Why my Mum and a lucky kidney transplant drives me on….

So in this blog I cover my plans for my trip, my love of rugby  and Japan, but I  have never shared what spurs me on to do this trip..and that’s namely my health and my Mum.

Growing up in Norfolk my early years were basically one of running in fields, exploring the countryside, messing around the local streams and riding my BMX bike.

What’s not to like about a childhood like that. I felt the sun on my face, the wind behind my back and everyday felt like an adventure out of my comic books.

However  I alway look at my life as chapters in a book, the opening chapter filled with a innocence of youth and joy, came to an end with 2nd chapter and the abrupt  death of my mother when I turned 15.

“My mum was very special”

Now, all Mum’s are special I hear you say…but my Mum was a one in a million. You’ll see from the image below when she was  in her teens, strolling the beachfront at Great Yarmouth…she loved life.

yarmouth new border copy

However by the age of 50 life had taken its toll. She’d beaten cancer (once), worked as a nursing assistant and on the farm, helped people in their  dying days and to me…she was my world. She had me late compared to my two older sisters, and from what  I gathered she’d always wanted a boy, so by the time I came along she felt her life was complete. Losing her to breast cancer when she was only 50 was tough. I had a father who I really didn’t know, he went to  work, he went out to play sport and really had little engagement with me. My Mum however gave me all of her attention (and more). I could do no wrong in her eyes, even if I didn’t deserve it. Why should I worry about my actions I  thought, we live forever. Unfortunately, in my innocence I didn’t realise that life was a road with many pit stops, junctions and in  my case a full on collision.

With Mum  gone, I had to fend  for myself and quickly grow up. The sun still shined in my life, however clouds would now often appear, leading to confusion and anger. I felt cheated that mum missed those  moments in my life when mum’s should be present, like my exams, my first girlfriend, my first job… sadly it wasn’t to be.

From deep within I kept going, kept my feelings to myself (stiff upper lip) and tried to keep focusing on my goals of  travelling, moving to the city and going to University. That was my goal, which I knew would make mum proud, my unstoppable passion and what kept me on track. The desire in making my mum proud, playing my rugby, being with team mates and my club became an instinct and force to drive me on, something which I still hold onto today.

As any teenager at the time (late 80’s/early 90’s) I  had a weekend job, mine was a butchers job, 9 – 5, cleaning the shop from top to bottom and serving the customers in the afternoon. I loved it. It was  wet, tiring work, but gave  me purpose, skills and most importantly £7 in wages. £7 would fund my trip to  the pub and a burger on the way home.

So, when I said I looked after myself, it wasn’t that healthy. I was fed at the butchers with some delicious sausage baps  cooked in dripping at lunchtime, then a bag of chips for tea on the  way home, followed by a quick wash,  got dress up and out to the pub with my mates. The following day, I’d manage to have some cereal, then rush off to the club to train or play. Today I take my boys to  play and  hundreds  of parents stand on the sideline  or drive  kids around East Anglia for a match, however when I played you’ d never see a parent.  We made our own  way to the club, the  rugby coach  would hire a mini bus , then we would all bungle in for a day away playing rugby and escape.

The rugby was  great, however the  most essential part of the day for me was the hot meal after the  match. This meal was often  the closest thing to a proper home cooked meal I could get over the weekend, so if second helpings were available I was always first in the line.

Finally at 18 years old my escape plan was in ready, University was  beckoning and the next chapter  started. Going to St Mary’s  in Twickenham was a dream. Small  university, but in Twickenham, London. The Guinness flowed, wonderful historic buildings and a new room mate from Essex. Life was good. It felt like my goal was achieved.

As University progressed I learnt more about myself, stood even more on  my  two feet and realised the  world didn’t stop at Suffolk, but it was a lot bigger and lots to explore. I met a wonderful girl from Ireland, her flowing red hair and stunning eyes just grabbed me and we soon settled down,

Sadly. Annoyingly. Frustratedly. I got ill. IgA Disease was a word to come into my vocabulary and kidney failure became part of daily life . Aged 24 and facing a life hooked up to a machine…it was a grim future ahead. Rugby had ceased in my life, no longer able  to cope with playing, my body ached and I was tired constantly. 12 months out from getting married the renal consultants told me I would be on dialysis within 3 months and I needed to join the waiting list for a transplant, which should take 4-5 years to achieve. I was broken. I offered to release my girlfriend from our engagement, planned to return to Norfolk and simply wallow. The world around me crashed. Plans changed. Opportunities lost.

Then I read that my rugby hero, Jonah Lomu was suffering at the same time with renal problems, and was starting dialysis. A brute of a man, he had found courage to fight it, which gave me hope and inspiration. So, I picked myself up, dusted myself off, thanked my girlfriend with sticking with me and got back on my train. The life ahead would be tough, however I was going to face it, not always strong, not always prepared, but I’d do what was needed to get through it and I wasn’t going to be alone. My mum would be supporting me in spirit, while my wife to be and family would be pushing me along.

So with all the challenges I’ve faced with my health and losing my mum, I’ve had to learn to be tough, to take on a challenge, whatever  the odds. Dream big, go for your goals and never give up. Every year since my transplant I’ve tried to plan something, small or big to celebrate my second change of life with my kidney and hopefully inspire other kidney patients not to give in and see life is worth fighting for. From  being a volunteer at the Rugby World Cup in 2015, travelling to New York or even being part of the official parade for the Queens 90th birthday and marching down the Mall, I’ve tried my best to do something unique…and now its time to travel to Japan…by train….mad eh! But it’s a  great goal.

If you wish to help support my goal, maybe your company is keen to support me, then simply email me at nathan_flatman@hotmail.com