In May 2018, Alysha Sharma was told she had pulmonary hypertension. The 12 months that followed have been spent coming to terms with the diagnosis, adapting to life with the condition, and learning to look to the future. This is her story.

My symptoms started when I was 21, just after my birthday. I collapsed whilst on a treadmill at the gym. I went to hospital, had tests, and was told I had an irregular heartbeat.

I didn’t think much of it. From there, for about a year, I had more breathlessness and struggled to walk upstairs or walk the dog. Even standing up suddenly I couldn’t do. It was debilitating.

I had lots of different tests at my local hospital for about a year. Half the doctors told me there was nothing wrong and the other half told me there was something wrong, but they didn’t know what.  

I was eventually referred to a rheumatologist, who referred me for a right heart catheter, and I was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension. I’ll always remember the date: 1st May 2018.

I was devastated. I felt lost. I didn’t expect it to be something so serious. I thought I had something that could be fixed, or that could be made better. I suppose I didn’t really accept it.

The first few weeks after being diagnosed were a blur. I just remember crying for weeks and not believing what the doctors were telling me. I hoped they had got it all wrong. I was frustrated, and scared about what my future was going to hold. I wanted to wake up and for it all to be a nightmare.

The first few weeks after being diagnosed were a blur

My family were amazing throughout this time, so supportive and positive. Some of my friends were amazing too, however some friends weren’t so great. I suppose if you haven’t been through something like this yourself then it’s hard to understand. 

Life feels quite different to before I got ill. Being young, I used to just be able to get up and go, but I can’t do that anymore; it takes me about two hours to get ready in the morning.

I wanted to travel around Australia and New Zealand once I’d finished my degree, maybe even settle there. At the moment though, I don’t think I could do anything without my mum. She is amazing, she does everything for me.

Physically, I feel better than I did as the medication is helping. Emotionally though, I have no confidence, I have anxiety, and I don’t believe in myself anymore – which is really hard.

Despite all the changes, I do try to stay positive. I take each day as it comes, as you never know what the future holds – whether you’re well or not. I always know there are people worse off than me and try and live each day to the fullest, as much as I can.

Alysha is currently studying a university degree

I’m at university, studying for a degree in occupational therapy, and love what I do – so that’s a massive coping mechanism for me.  I live by the motto that I have PH, it doesn’t have me.

I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I think. My family and friends tell me all the time and I’ve just started to believe it! I know that whatever happens, I have tried to live life how I want to and be thankful for every day I have with friends and family.

My message to someone who has just been diagnosed with PH is this:  I know it seems all bad and you might feel like you can’t go on anymore. You probably feel lost and confused and nothing makes sense anymore. But you can do this, you can live life to the fullest. Whatever comes your way, never regret anything.

Although there is no cure and probably no explanation, I believe everything happens for a reason – you just don’t know what that reason is yet!