Gareth Evans celebrates the anniversary of his liver transplant today and explains, in his own words, how much it means to him to reach such an important milestone
I didn’t know what “this time of year” would mean to me, simply because this is the first “this time of year” I’m experiencing.
10th July 2020 is the first Anniversary of my life saving, life-changing, life-affirming liver transplant.
For me, this is two-fold. It’s a time to remember and celebrate another important Anniversary.
That of my donor and family. My heart is with them as they face their own first “this time of year”.
They’ll face it with the same courage, spirit and beauty they did when they took the decision to save another’s life after tragically losing one of their own. That life would be mine and here is why I will be eternally grateful...
I was given the opportunity to fight. Offered the chance to see and do more, right the wrongs, keep promises, grab life with both hands.
This time last year, I’d said my goodbyes to a tearful Fiance and Mother. I’d convinced myself I was merely going down for a quick check-up. Denial was on my side.
My last memory was commenting on the anaesthetists tattoos and telling him he had a great smile - asking him, if time was on our side in theatre, could they sort me out with a set of teeth like his while they’re at it! As you do!
Waking up in intensive care to a whole new world in every way. It was July but this didn’t stop me leading a medley of Christmas songs with nurses and patients alike the minute the breathing tube was removed. I blamed the medication. Those close to me called it a normal day with Gareth.
Either way. We’d done it. The magnificent surgeons and several wonderful teams had overcome unforeseen complications, giving me the precious gift of time.
I now had a new fight to contend with. Recovery. Turns out it was to be an uphill struggle.
But that struggle means I’m able to reflect on a year that matters, a year that counts, a year that’s given me the chance to do the important things.
I’ve been given the time to make amends, make a difference and give back.
How do I thank so many people for giving the gift of life? After much searching, I figured this was an unanswerable question.
So, I got on with the tasks in hand. I listened to instructions. I followed physio. I took set-backs in my stride. I fought.
That said, I failed to take each day slowly - Tried to for run before I could walk. Tried to know everything at once. Tried to recover too fast. Tried to ignore the complications. I was a million miles from a model patient.
However, thanks to team work from friends and family and the transplant, I’ve experienced an outstanding year.
I’ve been given the chance to spend valuable time with my friend and shopping companion - my Mother who has stood with me through thick and thin - and deserves to reap the rewards of all her hard work. We have more than made up for lost past times and have built wonderful memories in this past year.
I’ve thanked the army of supporters who have forgiven, forgotten, fretted over me and loved me across a huge rollercoaster ride.
Best of all - I got to marry the love of my life, my now husband, Stephen. Following a will-they, won’t-they build up to the wedding due to my health, with some above and beyond guidance from our unique Superintendent Registrar - we said I do. 2 very lucky grooms.
Close friends pulled together, personalised a beautiful day, and I was walked down the aisle by Mam towards my handsome husband-to-be. My rock, my super-hero and my soul mate. I was able to deliver my personal vows and to thank him, make promises to him and seal our relationship.
Stephen and I take on the challenges we face together and somehow do it much easier armed with our wedding bands!
Days out, breakaways, trips to the theatre - all the things we love have been a no-go. But remain a focus and an aim for the near future. Busy putting plans in place!
It’s hard to believe it’s been a year. I feel lucky. I feel thankful. I feel hopeful. These are emotions that had become alien to me.
I have days where I catch myself carrying the shopping with ease, walking up hills without getting breathless, blitzing the house with a manic spring clean!
I’ve returned to my passions - rejoining theatre and singing groups and picking up where I left off with my writing projects.
I’m able to do what I’d hoped to do - give back! I can fundraise and write for a charity close to my heart, British Liver Trust. I share my experiences and give and receive support with my liver support group.
Today is a day of reflection. How do I sum it up? The answer to that is I can’t. My transplant Anniversary comes with a rollercoaster of emotions with a tough yet rewarding year to look back on.
Challenges aside, I’ve had a year I didn’t think I would have. I have new-found hope and ambition. Flair and passion is back in the room.
To those responsible for my past year, to those who stand close to me still, those who got me here - Happy 1 Year Anniversary to us all!
And to those facing or have faced similar, I’ll coin a phrase I’ve used in previous articles - If I can do it , anyone can!
Love and luck to you all. And if you’re facing transplant - don’t forget to choose your own medley of songs for the recovery room!
I sign off with much love and thanks.
Onwards and upwards !