Friday, August 6, 2010
Much like a child carries around and protects their favorite stuffed animal, I have done the same with your letter. Ever since receiving it on August 3rd, it has not left my sight or my hands. If I leave the house, it comes with me. If I go to bed, it sleeps on my dresser. And anyone who knows me, has read it and been brought to tears by the things you so kindly shared with me.
A year ago today I can recall exactly what I did: I baked 2 loaves of bread, one being cheese and onion. I had caught up on phone calls and emails and was mentally making sure everything at home would be okay. I knew I was dying. I couldn’t brush my teeth and breathe at the same time without having to lean over the counter and rest to take a breath. Using 5L of oxygen didn’t matter – I simply couldn’t do it anymore. I was simply exhausted in every which way imaginable, and the sheer physical pain of feeling your lungs shrivelling up and dying within you was unfathomable.
I was just 23 years old, and this was my life.
At 12:45am on August 7th, the phone rang, saying that a pair of lungs had become available for me. We rushed to Toronto only to end up waiting 18 hours until surgery began. In that time we sat and waited in a freezing cold ICU room while everyone around me ate Tim Horton’s and I could only feast on ice chips. The hours dragged on, but I knew everything would work out. And it did, and continues to do so, because of your husband and father and your selfless act of honoring his wishes to donate his organs.
One year later things are very different. I am healthy, I am pink, and I am breathing the way a normal 24 year old girl should. This morning I woke up bright and early and took one of our dogs for an hour and a half walk with my sister. Then I made a cup of tea and lounged on the couch with the other dog and watched Shark Week. My how things have changed.
But the thought that somewhere out there your family continues to grieve is enough to bring me to tears. You will never know what your donation has done for my family and I. I cannot put into words how it feels to take a deep breath in and feel it resonating at the bottom of my lungs. Seeing my chest rise and fall the way it should, instead of having it never move and breathing with my stomach as I used to never seize to amaze me. It is a sensation that will never grow old.
In two weeks, I will turn 25.
Your letter gave me so much information that I will cherish always. I am excited to compete in the World Transplant Games in Sweden 2011, and ironically enough (even before I received your letter) my sport/event of choice was cycling. I’ve always loved it, and just recently got back into it. If cycling doesn’t work out I will most likely compete in one of the walking events. I love to walk, and I can do so for hours on end without any destination in mind, just so long as I can be moving and enjoying nature around me.
The day I received your letter I was up North with my dad, and he was showing me the town he had grown up in. We were at the dam he used to swim in when I suddenly burst out, “we could have gone fishing!” which is bizarre, seeing as I’ve never expressed any interest in ever doing so, and will be the first to admit that the thought of catching let alone touching a fish is enough to make me scream and gag all over the place. But in that moment, I was overtaken with the urge to go fishing, and then I got your letter in the mail that night and read that fishing was one of your beloved’s passion. Needless to say, now I must go fishing!
This fall will see me finishing up my anthropology degree. Ideally, I would love to work in a hospital dealing with patients waiting for transplant. I just need to be doing something that gives back and helps others, in any way shape or form. It has become a passion of mine and I do not mind being a voice and face for transplant.
In my spare time I love to write, and I have a blog that chronicles my transplant journey from the moment I found out I needed one up until now. I will continue to write it for as long as blogs are around! I also love to read – I think I love to read almost as much as I love to breathe – and, I never leave the house without a book in my purse. Genre of choice has to be historical fiction, and my favorite series of all time is Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. The best thing in the world to do on a rainy weekend is to wear your favorite pair of sweatpants, and a sweater, with an endless supply of tea, curled up with an amazing book that you can get lost in. I love losing all sense of time and being enamoured by an author’s ability to make all time and space fail to exist around me. Next to this, is reading out on the deck on a warm summer’s night, with the stars above to guide your eyes. That is my favorite passtime.
As for projects, my dad and I are embarking on a genealogy journey, tracing all sides of the family. Needless to say, it’s a frustrating and rewarding process, and a fascinating one at that. I love learning about where I came from, and how we got here, and when we did. I feel that it is imperative to know your roots.
Summer is my favorite season, with fall coming in second place. I love sleeping with my window open on a cool summer night, with the blind all the way, so that when the sun rises in the morning to wake up the world, I can be witness to it time and time again. As for fall, I love the colors, and the smell of the leaves, and the food. Being a baker and a cook, it’s so exciting to make homemade soups to warm everyone up on a fall day. And I admit – almost ashamed to – that I revealed to my mother the other day that I was excited for Thanksgiving, even though it’s 2 months away, ha ha. I can’t explain why exactly I am excited for Thanksgiving so soon, but I just love getting together with family and seeing how everyone is doing and where they are at in their lives. I make a point to never lose touch with anyone, and to always let them know that I am thinking of them.
Last winter I seriously thought of cross-country skiing, but being on the small side, I had horrible visions of myself falling down and breaking my legs and ending up shorter than I am. But now that I know that your beloved father and husband had a passion for cross-country skiing, I will summon up the courage and give it a go. Due to the fact that they had to break my sternum for the transplant, contact sports are forever out of the question, so cross-country skiing will be a nice alternative I think.
As for other things I am passionate about: I love tea (especially black teas), baking, cooking, macaroni and cheese, cheese by itself, chocolate, apples, pancakes, bacon, frequenting farmers markets, running yellow lights, mauling my poor cat, marvelling at the blessings life has given me, being entirely too philosophical at times, making friends, laughing, being outdoors playing piano, and sweatpants. I love hot temperatures (this 35C/94F plus weather has been heaven!) thunderstorms, and prefer to have windows open instead of having air conditioning on. I love history in all its forms. I love home renovation shows and would love to live in an old stone house. I am excited to travel, and would love to visit the eastern provinces here in Canada. I feel especially drawn to Newfoundland. I have been to Nova Scotia and loved it to bits, but I feel like Newfoundland is calling me for some reason. I think the scenery and the incredible view of the ocean will be spectacular, and my friends and I have spoken of taking a train out there at some point. I hope it comes to fruition.
I am not an alcohol drinker by nature, but tomorrow I will try my first ever drink of scotch in honor of my amazing donor. I’ve been warned it packs a punch, so if I don’t end up flat on the floor from its impact, you will continue to receive letters from me and know that I fared ok in its aftermath.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
It has been one year since my transplant took place. At 7:20pm I was wheeled into the OR and my new life officially began. Today I celebrated with my family, and did my first ever shot of scotch with my parents in honor of my donor, your husband and father. I knew it would burn but no one ever thought to warn me that it tasted like leather. My dad then made a toast to your family and thanked you for the gift that you so selflessly gave to me one year ago. We acknowledged the pain and grief you must still be feeling, and I said a silent prayer that you find release from it.
I guess I have blabbed on for long enough and should end this letter. Again, I would love to hear back from you. I hope this letter can again offer you some comfort, and I hope that the sadness in your heart is giving way to hope. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of your wonderful family, and I give thanks and say a prayer for you every day that goes by.
With love and hugs and resonating breath,
Your (grateful) ‘third child’,
P.S. Enclosed in this letter is my favorite recipe to bake: Scottish Scones. A buttery scone full of cinnamon-y goodness, I hope you love this recipe as much as my family and I do! Perfect for a cold fall day and Christmas season – and yes, I realize it is far too early to be thinking of those things just yet!!
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