Monday, September 30, 2013

A Light In The Darkness

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."  ~James 1:2-3~

As many of you are aware, in April 2000 I underwent a kidney transplant after living for 16 years with chronic renal failure.  I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones.  Unlike many people, I had someone in my life who was willing and able to be a living donor for me: my mom.  I didn't have to go on dialysis or be placed on the national waiting list in order to receive a new kidney.  The surgery was a remarkable success: my new kidney started to work before the surgeon even finished sewing the incision closed.  The nurses who cared for me after the surgery were amazed by the output my body was producing with the help of the new kidney.  And even once I was home from the hospital, the nurses in the transplant clinic who were monitoring me were astonished by how quickly I recovered.  Typically after a kidney transplant, the recipient is required to go for daily blood work and clinic visits every day for the first 30 days, weekends and holidays included.  I was discharged on a Monday.  That weekend, I only had to go ONE day for blood work and clinic (although they did forget to tell me that until the following Monday when I complained about the fact that I had driven all the way to the hospital, only to find out that the weekend nursing staff had no requisitions for me).  The following weekend, I didn't have to go either Saturday or Sunday, and by the week after that they cut my blood work and clinic appointments back to Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  I was told that this is extremely rare.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."  ~Proverbs 3:5-6~

Fast forward to August 29th.  That was the day that my life took an extremely unexpected turn.  I was told that my kidney is failing.  My doctor estimates that it is now only functioning at about 20%.  I suspect that this failure may be part of the reason why I have been sick almost constantly since the beginning of May.  I think my body may simply be worn out by the strain of having to work with an almost non-functioning kidney and can't fight off infections anymore.  The next treatment option is likely going to be dialysis, although my dad wants to be tested to see if he is a compatible donor for a second transplant.  As part of my "new" life, I've been put on a very restrictive renal diet: low protein, low sodium, low phosphorous and low potassium.  You know what that leaves that I can eat? Not much! My meals consist now of fresh meats (they can be frozen, as long as they were bought fresh - pre-frozen fish, meats and seafoods have a lot of phosphorous and potassium additives added to them), white rice/pasta/bread and some fruits and vegetables.  I have to pretty much make everything from scratch.  Have I ever mentioned that I don't particularly like cooking? Here's the weird thing though: I'm actually really enjoying it! Adapting to my new diet is forcing me to be creative, and I've always loved things that force me to be creative.  And if sticking to this diet will help prolong the time I have left with this kidney, then I'll do it.  I would live on rice and water if it would help.  I do miss bacon though...

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and He helps me.  My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him." ~Psalm 28:7~

"The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid?" ~Psalm 27:1~

So I guess you could say that I am in a state of transition right now.  I don’t know what the outcome of all this is going to be, or when anything is going to take place. But either way, I’ve made my peace with the direction that I’ve suddenly found my life heading in, and I say “Bring it on!” Ideally, I would rather do the second transplant, but I’m realistic, and I know that this time around that may not be what God has in store for me.

I think one of the things that makes it easier to deal with this unexpected turn is that this is not really new for me.  I've been down this road before, and some of the scenery is familiar.  And I know that this time, with God's help, I am strong enough to get through this.  I’m so far removed from the scared 22 year-old kid that thought her life was over in 1999 at the idea of needing a transplant that I don’t think I would recognize her anymore if I met her on the street. I was an absolute emotional wreck - convinced that God had played a giant cosmic joke on me, and it wasn’t very funny. But sometimes what seems to be the very worst thing that could ever happen to you turns out to be one of the very best. That’s what happened to me. Everything that I went through before my transplant and throughout the course of the past 13 and a half years has made me so much stronger emotionally and spiritually. And now as I get ready to undertake this new journey, I’m finding that I can do so without fear. There’s a reason why I’m going through this, and although I don’t pretend to understand what it is, I’m willing to embrace whatever is ahead because I can’t help but believe that something wonderful is going to come from it. I know it’s not going to be an easy road, but I’m comforted by the thought that I’m not walking it by myself.  My faith provides a light in the darkness for me to follow, and something to cling to when the going gets tough, and sometimes that's everything.

"I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me."  ~Philippians 4:13~

"Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid of terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you." ~Deuteronomy 31:6~

I don’t know what your beliefs are, or if you call upon a Higher Power, but if you do can I ask that you remember my family and me once in a while? And if you’ve never considered it before, please think about becoming an organ donor and let your families know your wishes. With my first transplant, I was lucky enough to have someone in my life able to be a donor. Not everyone has that luxury. Thousands of Canadians are added to waiting lists for donor organs every year, and far too many of them die waiting a second chance at life. Be someone’s second chance – be an organ donor.

Until next time,


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