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 »

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 »

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 »

Please help save Jess

Posted by Oli on Sunday 20th September, 2009

I don’t much like blogging from my phone – it’s a bit tiny to write lengthy missives on (given my propensity for verbosity), but right now I don’t want to wait another day until I can access a computer.

A very good friend of mine and amazing fundraiser and supporter of LLTGL is very, very seriously ill. Like I was, she is waiting for a double lung transplant and has held on despite terrible health for a remarkable 4 years on the waiting list. When you consider that you’re only supposed to be listed when you have a life expectancy of less than 2 years, that shows you how amazingly she’s doing.

Sadly, things aren’t looking great. She was rushed into hospital at the end of the week struggling to breathe and is now reliant on her non-invasive ventilator to keep breathing. Her lungs are quite literally unable to cope with the demands placed on them by constant infection and the ravages of CF that she fights daily.

All of her friends are trying to do everything we can to help, but there’s so little we can do.

One thing at our disposal is the power of words and friendship. As Jess’s friends we are all talking to all of our friends to encourage people to sign the organ donor register and to tell everyone they can to do the same.

If you’re on Twitter, post the above link along with #savejess or tweet about her @Jess_19 and tell people about her.

If you’re on Myspace, Bebo or Facebook, put Jess and the link in your status updates, even link to this page to show people what you’re shouting about.

So much of Jess’s fate now rests with the doctors and medical teams looking after her and her ability to keep fighting. But it also rests on the courageous decision of one single person to give her life after theirs has passed.

Please, please, please do whatever you can to help give Jess the same chance of a better life that I’ve had and am currently making so much of.

Thank you.

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

Oops

Posted by Oli on Thursday 27th August, 2009

All this rushing around doesn’t seem to suit me. No sooner had I blogged about all the necessaries for holiday and uni prep than I started feeling a little pesky with a bit of a sore throat. Monday night I woke at 4am with a roaring fever and raging headache splitting my very delicate and uni-bound cranium in two.

After fighting for more sleep, I eventually hauled my butt out of bed at 8am to spend an hour tossing my cookies in the bathroom. When I managed to stop hurling for five minutes I dragged myself to the phone to call the ‘rents and tell them I suspected ‘flu.

Funnily enough, at the time I was more concerned with not passing it on to K as having it 8 days before we’re dye at the airport for Hawaii is bad enough but if it were to gestate a little longer and hit her 5 days before we flew, our holiday could be in very real danger.

Mum and Dad thus rode to my rescue and I’ve been holed up in quarantine at Chez Parental for the last 3 days, with regular GP visits and Harefield consultations. Tuesday was the most concerning day as I kept being sick, a very bad thing when my new lungs are dependent on oral immunosuppressants to keep working properly.

One very sore injection in my left butt cheek later (still hurts, by the way) and the vomiting, though not the nausea, stopped and from there on in I’ve been improving all week.

Now all but mended, I’ll be heading home tomorrow to finish off my uni and holiday packing which I’ve so far abandoned K to. My lung function is looking good, so despite the slight cough I’ve got I’m confident there’s nothing serious going on.

It’s been a pretty rubbish week, bur with so much coming up in the next few weeks I’m kind of glad it happened now and hasn’t – touch wood – spoiled either the holiday or my first weeks at uni.

Lots to do and little time, but still enough to reflect on the marvel that it post-transplant recovery. Had I fallen I’ll a week before flying abroad pre-transplant there’s no way I’d have been fit to leave the country. Thank heavens for the gift of life – a phrase that gains more meaning and resonance each and every day.

Posted in Day-to-day, Difficulties, Drugs, Family, Hospital, Lung Function, Support, Transplant, Travel, Uni | Leave a Comment »