I’ve been diving for 14 years now and despite having my fair share of challenges and obstacles to overcome, I’ve been lucky enough to compete for Australia at 3 Olympic Games. I feel extremely privileged to be an elite athlete and I’ve dedicated most of my life to my sport and to achieving at the highest possible level. Most of the setbacks I’ve encountered have been related to my sport and it was never easy to overcome them but I always kept fighting and pushing forward no matter what. However, I didn’t know what it was really like to struggle and face the impossible task of moving forward each day until I lost my younger sister 2 years ago.
Living without my sister feels unbearable and it’s the hardest thing my family and I have ever had to go through. I felt numb for so long and couldn’t see any way that I would be able to continue living without her. My family is extremely close, so losing Kirsten had a huge impact on us. Whenever I think about Kirsten it makes me happy but it’s always followed by the agonising thought of knowing she’s not here anymore. It hurts and it will never go away but I knew 2 years ago that I had to be strong for my family and find a way to not only keep going in life, but to make it count and live my life to fullest for Kirsten.
After taking time away from everything to be with my family, I decided to return to diving. I knew I needed something in my life to distract me from my grief and something to work towards that I could put everything into. Going back to diving gave me time with people that love and support me, a chance to not only get back to my peak, but to also improve and the chance to qualify for my 3rd Olympic Games. The past 2 years have been the most difficult of my life though and I’ve had to work really hard with my psychologist to stay positive and keep going in life. I’ve also learnt to appreciate life more and although there will always obstacles to overcome, there are also plenty of positive things to be grateful for too.
When I met Richard, the CEO of the Children’s Tumour Foundation, I learnt about Neurofibromatosis (NF) for the first time. Although I’d never heard about this condition and don’t know anyone who has it, I wanted to help because it affects so many people and I can only imagine how difficult it must be for people living with NF and their families. Even though I will never be able to completely understand NF because I’ve never been affected by it, I want to do whatever I can to help. Although my experience is not the same as theirs, I’ve dealt with adversity and have experienced loss and hardship and wouldn’t want anyone else to have to go through that. I’ve also experienced the suffering that my family has gone through the past 2 years, so I can relate to the impact that NF would have on parents and families. I would love to help raise awareness for this condition so that more people, including myself, can better understand what NF is, how it affects people and what we can do to build a brighter future for those affected.