Friday, 7 October 2016

Happy Retirement

Retirement. It's what many of us eventually strive towards, once we've reached all those career orientated goals and are beginning to think it's time to spend time on ourselves more, do those things that we may have always wanted to do, but can't ever fit in between our busy work lives and other commitments. It's something we may think of when our children have flown the nest and are happily established in their own adult lives and we can relax and let go a little. 

The retirement situation has been a little different for Rob and me, but yes, Rob has now finally retired from work. This is after quite a bit of stopping work and then starting again because of my ill health over the years and that's how things have been a little different. Of course, we tried to make the most of all the time he's taken off work, but during those years our time has been peppered with some extreme health issues. It's been a series of high highs and low lows. A rollercoaster until I received my transplant and transplant still does not come without its ups and downs and trials and tribulations. Having transplanted heart and lungs is a condition that needs to be permanently managed and does usually come with a shortened life expectancy. We are forever aware of this. 

We decided at the last minute to go on a city break to Budapest to celebrate Rob's retirement. We had a few reasons for deciding to do this, obviously his retirement being a big factor and being yet another excuse to celebrate, as life is so precious nowadays and we don't need much excuse. It's a case of when the going is good, try and reach for the stars while you can and while they're there in front of you. 

I don't think Rob was that bothered about travelling abroad though, when I first mentioned that maybe we should do something special to celebrate his retirement. We'd been very fortunate and enjoyed a few lovely weekend breaks and holidays in England this year. We've had so much beautiful weather too, which seemed to be continuing on and on. 

I felt quite strongly we should mark it with something special though, as Rob was forced to quit his career when I fell poorly and became my carer almost overnight following my diagnosis of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH).  I literally had to walk out of my career too. There were no 'leaving', 'retirement' or 'moving on' celebrations, the usual get togethers with colleagues for a farewell drink or meal, we merely walked out on our usual routines and daily lives and careered head on into a battle for survival, uncertainties and the unknown. 

On retrospect, we couldn't ever halt or change how things happened and the course of what was to come and I've managed to survive and have improved health so that's all that matters for us both. I've always felt guilty and saddened that Rob had to give up so much to live with an uncertain future and I was pleased he'd been able to return to work since my transplant, albeit being part time and contract work, which suited our situation. I felt it was good for him to have his work, the opportunity to be in the real world and not always being in what has become our other world of hospital and transplantation. 

This time around Rob has decided for himself to retire and I'm delighted he's been able to have this opportunity without it being forced upon him; that he's been able to make his own deliberate choice. It feels like the more normal and planned for retirement I think he always deserved. That's the main reason I felt his retirement should be marked somehow; to make some sort of stance that we got there in the end; that we've both reached retirement together although we went a long way round to achieve it. 

It's been a lovely time for Rob during his last few days at work, enjoying celebrations with his colleagues and being able to leave in what has been a more usual manner. I've felt so pleased, after all the years of him struggling with work on and off because of my needs, that his working life has eventually finished on more of a high and more how he would have planned and dreamed of before I ever fell ill.

Another reason why I wanted to travel abroad again was because of my health. It's been a year since we travelled abroad and I know that I've been really fortunate to be able to do lots of travelling since my transplant and especially visiting several countries abroad during my second year post transplant. My health has been more challenging this year though. 

It started with a difficult bout of CMV virus last November, which resulted in being hospitalised for weeks and over Christmas, being unwell for a few months and has been what seems an ongoing battle to keep it under control, prevent it reactivating and dealing with the resulting havoc it has caused ever since. This manifests itself with stomach and colon inflammation and ulceration and the associated pain and severe fatigue. I've worked hard to try and overcome this with diet, exercise and pacing myself more. My transplant team have also been more than helpful and are still monitoring me very closely and regularly, adjusting my medications so things are kept in good control. I'm still having monthly CMV tests and clinics more regularly than I had been, which I'm happy about, as it gives me the reassurances I need.

I'd had to cancel quite a lot of things we'd been looking forward to during some of these difficult periods, so I could recharge myself, help myself better and get myself back to the good health I'd been enjoying since my transplant. Regaining my health was the most important thing, so it didn't matter so much to have to cancel in the scheme of things. It's always good to plan things to look forward to, but if things don't go as planned, it really doesn't matter. We accept this happening as part of our lives now. Attempting to go abroad again though, felt like it would be a big step. A step that would be a small victory against all this year's health problems and show myself I can overcome them and still make the most of everything life offers when the going is good. 

We love city breaks and seeing new cultures and places and this time we chose Budapest -  we've drawn ourselves up another list of cities and places we'd like to see and this was a favourite. We managed to have a wonderful time, exploring yet another new place, seeing new sights, enjoying more beautiful sunshine, having fun and celebrating retirement and life. It was another chance to live life to its fullest before we reached the end of my third year post transplant and it always goes without saying, all thanks to my donor.

Of course, we don't take this period of 'retirement' for granted. Reaching this stage in life is an enormous bonus, it's something many people don't have the chance to have, so I see growing a little older as a complete priviledge not something we should moan about. I often laugh how the government keep changing the state pension ages - I know it's not a laughing matter really. State pensions are becoming ridiculously out of reach for the healthiest of people. Everyone worries about how they will manage, but I know if I'm ever lucky enough to reach the sixty seven years it is currently, then it will be a nice problem for me to have. In the meantime, Rob and I plan to keep ourselves busy with things that mean the most to us and keep on enjoying life to the full. 

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