Sunday, 2 November 2014

It's Your Moment ... Seize the Day

On Wednesday I attended Woman and Home's 'It's your moment ...seize the day' event as one of the panellists. I was asked to do this following winning their competition, which was in association with Tena Lady, earlier in the year. For the competition, I wrote about my illness and overcoming my heart and double lung transplant and why life is so precious and how you need to make the most of every moment. I was lucky enough to win a makeover and fashion shoot as part of my prize and the magazine featured an article about me in their September issue. 

Wednesday's event was all about inspiring readers who have their own aspirations to make some change in their lives, by sharing our real life stories. It was held at Woman and Home's offices at the Blue Fin Building in Southwark, London, where I got to meet Woman and Home staff and representatives from Tena Lady, who were sponsoring the event. 

The panel included Sherrie Hewson, who was our chairwoman and is well known for her roles in Loose Women and Benidorm; Kathleen Mcgrath, who is Tena Lady's sleep expert and runs the charity 'Medical Advisory Service', which has a 24 hour insomnia helpline; Linda Bartlett, who like myself is a Woman and Home reader - Linda overcame a serious back injury and went on to complete the three cities cycle ride from London to Amsterdam and Carole Ann Rice, who is a successful life coach and columnist. 

The event started with introductions from Woman and Home's editor, Sue James and we listened to a very inspirational woman, Dee Caffari, who has sailed around the world single handedly several times and in both directions. We then had a 'Loose Women' type discussion where we had opportunies to tell our own stories and give tips on making changes in life.  After some panel discussions, we had a lively question and answer session with the audience. 

Afterwards there was a drinks reception - with plenty of prosecco and nibbles - and a chance to circulate and chat to all the Woman and Home readers who had come to the event. It was a fantastic evening and I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did. It was a great chance to tell my story about overcoming PH and transplant. 

I think this event made me focus on how I'd got through the last few years. So what are my tips for making a change in life? The focus of my story at the event was really about adapting to a 'forced' change in life and what things I had done to achieve this and get through. I started with my number one strategy - positivity. I decided I needed to accept what I couldn't change and focus on what I could. It helped me to focus on what I could do and not dwell on what I couldn't anymore. 

Positivity has got me a very long way and is still helping me as a go along on my transplant journey. I have learned over this last few years to try and turn a negative situation around. For instance I was totally devastated when I couldn't work as a teacher any more, but then thought of all those times when I was too busy teaching and wished I had more time to pursue my hobbies: reading, writing, enjoying my garden and travelling. Of course some of these had to be done within my new limits, but I could still do them. I took up some new hobbies too: blogging, social media and photography. 

I armed myself with information: in those early days of diagnosis, I felt bewildered and lost about this rare disease, pulmonary hypertension and why I had it. I needed to find out more about why I might have got it, more about the treatments available and what I might face. I was glad I did, when it came to needing IV medication and being told I needed a transplant, at least I knew already it may come to that - I was shocked, but it softened the blow a tiny bit having a better understanding of things. I think information is key when making any change big or small. 

Another thing I did was build a network of support from other patients who's lives had been touched by either PH or transplant. I didn't know anyone who had PH, no one around me understood it, even medical staff who dealt with me in the beginning didn't. Talking to others who were going through similar things was the best thing I ever did, you do not ever find yourself sitting in the local doctor's surgery chatting to someone else who has had PH or a heart and lung transplant and it can be so isolating at times. 

The support from my PH friends and transplant friends leaves me feeling much less isolated and I have made some lifelong friends. I now have not only my own family, but my PH family and transplant family too. When the 'chips' have been down, the strength and support that comes from my fellow patients is just incredible and still is. So I would say talking to others who are going through the same as you will take you a long, long way. 

Taking opportunities that come your way is another positive step in the right direction. I will always remember my dear friend Ann, who has sadly now passed away, asking if I'd speak about waiting on the transplant list at the House of Commons. I thought I wasn't confident enough and really wasn't well enough to be trekking into London to do it, but then I decided, 'yes, why not?' I went ahead and did it, it then led to more media interest with press, radio and TV interviews. By default it gave me a new direction and purpose in life, which continues on: trying to raise awareness of PH and transplant. So I believe positivity does breed positivity and can lead you on to doing all sorts of things you never imagined you would do! 

Taking things step by step, sometimes one small step at a time and on bad days just a tiptoe if possible, always takes you in the right direction towards your dreams and hopes. Sometimes it feels like 'ten steps back and one step forward', but every step in the right direction is a positive one. 

Finally 'hope', this one carried me a long, long, long way. If you have hope, then you still have dreams and dreams can come true if you let them and find a way! 

I'd like to thank everyone at Woman and Home and Tena Lady for inviting me to the 'Seize the Day' event and for such a wonderful opportunity to meet some inspirational women and chat to other readers about their aspirations for the future. I'm now fully fired up to get my book completed and published! 

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