When Kayla Kelley, 28, had her baby a few years ago, it was discovered shortly thereafter that her son had liver cancer. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Hospital told her the only chance of a complete cure was for her one-year-old to receive a liver transplant. Kelley recalls jumping out of her seat to volunteer for the task. But the doctors looked at her and instantly dismissed her as a candidate. Weighing in at almost 300 pounds, her BMI was too high, and her obesity had triggered medical conditions that disqualified her. Heartbroken that she couldn’t save the life of her own son was the deciding moment that led to Kelley’s 135-pound weight-loss journey.
“As I sat back in my chair, I had never felt so worthless. That was absolute rock bottom for me,” Kelley said. “As a mother, I would have done anything in the world to save my baby and because of my poor choices, I couldn’t give him what he desperately needed to survive.”
Kelley’s husband was not a qualified donor either. On the day their son was listed on the transplant waiting list, Kelley recalls telling her husband that if her son, Cooper, could fight for his life, she could fight for her health. This was her “aha” moment. “That was the day that catapulted me from ‘one day’ to Day 1,” she says.
Through adapting to a ketogenic/low carb lifestyle, intermittent fasting, moderate exercise and pure therapeutic ketones, Kelley lost the weight and became a self-care advocate for women to understand that taking time to focus on themselves is not only okay, but necessary. She says it took her two years to lose 135 pounds.
Though Kayla was excited to lose the weight, seeing all the loose, saggy skin was disheartening.
A few weeks ago, Kayla’s friend nominated her for the #AthenixGivesBack campaign, a campaign from Athenix Body Institute, the largest plastic surgery group on the west coast. The campaign, in its second year, encouraged women to nominate another woman, a “inspirational hero” as they say, for a body sculpting procedure of their choice. The winner and the nominator would both win a procedure of their choice.
“Women supporting women is at the heart of #AthenixGivesBack,” said James Haefner, CEO of Athenix. “We’ve built a community of women supporting women as they nominate their inspirational hero by telling us why this person is an inspiration to them. The mere act of writing something kind about another person for the whole world to see is so touching to the recipient that it makes the entire campaign worthwhile.”
Haefner believes having women support each other and act as role models is important to create a better society for everyone. There were approximately 10,000 nominations this year, which was about three times more entries than last year.
“Kayla’s story stood out as it is a demonstration of the strength of women and the recognition of how life’s daily choices not only impact one’s self but others around you – and in her case it impacted her infant son. The positive changes she made in her life now serve as an inspiration to other women to mobilize the strength within themselves to overcome whatever challenge they may be facing,” Haefner said.
Due to the overwhelming response of the campaign, Athenix decided to extend its recipients and recently announced additional winners.
“What many people don’t understand is this isn’t about vanity,” Haefner added.
Kelley agrees. She says her life will be different once she has her procedure (exact procedure and date are still under discussions as evaluations will be done first). She believes the day to day struggles she has faced for years won’t knock her down any longer.
“I won’t have to literally tuck excess skin, that’s the result of massive weight loss, into my pants every morning as a part of my morning routine. I won’t have to see my doctor every few months to get refills of rash medication that’s the result of that same skin. And I won’t have to have the daily pep talks to myself in the mirror to hype myself up that the skin is something to be proud of because it means I accomplished something amazing. I know I’ll feel brand new.”
According to Haefner, there are plans to continue the #AthenixGivesBack campaign again next year, for an opportunity to highlight more inspirational women. Meantime, Kelley is looking forward to celebrating her son’s fifth birthday next summer.