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.

I, of course, was not brave that day. Not at all. In fact, the only thing that saved me was the fact that I was surrounded by family: my parents, Terry’s mum, his sister Lila – even his brother, George, who flew in from Athens on a surprise visit, so he could be there on the day. Together, we all set up camp in the hospital reception area (Unlike in the movies, there was no waiting room outside the operating theatre, so I was unable to pace dramatically up and down in front of the double doors, and had to content myself with frequent trips up to the ICU, where we’d been told both Terry and John would be delivered after the operation…) and waited it out. The transplant co-ordinator told us it would be a long wait, and that we should just go home: in fact, she even suggested at one point that we go shopping, our out to lunch, as if this was a pleasant day out, instead of almost 10 hours worth of staring at my own feet and wondering if my life was about to change for better, or for worse. God, I hated that transplant coordinator.

It was the longest 10 hours ever.

I remember the time passing so slowly I wondered if my watch had stopped.

I remember countless trips to the hospital shop, staring unseeingly at the rows of magazines and Get Well Soon cards, and feeling like they were artefacts from another life.

I remember the team of workmen who spent the afternoon erecting a giant Christmas tree in the hospital foyer, and being unable to believe that, for some people, it was Christmas.

I remember the small scuff on the toe of my boot, that I’d pretty much memorised by the time the wait was over. If I close my eyes, I can still see it.

I remember a random woman in the hospital corridor mistaking my dad for Sean Connery. That had absolutely nothing to do with the transplant, by the way, but it was pretty cool for my dad, no?

I remember going to the bathroom at some point, and encountering a woman standing at  the washbasin, crying broken-heartedly. I wondered if, in a few hours time, that woman would be me.

I remember that John got out of surgery first, groggy but elated, and telling everyone who’d listen that they should totally donate a kidney to someone, because it was awesome, and, in fact, he’d donate the other one if he could! Those were some strong meds, huh?

Finally, I remember being told by a sympathetic nurse, who’d come down to reception on her lunch break to find us, that Terry was out of surgery. The walk to ICU. The nervous wait to be allowed to see him; the transplant coordinator babbling on about what a success the operation had been, almost as if she’d done it all herself. And then the walk through the ward to Terry’s bedside, where he opened his eyes, and started humming the Eastenders theme tune: er, that’s another story, for another day.

It was over. It was finally over. And yet, it was only just beginning, too.

  *  *   *

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.


  1. 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

    1. 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!

  2. 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

    1. 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!

  3. 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!

    1. 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!

  4. 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.


    1. 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!).

  5. 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.

    1. “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 🙂

  6. 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.

    1. “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!

  7. 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.

    1. 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 🙂

  8. 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! 🙂

  9. 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.

  10. 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!).

    1. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

    1. 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!

  13. 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.

    1. 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!

  14. 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!).

    1. 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.

  15. 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,

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