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  • Writer's pictureKelly Cartwright

My NAB life moment

Updated: Sep 18, 2018

I was 15 years old when my life got turned upside down and life as I knew it would never be the same. I loved sport, I spent all of my spare time playing netball and running, until one day a pain in my knee became so severe it made me give up sport and had me visiting physio after physio searching for answers. They had put it down to "growing pains" and then a "cyst". But after nothing had changed in almost two years I found myself in a surgeons office after minor surgery to remove the small apricot sized lump and it was there he told me I had a rare form of cancer inside my knee. I was then faced with the most difficult decision of my life. Amputation or Operation? For my best chance of survival and make sure I would be cancer free I chose amputation. This all happened in the space of a week. Of course it wasn't an easy decision to make. In fact I first told the surgeon no way I am getting my leg amputated, but after hours of research and realising the survival rates I knew I would rather lose my leg than my life.

In life we never expect to be faced with such adversity and we really don't know how we will handle it until its right there in front of you. After the amputation I took each day as it came, which meant long hours of rehab and learning to walk all over again. It also wasn’t just about me, it was hard for my entire family especially for my parents. I wanted to show them I was going to be ok. I knew that’s what pushed me every day too, I was determined to show them their youngest child would come out the other side and live a fulfilled life with no stone unturned.

The leg I was first fitted with was "good" and by good I mean got me back to school and from a to b but I knew it wouldn't allow me to be the best version of myself and get back to an active lifestyle. However I didn't realise the better leg I needed would come at a cost that my family just couldn't afford. When it comes to life sometimes we need things at a certain time and not so much at other times. I didn’t realise the value of a bank being there for us in our time of need until I lost my leg. I suppose it’s not normal to think you might have to pay to walk. The NAB Life Moments Hub is great in being able to see what support is available. With it literally being at your fingertips you can explore it in the comfort of your own home or on the go!

To be dealt with such a hard hand but to then know we would have a debt sitting over our heads was hard to swallow. I felt bad all the time and often worried about how my parents would be able to pay it off. But we knew it was the right thing to do. Not only did the new leg help me walk better but with my dad’s help and perseverance I was soon learning to run. As my running improved I went in search of a running coach and that began my pursuit to become a Paralympian. Fortunately, I was able to improve my running and was on my way to becoming a Paralympian and reaching heights I never knew possible. I competed in two Paralympic games, my first in 2008 in Beijing and my second was in London in 2012. So often athletes are only seen in the spotlight at the major championships, but I realised the work that happens away from the spotlight is what really matters. My new leg gave me the confidence to do what was required to be the best athlete in the world, that included going to the gym almost every day and knowing whenever I was out in public people took more of an interest in me. This was certainly the situation after I became the first female above knee amputee in the world to summit Mt Kilimanjaro. Whenever there was amazing times in my life I often think back to the purchase of leg and how it really made a difference to my life. It gave me back my confidence and helped me walk almost as well as I did before my amputation.

Even though I was young it made me grow up very quickly and realise that life can change in the blink of an eye, your life can be turned upside in an instance, the best we can it’s important to plan for unexpected injury/ illness.

Even though losing my leg took away my independence and put me in a position no 15 year old ever dreams of, it has definitely shaped me into the person I am today. It changed the course of my life, in some ways for the better, I'm not sure I would have stood on the sporting world stage and it is highly unlikely I would have become a motivational speaker and I definitely wouldn't have met the people I have on my journey if I still had two legs. Just another reminder for me about how our life changes. I know I don’t know what is around every corner but I’m glad I have the NAB Life Moments Hub at my fingertips because if you are anything like me and prefer to have a back-up plan for what life throws at you then the hub is for you. It will show you what financial help is available when the unexpected occurs because NAB knows life can be unpredictable.

Being a mother myself now, it has become even more apparent that there are two sides of illness/ injury, one – the emotional stress & two the financial stress. As I plan ahead I want my child to be fit and healthy for life but if something was to happen I want to be able to support him with everything he needs. I also want to make sure I’m at my fittest and healthiest to be the best mum I can be.

As I pursue my sporting goals it’s paramount for me to ensure I am prepared as much as I can be, this thinking also applies to my family. If something was to happen to myself or my family I know that help is not too far away and financial support is equally important, fortunately NAB can offer many ways to help financially and have many options to explore.

It’s better to be safe than sorry,

This article is a NAB paid promotion and was written in collaboration with NAB. As always, all opinions are my own.

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