EP002: Worth Fighting For with We Heart Dana Vulin – The No Xcuses Show

June 30, 2016


Monday, October 23rd, 2017 – One of the greatest understatements people use is to say that life is unfair. In truth, it can be excruciatingly difficult and challenging. Dana Vulin is someone who understands this better than most. This week’s Daily Grit Live guest was subjected to a horrible attack that left her with burns on 64% of her body at the age of 25 and diagnosed with cancer a couple of years later. The first word that comes to mind when describing Dana is a survivor.

Watch the link below to hear how she went through the long and hard journey to recovery and acceptance and how her positive attitude got her through life’s toughest spots. I have no doubt that you will be amazed!

Time Stamped Show Notes

00:06     Good day everyone. Brant Garvey here with DailyGrit. Today I have a very special guest Dana Vulin.

00:17     Dana, as you may have seen or you may have noticed was someone that was tragically set on fire at the age of 25.

00:36     So she had burns to 65 percent of her body and had to go through a massive massive ordeal to get to where she is today and she is absolutely smashing life as far as I’m concerned. I am so very excited to have her with me today. Basically, I want you to give us a bit more of an intro from anything that I may have missed – like your new book that you’ve just released, so feel free to share with them.

01:02     I just released a book and it’s called Worth Fighting For, and it’s been crazy last couple of months. It’s been really exciting.

01:12     About more of the burn thing… 64% of my body and face. So I’m burnt… so many people ask me this question, “Are my privates burnt?”

01:28     Okay that seems to be their number one interest…

01:30     … So I’m burnt waist up, waist down everything is perfect… still there, all good also. So that’s the question that’s always asked.

01:47     I can see why they are… especially from blokes…

01:55     Then when I was 27 years old while I was still in my mask and garment, I was diagnosed of cervical cancer at the same time.

02:23     And was that chemo and radiation?

02:22     I wouldn’t survive that anyway. I had five surgeries for it. It was more… yeah, it was surgeries. I had a lot of complications and It ended up doing damage but I’m okay now.

02:42     I’m a burn survivor… I say survivor because as we discussed before, I don’t actually like the word victim, I think it’s a state of mind. I have no victim mentality at all. I feel like I killed it, so happy with that.

02:57     And anyone who has seen her you can obviously see a passion. I mean she comes across very very bubbly and happy. It’s phenomenal!

03:19     What made you choose this path and by this path I mean what you’ve decided to do since obviously recovering from both those scenarios. What made you take life by the balls, as they say? Get out there and be the face of this… get in front of a lot of people where a lot of people could choose to hide away, and become a speaker, author… what made you do that?

03:47     It was one of those things that was thrusted on me. I didn’t talk to the media for one and half years, till after the trial, after the sentence, not even the trial, the sentencing was three months after the trial. I didn’t talk to the media. I was still everywhere… I was in every paper, every newspaper, not in just in Australia, all around the world, I was getting plastered around. I didn’t speak to the media because I want to make the trial as full-proof as possible. I didn’t want to have grounds for bias, but at the same time I was getting scandalised. I was getting annihilated by the public…

04:25     In terms of them making up their own stories why it happened…

04:27     I didn’t have my voice, and I thought… you know what I’m just going to continue being in the media. I want to take the bulls by the horns and have my own voice, because regardless I was out there. I was plastered everywhere. It was just one of those control things, I thought it’s gonna happen anyway, I might as well take as much control of it as I can.

04:47     Was there a particular incident that set this off? Was there one person’s comment where you was just like, I had enough, I want to control this?

04:54     I guess there were lots of comments… when you’re being in public’s eye you’ll always get lots of trolls.

05:00     You were getting trolls before you were even in social media (oh, that’s so hard) that’s pretty harsh!

05:06     I know it’s a bad joke, but I always say I was thick skinned before I was burnt, now I literally have thick skin.

05:13     We all got to use that joke. I do the same with my leg, they’re great coz everyone else was like, ‘oh how do we react’ because this is awkward.

05:19     I like the worst jokes sometimes. When guys hit on me I’m like, ‘oh you must like your meat well done.’

05:29     I have to take the bull by the horn. I had tens and tens of thousands of messages come in monthly from people around the world of love. I had so much support and random strangers helping me, and I think it was just gratitude and appreciation. So I decided to start posting my recovery and talking about my journey. And I think the support that came in was so overwhelming. Actually I was helping people with my perspective and it escalated from there

06:10     I just feel really privileged to living the life I’m leading now. I have amazing friends, amazing family and I’m in a position where I’m at the forefront of new technologies and in the pinnacle of new technologies for burns recoveries, and just lots of other things. It’s me saying thank you to everybody. I’ve given so much in this recovery and I’m just, I feel really blessed. I guess that’s why I decided to do what I do.

06:35     It’s amazing! Next one is to share something to us about you that we don’t know and that we should.

06:57     So I’m pretty wild. I think most people know that.

07:01     Always been wild, or has it changed?

07:04     No, I wasn’t wild… and I have a really really filthy sense of humour…

07:12     I have seen a little snippet so far, so we would just have to remind everyone to kinda stay on the PG.

07:22     I definitely got a big public persona but I’ve also got extreme private side. The things that I don’t reveal is because I don’t want to reveal.

07:33     There’s a part of you that you’re happy to share and there’s a part you want to keep with friends and family.

07:35     There’s a right time and a right place.

07:39     Since you’ve gone through your recovery and stuff like, what was kind of your your biggest setback through the whole process?

07:50     Physical set back you mean?

07:52     It can be physical or mental. The biggest challenge you’ve kind of hit through your recovery I would sign.

08:02     The recovery of this magnitude… there has been so many catastrophic times that the damage is so unbelievable. There has been so many really low points.

08:18     Is there one that stood out where you’re like, I just had enough.

08:22     I had a graft on my neck, and both my sides were done, and then my skin fell off and died coz I had a bloody infection. I was rushed to the emergency again… I went to have it re-grafted, and they took some extra skin… when you have a graft and it doesn’t work, they re-graft it, they take extra skin coz normally it doesn’t take. They took extra skin to my graft, and they couldn’t use it. They couldn’t find it anywhere. So they checked the fridge upstairs… they couldn’t find it anywhere. Five days later my Mum was cleaning my hospital room and said, “Dana, what’s in this?” That’s how she said it. And I just looked at her and said, “Mum, that’s my skin.”

09:12     I could have won the lottery ten million, zillion times over, and there’s nothing more valuable to me in this world than skin. Skin is the body’s biggest organ, and I don’t have enough of it for my grafts, it was just wasting there and ruined… that and the trial, that was really hard.

09:30     That could have been heartbreaking, I can imagine.

09:34     Stuff like that happens every time in the burn recovery. It’s common, you get so used to being heartbroken.

09:41     And it’s just one instance of many…

09:43     Yeah, you become professional at picking yourself back up and dusting yourself off and get on with it. What are your choices? These are my options, I was gonna live anyway. For me personally, suicide was not an option. I want to be there for my family, so I decided to live. Why would I live and have a poor quality life versus fighting and having the best quality life that I can possibly try to have.

10:12     What was your biggest kind of breakthrough moment, so the part where you… your real win.

10:20     Because of the injury this big, the wins for me… this is gonna sound small to you guys, the first time I could wipe myself… It took me ages…

10:35     That’s because you were restricted flexibility of the skin basically…

10:38     So I was stuck like this, and like that (demonstrating) for God like two years! Took me one and half years to touch my face. It wasn’t even… I was like that (demonstrating)… Now, I have obviously full range and stuff. I think after wiping myself I had a little dance like this…

10:56     I think I’ve seen one of your dance on Instagram from the early days as well

11:03     Yeah, I have no shame… so no, it’s the small things, like being able to wipe myself… I think it was dignifying.

11:10     It’s a piece of independence back as well (Yeah). Okay, great!

11:15     What is the thing that you’re most passionate about today?

11:22     My family and friends… I mean that sounds like such a cliche…

11:31     I have an extravagant life, an extravagant lifestyle. But I actually have like simple rules – like keep things simple. Simplicity is enough for me.

11:44     I’ve died. I’ve obviously died a few times now, so I see things differently, in a different way than most people I know. Things that kept me grounded and happy are my friends and family… My friends and family are just unbelievable. My life is extravagant but I would like to keep a simple life. Going back to what I was saying before about being private, there’s a definitely a private Dana and a public Dana, it’s the same world, but that’s what’s important to me. My biggest passion is my family.

12:16     And that circle of family and friends, is it a small one? Like you have a massive family or is it just a small select few people that you have in that world?

12:26     I got a big family. I am a fortunate person in the friends department. But you get what you give…

12:37     What was the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received? And that could be pre, post… anything that really stood out for you.

12:49     For me one of my favourite quotes is start before you’re ready because I’m a massive believer. When everyone’s waiting for the right moment, where I’m all about just faking it until I make it. Do it and figure out how to do it along the way. So it’s a famous quote, start before you are ready… it’s one of the things that I live by now.

13:07     Yeah I guess there’s a couple. It’s always better to try and fail, than to have failed to try.

13:15     Yes. Yeah I know you say it’s always better to. I think you have failed to try.

13:23     For me, I always knew that I was gonna be scarred. I own myself. If I can turn back time and didn’t have scars, I wouldn’t like it. I’m a one of a kind now. There’s no other Dana, just one. I’m one piece of chocolate…

13:36     Definitely agree with that, I think there’s no one else like you.

13:49     For me, I have tried so many things to get to where I am in my recovery, and so many have failed. I guinea pigged myself, volunteered myself, I empowered myself and learned about new technologies and things that aren’t relevant to burns, but the theory behind it sounded like it would work and I tried it. I feel like I know there I’ll always gonna have scars but to what extent was up to me.

14:09     Even though I tried the stupidest things that are so riduculous…

14:13     Are we talking about natural therapies and all sorts?

14:14     (?) or chemical science, everything at both ends… I’ll never gonna look back and think I wish I had or I wish I tried this… I always know that I’ve done and given my best to this recovery. And that’s give you true happiness. When you got content you can be happy. Once you got regret you can’t go back and turn that time.

14:37     And you were saying that the best recovery in terms of burn repairs or healing, is that in the world?

14:46     Yes, I’m probably one of the biggest transformations on the planet.

14:50     Which is incredible and a lot of that would be due to the fact that you were willing to try everything.

14:54     My surgeon said to me once, she said I can tell you right now the difference between you and the other patients. You are one track minded. You are so determined. There’s nothing else like you. (?) She used to call me a sadist because you have to put yourself through so much pain and I am always opting for extra pain. She’s like, “You’re a sadist.”

15:17     Is it something that gets easier or is it just always…

15:20     No, the pain gets easier with breathing techniques and stuff, which really really helped.

15:38     What’s a personal habit that contributed to basically what you’ve managed to achieve. Do you reckon that it’s your willingness to try things even though it’s a long shot or your ability to endure a lot of amount of pain?

15:57     I think when I’ve decided on something that’s it. So when I make a choice I would stick with it even if it’s the wrong choice, that’s how I am. Making a choice and sticking with it.

16:09     I also saw in your social media that fitness is something that you are passionate about, in what regards? What do you do?

16:15     You got to respect your body. My body has done so much for me and I got to do what works for me. We work for each other, it’s a mutual thing. I do heaps of cardio. I do weights, sculpting, everything. I lot of people have body confidence issues. I may be scarred but I am confident with my body’s appearance. I worked hard to have this body, so my point is, no matter what you have make the most of it. I’m scarred but I’m fit.

16:43     And it doesn’t limit you from doing anything in the physical exercises?

16:46     I don’t do too much out in the bright sun because I don’t want to overheat, but I’m mostly a nighttime person anyway.

16:55     I get it all the time. Anyone that’s making excuses for not exercising doesn’t really have any leg to stand on. They can do it no matter what circumstances are. Me and you are prime examples that you can find a way to make it work, whether it is in the nighttime.

17:27     Do you have a favourite book? I don’t know if this is yours, but we would mention both. Do you have a favourite book, and why?

17:39     Yeah, Where’s Wally. Pretty easy to read.

17:45     Which brings me to my point, you need to release an audiobook version of your book.

17:49     Yes!

17:52     Because I don’t read books. I read or listen to audiobooks. So if you give me an audio copy I will devour your book.

17:58     I’m an audiobook kind of person. I curse dead time.

18:00     Exactly, or transport… podcast and audiobooks

18:08     I’m onto it…

18:09     Great, so something is coming?

18:10     I released a copy in braille, for blind people, and there’s a copy for people who have dyslexia, and there’s a copy for people with vision impairment… and there’s different categories… there’s a disability category.

18:40     Very passionate about anything that gets done for people with disability.

18:44     My books they empower people. It’s raw and funny and crazy, but it’s… if you have a disability you know you should be able to have the option to read

18:58     Like I said, I can’t wait for the audiobook version then I’ll be able to listen to it

19:00     And his eyes work perfectly

19:05     I’ll be able to listen to it when I have dead time, when I’m travelling

19:08     I got one key takeaway that you’d give us and then the best way for this audience to connect with you, so whether that’s social media or by buying your book.

19:22     Key takeaway… just know your worth. I think when you have something you are insecure about work on it, or just embrace it. Its 2017, it’s so cool to be different. I have really (?) on my scars. I embraced it. If you feel like you’re not sexy… I don’t feel like my scars are sexy, I just say it’s hot. I like the fact that I’m unique. I like the fact that no one looks like me, and I’ve really embraced it. If you find yourself attractive and you won’t care what other people think…

19:54     I’m exactly the same. I would exactly hate to have two legs. It’s weird but I love that I’m different.

20:02     Try embracing what you don’t like about yourself, I think you’ll really be surprised. If I could turn back time and change it, I wouldn’t.

20:09     You can find me either by fan page WeHeartDanaVulin. (Which I’ve shared) Social media – Instagram is Dana Vulin, or you can come to my webpage. You can email me through that – www.danavulin.com.au, very easy.

20:27     Thank you so much Dana for joining me today. It’s been an absolute pleasure to learn more about you.

20:32     Thank you for having me.

20:33     And thank you guys for tuning in. You’ve been able to enjoy another episode of DailyGrit and we’ll see you next Monday.

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