For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of being great. I knew I could not settle for a domestic life, working a nine to five in the suburbs. Now I would give anything for that, but let us not dwell on what cannot be. I hadn’t quite decided what I was going to be great at, because I have a tendency to occasionally be hugely indecisive. I thought I might be a singer, or an actress, or a writer, or a photographer. I needed to be creative and, being incredibly insecure as a teen, have people validate my efforts by telling me how amazing I was.
Then I found out I had cancer, but that was okay, because I would get better and be fine. Then when I relapsed, and I was told I had an 80% chance of dying, I realised it might not be so simple. My second transplant was tougher than the first, but I was still okay. The side effects were difficult; the GvHD was making its way through my different systems, causing my skin to be paper thin, covered in a rash and blisters, my eyes were incredibly sensitive to light and hurt literally all the time for a month when I lived in the dark, then my eyes started turning yellow and liver failure set in. I had the liver transplant and the accidental third stem cell transplant, spent six months rehabbing and went home, but I was still going to be okay. I’d chosen photography by now, because what I’d documented so far was pretty niche. I didn’t need to be able to breathe or walk very far to publish photographs of a journey so many of us take but yet so few that don’t experience it directly know much about.
In the past year or so, I have let go of all my previous ambitions. I met Jimmy Carr when he came to the TCT unit at the QE, and we ended up having a relatively lengthy conversation. He told me that I should talk to people. As in, for a living. Or maybe not for a living, but that was what I should do with my life. I have an extraordinary story, and different elements will resonate with different people. I don’t claim to know how anybody else has felt when going through cancer or a transplant or an eating disorder, but I hope that my story raises awareness of these issues and how they can be compounded. I don’t want people to be sad about my departure; be happy for the life that I have lived. I have learned so much in the past six years that I could not have known any other way, and this situation brought me to some magnificent people, some of whom I will join, wherever it is that dead souls go. Today I have had such support on social media – retweeting is a powerful tool. So many people I don’t know in person or at all are sharing my posts and are signing up to be organ and bone marrow donors. Surely this story is press-worthy. My life can’t be saved, but I can save the lives of other people, however indirectly. I want the statistic of one in three people dying on the transplant list to disappear. I can help do that. I can share my experiences and make it easier for anyone else that goes through something like this. I can live big.