When Kathryn Graham from Hertfordshire was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension she began a blog to help herself make sense of the illness. Her newly-discovered passion for writing then led to the publication of her own book, Life is for the Living, which she penned to raise awareness of PH and help others facing similar circumstances. Here, Kathryn talks about how becoming an author has given her a new direction in life.

“I read with interest an article in a previous issue of Emphasis about the therapeutic benefits of writing. It struck a chord with me, as after being diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension in 2010 I started a blog, where I wrote regularly about my PH journey. I wanted to keep a diary because so many things were happening health-wise and it also helped me to write down my thoughts and feelings.

I was referred for a heart and double lung transplant in 2011 and around this time found that other PH patients were reading my blog and that it was beginning to help others.

Through my blog I started campaigning to raise awareness of PH as it frustrated me that people didn’t understand the illness properly. I desperately wanted people to know about it.

My campaign gathered momentum as I faced a long wait for my transplant due to needing three organs – with a chronic shortage of organ donors.

Writing my blog led me to speak in the House of Commons about living with PH and waiting for a transplant, and my local newspapers and radio stations followed my story and gave me many opportunities to speak about these issues. I was also featured on the national ITV news, talking about PH and waiting for a transplant.

My blog had become a hugely positive thing for me living in such difficult circumstances and I found writing a real therapy during this time.

Eventually, I received my heart and double lung transplant in 2013. Once again writing helped me through the difficult recovery period. Receiving my transplant fuelled more media attention and more chances to speak up about PH and organ donation and post-transplant, I wrote a few articles that were accepted for publication by national magazines.

Undertaking this gave me a sense of satisfaction, especially to see them published. I even started a writing course so I could write about other topics, however, I couldn’t stop thinking about writing a book.

Bundle of Kathryn Graham’s ‘Life is for the living’ book.

Although I’d always wanted to write a book I found myself writing one about something I’d never anticipated: a book about the shock of being diagnosed and living with a rare disease that no-one understood; a story of a long wait for a heart and double lung transplant and a story of hope and miracles.

I began writing the book in 2014 and 18 months later I self-published my story ‘Life is for the Living.’ It was a very therapeutic process, and also a steep learning curve to experience the whole sequence of writing, redrafting, editing and self-publishing a book. I hope it helps others facing similar circumstances and that it helps to raise awareness of both PH and organ donation. So far quite a few PH patients have read my book and have given good feedback on how much of it resonates with them and what they face every day.

One PH patient even purchased eight copies to give out to family and friends so they would understand what she lives and copes with every day, and someone else purchased a set of ten books for their book club, which had all the members discussing PH and organ donation.

My writing isn’t done yet – I still continue my blog, as there is so much to do to raise awareness of PH and organ donation. I write a garden blog too and I’m planning more magazine articles to write on PH and organ donation. The book bug has struck again too – I’ve already started my next one, this time something for dog lovers.

From being forced to give up my work as a primary teacher because of my health, which was a big heartbreak at the time, I can honestly say I have a new direction in life. When people ask me what I do, I now say, ‘I’m a writer and author.’ Writing for therapy has opened up a whole new career for me.”