When she moved to Calgary to continue her education at the University of Calgary for kinesiology, she decided to pursue another discipline in Muay Thai with the Mike Miles club.
“I loved everything about Muay Thai. There wasn’t a muscle that wasn’t worked in all directions,” said Garland.
“We did a ton of sparring, which I didn’t really do a lot of in Victoria, so I was really nervous, but I got decent at it. That just developed another level of confidence.”
The one thing that has remained consistent with her training has been the importance of remaining calm under threat, which has been empowering for her, with Garland saying, “Whether it was my own pursuit of martial arts; teaching others kickboxing, personal training, nutrition, successful weight loss, or RISE/Body Brilliance coaching, empowerment is my mission.”
However, at 21 years of age, Garland was diagnosed with a rare and rapid spreading form of cervical cancer. She had to undertake a minor surgery and was an outpatient for 12 years. “That really rocked my sense of identity and my trajectory,” said Garland.
Garland was told that she would need a hysterectomy by her doctor, but was later told that her cancer would come back and follow her throughout her life.
“I lived in such fear and hatred and self loathing; fear of my body, fear of what I can’t see,” said Garland.
The cause for her cervical cancer was human papillomavirus (HPV).
HPV is sexually transmitted, but according to the World Health Organization (WHO), penetrative sex is not required for transmission. Skin-to-skin contact is a well-recognized mode of transmission. HPV is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract. Most sexually active women and men will be infected at some point in their lives and some may be repeatedly infected. It has been noted by the WHO that some people can carry HPV on their fingers.
Garland’s HPV induced cervical cancer created more fear and loathing for Garland during this time.
“I was single at the time. I was so afraid of being in a relationship. And there was a lot of responsibility I carried. I didn’t want to pass it on to anybody,” said Garland.
After 12 years of uncertainty, Garland did not want to be a victim of circumstance, so she sought ways to reclaim her power.
“I was eating poorly. I was treating myself to everything. My inner talk was awful,” with Garland saying, “My background being in psychology, I’ve always been fascinated by the placebo effect. I was like, the mind is so powerful, and the body is so powerful. So how can you heal?”
Using nutrition and other practices to help with her own body image and improving the relationship with herself, she recovered in a short amount of time.
“I was empowered. My body could heal if I listened to it. And I tuned into it. And just over the course of treating it that way, I lost fat and lost weight. That wasn’t my intention, but just treating it differently with more love, care, thought, and respect. My body just changed shape. Healed,” said Garland.
Recovering from a car accident that she was in in 2003, and her journey with her cervical cancer, Garland overcame many hardships to get to her place with her business, along with meeting and marrying her husband, Billy McKay, and overcoming her doubt in relationships, she made improvements to her wellbeing.
William McKay, known as Billy, started dating Garland in 2005, which was a time where she was still reeling with the results of her cancer.
“I know it was really heavy on her mind. For the first little while when we were together. She was still much more fresh with her diagnosis,” said McKay.
But when Garland received the results that the HPV was no longer in her system, McKay says she worked hard to ensure it happened.
“To that point, she always thought that if she did all she could to improve her immune system through her mental state and her nutrition and her physical state, her body should be able to deal with this virus, and eventually it seemed that all that hard work paid off so that was an exciting moment for her,” said McKay.
“There was this cloud hanging over her that disappeared.”