Martha Ehlin, 35, knows about overcoming adversity.
More than four years ago, Ehlin, a Swedish national, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It spread to her liver and other organs.
Her only option to survive was a multivisceral transplant, which involves replacing five organs – the stomach, liver, pancreas, duodenum and small intestine. This intense surgery is performed on patients with multiple organ failure.
“It was a long journey,” Ehlin told the Daily News at the Save Seven Lives Beach Walk on Sunday. “I was in intensive care for four months after the operations and it was then that I heard about the World Transplant Games because they were going to take place in Sweden.
“It was then that I made it my goal to compete in five events for the five organs I had received.”
After intense training, Ehlin competed in javelin, shotput, high jump, long jump and floorball (indoor hockey) at the 2011 games. She attained five golds – one for each event.
Ehlin said that this year she would also try her hand at volleyball and track and field.
After her ordeal, Ehlin helped set up the Swedish organisation, MOD (More Organ Donation), which also translates to “courage” in Swedish. The organisation, like the games, promotes organ donation to save lives.
Ehlin described the games as “fantastic”.
“I’m so glad to be back (at the games). I’m meeting all the competitors and, when I arrived on Saturday, the weather was so lovely. I’m enjoying the atmosphere and will do my best.”
She said that since she won her five golds at the previous games, the pressure was now off and she would be able to relax and simply enjoy participating in the events.
“When you’re sick, you’re in hospital and this event is just the opposite of that. We’re all here, healthy and participating in sports. We’re here to celebrate life.”