Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Push Through, No Matter What!

I wrote a one-liner on one of my social media timelines yesterday, and it occurs to me that I should probably explain myself.  First of all, this is the type of post that I don’t enjoy writing.  I am usually a very private person and don’t like putting myself out there, as it were. I know that some of my friends in social media land, however, are dealing with their own struggles, many of which far surpass anything that I am currently dealing with.  I just wanted to tell you my story, though, so that those of you who are struggling can know that there is hope and that you’re not alone.

My post simply said “Push through, no matter what!” and was meant to convey my need to make myself do something that I was too tired to do, but reflects what I feel about many daily activities these days.

Last week, I was given some potentially bad news as a result of some annual lab tests.  The doctor wants to do more tests, but the numbers so far indicate that I am in Stage 3 Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).  Stage 5 is renal failure.  I have many of the typical Stage 3 symptoms such as pain, fatigue,  loss of appetite, and some nausea.  I’ve had those for a while – they were masked by other things as well as my own ignorance, it’s just that now I have an explanation.  So basically, I suddenly went from planning for retirement to planning for how much longer I can prolong what kidney function I do have and planning for the possible eventuality of needing dialysis and/or a kidney transplant.

Put the tear-ducts on simmer!  This isn’t immediately life threatening yet.  The Stage 5 kids on dialysis are the superheroes.  My friend who is a cancer patient is my superhero.  They are fighting a much more serious and immediate battle than I am.  In fact, there are many others much worse off than I am, and I hope I can muster the bravery that they show every day when I get to the stage where this is life-threatening.  

I’m not worried about this.  These latest events have, however, caused me to pray more and get into God’s word more.  He has put my mind at ease, which tells me that it is my job and obligation to fight this disease, and I know that I won’t be fighting it alone.  I find a great deal of comfort in that.  This disease is not curable, and kidney damage cannot be reversed.  It can be slowed down, but eventually, it will get worse and my kidneys will stop doing their job altogether.  

In light of all that, I believe in a God who has a plan for me, so it is my job to do His will and carry on.  It is also my job to be a good patient and make the jobs of my health-care providers as easy as possible so that they can help me.  I see my role here as being an example for those around me of what God’s mercy can do, and be the type of patient whom my health-care providers do not dread seeing.  Being a faithful warrior and a good sailor, in other words.

So back to the point about pushing through no matter what:  At Stage 3 CKD, fatigue, pain, and sometimes nausea are a significant part of my day.  This is on top of the chronic pain that has been a big part of my life for years and years.  What does this all mean for me to “push through” while I am fighting this disease, on top of the chronic pain issues that are already a part of my life?  This has just drastically increased my need to force myself to do things is all.

  • When I feel like calling in sick, I remember that I am responsible for my team, so I go to work anyway.
  • When I’m too tired to go to the gym, I remember that building my strength to fight this is important, so I go anyway, stay on the bike for 5 or 10 more minutes than usual, and add 5 or 10 more pounds to the weight machine than usual, maybe do one more set.
  • When I don’t feel like teaching a class, I remember my obligation to other people and then go teach it anyway.

  • When I am too tired to go to Bible Study, I remember that I am as much a part of their life group as they are of mine, and I go anyway.

  • Too tired to play with the dogs?  I remember that they rely on their hoomans, and don’t ask for anything from us other than love and attention.  So I play with them and take them for a walk anyway.  I also have to remember that they give me way more comfort than I can imagine right now.

  • At Stage 3, I am still allowed to donate blood.  It takes longer to recover (now I know why) and the fatigue is significant, but giving blood saves lives and actually cleans some things out of my system. So I will continue to do so every 56 days until told otherwise by the doctors.

  • It means giving up certain foods that I really enjoy and changing my diet so that I can prolong my kidney function as long as possible.

  • It means that when I am a real grouch because of the pain and fatigue and the people in my life ask me how I’m doing or ask me for something that they need, I smile and say “doing well, thanks,” ask them what I can do to help them, then do it cheerfully.

At the end of the day, I feel fortunate to be able to do those things, and am better off for it when I do.  I guess I am preparing for the day that I may have to present myself as the most strong, healthy, and viable candidate possible for a transplant or at least one of the more desirable methods of dialysis possible.  Being someone who will be grateful for and a good steward of the things that will prolong my life is important to me.  

I’m not telling you all this because I need to start my own pity party.  On the contrary.  I wanted to tell you of the joy that there is in trusting the Lord and having hope.  I am telling you this because I want you to know that getting news like this does not have to put one in a state of depression or worry.  For one thing, at least in my case, it explains a bunch of unknown symptoms I was having for a while, and now I know what is causing them.  Knowing the enemy allows you to fight a more educated and surgically executed battle. 

I believe in an almighty God who allows these storms in our lives but then comes alongside us to guide us through them and show us just how powerful His love and mercy really are.  I joined a great support group, and am getting a treasure trove of very useful information on how to adjust my life so that I can deal with this.  I have my church Life Group to lean on for help.  One of our members is a cancer patient, so I see my problems as paling in comparison to his, but now I have more empathy so that we can lean on each other and fight these battles together.  I have family members who care.  I see all of these things, including the disease itself, as additions and blessings to enrich my life experiences.

This whole thing seems to be taking away the cavalier attitude I had about a lot of things and causes me to cherish my daily activities a lot more.  It means that I can’t look at other people the same way anymore and that I have to stop being such a jerk to those around me.  I need to show more patience and kindness to others.  Many people are way worse off than I am, so I need to be more mindful of that.  

God has this way of knocking us upside the head by giving us things like this and bringing us back to what is important.  He has certainly done that to me, and I am so thankful that He has and I praise His name for waking me up.  And if/when the disease finally wins, it will have won over my earthly body, but God will have my soul.  I believe there is a Heaven, and I believe that it is more wonderful than my human mind can imagine.

In writing this, I just wanted you all to have hope that no matter what you’re going through, you don’t have to go through it alone.

As for you, kidney disease, I have only one thing to say to you:  Contact Front!