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Cancer Survivor & Ironman Triathlete
On October 10, 2009, Kyle Garlett became the first heart transplant recipient ever to compete in the world’s most famous endurance challenge, the Ironman World Championship held annually in Kona, HI. Not only was it a history-making day for Garlett, it was also the exact three-year anniversary of his heart transplant; a surgery that was required after a bone marrow transplant in 1995 – one of his four different battles with cancer – irreparably damaged his heart. Read More >
On September 26, 1989, Garlett was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The then 18-year old high school senior would spend every afternoon for the next five months going to the doctor after school for daily radiation treatments.
In 1991, after almost 16 months of remission, his cancer returned. Six months of a grueling seven-drug course of chemotherapy followed and again, victory was achieved through remission. But in late 1994 another swollen lymph node appeared, and another bout with the Hodgkin’s ensued. This time intense chemotherapy followed by a bone marrow transplant was the chosen course of therapy. It worked. The Hodgkin’s disease was finally defeated, but the severity of the treatments left Garlett with a damaged heart, and later, in 1997, a frightening secondary diagnosis of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia.
Against the odds, and after three more years of debilitating chemotherapy, Garlett emerged from his battle with leukemia (his fourth battle overall) finally cancer-free.
In 2000 he finished his final cancer treatment, but he was far from healthy. The heart damage sustained in 1995 (chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy was the diagnosis) was deteriorating further. And in 2001 he was placed on the heart transplant waiting list and implanted with a lifesaving pacemaker. October 10, 2006, after five and a half long years of anxiously waiting on the list, he got the life-giving call. Garlett had his new heart, and new life to live.
Once he received his new heart, Garlett took up the sport of triathlon, crossing his first finish line just 11 months later. Now, following a return trip to Kona in 2010 and a date with the Ironman course in Tempe, Arizona in November 2011, he is powered by the most famous heart among all triathletes. Read Less ^
Nothing is quite as devastating as a cancer diagnosis. And Garlett has experienced that life-altering experience on four separate occasions. He has survived radiation, chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, two joint replacements, and a finally a heart transplant. You might say he got his PhD in overcoming life’s adversities, which is the baseline for his life as a motivational speaker.
It would have been so easy for Garlett to give up his struggle years ago. Yet even when the fight seemed fruitless he never gave into the fear. He defied the odds, stared death in the face, and now lives a full, productive and, most importantly, very happy life. If you are looking for an inspirational and motivational speaker that is unforgettable, you have to hear Garlett talk about the will to live.
Garlett’s life has taken many unplanned turns down paths he never imagined, and for quite awhile he held onto the “what ifs” of unrealized dreams. But instead of mourning the loss of opportunities taken away by cancer, he realizes that happiness and fulfillment come from letting go of the life you thought you wanted and embracing the challenges and possibilities of the actual life you’re living. His attitude on life is the very essence of a successful motivational speaker.
Some people say that the secret to a happy is life is to live each day as if it might be your last. Garlett understands their well-meaning inclination, but thinks this “last day on Earth” sentiment somewhat misses the mark. He believes that it is best to live each day as if it’s your first. Don’t let anything grow stale. Nothing becomes mundane. Remember the first time you saw the sunset over the Pacific Ocean? Recapture that feeling the next time you see it. Don’t grow bored with relationships. Instead treat them as new. Everything should be as exciting and special and memorable as it was at the beginning. Live each and every day as if it’s your first.
With more than 54 total months spent in treatment for cancer, including radiation, chemotherapy, and a bone marrow transplant, and with more than 11 years under his belt as a cardiomyopathy patient before finally undergoing a heart transplant, much of Garlett’s life has been viewed from inside a hospital bed. With a unique perspective born from years of experience with numerous doctors, nurses, hospital staff, admission specialists, and others, few people can speak from a patient’s perspective with more authority than Garlett.
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