Friday, 23 December 2016

Christmas Tree

I love Christmas and there's nothing more special than decorating the house in readiness for the big day. We usually do this in early December in our household, so we can enjoy all the build up to the festivities - the twinkly lights, cosy evenings by a warm fire, present shopping and present wrapping. Then there's that final manic food shop, followed by the lovely peaceful feeling on Christmas Eve when everything is done and ready and the festivities are about to begin. 

One of my favourite things is decorating the Christmas tree. Decorations, lights and baubles are brought down from the loft and as each and every bauble is unwrapped and hung on the tree a happy memory is triggered. That's why I love decorating the tree so much - every bauble represents a precious memory. Memories from long ago; memories from the year we've just enjoyed; memories throughout the years. 

Here are a few of those special baubles and memories: 

Salt dough decorations made by Sarah and Rose during primary school. 

Christmas decorations given to me during my teaching years. 

Decorations made by Sarah and Rose during their nursery years. 

A special decoration I chose in memory of my donor, who has given me the chance of more Christmases to enjoy with my family. 

A decoration Sarah gave me for the first Christmas after my life saving and changing transplant. 

A few decorations from Amsterdam after my first flight abroad following my transplant - something I never thought I'd do ever again. 

Some memories of Christmas in New York, my second wonderful Christmas after transplant. 

Some decorations bought at Papworth hospital, above, one that represents the new heart and lungs I received and below one purchased last year when I spent all December and Christmas in hospital there.

Precious memories of Venice and Prague - places we visited on a dream holiday for our twenty-fifth wedding anniversay last year when we enjoyed a stay in Rome, followed by a cruise to Venice and a trip of a lifetime on the Orient Express from Venice to Prague.

A bauble from Budapest, where we enjoyed a wonderful trip to celebrate Rob's retirement this year. 

Those are just a few of those special memories that hang on our tree as we begin to celebrate another Christmas and another year we've been able to enjoy time with family and friends and special moments making new memories. We always remember those times with loved ones no longer here too and my donor and their family who have given me many of these special times to enjoy and yet another Christmas to celebrate. 

I wish all my family, friends and readers a very happy and peaceful Christmas and the very best of wishes and health for the New Year. 

Oops! And a very happy Christmas from Ted too - he's all ready for some fun with his new hair cut and groom! 

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Christmas Concert

I'm thrilled that this week my book sales surpassed a thousand copies. It means that if each one of those books have been read, then there will be a thousand more people out there who may be more aware about Organ Donation and Pulmonary Hypertension. I'm also pleased as a writer that people are still buying both hard copies and the Kindle version and the book seems to keep on going from strength to strength. A big plus is that it has helped raise funds for charities and support groups close to my heart too.  

Over the past few years Rob and I have been visiting the girls' old secondary school - The John Henry Newman School in Stevenage - to speak to the sixth form about organ donation and help them understand more about the issues surrounding it. This year the headteacher had read my book in the summer and invited us to speak again and also offered to support Papworth Hospital Charity by holding a non uniform day and a collection and chance to sell books at their annual Christmas Concert. We were delighted and excited about this. 

The events managed to raise a grand total of £3600, plus we managed to sell plenty of books raising another £275 to add to the total. Rob and Sarah attended the concert along with Charlotte from Papworth Hospital Charity and it was an amazing evening. People were so kind and generous and I would like to thank everyone involved in organising everything and supporting us. I was very disappointed that I couldn't attend, but my health problems of the last few months are still ongoing.

I would also like to thank those of you who sent donations to Papworth Hospital Charity in lieu of Christmas cards. I've been really touched by your thoughtfulness and generosity.  Rob was able to pass these on to the charity at the concert event and the £80 donations received brought our total fundraising for Papworth Hospital Charity this Christmas to £3995. This support has really given me a huge boost after what has been a very difficult few months and has meant December has been a big high to end the year on. 

If you are looking for a Christmas present or that extra stocking filler then there's still plenty of time to purchase a copy of 'Life is for the Living' on Amazon or maybe you are settling down for the Christmas holidays and just fancy a good read to download. The Amazon link is below and remember all funds are for Transplant and PH charities and support groups. 

A few comments re the book: 

'Just finished your book, so touching. Your paragraphs on the 'letter' from your donor's family had me in tears...thank you for your wonderful words...' R 

'It's a compelling read - the inside personal story not just of the medical issues, but of how you, Rob and the family felt about what was happening to you all. And you tell it beautifully. Inspiring is an overused adjective nowadays, especially in health matters. But yours is a truly inspiring book.' LM 

A massive thank you to everyone who has supported 'Life is for the Living' this last year and helped both raise awareness and funds for important causes. 

Saturday, 3 December 2016


Your outlook to life changes when you have had a life threatening illness and surgery and still live with fragile health. Family moments are hugely important to most people, but after events such as these, precious family moments suddenly become very intense, you strive towards them, enjoy every moment while they happen and value that you've reached yet another milestone and been able to make another precious memory. 

Earlier on this year, Rob and I had the lovely news that we were to be grandparents in the new year. Sarah is expecting her first baby very soon in January. Who knows if the baby is early, it might even be a Christmas baby. If all goes to plan, this will be another massive milestone in our family life, another one of those moments that I will see all because of the kindness of my donor and their family. 

I've already been able to see the scans of the baby and see and feel it kicking, again these are very precious and special moments for me and I value so much that I've been able to enjoy and experience them. Sarah held her 'Baby Shower' at weekend. It seems to be a popular thing to do these days and a good excuse for a get together with friends. We enjoyed a lovely afternoon tea, games and lots of chatter and fun. It was a real boost amongst the health issues of the last few months. It also had me thinking about being a grandma and about both my own grandmas and what they meant to me. 

I remember as a young child visiting my father's mother on Saturdays - playing in the garden; running along to the nearby train track to watch the steam trains rush past and hoot - something very different from home; watching Doctor Who at tea time whilst hiding behind a cushion. I can remember her coming to stay with us and sharing a room with her as we hadn't enough space to give her her own room - endless chatter and excitement that grandma was sharing my room. Happy memories. 

My mum's mum spent a lot of time with us, as she lived nearby - just around the corner. I was very close to her and spent hours with her while I was growing up. She lived next to my primary school - she would come and wave at us at playtimes. I would go to her house for tea after school. I've memories of us going shopping together every Saturday - she always used to treat me and we'd go for lunch in a cafe near the local market. I used to go to her house for lunch every Sunday until I left home. We had many special moments. 

And my thoughts on being a grandma? It's hard to imagine being a grandma, as it only seems a very short time ago that Sarah and Rose were only babies and growing up. I'm only just getting used to my own children being adults. Suddenly I'm going to be a grandma. As a young child, I used to think my grandmas were old. I think most children probably think grandmas and grandads are old. Now I realise my own grandmas were probably only my age when I was little and weren't that old at all. I don't really feel old. I smile to myself, knowing my own grandchildren will probably think I'm old! 

I'm looking forward to the baby's arrival and helping out Sarah if she needs a hand. It's really is going to be a new and exciting phase in our lives, especially since Rob has retired. We hopefully will have the time to be active grandparents. I'd like my grandchildren to have similar and precious moments that I had with my grandmas, give them the time and patience like both my grandmas gave me and make them feel special. 

We are trying to be organised in time for both Christmas and the baby coming. There's still weeks to go, yet it may be imminent too, as we are counting in weeks now, not months anymore. We just hope for a safe arrival and a healthy baby and mum.