Everyone has an unexpected event that will rise up in his or her lives that can feel like hell fire changing the direction of how life had been. It doesn't have to be all-negative though, and I hope as you read this story that it will in someway inspire you to see the good in every "bad" experience. Someone said the acronym for BAD is "BLESSINGS ARE DISGUISED."
Those aren't my words; they are Vanessa Bland's words, from her blog post "Forty with Kidney Failure." Vanessa has kidney failure, but her story is one of living life and embracing miracles. Vanessa is a vibrant entrepreneur with a passion for life and was in full force three years ago as she fulfilled her dream of opening a place where kids could play. This was her second business she has created, working 10- to 12-hour days while raising her 5- and 7-year-old girls and loving on her husband. Life was full of love and she was the creator of her universe. As she was on top of life, she started to feel ill and with a push from a friend saying she looked "horrible," she went to the doctor. Expecting some antibiotics and to be sent home, she instead was sent directly to the emergency room. There she was poked and prodded and after a weeklong stay she left with a disease they called RPGN (Rapid Progressive Glumerial Nephritis). Basically her body was attacking itself. The ugly disease could attack any organ in her body but in her case it was her kidneys. The suggested treatment of "choice" was heavy steroids and one year of chemotherapy, even though the percentages were low that it would even work.
Vanessa did not love the idea of going under chemo when the results were still not convincing that it would work, so she immersed herself into a life of clean eating, Chinese herbs, lifestyle changes, and much more to try to make her body strong. For the next 12 months she did exactly this but struggled with ups and downs. She was getting stronger and fighting the disease.
Then a miracle happened. At 42 years old, Vanessa found out she was pregnant! This was truly a miracle because she struggled for years with infertility in which all methods failed. Vanessa and her husband decided to adopt their one and only little girl, then they were surprised by a second daughter! And now in the midst of kidney failure she has welcomed another miracle, a baby girl. Her doctors where not in favor of her pregnancy and suggested to not move forward with the pregnancy. Against doctor's recommendations, Vanessa pressed forward and delivered a healthy baby in April 2013. Life was in beautiful order now that she had a baby girl in her arms.
Fast forward, over the past year I have watched her battle this awful disease but never have I seen her spirit dwindle. She laughs at the petty things in life now and appreciates the small things that are around her. One of my favorite passages from her blog post "Forty with Kidney Failure" is the following:
It's funny how many people would tell me how great I looked after just having a baby. "WOW, you sure are lucky to be so thin and get your figure back quickly!" I would bite my tongue sometimes to not answer, "Yes, you too can have my secret diet plan. Its called kidney disease. You get to throw up every day, not want to eat because food taste weird, and sometimes you get diarrhea as a bonus!" Talk of weight really started to annoy me because there are some people who have absolutely no control of how much they weigh due to illness. If someone is too big or too thin... shut up about it. I especially loved people who would tell me to go have a big hamburger and eat eat eat! Since when is it okay to give out unsolicited comments like that?! I look at women with their workout clothes running around complaining how their butt or thighs were too big. I feel like screaming, "LOVE YOUR BIG BEAUTIFUL HEALTHY LEGS AND BUTT! They can run after your children, hold you up for hours, take you up a mountain, or run miles. I would trade these skinny legs and butt any day of the week for yours!!"
Shortly after the birth of her miracle baby and her period of "skinny me," unfortunately, as the doctors predicted Vanessa's disease reared its ugly head two-fold. Her body was spiraling downward. She had no choice but start hemodialysis, which is a process in which her blood is run through a machine to remove toxins. Hemodialysis did not agree with Vanessa's body. It is a daunting treatment and left her feeling sick and tired.
Exploring the other type of dialysis, she was able to get a neck catheter removed and in exchange received one for her abdomen and is now able to do dialysis from home. This has allowed her to be with her family more. Life seemed manageable for the time being.
This year Vanessa received the news that she was ready to start the process for receiving a kidney transplant. This was very exciting news to her and to finally say goodbye to her IV pole, which she is tethered to for six hours a day, is liberating. But the transplant process is complicated. Vanessa is beyond ready for a kidney. But they don't just hand out kidneys to anyone. If she finds a donor that matches her blood type, then she can bring them to the table. If she sits on the waiting list, it could take years to find a donor match. Waiting is not an option, you see -- dialysis is taking a toll on Vanessa's body and she cannot sit around and wait for a donor. She needs help. She needs a donor. She loves life, has a few miracles to look after and a family to love.
Vanessa's journey is unique but she is not alone. They say kidney disease is a "silent killer" and often time when a diagnosis is given, the disease is already in advanced stages. Vanessa's journey has taken her in and out of the hospital, living a life on dialysis to now praying for a kidney transplant. The process is difficult and frustrating for her. In Vanessa's words:
Events that would have once ruined my day are not such a big deal now. Holding grudges or dark feelings just seem petty and senseless and I feel free in spirit. Every day is extra special to me now knowing that life and health are but a temporary gift.
I write this in hopes to inspire people to be living donors. I hope Vanessa's words inspire love and light in the lives of others.
You can read more about Vanessa's journey at My Not So Bland Life blog.
For more information on how to be a living donor or on kidney disease, please visit AZ National Kidney Foundation.