Life is just perfect right now.

I’m really enjoying being an athlete, partner and now mother.

I feel so complete since welcoming my first-born Max. Even though sport is a strong focus for me – Max is my number one priority.

Training has had to adjust – I’m now in the gym just as much but now I have to work around my family commitments. It’s no long just about me.

As an athlete, it’s important you find time to still put in that work.

Kelly Cartwright - exclusive insight

It’s definitely harder as a mother, and there is no cutting corners in our sport – you have to really be building your conditioning if you’re any chance of competing at this level.

My partner Ryan is an amazing support – so we make it work. Motherhood has really changed me.

It’s opened my eyes to a lot of things; it’s honestly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, yet equally the most rewarding.

It’s very hard coming from a life of sport and travel and then changing your entire lifestyle.

Working from home, and traveling as a motivational speaker, I get the best of both worlds.

I used to be out everyday, and have had to learn how to deal with that transition.

But Max has made me stronger in so many ways, and really made me appreciate my use of time!

At 28, I feel so positive with the direction my life is heading.

Kelly Cartwright - exclusive insight

Of course, my story has always been of strong interest to those who meet me, and my journey to motherhood via professional athlete has been different to most others.

It all started when I was 15, a time when sport was all I wanted to do at school. I wanted to play anything and everything.

In PE class, everyone always wanted me on their teams as I’m super competitive!

But halfway through Year 10, I began experiencing consistent knee soreness, to the point where it just became so severe I couldn’t walk some days without extreme discomfort.

The doctor kept telling me it was from sport, or growing pains, until I encouraged my parents to seek a second opinion.

So we sought the advice of specialists. Little did I know that that medical appointment would change my life forever.

I was sent for a number of scans, which identified a lump the size of an apricot, deep inside my knee.

That’s when they did a biopsy and found that it was a rare form of cancer called synovial sarcoma.

My whole world was turned upside down. No 15-year-old should ever be told that.

The shock of hearing I had cancer just rocked me to the core.

The first thing you think of is am I going to die. The second thought is why me? What did I do to deserve this?

The doctor who found the cancer had never seen it before – so he sent me to the Royal Children’s Hospital and that’s when they gave me the decision to have my leg amputated above my knee or radical surgery.

I remember I said to the doctor I’d rather die than have my leg amputated and I walked out.

That was me just being 15 and not knowing anyone with a disability, not knowing what my life would be like.

I had a boyfriend at the time and I worried about the way I looked as I was going to school.

The doctor gave me a week to think about it, and in that week I sort of googled my cancer and researched how bad it was and I pretty much wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t have the amputation.

I was lucky that it hadn’t spread and that’s what changed my mind.

Honestly, everyone says their parents are the best, but I seriously wouldn’t change mine for the world.

They were my rock. I remember the drive to the hospital on the way to the amputation and I asked Mum and Dad to turn the car around a number of times.

That was the first time I realised on their faces, and I suppose in their hearts, they wanted to turn around.

They didn’t want me to go through it and would have taken my spot in a heartbeat.

I think that was the first time I realised it wasn’t just about me; I needed to be strong for them because they were watching their youngest child go through this.

Following surgery, I had a number of hard days.

I wore school pants every single day throughout Year 11 and 12, even on 40 degree days.

I didn’t know how to deal with it or know how people were going to take me.

It just took time. Every now and then I would get stares in the classroom, with kids pointing or people saying things, but I’ve learnt to deal with that.

I had to accept that I did look different walking down the street.

It was innocent most of the time, it just took time to learn to deal with it because it could get quite upsetting and confronting sometimes.

But I learned some time later that it is what it is and I couldn’t change it.

I don’t think my parents will ever get over it – I think they’ve learnt to deal with it but it was very hard for them at the time, as you could imagine.

For me, as much as I wanted to feel sorry for myself, it simply wasn’t an option – I had to get back to some normality otherwise I would have spiralled even further into a really dark place.

So I went about doing my best to live with a “business-as-usual” approach, and hoped in time I could regain my love for sport in some capacity.

Of course, this was harder to envisage given my situation.

A year went by though when I decided to give it a go. I dreamed of running again – to somehow be involved in school sport programs.

With my walking leg I started to teach myself how to run, with the assistance of my physio and dad.

Because I was sick of not being able to do it.

I didn’t realise the special leg you needed or what the Paralympics was then.

I eventually went to a Paralympic talent search and that’s where I met many athletes, from many different sports, from many different disabilities groups.

That’s when I said I wanted to be a Paralympian. I decided to have a fundraiser because my leg cost about $20,000, my running leg. I was lucky my friends put on a fundraiser and raised that money and I started training from there.

Of course, the rest is history after that.

Kelly Cartwright - exclusive insight

I’ve climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and been lucky enough to represent my country at two Paralympics games (2008, 12), including winning gold in the women’s long jump F42/44.

I may have lost my leg due to amputation, but my love for competitions and staying fit never went anywhere.

I was able to turn something from a negative into positive. Having the right people around me along the way and meeting all these amazing Paralympians.

When I’m working as a motivational speaking I’m mindful to practise what I preach. I always say to people to get outside their comfort zone or do something they didn’t think they could.

Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean that you can’t wear dresses or doesn’t mean you can’t be out there showing it and dancing to life’s tunes.

I proved myself wrong, and continue to challenge myself every day.

The beauty of it all is, now I can share my successes with Max.

Kelly Cartwright

Kelly Cartwright OAM is an Australian Paralympic gold medallist, representing her country at the 2008, 12 paralympic games.

Kelly was a finalist for the 2012 Australian Paralympian of the Year, and in 2014 was presented with an Order of Australia Medal for service to sport as a gold medallist at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.