'I am no longer afraid': Letters that changed your identity

Angie's letter

The donor family, the discovery of diabetes, the salsa classes and the dad... just some of the people, places and conditions you wrote to as part of the BBC's Identity season.

Dear Donor Family from Pauline Baird

Dear Donor family,

In 1990, when I was just 23, I developed renal failure and started peritoneal dialysis. I was a nurse in a busy Glasgow hospital, which I loved. Then I started dialysis.

I would dialyse four times a day.

I was so tired and was sick a few times a day, not eating and my weight dropped to six stones. My blood count was six instead of 12. I was unable to go out with friends as I couldn't stand for more than 20 minutes without needing to sit down.

I continued to work and then just go home and rest.

My social life was non-existent and at one point I couldn't see this getting any better.

However, three years later, I was just about to start my shift at work when the sister came running up to me and told me not to get changed. There had been a phone call, I had a transplant match. My lovely colleague Michelle took me to the hospital.

I had surgery about four hours later and was walking about within 48 hours. I

Six days later I was home, feeling hungry and full of energy.

This has changed my life enormously, I am so grateful for the decision made by you.

You were able to make a decision to donate your child's organs while going through such a traumatic time yourself. I will always remember you and have often been in awe of your decision.

I am 49, married, a mum to a lively 9-year-old and I'm still a nurse. None of this would have been possible without your amazing gift of life.

My transplant birthday is 31 August which we celebrate every year - 23 this year!


Dear Type 1 Diabetes from Angie Alexander

Dear Type 1 Diabetes,

You arrived completely out of nowhere. A horrible monster that has taken up residence with my son. You're aggressive and harmful and you won't go away. You follow my son everywhere. You're there when he eats, you're there when he plays, when he goes to school, and even while he sleeps.

I can't control you monster, I can only adapt everything in my life to cater for you and "manage" your existence.

Why couldn't you have chosen me instead of my sweet innocent child?

I wish I could take you from my son but I can't. Instead, I watch your every move. I anticipate your next attack, and prepare to manage your fury.

We feed you insulin several times a day. Sometimes that's enough but sometimes there's no telling what you will do next. There are no rules. You keep quiet for a while and just as I think I have got some kind of control you will strike!

We got a machine that makes the balance between life and monster less painful but it's still there, forever waiting.

I pray that you will leave and never come back. The new machine allows me days where I can almost forget that you're here, and then other days where I catch myself looking at my beautiful boy carrying this heavy monster on his back and it makes me weep. I almost mourn the past. The freedom and innocence that have gone will never return.

I check my son regularly to see what damage has been caused by the monster who chose to live with us. Daily we prepare for battle. Daily we pray for an antidote that will kill the monster and free my son of its burden.

For now, my son is strong and wise but I fear the day he leaves our home to live on his own with the monster.

A parent wants to protect their child, but I have to watch as my son battles 24-hours-a-day. This is his life. I can only stand on the sidelines and offer my support and my love. I wish I could offer a cure and rid my baby of this horrible monster.

I wish it had chosen me.


Dear Schizophrenia, from Shu Peng

Image copyright Shu Peng

Dear Father from Riad Mannan

Image copyright Riad Mannan
Image caption Riad and his father who moved from Bangladesh to London in the 1960's

Dear Father,

This letter is a small way to say "thank you" for changing my identity forever.

When you travelled as a young man from Bangladesh to the UK in the 1960s, leaving your family behind to make a better life for yourself, little did you know the effect it would have on me.

When you arrived with a single suitcase, a five pound note and a London address scribbled on a piece of paper, you were taking a big risk.

You got a teaching job and integrated as much as possible, notwithstanding the racism of 60s London.

You went back to Bangladesh, only to marry my mother, and returned to the UK where my brother and I were born. You wanted us to be British and give us opportunities you never had.

You made sure we went to British Universities and have a solid British identity.

Although I have a Bengali heritage, which I am very proud of, it is hard for me to claim that I am (with any true meaning) a Bengali.

Whilst you took me to Bangladesh several times growing up, it was only for the summer holidays; we never lived there and (in the nicest way) I was treated like a foreigner by my family there.

I cannot claim that being Bengali is a major part of my identity, maybe around 10%. The other 90%, I feel British.

Give me the "cricket test" any day, I'd always choose England.

Even though our identities may clash sometimes, your move changed who I am today. So thank you.

Your forever grateful younger son.


Dear Accident from Sheena Morjaria

Image copyright Rozina Sini - News

Dear Accident,

It was a sunny morning in Cambridge when you changed me. Crushed but still whole, injured but not dead, damaged but not broken.

You challenged me to push my body and mind to their absolute limits as I learnt to walk again three times, when I had to escape the depths of post traumatic stress and when I had to learn to live in the world again.

But out of all the pain and adversity, you taught me strength and perseverance. I took the negative and made it positive.

I saw how much love was around me that I should never take for granted. You propelled me to push my limits, take risks and never say no.

I explored the world, made friends for life and spread my wings like never before.

Accident, as much as you hurt me and those closest to me, I have to say thank you. You have made me the strong, independent person I am today.

So yes, you changed me, but I am a better person for it.

Yours sincerely


Dear Salsa from Marta Pomare Montin

Image copyright Marta Pomare Montin

Dear Salsa,

You changed me.

I arrived in London almost six years ago, a young shy Italian woman, with some confidence in her brains and not much confidence in her social or physical skills.

Before I met you I didn't really like it here. I found it difficult to meet people and make friends, the city seemed cold and indifferent.

I felt, once more, like the odd one out, and wasn't too positive about my future.

But then you came along, and amazingly enough you brought with you many smart, funny, sociable and caring people!

While dancing I found out it was so easy to start a conversation, make a joke, share a smile.

Through your happy, strong beat you showed me how to let go of all my daily worries and stress and just follow the music, follow my lead, follow my body, for hours and hours, five days a week.

You opened up doors to me that I didn't even know existed.

Now we don't see each other anymore, but that doesn't mean I forgot about you and what you did for me. You will always be my first English (Cuban) love.


Dear Epilepsy from Jennifer Armit

Image copyright Jennifer Armit

Dear Epilepsy,

When you first arrived I was twelve years old. From a social butterfly to a bedbound haze in a flash.

The rules changed and strange new ones became habit: Never bathe alone, walk on the inside of the street, carry limited cash, don't lock the bathroom door and don't go anywhere by yourself.

I was told that I wouldn't be able to work or drive. No dignity, no answers, no certainties. A boyfriend? A family? We will see. Children? Maybe.

You may overwhelm me frequently but you will not overwhelm my life. I follow the rules you impose in order to be safe. You turned my world upside down but part of me remained.

I'm not a teacher as I wished but I have a job and a husband. Soon I hope to have a family. I must be realistic - some dreams aren't meant to be but we'll see.

My dreams and aspirations are those which "normal" people just have. They aren't wild or imaginative but you've made sure I appreciate the normality I was told I'd never have. You've shaped and enhanced me.

Now I'm a fighter - wiser, sympathetic and stronger. I don't despise you as I once did, the hatred has been channelled into a will to defeat you. I now spend my days defeating you rather than being defeated by you.

I'll see you again soon. Or maybe not.

Yours unwillingly,


As people become increasingly connected and more mobile, the BBC is exploring how identities are changing.

Learn more about the BBC's Identity season or join the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #BBCIdentity.

More on this story