Smile Through It II: The Next Chapter

Chasing dreams, because I can

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Archive for the ‘Difficulties’ Category

Onwards and upwards from here

Posted by Oli on Friday 5th February, 2010

It’s been a while. In truth, I didn’t want to blog until I could find something positive to put down on these pages. And after a month like January, that’s been very, very hard work.

In addition to the funeral of K’s aunt, who died in late December, this month has seen us lose Jess (as detailed in my previous post) and then, last week, a very close friend’s baby brother, too. It’s been an absolutely heart-wrenching start to the year, especially after 2010 began with such excitement and promise.

I’ve also been hinting and nodding towards a new project which was supposed to be up and running by the end of January, that still hasn’t taken off. However, the reasons for that delay are more exciting than they are dispiriting, but all the more frustrating that I can’t share any details of what’s happening just yet.

One element of the project I can talk about is the attempt – along with my band of merry men – to complete the 3 Peaks Challenge in May this year, the weekend before my 28th birthday. It’s a truly daunting task and the most common reaction I get when I tell people about it is, “Why?”.

So I’ll tell you all now to prevent the mass of comments and emails about it following this post: because I can. Because I’m now able to push myself physically; because I’m able to see what my mental strength can carry me through; because I survived when others didn’t and have been given the perfect opportunity to do the things I want to do; because I can help to show the world just what an amazing difference organ donation can make to someone’s life.

This time three years ago, I was still recovering from Christmas and wondering if I’d see my 25th birthday. From then to now I’ve been able to go the kinds of things I only ever dreamed of and pushing myself physically and mentally through the toughest of challenges is something I’ve always wanted to do. And now I can.

There will be more details on the Challenge itself as well as the wider project as things progress, but today felt like a good day to sit myself down, slap myself round the face, pull myself out of my funk and start moving forward with the gift that is another year of life. Today was my first session at the gym in preparation for the 3 Peaks and it hurt like hell – but the pain of physical endeavour pales in comparison to the pain that my friends and their families have been through in the last month.

This is for everyone who can’t, everyone who wants to and everyone who never will achieve their dreams.


Posted in Day-to-day, Difficulties, Exercise, Family, Friends, Projects, Support, Transplant | 2 Comments »

Two friends in two months

Posted by Oli on Thursday 14th January, 2010

The turn of 2010 was filled with so much promise. Despite the difficulties of 2009, the challenges, the ups and downs, I’ve been incredibly excited about the prospects for the new year. And I still am.

But not all great things can come to pass and, following my previous post, most of you will now be aware that Jess lost her fight late on Tuesday night. After four years on the waiting list (two years longer than anyone ought to survive after being listed), Jess was just too weak to stand up to the rigours of the massive transplant surgery she underwent at the end of December.

A fighter to the last, she was up and about late last week, starting to be moved around by the physio, but she was hit by insurmountable post-transplant complications that her body just couldn’t cope with. She died peacefully with her family by her side.

Tributes have been pouring in on Facebook, Twitter and all over the news pages and TV channels which followed her story so closely. Many, many people have been affected by Jess, some who never even met her. Everyone is now feeling the overwhelming sadness and sense of lost that is infinitely magnified for her family.

Jess death will not be in vain, that much is clear. Despite the grief throughout the community, campaigners who’ve worked with and alongside Jess have already got their heads down pushing forward into new plans, ideas and ways to ensure that no one in the future has to wait until their too ill to receive a transplant.

As for me, the pain of losing two friends in two months is strong, but not as strong as my determination to make the most of the new life I’ve been given. The new project I’ve been working on for the last couple of months is finally coming to fruition and I’m pulling together several strands of things I’ve always wanted to do.

Here’s to a 2010 that serves not only to bring health, joy and happiness to all of us, but also to honour the memory of all those we’ve lost. Take care of yourself and remember to try – hard as it my be – to smile through it.

Posted in Day-to-day, Difficulties, Friends, Support, Transplant | 1 Comment »

11th Hour, 59th Minute

Posted by Oli on Tuesday 29th December, 2009

On Sunday night I went to bed with my phone on and next to my pillow. I was fully expecting a midnight text to tell me that our wonderful fighter Jess had finally lost her battle after dragging herself through one last Christmas.

In the middle of the night – just after midnight, in fact – the phone did indeed buzz. I fumbled around, picked it up and read the message.

“Jess is having her transplant NOW”

I came on here this morning to leave a message about everything that’s happened with Jess in the last few days, but in fact my friend Sarah has beaten me to it and written such a concise and accurate blog detailing the events, emotions and thanks that we have all felt over the last few days that instead of trying to rehash it badly, I’m just going to send you over there to read about it. It’s also worth taking a look at the previous post as well, detailing as it does a family’s first Christmas together thanks to the wonder of organ donation.

Spare a thought as you read this for the family who have suffered the worst of Christmases and keep Jess in your thoughts and prayers. Although she’s finally been given her gift, she’s got a long road ahead of her and there are no guarantees. But one thing we all know is that she wouldn’t be with us now were it not for her call finally coming after more than four years of waiting.

Posted in Day-to-day, Difficulties, Friends, Hospital, Transplant | Leave a Comment »

Christmas & all that it brings

Posted by Oli on Monday 21st December, 2009

I’ve been struck again by one of my intermittent bouts of insomnia and have – as usual on nights like this – found myself sitting and contemplating all around me.

In particular, I’ve been reading back over this blog entry from the summer and going back through the last few months on my Facebook. I wanted to break into the “real world” and do something that felt like a tribute to my donor. I know now that the decision to go to Liverpool was made in haste and a fog of ambition and clouded judgement.

I can’t regret that decision, though, as it’s left me in a place now that’s so much happier than I was before I left. Being away has made me realise what it is I want to do, but more than that it’s shown me that I have the knowledge, drive and courage to pursue it.

I’m immensely lucky to be surrounded my my wonderful family, my always-supportive friends and, of course, my wonderful K. Since getting back from Liverpool I’ve been happier in my life, my house and my skin that I can remember for a long time.

At the same time, thinking about the future has made me think about all those around the world less lucky than me. I lost my friend Jo just a few short weeks ago and said my final goodbyes last week and knowing that her family face Christmas without her is heart-wrenching. Added to which I’ve got one friend in hospital over Christmas, another friend’s baby brother in intensive care and two more friends facing the very real possibility that this will be their last Christmas if their transplant doesn’t come in time.

This time last year, my brother was fighting in Afghanistan in one of the longest and most protracted operations of our combat there. On Christmas Eve, in an experience I’ve never had before, I was overcome by emotion during the midnight service thinking about him and the dangers he was facing. Without realising, and something I can only attribute to the kind of sibling bond I’ve always derided, I woke on Christmas morning to a phone call from my parents to say that he’d lost one of his closest friends right by his side that night.

In truth, despite our hardships, my family is undoubtedly one of the luckiest and most blessed in the world. I’ve fought and won battles within my own body and been lucky enough to be given a second chance at life. My mum has battled her own illnesses and come through with flying colours and my bro has fought and survived one of what is turning out to be the bloodiest wars in decades for the British Armed Forces.

I’ve been blessed by so much happiness in my life and as Christmas approaches with people living in fear, in hope and in grief, I realise more than ever that now I know where I’m going, it’s time to put the pedal to the metal and get my arse there.

I can’t wait to get started. Here’s hoping that the New Year brings all of us the things we want most in life and, should it fail to and instead present us with more, deeper challenges, may we all have the strength to fight, battle and rail against them and emerge victorious this time next year.

As a wise man once prayed: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Merry Christmas to you all, and a Happy, Healthy, New Year.

Posted in Day-to-day, Difficulties, Family, Friends, Hospital, Improvement, Projects, Support, Transplant, Uni | 2 Comments »

Blogs, vanity & ego

Posted by Oli on Tuesday 8th December, 2009

I’ve been reading a friend’s blog this morning after another friend pointed it out to me. It’s a very interesting take on a couple of articles from the Sunday papers. Read it all here.

The pertinent part of the article for me was this paragraph:

“I use this medium to keep writing and putting my ideas out there, but could it also be a sort of safe haven of vanity, mainly accessed by friends and family, hardly ever questioned or criticized? There’s certainly at least a grain of truth in that.”

It made me reflect on what this blog is all about and why I’m still writing it. I don’t think it’s too strong to say that blogs are almost universally vanity exercises to some extent. While some bloggers are clearly onlt writing to massage their own egos and lead people to compliment them in various nice ways, all bloggers to a greater or lesser extent write because they want people to read it and read about them and their opinions.

When I first started writing SmileThroughIt back in 2006, the blog was intended for me to keep an online diary of the ups and downs [hopefuly] leading up to transplant. I wasn’t writing out of vanity – indeed some of the things I wrote about I didn’t particularly want to tell people – but rather out of the hope that someday someone reading the blog could gain some strength from knowing that someone else had been there before, much in the same way as Emily and I helped each other through experiences we shared on our road and the way Emily guided me through the frightening first weeks post-transplant when the world had changed instantly.

Even that, though, has an element of ego in it. I wanted people to read it and feel affected by it. Ostensibly I wanted to make a difference to someone else’s life, but how vast an ego did I have to think that words on a (virtual) page could really impact and comfort someone to that extent?

More recently, I’ve been blogging less and less as the minutiae of my day-to-day life is now not all that different from other people’s. I contemplated stopping the blog, but some of my readers protested and I kept going, but even then I’ve not blogged in the same open and honest way as I had previously.

Take Liverpool for example. If you read the posts on this blog from September, October and November you would have no inclination at all of the struggle I was having at the time trying to keep myself happy and weighing up the option of whether to return home or not. The ego in me didn’t want people to know I was struggling – I didn’t want people to think I was living an unhappy life as I felt it to be some kind of betrayal of my donor.

Now, this blog is here to serve almost nothing but my vanity, or so it seems. I can keep my writing honed, I can keep my family and friends abreast of what I’m up to and I can occasionally comment on something I want to comment on. But I’m not entirely sure what else it’s for, or whether it’s something I should still be doing.

Any which way you look at it, blogs are vanity. Not always consciously and not always in a negative sense (vanity’s not always a vice), but they are very insular and – as Miss Write points out – they largely go uncriticised.

The next month will be blogging as usual on this site, but in the new year you’ll see a radical overhaul to morph the blog into part of a new project that should be hitting the ‘net in January or February 2010. Keep watching, the ego has landed.

Posted in Day-to-day, Difficulties, Friends | 1 Comment »