It’s good to look back on your life and see how the journey unfolds, how you got to where you are and what steered you there. Looking back on my life, there is strong evidence of resilience and pretty much doing what I want to do, rather than what is expected of me.
When I was 8, my two big sisters were playing in our local youth orchestra. I went along to a concert with my parents. My mum asked me what instrument I wanted to play – harp. They didn’t have one in the orchestra, so I saw a gap to fill, and it sounded like a fun instrument to play, and a big instrument. My mum said no, it had to be an instrument I could see. So, I looked around. My sisters played flute and violin – that was winds and strings covered. I wanted to play the loudest instrument – the trumpet. There was a bit of debate due to me being heavily asthmatic, but eventually it was agreed.
Being a child who was heavily asthmatic wasn’t fun. I’d struggle at sports – even though I loved it. When it snowed, my sisters would go out and play, and I’d go with them even when we all knew I hated it as I’d struggle breathing, get cold and start going blue. Every winter I’d have chest infections, be on antibiotics and steroids, go to hospital and be unable to play the trumpet for weeks on end.
But undeterred, I started playing and found I could do it, and was better than people thought I would be. My trumpet teacher spent a lot of time encouraging me to use my diaphragm to increase my lung capacity, sitting correctly to gain maximum fullness of the lungs and learning how to take effective deep breaths. To this day when asked to take a deep breath I’m always told “not that deep – maybe just a shallow breath will do!”
Venturing into the world of work
As I got older, I ventured further with my trumpet playing. I was in various orchestras and bands and toured around Europe with them. I got accepted to a prestigious music course for my A levels, but I struggled with the management, and they quite often tried to get rid of me and failed. They took away my dream of being a trumpet teacher, and when the time came to decide my future path, my teenage self walked away from music and ventured into the world of work – retail.
I look back now at that child and realise that although I’m disappointed with that decision – I still believe it was the right one for me then.
I ventured into the world of work with one aim – to pay for me to do some travelling. I had already visited my sister in Mali, West Africa, when I was 17 and wanted to see more of the world. I went to Singapore and swam with dolphins. I went to New Zealand and did a bungee jump and got a tattoo. I went to Phoenix, Arizona and flew a Cessna by the Grand Canyon (and visited it too). I continued my gallivanting and working, having fun, and living my late teens and early 20s to the full.
Life changing crash
I then had a car accident that caused a neck injury that looked like a possible shift of bones. An MRI showed that it was just damaged muscle which needed lots of physio and treatments to settle. As this was part of an insurance claim, the insurance wanted just one more MRI scan. The MRI also showed a grey area on the top of my right lung, which they thought could be a cyst. The report advised that cysts come and go and not to worry about it, but suggested a visit to my GP to get it looked at. I was 21 and about to move from my family home in Seaford, Sussex to Leicester. So, my GP suggested waiting until I settled in at Leicester to get it checked out.
I started working for Toys R Us in Leicester and was having a great time making new friends and experiencing independence.
I checked in to a new doctor and mentioned the cyst on my lung, and he suggested we get it checked. He booked the appointment. I attended the appointment, had x-rays and then a scan, and whilst waiting for results (and quite frankly forgetting about it) I carried on with my life.
Then I got a letter from Glenfield Hospital, that turned my world upside down.
It wasn’t from the lung department I had the scan with, but the heart department – inviting me to an appointment and to have an echocardiogram, ECG, and blood tests.
I was 21. I instantly phoned my mum.
Chapter 2 to follow ….