Tuesday, 28 February 2017

'Life is for the Living' - One Year On

It's been a year now since my book 'Life For The Living' was first published. Writing and publishing a book was a dream come true for me and had been something I'd always wanted to do from being a small child. I think it all stemmed from my love of books and reading. As a child I would read and read and spend my pocket money on books. I've always been a bookworm I think. 

There was nothing like that feeling when the first manuscript was completed. Then followed the final redraft and editing through to designing the book cover and finally pressing that 'publish' button on Amazon. Then the boxes of newly published books arrived and I held my own book in my hands for the first time - proof that you can make a dream come true. I was actually holding my dream in my hands! 

It felt a little strange to physically download a copy of my own book on my Kindle and be able to read something that I'd written myself on there. These were big 'highs' after the hard work of writing. Writing the book through to publishing it had taken me 18 months or so, endless hours of writing and note making at all times of day and night when ideas popped in my head. I'd felt both relief and euphoria to have all those thoughts and feelings that had been swirling around in complete chaos in my head, all organised and packed into a memoir at long last. 

Then came the book launch event, again a little surreal, but a fantastic opportunity to celebrate both the book and the wonderful gift of organ donation with friends and family. It was also my first chance to sell hard copies of my book and raise funds for causes very close to my heart. I'd decided beforehand that I would donate any proceeds from the book to Papworth Hospital Charity, the PHAUK, Papworth PH Support Group and Papworth Transplant Social and Support Group. 

A group of us were in the middle of setting up the Papworth Transplant Social and Support Group and we managed to hold a raffle and receive a couple of big donations at the event to help us on our way. I hadn't really set out to fundraise, my main aim for the book had been to raise awareness of Organ Donation and Pulmonary Hypertension, but thanks to everyone's kind generosity this was a lovely surprise. 

I was thrilled to have written the book, but even more delighted as the book began to sell and I was able to make donations to the various causes I had chosen. To date I've sold over a thousand books and sales are still ongoing. The book and raising awareness of Organ Donation and Pulmonary Hypertension will always be an ongoing project. 

I was lucky to be supported by Papworth Hospital and Rob and I attended several events where we were able to talk about the book and help raise awareness. My transplant team and especially my transplant surgeon also helped me to promote it - not only did he save my life but he was now helping me in my new life! Also, I've managed to accumulate over 30 plus reviews on Amazon, mostly 5 star, which has helped immensely, as Amazon promotes books for free depending on the amount of reviews. If you've read the book and are an Amazon customer and fancy writing a review, not only may it help with sales, but it may help with raising more awareness and funds. 

The 'Chariots of Fire' event to raise funds for the DCD Heart Transplant Programme.

Raising awareness of Organ Donation and Transplant to John Henry Newman Sixth Form

Papworth Transplant Annual Patients' Event

John Henry Newman's Christmas Concert, Fundraiser and Book Event for Papworth Hospital Charity

All in all it's been a brilliant year for 'Life Is For The Living' and with profits from book sales and book events we've been able to raise over £7000 plus. The book profits to date have been shared between Papworth Hospital Charity, PHAUK, Papworth PH Matters Support Group and Papworth Transplant Social and Support Group. Book event proceeds have been donated to the Papworth Transplant Social and Support Group and Papworth Hospital Charity for the Balloon Pulmonary Angioplasty Project (Pulmonary Hypertension) and the DCD Heart Transplant Project (Transplant). 

I would like to say a massive thanks to every single one of you who have purchased and read my book and have helped spread the word about it or supported any of the book events, which has enabled this to happen. 

Here's to another successful year of raising more awareness! 

Friday, 17 February 2017

Everything Looks Golden in the Sunlight

As we walk along the pathways in the woods and along the fields I think and reflect over the last six months. It's a glorious and mild day today, the birds are singing louder and the days are a little longer now. The last few weeks have been quite dismal and wet and looking out to the horizon, everything looks warm and golden in the sunlight today.

remember walking these pathways with Rob and Ted, our dog, late last summer or was it early autumn?  I can't quite recall properly, as so much has happened. One thing I do remember though, was that the weather was still warm and the sun was shining. We'd had a good summer and I'd said to Rob as we'd wandered around enjoying our walk and the countryside, 'Is it wrong to be looking forward to winter already? Those muddy walks; crisp fresh air; wellington boots; warm, woolly jumpers...' Rob was retiring and there seemed so much to look forward to. 

Then life threw one of its spanners in the plans as it does and we ended up back on a roller coaster again, as I battled with acute rejection in my lungs through the autumn and into December and we missed coming back here to the woods to do that winter walk and all the walking and exploring new places we'd planned to do. Autumn and the lead up to Christmas had been a difficult time, but luckily things improved with my health by Christmas - yet another crisis steadied. 

January and things were feeling much brighter and we were getting back to some normality, expectantly waiting for Sarah to have her baby. She was two weeks overdue when the baby started to come and things didn't go quite to plan, as often happens with pregnancy. There were a few complications, a few sleepless nights and a few worries as the labour stretched on for days. Then all was well and ended well with the birth of our beautiful grandson Freddie. It was a huge relief. 

We were back to some normality once more. It was fantastic to feel well enough to help out in those first few days when Sarah and the baby came home and I felt so grateful my 'rejection' had stabilised itself. 

Then the roller coaster set itself off once more. Sarah was rushed back into hospital with complications. We were thrust into the deep end of grandparenting and found ourselves late one night suddenly caring for a newborn baby while worrying about our daughter in hospital and what was going to happen next.

I'd begun to feel by the end of last year that I had little reserves left to pull on anymore; that I was losing the inner strength to keep on coping with all the issues that just my own health keeps on throwing at us. You can surprise yourself sometimes though and strength can suddenly come out of nowhere. We somehow rallied to the crisis. I suppose you just have to. Rob said, 'It's what we do best!' 

After she was treated for a few days in hospital, Sarah and her family came home to us for a few days while she recovered and then felt fit enough to go home. A happy resolution with mum and baby both doing fine again.

So we're back off the rollercoaster, back on level ground again, feeling relieved and thankful and during February we have been settling back down to normality once more. Back to those plans of last September. Picking them all back up again. 

It's great to be back walking in the countryside once again, just quietly walking our dog, enjoying the mild weather and winter sunshine. Enjoying peace and tranquility and some normality. Making new plans, exploring new pathways again. 

We are a little different than we were six months ago when we last took this walk. We've been starkly reminded again with the events of the last few months just how fragile health and life can be and how lucky we have been yet again. My lungs are a little different than before, they don't work as well unfortunately. We're still unsure yet whether they ever will. Only time will tell. 

I have more tests planned and another MOT at clinic in a few weeks to see how things are. There is one thing for sure though, I'm determined that some breathlessness isn't going to stop us enjoying life again and making plans to do new things. I'm determined to keep on trying to get fitter to see if it can help my lungs improve. 

We are different than we were a few months ago too, because we are grandparents now. We have a beautiful baby to enjoy and spoil and I'm determined to stay well so I can enjoy him and watch him thrive and grow. I don't think I could have any better incentive. 

Today everything looks golden in the sunlight. 

Friday, 10 February 2017

The Gift of Life

I've been incredibly lucky to have received my life saving heart and lung transplant over three years ago and during those three years I've been able to see and do so many things. There have been big family milestones such as Rose's 21st, our Silver Wedding Anniversary and seeing Sarah and Oli get married.  This autumn I saw both our girls graduate. 

When I found out I was really sick before my transplant these were all future events that flashed through my mind . A myriad of pictures one after another whizzing in front of me; future dreams; dreams that I'd perhaps always taken for granted now slipping away in the face of illness. And then came the gift of my heart and lungs - the gift of new life for me and a gift that restored our family again. A gift that gave me back those dreams. 

Now our family has been given another new gift of life, our brand new baby grandson, Freddie, born just a few weeks ago. My dreams back then didn't stretch as far as this - I hadn't dared hope I don't think or dared to even wish for so much. Now every achievement, dream and wish has been surpassed with the arrival of Freddie. I cannot thank my donor or their family enough for enabling me to  see this moment and to hold my precious first grandchild in my arms.