Allison Watson was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as an infant. But, she never let that stop her from hiking, getting outdoors and exercising as a teen.
As she got older, she found that her condition was worsening. Everyday exercise was becoming more and more difficult, which led to her discovery at 20-years-old that her lung health was deteriorating.
“It was a gradual thing. I knew having cystic fibrosis would make exercise harder, but trying to play ultimate Frisbee in university was when I really first noticed a big change in my health,” said Allison. “It was hard to cope with at first, but I had to modify the expectations my brain had with what my body could do.”
Despite the poor health of her lungs, Allison pushed forward. She finished school and became a recreational therapist in a Springhill, N.S. hospital.
At 27, Allison had to undergo a double lung transplant in November of 2014 after spending 13 months on a wait list. Although the transplant was successful, Allison struggled post-op and spent three months in the hospital.
She had ulcers, seizures and developed a post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder. Though chemotherapy was tough, she’s still thankful she was able to get the surgery.
In April of 2019, Allison published “Transplanted,” a memoir that highlighted her experience as double lung transplant recipient.
Her book came out of the blog she started keeping when she was first put off work due to her illness.
“It was a way to process my emotions and a place to put the feelings I had … going back to those words was helpful after,” she said. “It was a hard recovery, but writing the story so others can read about it and talking to my family helped me deal with what I went through.”
“I mostly wrote this book for myself. It was a way for me to review the events, the transplant, and deal with what happened to me,” said Watson. “This book allows people to learn about lung transplants and CF and process the information in their own time. I feel lucky. I was fortunate. I hear stories of people passing away while on the transplant waiting list and that could have been me. I’m fortunate a donor came when they did.”
“I was more fortunate than other young people with CF. I was healthy lung-wise, and my parents had me outdoors hiking,” said Allison. “But I was napping constantly. Looking back, I understand my body was tired and needed rest.
Though Allison, now 32, can’t go back to her hospital job, she found work at her local library.
“I get to work with the public. I am able to be active now, and I can hike and cross-country ski,” she said. “I’m thankful I’ve made it through the experience and am now in a healthier place than I was.”
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