Bravery is being the only one who knows you’re afraid

This was the message on my desk calendar on December 15th, 2005, the day of Terry’s transplant. I tore it off and kept it (and later scanned it) because it seemed so appropriate: it was, after all, a day of putting on a brave face, of repeating reassuring mantras which I didn’t really believe in (“It’ll be fine! It’s really quite a straightforward operation, you know? This is one of the best transplant units in the world! It’ll be fine!” ) and of being scared witless.

It was the day we got our lives back, and although I know he’d just shrug and say it was nothing, that he just did what anyone would have done, it was a day that wouldn’t have happened without the bravery and complete selflessness of Terry’s brother John, who was his kidney donor.

I expect John probably felt at least a little bit afraid too, as they wheeled him into surgery that morning. If he did, though, he was most definitely the only one who knew it: I know he was the only person in the room who didn’t cry when the time came.

Bravery is being the only one who knows you’re afraid.

After the transplant, I promised myself that things would be different from that point on, and that I would never allow myself to forget those two years of waiting, or the stress of sitting in that hospital reception waiting for news. I told myself I would never again get stressed or upset over silly, inconsequential things, and I would always remember how lucky I was just to be here, to have Terry back to full health, and to have our lives back. I didn’t do too well at that. I still worry obsessively about things that aren’t really very important. I still don’t deal well with stress. I still have a tendency to see the glass as being half full, when it’s so obviously overflowing.

I think that, on this fifth anniversary of T-Day, I’m going to start trying harder with that promise to myself. I may not succeed with it all the time, or even most of the time, knowing me. But I’m definitely going to try.

Hi, I'm Amber. I'm a full-time fashion/shoe blogger from the UK, and this is the story of my life, my clothes, and the International Man of Mystery Next Door. You can read more from me at my other blogs, The Fashion Police and Shoeperwoman, and you can follow me on Bloglovin' here.

39 Comments

  • Reply December 15, 2010

    Roisin

    I think you’re amazing, both of you. You’ve brought a tear to my eye many times over the past few days with these blog posts – they’re so beautifully and movingly written. And look, I know that you do stress about things and you write about the things that stress you out, and it might not feel to you like you’ve got perspective on it, but I think you do. It is stressful worrying about whether your flight will be cancelled, or something important you’ve ordered will arrive so you shouldn’t feel bad about getting stressed by it. You might not feel like you handle it well, but you handle it – just in your own way.

    I hope the rest of your holiday is just wonderful, you certainly both deserve it xx

    • Reply December 23, 2010

      Amber

      Thanks for saying that, Roisin, and I do think you’re right. I remember wheb Terry first got ill, a colleage of mine was telling us all about the nightmare house move she’d just had (the house was supposed to be their dream home, but had a lot of things wrong with it), when she suddenly clamped her hand over her mouth and then started apologising for complaining about a house when Terry was so ill. I just told her not to be silly – sure, these things aren’t as important in the great scheme of things, and I would really like to be the kind of person who’s able to just shrug things off and always look on the bright side, but it’s unrealistic to expect people never to be annoyed or upset by having plans cancelled, or whatever, because “it could be worse”. So while I do think I sometimes need to take the time to put things into perspective, you also have to be realistic about it!

  • Reply December 15, 2010

    Dream in Grey

    Amber these posts have been so emotional i can only imagine how hard they were for you to write.

    Getting upset over the little things is really put into perspective by some of the bigger things isn’t it?

    Have an amazing rest of your holiday x

    • Reply December 23, 2010

      Amber

      They were pretty emotional to write, and right up until the day we left, I wasn’t totally sure whether or not I was going to publish them, but the response has made me really glad I did, even although I don’t think I did the whole thing justice: thanks for commenting!

  • Reply December 15, 2010

    Cristina

    You and Terry are both amazing (and John too !), and I’m glad it all came out OK. I wondered how and if you would have deliberated the choice of putting such a personal story out there on the internet, but in a way I’m glad you did, it is inspirational!

    • Reply December 23, 2010

      Amber

      Thanks – it was something I thought long and hard about, but in the end I just felt that five years seemed like a significant anniversary, and I wanted to mark it with something more than just a quick post. If people have found it inspirational, then I’m very glad I did decide to publish them: thanks so much for commenting!

  • Reply December 15, 2010

    Dinky

    Hi Amber,

    I just wanted to say thank you for writing these posts. My mum is currently going through chemo for stage 4 cancer. She started treatment when I was on my honeymoon and was the first person to leave on my wedding day as she was so exhausted. I can relate to all the feelings you have expressed in these posts and it’s actually been a great source of comfort. Sometimes, during these horrible times, it’s all too easy to think that this is only happening to you and nobody can possibly understand. Thanks for reminding me that’s just not the case.

    xxx

    • Reply December 23, 2010

      Amber

      I’ve been following your updates about your mum on Twitter, and I can only imagine what a difficult time it must be for you, especially being so far away. And I know exactly what you mean about feeling like you’re the only one: often when these kind of things happen, the focus is (rightly) on the person who’s ill, so the people who love them can end up feeling very isolated. I think the thing that helped me most was reading other people’s accounts of living with dialysis, transplants etc: I joined quite a few online communities for those kind of things, and it was good to be able to talk, or even just read, about people that were going through the same thing – I don’t know how I’d have coped if it had happened in the dark days before the internet was invented! That was one of the reasons I wanted to write the story down, too: if our story can help someone even just a little bit, that would be wonderful. Anyway, I’m rambling, but I hope all goes well with your mum’s treatment, and I’m always here if you ever need someone to talk to (or at!).

  • Reply December 15, 2010

    Grit and Glamour

    Another incredible post, Amber. I find it so fascinating that you landed on THAT quote on THAT day. Interesting how things like that happen.

    So glad your story has a happy ending!

    ♥ V
    http://www.gritandglamour.com
    twitter: @gritandglamour

    • Reply December 23, 2010

      Amber

      I know, I was amazed when I turned over the calendar and found that quote, on that day!

  • Reply December 15, 2010

    Amy

    These posts are beautiful, and must have taken a lot of energy and love to write. There is a lot to be said for trying to leave behind the stress and focus on the good things, and then trying again, and again. From another worry-wart, I have my suspicions that you wouldn’t be you without a bit of silly (and meaningful!) stressing out. Remembering the good, the luck, and the happiness – that’s the real talent, and, I think, the meaning of being alive.
    Happy transplant anniversary, Terry and Amber and John.

    • Reply December 23, 2010

      Amber

      “From another worry-wart, I have my suspicions that you wouldn’t be you without a bit of silly (and meaningful!) stressing out”

      I think you’re right! My mum is exactly the same, and, well, it’s part of what makes her her, if that makes sense. I don’t think I’ll ever become a sunny, optimistic person, but maybe just taking the time to stop and count my blessings ever now and then would be a step in the right direction :)

  • Reply December 15, 2010

    Mum and Dad

    Love to you both and eternal thanks to John on this fifth anniversary.

  • Reply December 15, 2010

    Nithya

    Thank you, Amber, for sharing this with us. And I don’t know how you were before Terry’s transplant, but I really don’t think you should sweat about being pessimistic once in awhile. Your rants brighten up my day, very often.
    And I know this makes me sound a little smug, but your posts about the cold and snow in Scotland do make me appreciate the sun in New Delhi a little more.

    • Reply December 23, 2010

      Amber

      “And I know this makes me sound a little smug, but your posts about the cold and snow in Scotland do make me appreciate the sun in New Delhi a little more.”

      Ha, you’ve no idea how happy it makes me to hear someone say that! I get a lot of comments from people complaining about their hot summers, and I always want to tell them to appreciate it while they have it!

  • Reply December 15, 2010

    Mousy

    We all have to and are allowed to worry about the little things, it’s natural and normal – and you do write about the little things very entertainingly. ;) You mustn’t let it make you feel guilty, because we can tell from what you’ve posted these past few days (and what you’ve expressed these past few years in your blog) that you have a huge amount of appreciation for the happy ending to this story. I’m so glad things worked out okay.

    • Reply December 23, 2010

      Amber

      Thanks for saying that: I get quite a few comments about how negative I am, and how I should be more positive (“Some people don’t even got no snow!”), and while I totally understand why those people get that impression of me – I suspect I might even think the same if I read my blog as a complete outsider – it’s reassuring to know that most people do understand that I write the rants, and about the little petty day-to-day dramas mostly because they’re more entertaining to people than just a constant stream of “had a great day, nothing much happened!”, and because, well, those are the things that make up real life for me, and it would be hard to just shut them out completely and never, ever feel stressed or annoyed by something relatively insignificant. The fact is that these things are still annoying, even when you have something much worse to compare them too, so I’m really happy to know that regular readers like yourself know me well enough by now to understand where I’m coming from when I write about them :)

  • Reply December 15, 2010

    Mirmur

    I haven’t commented so far, or maybe once or twice, but I have read your blog for maybe about two years now. I knew that Terry had a transplant, I knew that you got engaged in the States, I know Rubin, your shoes, dresses, lovely hair and make-up obsession. What I didn’t know until now was what a brave and wonderful human being you are, and how blessed Terry is to you, just as it is the same for you, because you, also, are blessed to have him. These last posts have brought tears to my eyes and made me realize what it is like when you find your perfect match. Clearly, you found yours and Terry has found his. Strength never has left love, for love without strength is not love at all. It’s so true for you guys! May you forever love and cherish each other! :)

    • Reply December 23, 2010

      Amber

      Wow, this is such an amazing comment, thank you so much – I’m getting all teary as I read through these, :)

  • Reply December 15, 2010

    Niko

    :-)

  • Reply December 15, 2010

    Niko

    It won’t let me post a simple smile so here it is :-)

    • Reply December 23, 2010

      Amber

      I found your smiley in the spam folder Niko and released it immedietly – thank you :)

  • Reply December 15, 2010

    Panthera

    Thank you so much for telling your story over the last few days, it’s been a strong read, often bringing tears to my eyes.
    I’m so happy it worked out for you, and you can live a full life now.

    • Reply December 23, 2010

      Amber

      Thank you – it still sometimes amazes me that it did work out, we’re so very lucky!

  • Reply December 16, 2010

    Leanne

    As someone who cares for people that need liver transplants imminently or are in the first days of their new liver, your writing has really given me a new perspective – I’d like to think that reading your blog has helped me become a better nurse :) Thankyou for sharing your story with us…it truly is inspirational, Amber (and Terry!).

    • Reply December 23, 2010

      Amber

      That’s really amazing to hear, and as I said to Sharon below, it really means a lot to us to know that people who actually deal with transplants etc have read this and taken something from it. I’m constantly in awe of people who choose nursing as a career – it’s something I couldn’t do myself, and I’ve always thought nurses should be amongst the highest paid people in the world, so thank you for choosing to do it!

  • Reply December 16, 2010

    Nikki G

    I am so touched that you shared such a deeply personal story with all of your readers. I hope that you’re both having a wonderful time.

    • Reply December 23, 2010

      Amber

      Thank you, I’m touched by the amazing responses people have left – it really has meant a lot to us both :)

  • Reply December 16, 2010

    Mitr Friend

    I’ve saved that image in my desktop. Guess I’ll open it whenever I am in a need for a re-assurance!!! :)

    • Reply December 23, 2010

      Amber

      That’s a really great idea, I think I’ll do the same!

  • Reply December 16, 2010

    Ursula

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while and was generally aware of Terry’s illness, the worries and the operation, but it’s very interesting to read in detail about what actually happened. I am struggling to imagine what all the worries must have been like for both of you, without the knowledge I had while reading – that there was a happy ending coming up eventually.
    I’m sure that going through this together has made your relationship even stronger, and while it’s probably impossible to be grateful (and less worried) about everything all the time, this is a very good reminder of what’s important and what isn’t, even to an outsider. Thank you for this!

    • Reply December 23, 2010

      Amber

      It’s actually been strange for me to remember it all in detail too – it’s amazing how quickly things went back to normal afterwards, and how quickly I started to forget how awful it had all been. Thanks for reading and commenting – I wasn’t sure whether or not people would actually find these posts interesting or not so I’m really glad you did!

  • Reply December 16, 2010

    Alex

    These posts have brought a tear to my eyes many times. I can’t even imagine going through this myself. You all seem so brave. I knew the happy ending was coming but I’m still really glad it worked for you, and I hope things continue to be really good for you.

    And like Roisin said worrying about flights getting canceled or important packages arriving is stressful, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with worrying about them either.

    • Reply December 23, 2010

      Amber

      Thanks, Alex: and I think you’re right, too – I know those things will always stress me out and annoy me, no matter how hard I try to be zen about it: I’d have to be a martyr not to get annoyed sometimes! I’ll also try and spend a bit more time thinking about how lucky I am not to have to worry about anything more serious at the moment: if missing mail is my biggest problem this month, I’ll be doing pretty well!

  • Reply December 21, 2010

    Sharron Clemons

    As someone who cares for people that need liver transplants imminently or are in the first days of their new liver, your writing has really given me a new perspective – I’d like to think that reading your blog has helped me become a better nurse :) Thankyou for sharing your story with us…it truly is inspirational, Amber (and Terry!).

    • Reply December 23, 2010

      Amber

      That’s really amazing to hear, I’m so pleased! And at the risk of sounding all soppy, thank you for choosing to do such an amazing job: I remember the nurses in the ICU right after Terry and John’s operation were just so amazing, both with the patients and with us, that I just wanted to hug them all. Terry and John come from a huge family, and it must have been a complete pain for the nursing staff to have to deal with us all, but they were so understanding and nice to us, it really made it so much easier.

  • Reply January 29, 2011

    myra

    I bet you have no idea how proud of you and Terry and John everyone is. I can’t think of your wedding day and the speeches without a lump in my throat. With much love,

  • Reply January 29, 2011

    myra

    You should have the calendar date and quote framed – you really were sent this to support you.

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