It’s Good to be Here – A Story for 2018

49111006_2238005036454596_7513924230698762240_n.jpgThere is something very cleansing about reflecting on the past year.  It allows us to learn lessons, be thankful and also to aspire, to be forward-thinkers for the year ahead.  It helps remind us how truly lucky we are to have made it through yet another year, on all sorts of levels.  Having established long ago that I am terrible at keeping on top of writing diary entries for each day, I began keeping a visual log of my year through a ‘1 second a day’ recording, which I’ve made up for yet another year.  I very much enjoy watching this, and looking back upon the past many months, but in doing so, it has swept up both the highs and the lows of ‘everyday life’ from under the dusty rug.
Unsurprisingly, with my rather dramatic and spontaneous nature, it has been far from an uneventful year.  I would be lying if I said it has been a smoother, less chaotic year than the one before.  If anything, this has been arguably the most traumatic year yet, for both myself and everyone else I’ve brought along with it, mostly my family, in this case.  But, all the same, the traumas of events throughout this infamous 2018 has made me truly evaluate the many meanings and beauties of life, and to appreciate that we as human beings are not invincible, as much as we’d like to believe, and we all need to slow down and halt from time to time, when necessary.  I’d call it the year of the breakthrough.


JANUARY – MARCH
Setting the scene requires putting everything before it slotted into context.  In the latter few months of 2017 I was struck down by some nasty effects post-ICU admission.  A leisurely walk with the university’s Wilderness and Expedition Medicine Society in the stunning serenity of the Brecon Beaocns soon turned into a brisk nightmare.  A respiratory arrest in the ‘wilderness’ of the rural mountain park led to unavoidable delays in medical care reaching, or even finding us.  By the time I had reached the nearest hospital and intubated, it was uncertain what the time delays meant for coming round afterwards.  An initial scare of not being able to move my right side upon waking up was thankfully soon cleared and I was eventually allowed home to recover.  But, rather than building up my strength gradually, as I had done many a time before, I was only growing weaker, unable to lift my arms, and my feet dragging along the floor.  We were all so baffled.  An urgent GP referral to the hospital was then followed by 2.5 months stuck, hospitalised, and hit by a complete paralysis, from tip-toe to fingertip, following an unidentifiable virus on the run up to the New Year of 2018.  After weeks of intensive physio, I was thankfully discharged just before Christmas, finally being able to spend it at home with family…
Consequently, I spent much of January of this year slogging through the relentless effort of trying to build my strength and stamina back up.  As an ex-swimmer on the Paralympic Swimming Team, and a VI skier on Parasnowsport GB, the stark muscle wastage and lack of activity was nauseatingly frustrating.  But I was optimistic and confident it would all come back, and it was safe to say that I was, at this point, back enjoying life, and more so, being back at medical school, catching up on 3 months of missed work and gladly digesting the refeed of the lovably fascinating curriculum.
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My quest to venture out soon regrew and I visited my younger sister up in the big smoky city of Leeds, where she too is studying Medicine.  Belated birthdays were celebrated through the crimson, cold-cut nights, drinks were poured (more so coffee for myself – the caffeine was very much needed for the wedge-load of work I still had to chase up on), and the shrill of small social gatherings began again, with my very closest and dearest of friends wholeheartedly respecting the fact I could still only do so much, which I’m forever thankful for.

But, for those of you who know me well will know too fondly that I don’t approve of doing things half-heartedly.  Once the wheels are back rolling, they roll very fast, and very quickly, before those wheels then start rolling downhill, only a rather big crash bringing this pace to a halt.  And I couldn’t find the breaks.  Metaphorically speaking, this is exactly what happened in early February.  A respiratory arrest following another asthma attack, landed me very abruptly back in Intensive Care for another few weeks.  Those steady rambles and town-walks soon dwindled to nothing as once again, my pathetic frame withered back down to a heap of charred matchsticks.  Back to square one.

Understandably, the medical school had refused to let me return to studies, at least til post-Easter.  I don’t blame them.  I was a walking disaster and a very delicate time-bomb, even the slightly community cold slapping me back down like gone-off butter.  Yet, once again, I crawled back up and spent the chunk of the Easter break devoting myself entirely to Medicine and the curriculum.  I could do this.  I began my exciting project, ‘Faces of the NHS’, an initiative of mine which I’ve wanted to pursue for quite a while now, celebrating the wonderful diversity of NHS employees through a series of portraiture photographs.  Having gained quite a bit of interest when undertaking this pilot project, I am now very much looking forward to taking this much further, as I aim to create a much larger-scale montage.  I hope that one day it can be huge, and that we can truly look back, smile and appreciate every single one of those who work for our incredible healthcare system, regardless of what the negativity of media and politics has done to us all in the meantime.

APRIL – JUNE
I would be lying if I said to you I was more relaxed and back into the swing of life by this point though.  I really wasn’t.  There was an insidious whiff of autopilot hanging over me, forever tirelessly spurring me on to do this.

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Eat, wash, study, sleep.  Eat, wash, study, sleep.  It was sheer mystery as to how the days then swept by so fast, but every tear and speck of sleepy dust told me it would be worth it in the end.  I wasn’t giving up.  Yet.  I cherished and embraced wonderful opportunities in the face of the miserably grey April showers.  I participated in walking 37 miles over 2 days, from Land’s End to Truro, with a good friend and colleague of mine, Julian Jackson, who was undertaking the ‘BIg Blind Walk’ in a quest to raise further awareness for eye health research.  I met so many inspiring people who popped in and out to walk with us, some with visual impairments themselves, others in the field as their career, others whom had got involved just out of genuine kindness and curiousity for a better, more accessible pathway.  Followed by BBC Countryfile, Royalty and so many more, it was an absolute privilege to be a part of Julian’s journey, and I am already looking forward to buzzing past some ideas for future fundraising and awareness events like this.
With that, we were blessed with stunningly beautiful bluebird weather, a very different vista to the previous few weeks before, when a very thick white blanket of gloriously crisp snow brought everything to standstill, including my two weeks worth of Tesco deliveries and every attempt to get a Deliveroo driver out to greet my starving self with food.  It also brought back fond memories of my ski-racing season and being back gladly wedged into the side of the snowy mountain.  How I missed this.
I now seemed very much back on track with the flow of the academic term.  Another Occupational Health assessment was required nonetheless, not quite accepting the fact that these ‘blips’ of brittle asthma would forever be an ongoing thing, rather than a one-off fare, something I’d have to accept and manage with each time it ‘stopped by’.  My next ICU admission was thus no different, nor no more a surprise, other than an irritatingly bothersome blip in the circumstances of rather bothersome timing.  With only weeks before my summer exams, including a clinically-based ISCE, which I was dreading, I turned up, yet again, at the Emergency Department, by myself, via taxi.  I was so embarrassed and fed up with having to call out the ambulance for another ‘flare-up’ of my brittle asthma, it was almost like ‘handing myself in’ to triage.  I knew the drill.  They knew the drill.  I couldn’t speak and I couldn’t breathe.  Another rapid deterioration and I was back on ICU, intubated, and bedbound for another few weeks.  Only, this time, various other multidisciplinary teams came by the bedside, and very quickly, following some surprisingly simplistic investigations, I was diagnosed with a form of progressive muscular dystrophy – a mitochondrial myopathy.  Another cry out for a reluctant lifestyle change had just slapped me twice again in the forefront of my face.  Charming.
On this occasion, I admittedly discharged myself straight off of ICU.  Irresponsible huh?  Maybe a little, but with the contributing judgment of an incredibly kind and understanding consultant, I felt confident to trust my own instinct this time.  It is quite rare to have this type of doctor these days.  His empathetic approach, considerable kindness and respect for my own self, priorities and opinions in something I will treasure for a very long time.  This is something I want to be able to do when I become a doctor.  Had I stayed in any longer, I would’ve missed irreplaceable university deadlines and that would be me done.  Off the course.  I was also notoriously adamant not to be referred back to the Geriatric Ward as part of my stepdown.  I had spent far too many a time as a young 20-something year old surrounded by bedbound 90-year olds plagued by late-stage dementia, rattling the bed sidebars, screaming out in the lost moans of those eternal nights.  It was demoralising, willpower-losing and sanity-scraping.  I had been shouted and screamed at by nurses on the elderly wards who had no patience or experience of caring for an immobile young person.  I had been dragged off the floor from beneath the armpits after fainting underneath my senseless feet in the ward bathroom, plummeting my head straight at the locked door, leaving it bulge out in bruises.  I had been inpatiently ushered onto a chair from a Zimmer-frame transfer, only to then collapse, for my visiting parents to point out I was in a state of rapid hypoglycaemia, that had been bluntly missed.  This was my experience as a patient on a general ward.  This, I knew, was unacceptable in the eyes of my medical student self.  This was the height of fear I was ruled by so late on in the course.  I couldn’t afford to lose this.  Not now.  Not then.
So I was out, and I can vividly remember the first thing i did, after returning home and clambering up the stairs on all fours, with so much oblivious weakness I felt I ambiguously weighed a tonne.  I went straight to my desk.  I crossed my legs, and I drew out a number of textbooks that had yet again collected a new-coloured spectrum of dust in my familiar absence.  I put my head down, and I studied.  Hard.


JULY – SEPTEMBER
I couldn’t tell you precisely where those next few weeks, or days, went. But, I had somehow wearily ploughed through the exams and I was now stunned with an infinite moment of nothingness.  I no longer had purpose.  I no longer had routine.  I no longer had to worry about being on time, proving to others that I was in fact well enough to continue.  I could now focus on me.  Myself.  And of course, another well-deserved adventure.  Perhaps the most treasured, precious time post-exams was not going abroad to a newfound, far-flung country, gorging on all things we otherwise sacrificed and fasted during the exam season, but a mere few days spent with my family.  We’re unable to stretch to much, but a few days spent in a friend’s caravan, on the deserted coast of West Wales became our complete zen.  I quickly came to appreciate the silent beauty of the natural landscape so close to home.  We didn’t need anything else. The glaringly hot weather was simply a bonus.  Why?  Because us patients don’t go naturally golden from inside a hospital bed!  I was a speck of chalk-white.  The heat exhausted me quickly, and my limbs hurt, still being able to feel the spikes of my bony spine resting rather harshly on the dry brown sand.  I look back at photos and I was nothing but a corpse.  But at least I was happy, and happiness and banishment of stress, with the perseverance to withstand life’s blips, gets you at least halfway back to better, more fulfilling health.
The real leap of happiness, the sort of happiness that makes your stomach and mind gallop in a somewhat discerning sense of disbelief, came then, upon the morning I received my exam results.  I had passed, and what’s more, I had passed well.  I was offered to undertake the exam again over the summer break, the medical school admitting that they had failed to put the necessary adjustments in place for my hearing and visual impairments.  But there was really no need to.  I was overwhelmed and for the rest of that day I somehow, for whatever reason I don’t quite know, felt entirely separate to the rest of myself.  Rather than going out and celebrating with friends, another drink poured and in hand (I had laid off the coffee considerably by then), I took a solemnly long walk, alone and withdrawn, trying to then come to terms with how this had all structurally come together over the past many months.  Perhaps this was the time that the autopilot had suddenly let go and I had finally realised the extent of what had gone on these past many months.  To me, it seemed illogical, impossible, surely mistaken.  The thing is, there was a sickening knowledge then, that, had I simply fallen weak and followed the advice of the medical school, with immediate effect, back in December, February, May, June, to quit altogether, I would never have known if I could’ve succeeded and passed the year.  This, was down to my supposed foolishness, my stubbornness, my idiotity, my frowned-upon self-decisions to carry on, independent of any other staff member in the medical school.  I can quietly confirm that my email inbox remained eerily empty, the phone-lines silent and the chipping complaints at bay for the rest of the summer.  This was perhaps the true clarification that I had in fact, done it.
The stifling hot exam months bled into a slightly cooler summer month, as the British weather predictably does, bringing cool mottled rain as soon as the schools break up for the holiday.  I was transfixed in a state of anticlimax – frustratingly, but to no surprise whatsoever, my parents were entirely reluctant to let me go away, anywhere, given my record of ill health over the past year.  But the close save in my exam results were perhaps the lock and key to getting my way, to being allowed to take flight again, to the other side of the world.  I have a thirsty and arguably obsessive addiction to traveling, and for soaking up new places, people and cultures.  It’s perhaps part of my however-long quest to see as much of the world as I can before I lose the remainder of what sight I do have, which, even that is unpredictable and uncertain, as is everything with me.  You could say it’s the act of reaching out for that ‘seventh sense’ of the world. Besides, I’ll hardly have the time to enrich this need when I become a fully qualified doctor, no?
My return back to the ‘best city in the world’, Hong Kong, was welcomed by so many emotions on so many levels.  Last time I had come to this amazing city I was supposed to be staying with a friend, coming out to this small corner of the world to comfort her, and to accompany her during the height of her loneliness and a debilitating eating disorder.  Only, when I landed on this wonderous possessor of ground for the very first time, I was messaged, 7 hours later, simply saying I could no longer stay with them, for no given reason, before being blocked from her contacts and having no form of communication whatsoever.  I was stranded in this big, overcrowded city on the other side of the world, entirely on my own.  Just a suitcase, a white cane, and myself.  After sleeping on hard floors and in my own hands in a 24-hour Internet cafe for the first of many days, I was welcomed home to the arms of my most wonderful newfound friends, whom I now very much call my second family.  You really do meet the best people in life.  And so, on this second trip, we laughed and ventured and spent longing days together in fun and friendship.  Another visually impaired friend of mine, I am forever inspired by her perseverance, amazing resilience and bundles of positivity and smiles, despite the hardships and pain she endures daily.  Simply inspiring.

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We had both found our new leases of life again.  I can now say that I’ve jumped into the ocean from the rooftop of a junk-boat, navigated a paddle board towards the dimming sunset, and mastered the concept of riding the twisting, twirling underground transport system, blindly, whilst locals gawped on at the unfamiliar, long white stick I seemed to thrash from side to side.  I hopped aboard a ferry, alone, to an island out in the South China Sea, got lost in an underground cave, and then got asked, subsequently three times in a row, by three entirely different people, whether my cane was in fact a special metal detector, searching for secret treasure along the littered beach.  Another teenage boy came up to me, asking for an autograph.  He was convinced I was part of the casting crew for Star Wars.
All was a laughing matter until the morning I decided to visit an ‘alterntive’ viewing point of Hong Kong’s cityscape, having done Victoria Peak a few too many times already.  I had carefully followed the trusted words of another travel blogger, taking to a distant neighbourhood station, walking 15 minutes straight and then embarking up a rather vertical metal staircase.  (I later discovered this was a typhoon ladder which shouldn’t usually be used otherwise).  I got higher and higher, deeper and deeper into the darkening undergrowth, the smell of green enclosing around me.  The view was surely not too far off as I had spent a fair time clambering up this thing, sweating buckets and standing victim to an estimated few thousand midgies who were now feasting on my hot, red skin.  Unfortunately, the view never came.  It was all wildly overgrown and everywhere I looked there were just leaves and branches.  Branches and leaves.  There was no forest trail and I quickly lost all sense of navigation (as much navigation as a registered blind person can have).  Everywhere I placed my white cane, the earth dropped from beneath, over the edge.  This was undoubtedly the closest I had ever got to calling ‘Search and Rescue’, giving in to my idiotic self, as I sweared to myself comically in my head.  There was absolutely no use in sitting down and crying, so I crouched down onto my hands and knees, shuffling my bottom down the side of the muddy banks, the dry earth dissolving away beneath me, losing foot every third or forth step.  After getting down into the position of a snake, I slithered through a tiny gap that was conveniently separate from two adjoining metal wire fences.  I had been nibbled on so much I hardly cared if a metal wire scratched through me at this point.  I needed to get out.  I needed dim sum.  Only, when I thought I was clear of the forest I had somehow entangled myself upon, I only found myself upon another hill, on the side of a motorway.  Running out of the last option, I slid down, again, on my backside, down a vertical cake of earth, and onto the hard shoulder.  I now had to endure 15 minutes worth of motorists honking their car horns at me as I navigated my way down a treachously narrow hard-shoulder with my white cane before finding a traffic island and mopping my soaking brow to safety.  “What an idiot” they must’ve thought.
Contrary to belief, Hong Kong has been one of the most accessible cities I’ve travelled around solo, and I felt very much at home there.  Leaving a piece of my heart there from my last trip, I can only hope that someday I can return again, perhaps to live, work, enjoy life?  But that all depends on the political and financial climate we find ourselves in back here in the UK over the next coming years.
Hong Kong was left behind, the jewels of sky-scraper lights sizzling smaller in the low, ebony fog that closed in from the aeroplane window.  Within less than 24 hours, I landed in London, and set off again, this time to visit my two very dear friends in Milan, Italy.  I was excited.  I had never been to Italy before, the closest being to the mountains for a skiing training camp with the team.  I had also, at the grand age of 24, never been away on a ‘girls holiday’ either.  I was looking forward to this.  Milan was indeed very grand, flooding in pastel colours and ripe pink sunrises, its spilling architecture overflowing with many a lost era of beauty and story.  A couple of days spent in Milan were to be followed by a week down by the coast.  We spent long, lazy days bobbing the cradling waves of the deep navy-blue Mediterranean Sea, the sweet sea-salt drying our beach hair into crunchy, ginger-speckled wisps.  We dived off of more boats, plunging into the freedom of the deep, this time perhaps a little more clearly than in the lukewarm green waters off of Hong Kong.  And that, is all I can remember…
I can’t recall where I was on the final night, nor what i ate, or what we did.  I can’t even remember leaving our musty beachside apartment that day, or evening?  I’ve been told many an account of what then happened those next three weeks, but even then, with knowing very little, it has left a shudder of confusion, distaste and the desire to be oblivious to what really went on.  What followed were three drawn out weeks in Intensive Care, thirteen days on a ventilator, septic and delirious. I was ravaged by what I can only describe as a horrific dream, nightmarishly fragile, where I became stuck in a lonely dimension that became timeless, and where the judgment and control of giving up entirely was completely separated from mind and body. It was also completely and indefinitely real. The brushstroke away from breathing life was painted. Countlessly.  ICU was stuffy, stale and clinical. Impossible to distinguish between night and day, the low buzzing lights were the only visible fume that whirred toxically as my limp eyelids were pressed open momentarily.  When potent intravenous sedation was still not enough, I was struck out cold with a surgical anaesthetic gas, for 4 days.  The liver and kidney numbers plummeted and my blood pressure was the metaphorical equivalent to the sinking Titanic. My parents were bombarded with the paperwork of consent to sign for an emergency tracheostomy, all the more confusing for them with the Italian-English language barrier.
But that was if we even made it to that stage at all. Or even they. Just a few hours earlier, the force of unconditional love had driven them 950 miles over to Italy where I lay, only to obliviously cross a landmark bridge to Genoa, that crumbled, its black hole of destruction taking the lives of 43 innocent people just three hours later.  Another respiratory arrest soon sent thick fluid onto the lungs, followed by what felt like a lifetime of dysphonia.  I now also had pneumonia and brain fog.  The frustration of not being able to communicate was exhaustive, only ever being able to manage an “I – I – I…”, before a ravenous mind-block swooped out all my efforts. I stared at my parents, and I stared at them, for a very, very long time. Was it love? Or was it fear? I couldn’t put name to face, or face to name. My mum was unrecognisable, my dad was a complete stranger. It was the year 2024 and my age and date of birth were now a long lost memory. I no longer knew my own skin. I still struggle today, with remembering that I’ve taken the milk out of the fridge, my mobile phone number being a random catalogue of numbers from out of the hat, but I can only hope that this will come back in good time.  Infection markers were meanwhile screaming, yet the source was a needle in a jungle. I remember the hospital bedsheets burning my skin.
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Horrific hallucinations had sent me hanging off the edge of buildings for days, in plane crashes, packed up in tiny boxes, sleeping outside, and at my own funeral.  The lights had grown deadly white, heavenly clinical, sharp and frosted. My body felt packed, I turned a beefy kind of swollen, and the ports where my central line was strung pierced in agony. I was ice. But I was a floating sort of ice, dreamy. In the near distance I could hear a chorus of sobs. But I felt so at ease I had almost lost the care, the responsibility, the reminder to lift my own ribcage and exhale.
Perhaps the only thing that I could remember, in a controversially comical sense, out of this traumatic end to summer was the fact that I was utterly and entirely convinced that I had finally found the love of my life.  I was so sure that I had met the man of my dreams ‘the night before’, Ricardo I recall, tall, dark-haired, Italian and oh-so godly handsome.  I trawled through Facebook to try and find him, or had I added him on WhatsApp instead?  No.  It was sadly all part of the hallucinations.  How disappointing.  It’s fair to say that 2018 was not the year that delivered me a man.


OCTOBER – DECEMBER
Returning home to begin the rehabilitation process was another challenge within itself.  The rogue travel insurance company we had annoyingly gone with were now making it near to impossible to get me back to home soil, without charging us £40,000 for an air ambulance transfer.  The kind of money we really didn’t have.  But I got home.  Eventually.  The smell of the outside air and the rumble of the car engine, the sound of cream carpets brushing beneath my dry soles were all newfound.  And beautiful.  It was now a case of taking those baby steps, to the upstairs landing.
I was of course not content with hanging around for too long.  I wanted to get back to university life yet again, the start of the new term bringing a wealth of new and exciting experiences, being based in the clinical environment of the hospital wards, theatres and GP practices.  This is what I had been looking forward to most since starting medical school.  Looking back, I admittedly returned far too early, being back in the routine within just a fortnight of returning home to the UK.  But, in my defence, I had argued that had I not returned to university life, I would’ve only dwindled on the recent events, perhaps losing my sanity more, not being able to fulfill my ever-constant need to be on the move and doing things.  To this day, I don’t regret that decision.
49422636_2178385772413511_6073841818271744000_nMy Head of Year was wholeheartedly supportive of this and upon reflection just before the Christmas break, we had both welcomed the gradual improvement despite the rather crazy decision to return as early as I did.  But, the challenges I faced on placement itself were something else, and perhaps just the start of what I shall continue to face throughout my career as a doctor.  Now, discrimination is nothing new an experience for me.  I quietly face it nearly every day as a medical student with my disabilities.  But what I blatantly hate, and despise, is the ignorance of those who choose to make judgments and assumptions before even getting to know me as a person.  Within the first few days of my first clinical placement, I was sat down by a senior doctor and asked to “imagine you are a patient.  Would you want a blind doctor treating you?  Absolutely not!”  I was then sent home.  When I explained my current interest was to specialise in the field of Palliative Medicine, I was laughed at, rather sarcastically, being told Palliative Medicine was no field for a deafblind doctor.  I was completely restricted.  Whilst the rest of my medical student friends were meeting patients, taking histories and taking blood, I wasn’t even allowed to take a pulse or blood pressure reading, for someone’s fear that I would place the blood pressure cuff in the wrong place.  Really?
Somehow, I seem to want to do the complete opposite when someone tells me I can’t do something or that I am of no worth.  Instead, I pushed myself through the last few months of this year and went along to my first two medical conferences in November – the Annual Palliative Medicine Junior Doctors’ Conference, and a conference in Acute Specialties, Critical Care and Pre-Hospital Medicine, where I submitted a short piece of writing to one and a research poster at another.  I was overwhelmed by the inspiration and knowledge of so many wonderful people I met at these conferences, and it was just so warming to be able to meet others leading the fields that I have genuinely grown to enjoy and become interested in, particularly those working in Palliative Medicine.
My growing interest in the field of Critical Care Medicine, on the other hand, has not been fuelled by my own experiences of ICU, but in fact, by the sheer support, love and kindness I have witnessed and received first-hand from the support group, ICU Steps, that I was introduced to, not too long ago.  This October I met yet more wonderful people, then strangers now friends, whom, like me, had their own story of being in Critical Care.  The psychological scars live on for a very long time, but it has been nothing but a reassurance that we are never alone and there’s always someone ready to sit there and listen to your story, as bizarre as those flashbacks and nightmares may sound to those other than yourself.  I only wish that there was more recognition and awareness of support groups and charities such as these.  I am thus very much optimistic about contributing to the development of a similar ICU support group that is beginning to grow, again, back in my university city of Cardiff.
Cardiff aside and Kent-bound, it was soon home for Christmas, my favourite time of year, without doubt.  I’ve been lucky enough to stay clear of any hospital, (as a patient, that is) for the longest time in a while.  I have also abstained from doing any form of work this holiday, devoting myself entirely to recuperation and spending time with loved ones around me, and it has been simply enticing.  This Christmas I bought my parents a different kind of gift.  Not just a gift for Christmas, but a gift to give back my eternal thanks for forever being there for me, particularly through this rather testing year alone.  I explored the newfound wonders of Airbnb and purchased 2 nights at a little, old cottage by the sea, for the 4 of us to spend time as a family again.  Little did we know that this “little, old cottage” is in fact listed as one of the most haunted places in Britain, starring in the likes of ‘Most Haunted Live’ and the ‘Paranormal Activity’ TV programme, along with other ghost-hunting tours.  I can’t say we felt entirely comfortable, but besides the odd piano key playing in the middle of the night, and our ceiling lights flickering on and off, it was a wonderful end to a frantic year.  We slowed down, we stripped back down to simplicity and love, and spoke long and comforting hours about everything on each other’s minds.
I am very much looking forward to the New Year ahead, and curious to what life’s crazy encounters could possibly bring me next.  I have some exciting projects before me, ‘The Faces of the NHS’ and being involved in a host of podcasts featuring topics of ability within disability.  I am also in the process of setting up a Palliative Medicine Society, PAMS, in Cardiff, as we so desperately need to broaden the teaching of terminal illnesses in medicine, and to break up the taboo of death and dying in illness.  I long to walk the frozen landscapes of north Norway, only encircled by the brazen winter trees and glowing Northern Lights, (that’s if my passport is no longer confiscated by the scares of landing myself in hospitals internationally).  I have so many friends fighting their own battles at the moment and I’m looking ahead to taking their hand and pulling them through both the best and worst bits, and most of all, I am looking forward to embracing new life, as cliché as it seems, for it’s jolly good to be here.
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Do keep an eye out for my upcoming blog posts in the New Year – I still have so much to share and tell.  But for now, take this time to reflect upon your own story of 2018 – we all, without doubt, have had our own battles and buoyancies, revelations and successes.  Love, loss and life are forever embedded in the circle of human nature, so cherish every part of the cookie.  Look at life like a biscuit – the good, the bad and the nutty, and put the crumbs aside in time for the hands of the clock bringing in a brand new 2019.  Happy New Year everyone!  May 2019 be a happy and healthy year for you all,
Alexandra x

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