2019 was a huge year – full of highs, lows, change and growth. I entered the year with great anticipation for what was to come. It held opportunities I couldn’t have even fathomed, that just reiterates to me to always keep an open mind and enthusiasm.
In terms of milestones, I celebrated my 21st birthday in July with close friends and family and in November my mother and I opened our second office in Pakistan with our committed and talented team, for our company Study in Australia.
As written in last year’s New Year blog ‘New year, Healthy me?’ I set some clear goals to hold me accountable:
4 speaking engagements
Improving my health and wellbeing
The rest I left up for chance. If I had written what I ended up achieving as goals for the year then I can imagine I would have felt immense pressure rather than going with the flow of things. So here is 2019 in review; achievements, milestones and new adventures in the best BRIEF summary possible.
I delved into self-discovery this year; especially after spending more time alone than I have in my life-giving me time to reflect – with my mother travelling back and forth to Pakistan for months on end and after my breakup early in the year. I had become so accustomed to being in someone’s company, that I did not have the same level of independence as I was capable of. I hid behind excuses with my health; that it wasn’t safe for me to not have someone checking in on me with how unpredictable this disability can be – from mornings not being able to get out of bed to other days where I have bursts of energy. I learnt to take my care into my own hands and not rely on anyone else.
I now have reached a new level of self-awareness from becoming more independent and self-sufficient, aided through my studies in transpersonal therapy and counselling that I have almost completed, just awaiting placement this month before graduating.
There have been tears, heartbreaks and times of struggle. Life throws curveballs sometimes, and I often found myself turning to my book, Behind the Smile for guidance written from my heart, to remind myself of my journey, virtues, purpose and the psychology/mindset that has carried me through all my years. It always reminds me of the power of sharing your story with others, but also being the author of your own story in a more metaphorical sense. I heard something great on morning radio, that your happy ending depends where you start and finish your story. If you do not feel like you have your happy ending now, it just means you aren’t at the end of your story yet.
I am beginning with this disclaimer, because even though I found much success in 2019, it does not mean that I did not fight for it. Fight against both body and mind. But we made it, and I could not be happier with the outcome.
Committed to exceeding the goal of 4 speaking engagements, I made it on stage to present 13 times, with 9 of these being to share my personal story and advocate, and the remainder through the family business assisting students to study in Australia. However due to life getting in the way sometimes, I did have to turn down additional opportunities in the USA, Japan and UAE however am excited to explore these again in 2020.
In 2019 I spoke at international conferences/meetings/schools/professional development days in Pakistan (Islamabad, Lahore, Sialkot, Gujranwala) and Australia (Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth) and met thousands of professionals dedicated to making positive change in the health and education sectors.
I endeavoured to become more involved as a consumer advisor within the health sector, being appointed as a consumer representative for the Mater Youth Consultancy in Brisbane, Inclusion Advisory group for an Adolescent extended treatment centre for mental health being built in Chermside and also in the National Consumer Advisory Committee for the Continence Foundation of Australia.
I was overjoyed to connect further with the Continence Foundation of Australia as their newly appointed Youth Ambassador – the first time they have had an adolescent representative of incontinence. I was welcomed to media training, presented at a QLD branch meeting and gave an opening address at the National Conference on Incontinence in November in Melbourne. Watching how the stigma is being broken down in relation to incontinence and playing my part in that has been very fulfilling. CFA celebrated their 30th birthday this year and it was great to be involved in those celebrations and the work they are doing to help millions of Australians living with incontinence.
This year I competed in my first beauty pageant with some of the best in the country including international title holders. With much dedication, hard work and support I was crowned 1st runner up at Nationals held in Sydney in June for Miss Grand Australia – the 3rd largest pageant and fastest growing in the world. I was able to use this platform to advocate for people with disability, chronic illness and incontinence as well as the stop the war and violence campaign Miss Grand supports.
I was able to raise over $2,000 for Destiny Rescue through the Danish club raffle, donations and running two workshops on visualization and personal development. These workshops were incredibly meaningful with the participants giving positive feedback and seeing a noticeable change from these sessions.
In addition, I stepped back into modelling more, with dozens of shoots and numerous fashion shows with some of my favourite designers and creatives. I was able to produce my favourite images to date and grow my network within the fashion industry.
From my work modelling and especially the advocacy, I was able to make appearances throughout media. I was featured in the Courier Mail newspaper 5 times over the year, with stories for Bridge to Brisbane, Story Bridge Climb (that I climbed twice despite an initial fear of heights – and it was great!), Miss Grand Australia, Neuron scooters and New Years Eve pieces.
Especially the incontinence stories were picked up by online media with feature stories in Mamamia!, The Independent UK, 9Honey and the Daily Mail Australia.
In print I had stories published nationally in Girlfriend Magazine, LINK Magazine, DQ Magazine and That’s Life! Magazine.
I picked up radio interviews on the topic of living with incontinence on The Hook Up (triple J) and Talking Health with Sally Cockburn in Melbourne.
Finally I filmed a segment for House of Wellness on Channel 7 that aired in mid-November.
I feel blessed and eternally grateful for these opportunities to share my story, views and empower others with similar conditions to mine to live fearlessly.
In terms of my health I have had a few presentations to hospital (and many doctors and specialist visits). I began the year with cardiology tests for ongoing palpitations and issues with hypertension. My care is still being managed by my two gynaecology teams, two colorectal teams, urology and multidisciplinary pain specialists. I have recently had referrals to the Immunology clinic as well as the Infectious Diseases clinic after three UTI/Kidney infection episodes resulting in Hospital admission in the later part of the year (2 x October and December – total of 12 days as an inpatient for antibiotic treatment).
This last admission in December was particularly tough, finding that the bacteria I am 'breeding' now are multi-resistant to many antibiotics, including IV treatments and Infectious Diseases unit last line defences. I was informed that due to my many antibiotic allergies and resistances from overexposure throughout my life, that there is likely only a few more infections my body can take before I am fully antibiotic resistant and there will be nothing left to treat me. Hearing this hit me harder than expected as I feel as if there is nothing is being done by the medical teams to prevent these infections or find the cause, and it is only a matter of time until I will be fully resistant.
This admission and lack of appropriate medical intervention left me devastated and over the Christmas period I have had to seek support from family and friends who have showered me with love and given me the courage to not accept this fate prematurely. My family is rallying behind me to assist in getting a good application into NDIS to be approved (after 2 rejections) as I am desperately needing some financial and health supports to continue being integrated in my social, work and educational activities and hopefully achieve a better quality of life.
It is easy to smile and present a positive brand and story, however in 2020 I am committing to be just as sharing of the reality of the hard times as I am the good.
My disability will present me lifelong challenges, and while this is tough I am grateful every day I can get out of bed, and for the lessons and perspective these experiences are giving me.
In February I will attend an inpatient Immunology clinic to try and desensitise me to some of the antibiotic allergies, so I have more treatment options – fingers crossed it goes well.
For those who have followed my story, you would be aware that my last complete year of schooling was year 10 – after having to leave high school midway through year 11 due to a downturn in my health where I was incapacitated for months. I did continue to do well in foundation studies (year 12 equivalent) that allowed me university entry however chose to follow my passion of modelling rather than continuing my education. Recently I picked up vocational studies in counselling to aid my advocacy, while working full time in my family business that my parents began before my birth, a legacy I am committed to nurturing and expanding.
Because of my work experience in business, I have been granted admission into a Master of Business Administration majoring in Health Services Management (to aid my advocacy and projects within the health sector) and Entrepreneurship that I will begin in March. This is a tribute to my hard work and has filled me with so much comfort that despite my health issues and the different educational path I had to take, that I will be graduating at Masters level at the same time I would have if I went straight from undergraduate.
I intend to work full time in the business while completing my full-time study – a feat I hope my health will allow. My return to formal higher education has been long awaited and anticipated and I can’t wait to knuckle down and strive academically once more.
In summary, 2019 has been incredible. My experiences far exceeded my (high) expectations and I am going into 2020 confident that this year will be yet another ‘game changer’.
Let’s see what is in store for us all this year, and I cannot wait to make some announcements about projects and presentations for the year soon.
I am so highly appreciative to receive so much love, support and encouragement from so many people globally. It always warms my heart and every message/email is of such high value to me. Each and every one of you inspires, motivates and reminds me why I have chosen the path I have.
If you are wanting me to present in your community/organisation, or want to work together in 2020/2021 - please get in contact.
Happy New Year - and here's to 2020: The year of love, collaboration & expansion.