Despite the highs and lows Amy Pejkovic has faced in her 24 years, the Aussie athlete and model has an inspiringly positive outlook on life. We chatted to the pro high jumper about battling a brain tumour, overcoming injury and looking forward to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
February marks six years since your brain tumour surgery – can you tell us a little bit about how you came to be diagnosed?
The past six years have gone so fast! For approximately one year I was struggling with frequent headaches (I’m talking one a day - I was going through packets of pain killers). I had loss of balance (I was walking into door frames), severe nausea and head spins. The whole week before I was diagnosed I was in bed vomiting with headaches that felt as though someone was stabbing me in the back of the head and dragging the knife forward. It was lucky my mum took me to the ER when she did, otherwise I may not be here today.
How did treatment affect your physical and mental health?
I was lucky enough to be diagnosed with a benign tumour, so I didn’t have to go through chemotherapy. The treatment I had was difficult - the drugs I was given to reduce the swelling caused me to lose my appetite so I ended up losing around 10kg in two weeks and I was skin and bone by the time I was discharged from hospital. Mentally, I never doubted that I would get through it. The positive outlook I received from my family and friends meant I never once let one negative thought creep into my mind, which definitely got me through it. Around one year post surgery, I fell into depression as everything had sunk in.
How has facing that major health battle impacted your outlook on life? And your relationship with your body?
It impacted my outlook in life in many ways. I’ve learnt to appreciate the little things and not take anyone or anything for granted - what we have is a gift. We are extremely lucky to have our heath, friends and family. You forget about all the superficial stuff when your life flashes before your eyes. All you think about is your loved ones, what you’ve achieved in your life, what you wanted to do with your life and things you wish you said and did. I’ve also learnt to try and look at everything like a child would, it is so innocent and vulnerable, it really puts things into perspective. I also make a conscious effort to try and nourish my body more than I did. The fact I was so fit and healthy pre-tumour helped my body recover a lot faster than normal. I am more in tune with my body and I have a real appreciation for how amazing the human body is.
What has your relationship with your skin been like growing up? Have you struggled with acne?
My skin was pretty good growing up, I would always get the occasional hormonal break out but never acne. I started using the pill when I was 21 and came off it when I was 23. Once I came off it, my skin has never been the same! I broke out with inflammatory acne all around my jaw line which were deep and unbelievably sore.
What does your skincare routine look like?
My skin care is pretty basic, I cleanse every morning and night and then apply a serum and moisturiser. I have recently completed the six-week Kleresca® Acne Treatment with Dr. Ritu Gupta to help get my acne back under control. The treatments are so easy and quick to do, and super relaxing - the dermatologist applies a special the gel to my face, lay under the light for 9 minutes and off I went spending no more than 30 minutes each appointment! The treatment is gentle, has zero down time and is unbelievably effective. I’ve completed all my sessions and my skin continues to look better and better each week because the treatment has stimulated my skin’s own healing mechanisms! I’ve haven’t had one, deep acne spot since I started the treatment - a god send during the Christmas and New Year period! All the food and alcohol would usually cause a terrible break out for me but my skin has never been better.
What’s one beauty product you couldn’t leave the house without?
Definitely my Blistex - happy lips in strawberry! It had SPF in it. It tastes and smells yummy too!
You’ve announced that you’ve had to pull out of the commonwealth games, what lead up to that decision and how are you feeling about it at the moment?
I am unbelievably devastated. Words cannot even begin to describe how I am feeling right now. For months earlier I was getting unusual knee pains and I was diagnosed with patellar tendinitis. My mum suggested I get an MRI just to be sure and the results came back with fissuring in my medial patellar facet with some undermining of the articulate cartilage creating a non-displaced flap. In short, I have cracks in the cartilage of my knee, and the cartilage has folded on itself. I’m currently waiting to see a sports physician so I can get back to jumping ASAP!! Tokyo 2020 Olympics is still the goal.
What does your regular training regime look like?
Before I was injured, I did 3 x strength/power sessions in the gym including core work, 2 x jumping specific sessions (all technique and run up work) and 2 x track session which was all running and drills. I also did a pilates session once a week. At the moment, I’m in the gym everyday doing general strength work and a lot of rehab and physio for my knee. It is not the most ideal situation to be in but all I can do is focus on what is to come once my knee is repaired.
Do you have a favourite way to work out?
Honestly, I love that what I do also keeps me fit. Being able to compete at a high level as well as stay fit and healthy is the dream. Every day is something different - so, I don’t have one favourite way to work out, I just love it all.
What does your day on a plate look like?
Weet-Bix EVERYDAY for breakfast, with milk, honey and cinnamon. Sometimes I throw in a few fresh berries and a banana. And of course, a strong cappuccino from my local cafe. For snacks I’ll usually have a banana, a protein ball or berries. Lunch always has a lot of greens - typically a nice salad with chicken or beef. I love meat in my salads. Dinner can go from a nice healthy burrito bowl, to steak with salad and potatoes. I make sure to drink a lot of water during the day.
What’s your favourite way to wind down?
I love to meditate and read a good book. I try to stay off my phone and laptop past 6pm otherwise I won’t sleep. My favourite is a nice cup of peppermint tea.