Everyone has a story with good and bad in it. Mine is no different and has both in spades.
The goods have been great. Some of the bads have been terrible (why do we always
remember the bad more vividly?). We are all good at spotting our own weaknesses, especially during bad times, but there are always strengths there too that everyone has.
I realise I do have one skill, gift, strength, whatever it is. Whether by nature or nurture is
debatable. But it is positive and has been recognised by others (recently by someone who I would have never expected to), and that is resilience. If I were on a Top Trump card, I’m sure I would be rated very badly in a fair few areas, tidiness (ask my wife), tardiness (ask anyone), organisational skills…the list goes on. For all these low scores, I would be up there with the best in my resilience rating.
I was born with Alport Syndrome; this is a genetic disease that causes permanent
hearing loss, eyesight issues and kidney failure.
My kidney failure was slow and progressive. I had my first transplant when I was 21. It put paid to my rugby career as I could no longer do contact sport. A transplanted kidney is placed in the abdomen and thus less protected. I’m now a keen runner and absolutely love it, but that is another story.
My transplanted kidney failed after a few years. At this point I was at my most ill and was
probably closest to death in 2003. I had a spell on dialysis, which was rubbish, but I got
through it and received another kidney (one of my mums) at 28. 17 years later, my 2nd
transplanted kidney is working brilliantly. I’m very grateful for that and remind myself how lucky I am pretty often.
I have always been one to tackle health issues head-on, looking to fix them or find work-
arounds where necessary. I have never and never will see my illness as something to
restrict me. I rattle with medication, most of which stop my body from rejecting the foreign body (my mum’s kidney) which keeps me alive.
Mad, isn’t it? Not really – it’s just something I have to do, and I accept that. Some people see illness, particularly taking pills, as somehow invalidating their character, destroying their image and disempowering them. They think it restricts them and forces them to live in parallel to the rest of the ‘able’ human race. This isn’t true. This is a distorted view of
oneself; not surprising, as it comes from the perception society has of illness or disability.
I want to inspire people with chronic illness to take responsibility for their lives, achieve what they want to achieve, no matter what society expects of them. I understand the challenges and realise we are all individuals, but we can take responsibility for our own health and not let ill-health define us fundamentally.