A Letter to 2020

By  31st December 2019
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Dear 2020,

As you approach and I look forward to what the next decade holds for me and those dearest to me, I remember the crazy journey I have been through over the last 10 years that has brought me to you.

At the start of the decade, I walked into hospital for heart surgery that would completely flip my life upside down. As a healthy 10 year old who hopped, skipped and danced her way through life, we never would have expected that I would be lying on my death-bed less that 48 hours after I was jumping on the trampoline, enjoying the Easter sunshine.

Born with congenital heart disease, I had gone in for my second bypass surgery, expecting that I would be out of the hospital within 2 weeks. It would turn out that after falling into end-stage heart failure, I would spend the next 9 months of my life in hospital.

In the Evelina

In hospital, the day after my heart surgery.

I was given my gift of life. An invaluable, unmatchable, irreplaceable gift of a heart…

After the first rocky 4 months passed, trapped on a ventilator, my doctors and family not knowing whether I would live to see the next day, I was given my gift of life. An invaluable, unmatchable, irreplaceable gift of a heart that, by some miracle, meant that I was able to survive. I think of my donor all the time.

After Heart Transplant

The day after my heart transplant.

By December, 2010, I finally turned a corner and was able to spend the last month of my near yearlong hospital stay on the ward. Just before Christmas,  I was able to go home after another 4 months of hell in the PIC unit.

I lost most of my hair and went into kidney failure. I was a shadow of my former self.

Unfortunately, these events would send my body into turmoil over the next 9 years. I lost most of my hair and went into kidney failure. I was a shadow of my former self.  In 2012 I received my second gift of life in the form of a kidney transplant, courtesy of my gorgeous and kind mum, Jo, after a year and a half of dialysis.

After Kidney Transplant

A few days after my kidney transplant

I had also lost my ability to walk completely after being so poorly for so long and was wheelchair bound, told I would never walk again, unable to do the things I loved like swim and dance. In 2013, I had major foot surgery. Another miracle happened and slowly, slowly, I took my first steps until I learned to walk again.

Bald and Wheelchair

Wheelchair bound.

I was diagnosed with a brain tumour and had to be flown home by air ambulance…

I had a couple of blissful years where I was able to go back to school, reintegrate with my friends, catch up with work and begin to gain back bits of my life that had been lost before.

Then, in 2014, another bombshell. On holiday in Turkey, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour and had to be flown home by air ambulance. It turned out that I had in fact two, alongside two more tumours in my spine. Four EBV virus driven sarcomas were now ravaging my body.

Leer Jet

In the air ambulance on the way home from Turkey.

Over 2015 I underwent two brain surgeries, two courses of radiotherapy, countless infusion treatments and cytotoxic T-cell treatments. Once again, I lost all of my hair. Thankfully, I was able to beat the tumours which at one point damaged my sight and we thought would continue to grow until I died.

Radio Therpay 2

During my radiotherapy treatment on my brain.

After almost another year out of school, I re-joined my friends and took my GCSE’s alongside them in 2015 achieving grades that I am hugely proud of. After, I took a huge risk following such a tumultuous few years and moved schools for 6th Form. It is a decision I will always be glad I made as I made some of the best friends I have there.

In 2017, I managed to get into the university of my choice – something I never dreamed I would be able to do – and have been studying Journalism at Newcastle Uni ever since.

Over the past couple of years, I have experienced a few problems, like having to have a stent in 2018 and suffering from some pacemaker issues that I hope to solve this New Year. Unfortunately, the last few months have been a struggle for me. After suffering from severe and debilitating pain in my left rib, it was thought that I might have another tumour and I had a biopsy this month.

After stent

After my stent.

I cannot express how thankful I am that it turned out not to be a tumour and what they think is chronic inflammation, which they’re now treating. I hope, 2020, that you are a little more pain free for me.

I am proud of how much I have been through and much I have overcome…

Anyway, 2020,  the reason I have recapped the last decade of my life to you is because I am proud of how much I have been through and much I have overcome – even when I was told it wasn’t possible – and that I have been able to reach you. This New Year’s Eve will be an emotional one for me as I reflect on my journey over the last half of my life.

Little Cissy would never have thought she would spend the next 10 years experiencing so much pain, trauma and fear. Nor would she have thought she would experience so much love, kindness, laughter, fun, adventure and happiness. I am also sure she would be proud of the person she would grow to be in her 20th year.

Little Cissy

Little Cissy on her first day of school, aged 6.

So, 2020, although these past years have been turbulent, to say the least, I am so grateful for the support and love I have been given by the people around me and know that I wouldn’t have survived if it hadn’t been for the lengths people have gone for me. Whether it be medically, through kindness and friendship or generosity. I am ready for you knowing that I will continue to have this support.

I would like to say thank you to everyone who has been involved in my journey over the past years and have helped me to reach this point – I couldn’t have done it without you. I thank my donor, C, and his family especially, as without whom, my journey would have ended long ago.

Here’s to you, 2020, I know you will be filled with excitement and will bring a fresh start for all who wish for it. I hope that others can remember that they can overcome anything if they set their mind to it.

With that, 2020, hit me with your best shot!

Yours sincerely,

Cecilia-Joy x

Instagram: @cecilia_joy_x


Twitter: @ ciciadamou

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