Smile Through It II: The Next Chapter

Chasing dreams, because I can

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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 »

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 »

On Happiness

Posted by Oli on Monday 30th November, 2009

Happiness is an often elusive thing. It is at once indefinable and definite – you just know when you’re happy. It’s also vital to life. Or at least to mine.

A long time ago, pre-transplant before I was seriously ill, I promised myself that I would never have “just a job” – that I would always do something that made me happy. It didn’t matter to me if that was street sweeping, rubbish collecting or running the biggest company in the country; if I was happy that’s where I’d want to be.

This has come back to me over the last few weeks and months up in Liverpool. The ultimate truth is that I’m just not happy up here.

The decision to come to university was made in a rush of confused feelings about my past, my present and my future. At the time it seemed like a great option for me to explore what life is like outside the confines I’d previously lived in and that life as a student – something I’d missed out on when I was still in my teens being too ill to go – would suit me and re-energise me.

The theory behind the decision to come to LIPA was sound: I’d always wanted to come and when I saw the place in clearing I leaped at the chance to be a part of an institute I’d always wanted to go to. I didn’t, however, consider well enough the value of the course to the way I see my life panning out.

LIPA is a remarkable place – the people, the building, the students, the tutors, the shows: all outstanding. But it’s not the right place for me to be.

I’ve been unhappy here for nearly as long as I’ve been up here and it’s taken me a long time to reach the decision that I’ve come to. In the end, though, the opportunity to come back and start the rest of my life with my wonderful, devoted and utterly beloved K combined with the chance to pursue a project I’ve wanted to push through for well over 3 years was too good to turn down.

K and I have been through rough times in the last six months or so. We’ve been through rough times in our own, individual lives; we’ve been through tough times in our relationship and we’ve been through hard times in our lives together. But we’ve come out of it stronger and more supportive than we’ve ever been.

When I came back South a few weeks ago, I had a long chat over lunch to two of our closest friends who, when I aired my views about Liverpool, came up with one singular piece of advice: follow your heart and not your head.

I have spent too much time in the last few months thinking through everything. Wondering about what my family would think, what K’s family would think, what my friends would think and – most important of all – what my donor and their family would think. What it comes down to is this:

I want to do something that makes my donor proud to have bestowed this gift on me. And sitting up in Liverpool, miles from the woman and the people that I love and living 3 years of an already-shortened life being unhappy just isn’t right.

So it is with a heavy heart, but high hopes that I take my leave of Liverpool and LIPA later on today. It’s been a great ride: Wind in the Willows was an amazing show to work on and I’ve made some firm friends. But it’s time for me to do what’s right for me, regardless of what anyone may think or feel about it.

Am I sad to be leaving? Yes. Am I disappointed in myself? I am a little. Am I excited about what comes next? You betcha.

After everything that’s happen this week, there has never been a more important time for me to dedicate myself to the life I want. The life that makes me happy.

Posted in Day-to-day, Difficulties, Family, Friends, Projects, Transplant, Uni | 9 Comments »

Party Where You Are Party

Posted by Oli on Friday 20th November, 2009

Today marks the point 2 years ago when I received the ultimate gift from a wonderful person. It is, therefore, a day to celebrate.

Being currently ensconced up in Liverpool and far away from many of my friends, I’ve developed a slightly novel way of celebrating using the magic of Facebook and Twitter.

I’m asking anyone who wants to join me in celebration to find their own way to mark the occasion, whether it be a party, a trip to the pub or just raising a glass in their living room and to take a picture of themselves doing it and upload it to either the Facebook event page or onto Twitter.

If you’re on Facebook, search for “Oli’s 2nd Second Birthday. Party Where You Are Party” or find my profile and get to it from there. If you’re a Tweeter, simply use the hashtag #oli2nd.

Have a great day today and, if you get chance, raise a glass to me and my donor.

Posted in Day-to-day, Family, Firsts, Friends, Transplant | 1 Comment »

Eddie Izzard

Posted by Oli on Sunday 1st November, 2009

As the years of my wait for a transplant slipped by and my health got progressively worse, I was more and more confined to my flat in MK unable to venture out without massive exertions. Inevitable, I suppose, this led to periods of struggle with my mood and fight to stay positive (of which long-time readers will recall this being a large part).

Another large part of that battle to keep my head above the depressive waters that threatened to flood over me was the DVDs of Eddie Izzard’s previous UK tours, most notably Glorious and Dress To Kill.

Both of these would never fail to make me laugh and would frequently result in intense bouts of coughing which, if nothing else, made my physios happy as it cleared a lot of gunk off my chest.

Last week, when scouting around the ‘net for things to do with K when she came up for her visit this weekend, I discovered that Eddie was playing at Liverpool’s ECHO Arena. Expecting it to be fully sold out, I nonetheless logged on to the ECHO website and to my amazement and joy I bought us two tickets.

After nearly five years since first coming across him and 2 years of a fight for life, following a two-year recovery period with as many lows as there have been highs, I finally got to see the man who helped me through it live and in the flesh.

There’s really no way to describe a comedy gig comfortable in writing, so I won’t try to. All I’ll say is that if you know him, if you like him, you are duty-bound to seek out his nearest date to you and go see him.

The man’s a legend and my ribs still hurt.

Posted in Day-to-day, Family, Funny, Transplant | 1 Comment »