Year of Firsts

Here, I list my ‘year of firsts’ as I battle the chronic illness cystic fibrosis (CF)*. Not the habitual festive top 10 list, but memories to store forever

Winning my book award at People's Book Prize

Winning my book award at People’s Book Prize

Tim and Rowena on the London Eye

Camel 2015
Tis the season to be jolly.

Tis also the season where we are submerged in a sea of people’s top 10 lists for the year.

As I close out another year it felt liberating and heartening to plot each month of 2015 for something I did or was involved with for the first time ever in my life.

Memories are all that we get to keep from our experience of living. In my intense desire of securing memories that last a lifetime and define a life well-lived, every day I search for key moments and activities that feed this insatiable hunger. Here is my list of firsts for 2015:

January – I was filmed on the London Eye sharing my views on ‘bucket lists’ with terminally ill Rowena Kincaid for a BBC TV documentary ‘Before I kick the bucket’ (Look out for the 1 hour documentary early in 2016).
February – I played in an English Hockey Association Veterans Cup for my old team Trojans (including my brother Chris and long-term friends) against tournament favourites East Grinstead, who field two former Olympians. We gave them a good run for their money but eventually lost 3-1.
March – I met in a London hotel with one of living heroes – the active and fit Jerry Cahill, my US-based CF mentor and legend who is nearly 60. He recorded a podcast of my story being a father to Felix despite the challenges of CF.
April – I ate lunch at ‘Rules’ the oldest restaurant in London (it’s been serving traditional British cuisine since 1789 and some of the staff looked like they were as old as the establishment) with my relative Gilbert Hall. It was a wonderful experience, but I did have to send back the potatoes as they were rather hard! Tut tut.
April – This memory deserves a second one. While in Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt, Felix and I had our first ride on a camel called ‘Maradona’. The animal was not in a good mood and had the same beady eyes and fixed stare of the Argentinian footballer of the same name!
May – My CF memoir ‘How have I cheated death?’ won a precious accolade – the Best Achievement award at the UK People’s Book Prize; a black tie event at Stationers’ Hall in London. A double-first was seeing if I could deliver my winning speech to Sky News cameras after consuming a bottle of wine during the dinner!
June – Going to see one of childhood heroes, (Jim Dale from the Carry On films) with my twin brother, Jez, in his amazing one-man singing and dancing show at a London theatre. A very special night all round.
July – My short documentary about surviving CF (which was shot in our house and features Katie and Felix) was aired by Brazilian station Record TV (with Brazilian Portuguese voiceover) on the popular Sunday evening programme ‘Domingo Espetacular’. View it on You Tube – we all look great!
August – During our family holiday in Portugal, on our final day by the beach, I went for one of my customary walks on the wet sand by the surf. One thing led to another and before I knew it, a brisk walk turned into an interval jog which lasted for over 30 minutes. My lung function for most of the summer was reduced and exercise had been particularly hard. This unexpected run on the beach was like a miraculous oasis of calm and boosted my self-esteem more than any healthy person could ever imagine. It would easily fill every slot of my top 10 list of 2015 positive happenings!
September – For the first time in 19 months, I needed some time off for one of intensive intravenous (IV) treatments. I hadn’t gone 19 months without an IV since my early teens. So it was negative that I needed an IV but it’s important to look at the silver linings when your health is low. This mindset really helped to sustain me in the days of suffering during the 3 weeks of IV’s.
October – I had the results back from my annual CF and diabetes health review. I had reversed the severity of my bone density and osteoporosis due to my weights programme in the gym and taking my calcium supplements. A very pleasing turn-around!
November – After more than 30 years of playing field hockey, I finally received some kit and stick sponsorship from Gryphon UK. A wonderful motivation to keep playing a sport that has enabled my health to defy the grim odds set at birth.
December – My book was raffled off as part of a Christmas online offer by Genefo, who match CF patients to others that share their genetic mutation. One person said the following about my book, which makes sharing my story worthwhile:

“Your book and yourself is an inspiration, yet it’s also so much more than that. The resilience and sheer bloody mindedness of folk with CF shines through. You have an excellent writing voice that came across as genial and doggedly determined. Cheers for your gift of empowering us and the realisation that we are not slaves to CF but are able to break the chains of bondage and, with effort, have increased mastery and hope. As you say, until the cure is found.”

What a list! I’m constantly surprised and delighted that I’ve had the luck and privilege of being involved with so many firsts in my mid 40’s. This all happened against the usual backdrop of daily medication and loss of many CF friends and one dear school friend; which makes each memory more treasured.

I hope this has got you thinking. What would be on your list of firsts this year?

Have a wonderful Christmas and happy New Year!

I will keep you posted on my life-affirming moments, trials and tribulations as and when they happen. Please keep reading and sharing my blog and sign-up (on the right hand side tab) if you have not already done so.

Yours cup half full.

Tim Wotton (author of Award-Winning CF Memoir ‘How have I cheated death?’)

* Cystic Fibrosis is one of the UK’s most common life threatening inherited diseases, affecting over 10,000 people. The condition affects the internal organs, especially the lungs and digestive system, by clogging them with thick sticky mucus. This makes it hard to breathe and digest food. Each week, five babies are born with the condition, however, each week, three young lives are also lost to it. There is currently no cure for CF. However, existing gene therapy trials in the UK are bringing people with the illness closer to a form of cure but CF is not that well known and would benefit from more public donations. For more information and to find out more view the CF Trust Website.


About Tim Wotton

I live with my lovely wife (Katie) and spirited ten-year old son (Felix) in Morden, Surrey; working full-time as an internal communications specialist in the Oil & Gas sector. I have played sport, particularly hockey, tennis all my life and now regularly go to the gym. Cystic fibrosis has been a huge factor in my life, but not one that overshadows it. I have always had great support from my loving family - parents Margaret and Douglas (RIP), elder brother Chris and my twin brother Jez. I have many rich life insights based on knowing I have a reduced life expectancy and battling against the odds for over 44 years. My eyes and heart have been opened by my health struggle. I feel empowered to share my life lessons to help anyone with health and life issues to overcome. My passions include Paul Smith clothes, dress shirts (believing that it's enlightening to dress like it's your last day on earth), Alfa Romeo cars, spicey food, Harlequins and England rugby, Southampton FC, Wimbledon village and common, Dorset, seascapes, sunsets and military history. I am available for public speaking on this subject matter and can be contacted via timwottonAThotmailDOTcom. I have written a book 'How have I cheated death?' based on my euphoric countdown year to 40 which was published in 2014 and won the 2015 'Best Achievement' Award at the UK People's Book Prize. It is available via e-book, audiobook and paperback at Amazon and to order from UK bookstores. Go to the relevant sites below or in the UK go to a WH SMITH, Waterstones or Foyles bookstore and give them my name, book title and this ISBN number (9781849637190). It’s also available via GARDNER’S, BERTRAM’S, AUSTINMACAULEY.COM, BLACKWELL’S, PLAY.COM, AMAZON.CO.UK AND AMAZON.COM
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