Smile Through It II: The Next Chapter

Chasing dreams, because I can

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Archive for the ‘Improvement’ Category

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 »

The Hawaiian Rollercoaster

Posted by Oli on Monday 31st August, 2009

This is going to be a short summary of how we got to where we are, but suffice it to say that the end result is WE’RE GOING TO HAWAII TOMORROW!!!

It’s been a crazy last 8 days, starting with feeling slightly odd leading right up to Saturday’s blog detailing my admission. My lovely new iPhone then decided to stop working as an internet-receptacle so I couldn’t update the blog any further.

The docs essentially said on Saturday that they a) had no idea what was wrong with me but b) that it looked pretty bad. Although the X-ray techs refused to CT me, the docs between them had come upon the summation that it was some kind of chest infection which meant that whatever happened, Hawaii was off.

When they came around Sunday they told me I was well enough to go home – they still didn’t know what it was but the 24 hours of oral antibiotics they’d had me on were seeing my infection markers dropping and things looked OK. I thanked them and they left.

Them then team leader reg for the weekend came back in and asked about Hawaii. Essentially, he said, they needed to ask themselves 3 questions as my doctors:

1) Was I well enough to go?
2) Was I a danger to other passengers on a plane (ie, through Swine ‘Flu etc)
3) Was I fully insured in case anything worsened or happened beyond what they’d observed.

The answers, as he gave them, were:

1) Yes, as far as they were concerned.
2) No, as they didn’t believe I’d had Swine ‘Flu in the first place
3) They would need me to see.

Cue a frantic rush around last night to try to find out what our insurance policy covered. What we came up with was that because the admission happened before I flew, the chest infection then counts as a pre-existing medical condition which they must be made aware of or no treatment related to it in any way will be covered while we’re away. Being a Bank Holiday weekend, this meant that we were now unable to inform them of the change until we flew, which essentially voided the policy.

Cue frantic scramble to find a company that would cover me for CF, lung transplant and a resolving chest infection – all three of which would need to be covered if I needed any treatment for an exacerbation of my current condition. After a pleasantly home-bound night’s sleep we spoke to a company this morning and – in brief – we shelled out a very large amount of money to ensure we didn’t have to claim back a slightly very larger amount of money for canceling the holiday and we were set to go.

Cue frantic running around the Bank Holiday shops today to fill my uni shopping list, my holiday shopping list and still get back in time to pack it all into boxes, bags and suitcases in time to head over to the ‘rents this evening for dinner and sleeps so they can run us to the airport at silly o’clock tomorrow morning.

It’s been a total whirlwind and both K and I are pretty overwhelmed by it all, but the bottom line is that we’re on our way to Hawaii. And when I get back I’ll have less than 12 hours in Liverpool before the start of my first ever term of uni. At the end of it all, things couldn’t really be more exciting. I just wish I’d done it all in a slightly more boring and less melodramatic way.

Posted in Chest, Day-to-day, Difficulties, Drugs, Family, Hospital, Improvement, Shopping, Transplant, Travel, Uni | 8 Comments »

The best and the worst

Posted by Oli on Friday 12th June, 2009

Since my transplant life has taken on a whole new slant. For the most part this is absolutely, 100% undeniably awesome – being able to do the things I want to do, not having to worry about all the rubbish that went with the battle against CF. But every now and again something hits you with a bump, or a thud, or a massive hammer-blow to the head.

I got a phone call from a friend’s husband this morning saying he’d just been off the phone with the mother of a friend of mine from years back. She had CF and we used to chat a lot about all sorts of things – frequently how rubbish CF was – and make each other laugh and work through things when we needed some support. Sadly, she passed away this morning.

There’s such a complex mix of emotions post-transplant. On the one hand, I’m so deeply saddened that another young life has been lost to a disease which needn’t take people away from us. On the other hand, I’m so deeply grateful to my donor and their family for giving me the chance to retake control of my life and battle on to achieve what I want to achieve. It’s both deeply upsetting and hugely motivating when you hear of someone losing their fight.

Just last week I was in Oxford for my annual review with the CF team. It’s really a bit of a formality, as the CF no longer affects my lungs, but it’s still important for them to keep an eye on the other parts of my body CF can affect. It was such a great day though, epitomised by one little moment.

As the physio was doing my general assessment, including posture and other things, she had to listen to my chest. I’ve known my physio for a long time – over 10 years I’ve been going to the same clinic with the same physio now – and as time passes and you go through phases of ill-health, better health, dreadful health and have the kind of scares I went through, physios are the people you naturally seem to turn to. Most PWCF will tell you that their physio is the person they confide in the most, more often than not because they are the member of your medical team you spend the most time with due to the frequent rounds of physiotherapy needed to keep the chest at some vague approximation of a functioning level.

So my physio is doing her assessment and I lift my shirt for her to listen to my chest. I used to know I was ill when the physio or doc would listen to my chest and pause the stethoscope in any one place for longer than a single breath. As she listened to my chest, she paused in one particular area and a dread went up me, until I glanced down and saw a smile creeping over her face as she listened to my now-soundless chest.

For years all anyone had been able to hear on my chest was the crackly static of blocked and infected lungs, now there’s nothing. And as she listened, my physio couldn’t hide her big, beaming smile at the fact that there’s nothing for her to do on my chest any more.

I’m enjoying a life I never thought I would or could, thanks to the generosity of one family, but the price I have to pay for the extension I’ve been given is seeing people who could so easily be like me losing their fight.

This is why I work with these guys and this is why I’m making Remembrance – if they’re not here to reach their dreams, I damn sure better make an effort to fulfill mine. If you want to buy in to my dream, go here to find out more.

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

Turning 27

Posted by Oli on Monday 25th May, 2009

This is my second post-transplant birthday and I’m delighted to say that the novelty really hasn’t worn off. This time last year I was celebrating a birthday I never expected to see just weeks after mourning the loss of a friend whose transplant didn’t come in time.

This year is no less emotional, having been part of the Team Ethan fundraiser last weekend and remembering that I’m only here thanks to the generosity of my donor and their family. But it’s also been brilliant to be surrounded by my friends and family and really enjoy a day of doing nothing but what I wanted to.

I’ve been so overwhelmed by all the messages of support on Facebook and texts and phone calls from people. I really didn’t expect so many people to get in touch – it’s all a bit of a shock, if I’m honest, although K thinks I’m silly for being surprised. I suppose I simply had no idea that so many people were watching out for me and keeping tabs to make sure I’m doing OK.

It’s also really given me the kick up the proverbial to get myself into gear. Last week was a really hard week and I lost my focus a little, hence the delay in announcement of the Big Secret Project. But having had a weekend to look at the bigger picture, I’ve realised that this is 100% what I need to do with myself right now. And if I can’t do it with the MASSIVE team of supporters I’ve clearly got behind me right now then, quite frankly, I’m never going to be able to do it.

So from tomorrow it’s onwards and upwards – the project is a GO and will be announced right here and on the TinyButMighty website within the next 48 hours. So come back soon!

Posted in Day-to-day, Difficulties, Family, Friends, Improvement, Projects, Transplant | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Oli on Thursday 9th April, 2009

I am now officially in recovery following my first full week’s work for, well, ages.

Although I’m frequently busying myself with many different things, most of the are done from home in the study and involve writing, planning or other such creative-type endeavours. This week has been all about graft. If you count workshopping as graft – it’s not building a house or anything, but it’s chuffing tiring.

Over the course of four days I’ve been working alongside my usual Youth Theatre co-conspirator with a group of 6-11 year-olds to teach them a little about the theatre, some performances skills and putting together a short performance with which to entertain their parents this afternoon at the en of thei week’s work.

I have to confess to having been mildly trepitdatious of the project before it began, having had such a hard 10-week term with this age group in my Tuesday sessions, but the week’s been a dream. The group are all fantastic, all keen and eager and willing to learn and absorb things.

We’ve got through so much stuff in the last four days – more, in fact than we got through in an entire term with their contemporaries up to now. They’ve been brilliant fun and really entertained us while we’ve worked with them. Being able to have a laugh with your groups is so important to creating a good working atmosphere in any theatrical workshop setting, whether it be Youth Theatre, short projects or professional rehearsals.

It’s been pretty tiring and a real test of my stamina, but I’ve impressed myself with my ability to stick with it all day. Most of the week, it’s really hit me on the way home and I’ve been a bit of a vegetable when I’ve got in, but I’ve absolutely loved being able to stay the course all day.

This was driven home to me more than ever at Holly’s Donor Drinks on Tuesday (read more about them here) I was chatting to Emily’s mum and pointing out the fact that I’d just done a full day’s work then steamed home to jump on a crappy train to bring myself down to London to spend all evening at a drinks reception, followed by a late train home that got me in just before 11pm for bed and up for work the next morning. That’s something I’d never have dreamed of being able to do.

It’s strange working with a group of young people and looking at them with their whole lives ahead of them thinking that I’m so amazingly blessed just to be in the same room as them. And all thanks to the generosity of my donor and their family for taking the time to talk about their wishes and sign the Organ Donor Register.

Posted in Day-to-day, Firsts, Improvement, Projects, Support, Transplant, Work, Writing | Leave a Comment »