Just by looking at Kirstin today you could never guess nor imagine that she is a brain cancer survivor. She walks, talks, laughs and lives her life to the fullest with a head full of hair, spirit full of energy and a smile full of warmth. Though she may be living fully now she can still recall the journey of cancer treatment she embarked on some 10 years ago. She can still smell the radiation premises, still feel the chemo cables and relive how she felt whenever they had to attach those to her body, still recall the nausea and exhaustion she felt during the treatment and she can still remember the words Drs told her at just 14 years old that her life will never be the same again. Today she shares her story and is happy to attest to the fact that indeed life was never the same again – it got better and gave her a spring in her walk and determination to not just wake up and see another day but to live and live life to the fullest. She is glad to share with us her journey of how she came this far.
It all started back in 2007 when Kirstin was just 13 years old. She had been feeling a little ill and weird but not too severe to go see a doctor, she continued schooling and going about her life until she realised that she had tendencies to lose direction in her step. She could be walking somewhere then lose her step and sense of direction, that’s when she realised something wasn’t right. She informed her parents and they took her to the doctor who suspected something might be affecting her brain when she mentioned the losing direction sensation she felt. Immediately tests and scans were run on her and after some time her parents were summoned to the doctor’s rooms to deliver the news. Kirstin was left to wait outside whilst they shared the news and even though she was quite young she knew something was wrong when the nurses and staff were talking to her super nicely and being gentle, “they just seemed too nice” she recalls as the beginning of the treatment journey. And it turned out that were right as she had a tumour in her brain that required immediate treatment.
At first she didn’t fathom the magnitude of the seriousness of this ailment, she did what needed to be done but perhaps because of her age at the time, not once did she think about the fact that cancer leads to death. Not once did she discuss it nor entertain the thought. She just did what needed to be done without over thinking it.
Her treatment was quite severe and made her nauseous and uninterested in food, much to the frustration of her parents. She just could not make herself eat because the treatment made her feel so sick and vomit everything that came through her mouth. This meant she not only lost her hair (as expected for patients on chemo therapy) but lost a lot of weight because her body was receiving little nutrition. This changed her appearance significantly.
She was hospitalised frequently and the treatment continued for over a year meaning she could not go to school as normal nor partake in sporting activities as a young teen would. Her life changed completely as it revolved around the hospital but the frustration of this was cushioned by the support of her family and friends who made it bearable and enabled her to get her mind of it, if only for a while. Her mother stopped her business to be beside her throughout the treatment and her father was equally active in all the admissions and doctor appointments even though he had to continue working. “I had tremendous support from my family, my mom was there the whole time” she says with a smile and confirms that without that pillar of support it would have been extremely difficult for her. Family support, she believes, can make or break this journey as she witnessed patients without family support who did not make it in this journey. Therefore one must never take for granted the importance of just being there and being a pillar of strength for someone dealing with chronic illness.
Eventually she started to feel better and could resume her studies but he did not feel comfortable to return to her former school because of the hair loss and change in her body. She opted for a new start in a school with new friends – a new dawn basically. And so it was that she endured the chemo therapy and radiation and smiles today – 10 years later because the cancer is officially gone and “it’s never coming back” she affirms. Kirstin is now working in market research and living her best life. Her family is still there and continuing to be her pillar of strength. After her recovery she launched the Kirstin Watts foundation and is giving to people less fortunate than her and she repeatedly states that she has been very fortunate in her journey. “There is definitely life after cancer” is her message to anyone enduring cancer treatment right now. She is the evidence and testimony of how marvellous life can be after going through the treatment. You just need to determine in your mind that you will make it through and embrace positivity throughout the journey because alas – there is a silver lining at the end of this cloud and Kirstin Watts has made it to her silver lining.