“There’s no point in focusing on the negative,” says Alison Wilson, recent double lung transplant recipient. She now has her whole life ahead of her she says, thanks to the support of her family, her friends and her community. Photo by Roxanne Delage
Cornwall, Ontario - Although she was born with the genetic disease, Alison Wilson-Proulx, says that cystic fibrosis did not seem to affect her much as a child, even though at birth doctors said she would probably not live past 5 years of age. With therapy and plenty of physical activity, her condition seemed well controlled. It appeared as though she’d beat the odds.
It wasn’t until her late twenties when the rigors of work and less than healthful living took its toll. “That was my own fault,” says Alison. By the time she was listed as a candidate for transplant, she lived on oxygen. Her lungs—the worse affliction for the disease—were operating at only 10 percent. Without a transplant she would only have months to live.
The now 30-year-old considers herself very lucky indeed that within a month, a perfect match was found on Feb. 16 of this year. “Some people are on the waiting list for up to three years and some die waiting,” she says thoughtfully.
Still recovering, and not without CF still affecting her digestive system—although controlled with medication—Alison feels like a new person now, she says, comparing her new lungs to hot air balloons that have been unrolled and inflated. “So much air, so much freedom.”
Alison is very grateful to her wonderful support system—family, friends and especially her mother, she says. She is indebted to the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and particularly to the Kinsmen and Kinettes of Cornwall for their work. “They (Kinsmen and Kinettes) do so much,” she says, remembering their first annual Pizza Party fundraiser, which financed her therapy vest. She is also grateful to the community for attending the fundraisers and participating in the events. “Without all of these people I would not be here,” says Alison. “There are no words to express...thank you for saving my life.”
Now the newly-wed has big plans for her future. The key to her continued good health is plenty of activity and general healthy living, she says. She wants to remain active in awareness and fundraising toward a cure for CF, and is also planning a volleyball tournament later this summer in support of organ and tissue donations. She says she can now do things that she couldn’t before, like run or fly (as in airplane). She would love to travel and go back to school, perhaps in journalism or counselling.
In closing, Alison, who was recently named the first ever Great Strides Walk “Adult Super Strider”—an honorary title for the event—says that she believes that she was meant to be sick for a reason, to tell people about her journey, and to be a testament to positive thinking and to living life to its fullest.
The Great Strides Walk 2009 in support of cystic fibrosis will be held in Lamoureux Park on Sunday, May 31, beginning at 11 a.m. Registration starts at 10. A barbecue hosted by the Kinsmen and Kinette Clubs will be served after the event. Everyone is welcome to come out, make a donation, and walk for a good cause. There is still time to pick up a pledge form at Scotiabank, who will also be matching funds and volunteering at the event.
It’s not something you can describe in one sitting, but I am going to try. Having cystic fibrosis (CF) was never the answer for my bad days and it was never the answer for the good ones either. But having this illness sure has made me the person I am today. Well, also my parents. Talk about not letting me give up or use CF as a crutch.
My experience with CF has far outnumbered any medal I won in track, swimming or gymnastics. I got the only gift you can’t thank God enough for. I have had the experience of a lifetime, and a second chance at life. I got a double lung transplant, and I can’t imagine how I was living my life with the ones I had. The past five or so years, have been without a doubt some of the more trying times of my life. In and out of hospitals, four of them to be exact, but the last visit to the hospital is what changed my whole perspective on life, and how I choose to live in it.
Not everyone can say they have had a second chance at life, but I can say I have. A double lung transplant on Family Day (in Ontario), Feb. 16, 2009 is my new birthday. This is the day that made me realize how strong I am, how strong my family is, and most importantly, how strong the relationship is between my husband and me. Never had the vows “In sickness and in health” meant so much to us, to me, that when I had to say them on our wedding day, I couldn’t hold back the tears.
The whole transplant experience is something I will never forget, and I try as hard as I can to help others with CF make the right decision for them. It wasn’t a choice I took lightly. I knew the risks, and the chances were slim to none. But when it’s a perfect match, you know God’s guardian angels, my grandfather, were watching over me that day, and every day I thank them, and my donor for the deep breaths I take each morning. If only I could explain it better, I would. But my eyes are misty right now, remembering the road I travelled to get where I am today. So for now, Journal, I must say good night. Because it’s 4 in the morning, and I should be sleeping!
Good night. Ali
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
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Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants. One tissue donor can help up to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves