Updated: Oct 6, 2019
I often get asked "How did you get through it?" My response is usually, "Which part?" The spider bite that paralyzed me, put me on life support and challenged me to learn how to walk again? The perforated ulcer and subsequent septic shock? Having an eating disorder, blood clots and endless surgeries?
"No" they say "The hysterectomy. The one surgery which took away all you ever wanted. Your dream of becoming a Mum."
After living with the pain of recurrent pelvic cysts and many years spent exploring non-surgical options, a hysterectomy was the only way to end all the anguish. I walked into the hospital accompanied by my husband and parents, knowing I had a big day ahead but surprisingly calm. Countless doctors, forms and superficial conversation passed the hours until it was my turn and before I knew it, I was in recovery. The first words I heard? "We took your uterus." The lack of bedside manner and compassion still amazes me to this day, and these four words were all it took for the life of my husband and I to change. I was 32 with one less dream.
I struggled with the surgically-induced menopause, pain, infection, incontinence, nausea and exhaustion but the sense of loss I felt after the surgery was instant and I felt myself mourning for those parts of me that had been removed, leaving me with a feeling of emptiness and so much anger. I thought these feelings would dissipate once I left the hospital. They didn't. I went through a period (no pun intended!) where I wouldn't go out. I'd crumble seeing babies on television and had friends who wanted to share their pregnancy news with me but wouldn't for fear of it pushing me to the edge.
Just when I thought I'd had enough and couldn't go on, things changed.
I had ventured to the shops one day when I saw an elderly lady get knocked over by a teenager. He didn't stop and neither did the adults who were with him. I will never forget how angry I felt and immediately questioned why they were given the gift of children and I wasn't. This was the catalyst I needed to make a change and in a 3am moment of madness, I decided to hide kindness cards around my hometown of Perth, urging the finder to undertake an act of kindness. I designed, printed and cut 50 square cards and with no expectation of response, started to hide them. I found myself excited about hiding the cards and quickly forgot that I'd vowed never to leave the house again!
There are a few people in my life who I tell everything too but on this occasion, I didn't tell a soul because I didn't want to look silly. Imagine my surprise when I received the first act of kindness. Then the second, third and fourth. Eventually, I had 32 acts of kindness in my email and suddenly, I felt I had a purpose again.
The responses varied from a businessman forgoing his Christmas party to take a homeless man out for lunch, planting a rose for a grieving husband, or my favourite "I washed Mum's car without her asking. She was stoked!"
In January 2018, I started The Cool To Be Kind Project which is now a global social movement with kindness cards being hidden all over the world. I've heard from people who have found cards in Arizona and Philadelphia. I've been mentioned in Parliament on Valentine's Day, had Arianna Huffington tweet my story and started the 52 Weeks of Kindness Challenge.
I realized that I have gifts that need to be shared with the world and that quite possibly, if I went down the path that I had always dreamed of I may never have had the opportunity to touch other’s lives the way I do now.
We all have the opportunity to make a choice: to look at life a little bit differently, maybe with a softer and kinder heart. More importantly, we all have the opportunity to build our best lives. Who knows if children are in our future but I’m no longer sitting around waiting for that to happen. Instead, I’m lending my nurturing ways to the hearts of others in the hopes that I can help them find their way out of their darkness and into the light of new dreams.