from my old life to my new one would begin in such a way. One afternoon, playing outside with my sister, I thought it would be a great idea to show off and try to balance on a soccer ball. I successfully managed to get my sisters attention before I came crashing to the ground with a scream that alerted both my parents – and possibly the whole neighbourhood. My Mum quickly called the ambulance and my Dad scooped me up in his arms. I was immediately taken to the hospital, a place I would soon call home.
I was told I had fractured my femur bone. After surgery and six months of rehabilitation I was still in excruciating pain. Something was not right and through intensive testing the doctors discovered a hideous tumour that had weakened my femur bone causing it to snap. As a nine year old girl, I should’ve been at school learning how to spell and write simple words, instead I was learning words such as Osteosarcoma. This is a cancer of the bone, a cancer that would undoubtably change my life.
From the day of my diagnosis things happened really quickly, all of a sudden I weighed 18kgs, I had a feeding tube in my nose keeping me alive, a mouth full of ulcers, a chemo bag attached to my chest and no hair.
Things got worse and worse and the chemotherapy wasn’t shrinking the cancer, my parents were then faced with a decision that no parent should every have to make. The only way to save my life was to risk a very rare surgery to amputate my leg. Due to the original break of my bone, the risk of the cancer having spread elsewhere was too high, I was not able to have a regular amputation, instead I had to undergo a Rotationplasty where the lower part of my limb would be rotated 180 degrees and attached at my hip. My foot and heel would now become my knee. Being the first in New Zealand to undergo this surgery it was very hard to wrap my head around however, there wasn’t any other option.
The day of the surgery came around and it is one day that I will never forget. As I was wheeled into the surgery room I was clenching my dads hands hysterically crying – scared of what was about to occur, scared of the unknown, scared of waking up without a part of myself, also scared of not waking up at all. I remember tears rolling down my face. The last thing I saw was my Dad smiling; his attempt to reassure me that everything was going to be ok. The 14 hour surgery was the longest day of my parents life but surprisingly, 4 hours post surgery we discovered the operation was successful. I had managed to move my foot/knee, this was one of many miracles that would surprise doctors and my family as my new life progressed.
I would like to now say “and the rest was history” but it wasn’t. The next 5 years of my life were tough, really tough. I remember thinking, “man, I thought the cancer was the hard part, that was nothing”. I spent my adolescent years questioning everything, beating myself up, asking “Why me? What did I do to deserve this”, I wanted so badly to be just like my friends, running around without a care in the world. It took me really accepting what I had been through and realising how much of an impact I now have on people’s lives to be at peace. I’d always been told, “Wow, you’re so inspiring, you’re so positive given everything you’ve been through”, but in my head I wondered, how else was I supposed to react, just sit a sulk for the next 80 years? I don’t think so!
My life completely change when I found confidence within myself, when I stopped hiding my prosthetic and started to rock it, I realised people weren’t staring at me in a malicious way, they were simply intrigued. It is through this acceptance that I have found the reason for why this happened to me. I now consider myself very lucky to have a platform to help make this world a better place.
If I’d been given the opportunity a few years ago to undo everything I went through and lead a so called ‘normal’ life I would have jumped at the chance but now I’m not so sure. The experiences I’ve gained and my appreciation for the beauty of life is something that I may not have learned until it was too late. I am proud of the life I live because I fought so hard to have it. The best part is, my story is only just beginning.