When Jasmine Gailer was only 22, one word turned her entire life upside down. Osteosarcoma.
To those not familiar with the term, osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer.
The only way to remove the tumor developing in Gailer's leg was to perform a surgery, which left her with a 12-inch scar that spans across her right thigh and knee. But not just that. Gailer admits that after the surgery and numerous rounds of chemo, she ended up feeling extremely vulnerable.
"I had this overwhelming weight on my shoulders from this leg, the scar, the limp and my hair was still growing back so it was very short. My whole body image changed and I a lot of my focus was going into hiding that scar," she explains.
Gailer knew she has to find a way to reclaim her own, true self. What she didn't know is that she will find a way for many cancer survivors to cope with the struggles, wins and losses that await in their path to recovery.
Feeling like the scar is a big part of her struggle, one day Gailer decided that instead of hiding it, she would embrace it.
She took a photo of her leg where the scar is turned into a timeline of events — both happy and sad — that mapped her journey through cancer. Pretty satisfied with the result, she posted it on Facebook.
Gailer says it's incredible how just by putting her insecurities out there she was liberated from all the bad memories connected to her story. So she decided to start a creative initiative that would focus on supporting adolescents and young adults who are going through cancer treatment.
Scar Stories started out as a photography project that was supposed to raise awareness about young adult cancer by showcasing the 'pretty and gritty' sides of the illness.
But very soon it turned out to be a life-changing initiative for dozens of cancer patients in Australia and all over the world.
Now Scar Stories not only raises funds for cancer support, but strives to empower young individuals by sharing their stories and providing them with access to free cultural activities around Australia.
Here are some of the inspiring tales people shared on Scar Stories' website.
Hayley, mon-Hodgkin's lymphoma survivor.
"You might forget the little things you went through but every morning when you wake up and look in the mirror and see your scars, you are reminded of everything else that comes along with being in remission. You have this thing you can't escape. It's there, imprinted on your body forever. But without it you wouldn't be you; it's a reminder that you won." — Hayley
Lucy, Ewing's sarcoma survivor.
"Survivors aren't lying when they tell you that things look better, taste better and feel better to them. Defying death is such an eye opener. The trick is to be able to keep your eyes open, and not get lost in the busyness of life; to really try and live each day as if it could be your last." — Lucy
'Tough Beautiful Chicks,' breast cancer survivors.
"Having endured surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, we are truly Tough Beautiful Chicks." — Nyree
Lisa, Hodgkin's lymphoma survivor.
"I was 19 when I found out I had cancer. In the two years of my cancer journey I have accumulated numerous scars and war wounds, as I like to call them. They are each a reminder of my battle and my survivorship. Everyone has scars and each one will tell a story. This is my story." — Lisa
Mark, brain tumor survivor.
"In essence, Cancer destroyed me; everything I made of myself, everything I wanted, everything I hoped, just... disintegrated… fell apart. I had to find my feet all over again; establish myself. Last year I found my faith. I am proud to have had cancer and this is my Scar Story." — Mark
Danielle, Hodgkin's lymphoma survivor.
"Twelve years ago cancer nearly took my life. Despite my diagnosis I don't see cancer as my enemy; it's made me the person I am today. Cancer survivorship is the only adulthood I've ever known. It's shaped my ethos, my focus on health, and my career. For me, cancer the disease is long gone, but the ongoing experience will be part of me forever." — Danielle
Head over to the Scar Stories website to read more stories from brave cancer survivors and maybe even share your own!