Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pinch Me

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of my first kidney dialysis treatment. Looking back, it seems like a dream. I’ve come a long way in 365 days and I still find myself wondering if it’s real. Has the disease I’ve known for most of my life really gone away? Is it really possible that I feel this good and have this much energy? I half-expect to wake up and find myself sitting in the brown leathery reclining chair at South Mountain Dialysis, hearing the beep of the machine with a nurse standing over me asking if I’m OK.

Truth be told, I am more than OK. In fact, I feel brand new!

The fistula in my left arm is still working like a champ. If I wear short sleeves, people sometimes notice the small bulges near my inner elbow and ask, “Are you getting that removed?” But there is nothing to remove. The vein running through my bicep was attached to my artery so now it pulses with the same amount of blood as an artery. There is nothing artificial in there to 'take out.' So it is what it is.

A couple of weeks ago I started feeling movement in the lower left side of my stomach, where the new kidney sits. Every so often, it felt like liquid, or air, or something was being pushed through the kidney. It didn’t hurt, and I wasn’t convinced I needed medical attention, so I didn’t worry... Until the next day when the movement continued.

I called the Transplant center and spoke with Stephanie. She said it might be some fluid build-up and told me to call Dr. Cline because he will probably want an ultrasound done. I called him and we set an appointment at Alta View Hospital for Saturday afternoon. To be clear, I had no symptoms of kidney failure. I didn’t feel sick, have a fever, or have the chills. I was still making urine just fine and I wasn’t in pain, but the strange feeling of motion just didn’t feel normal.

At this point, I think it's safe to say I’ve had more ultrasounds than a pregnant woman.

During the process, I asked the technician if he saw anything noticeably worrisome. I explained that I know he’s supposed to tell me to check with my doctor, but I knew they were looking for abnormal fluid or obstructions. He said everything looked OK to him, but he was going to have a doc take a look at the images as soon as they were captured. Just then, the movement happened.

“Hey! It’s happening right now.”

“Yeah, I felt something there. It kind of felt like gas.” We chuckled.

“Did anything show up on the screen?”

“Let me check… No, nothing there.”

Before we left, a doctor looked over the images from the ultrasound and gave us the OK to go home. He said nothing looked abnormal or worrisome, but advised me to check with Dr. Cline on Monday. When I spoke with Dr. Cline, we determined it was either gas or build up in the intestines. You see, the kidney is placed down there, sort of nestled against the lower intestinal walls so any major blockage or bad gas could sort of jumble things around. Dr. Cline advised me to make sure I don’t get constipated, and if for some reason I felt backed-up or I wasn’t evacuating my bowels, to take proper action to make it happen. It’s crazy to think about, but that’s the world of transplants. Proper bowel movements = proper health. Ha ha.

Marcia, a woman from Texas who celebrated her kidney-pancreas transplant anniversary on February 3rd, talked to me in a Facebook chat. We discussed how amazing it is to feel so different now, so healthy and alive and better. She said she still pinches herself everyday to make sure she isn’t dreaming. There are things she wants to do now that she didn’t do when she was younger, and boy, do I know the feeling.

I lay awake in bed at night for hours thinking of all the possibilities life has to offer. I am 35 years old, which is relatively young and I know there is still plenty of time to enjoy life and to be adventurous and to have as much fun as possible. The trouble is, some of my friends already partied hard when they were in their 20’s and now they have kids and are thinking along different terms. It frustrates me, because for the first time in my life, I don’t have to worry or even think about being diabetic. So I am ready to rock! The world looks different now, food tastes different, friendship has a new meaning, and life seems easier and more fulfilling. I suppose a year ago I was as close to death as I’ll ever be. Dialysis drained me for 7 months; diabetes drained me for 32 years. 32 YEARS! And now it’s gone. It’s completely gone. Just like that.

How can I possibly put into words how it feels? Imagine if all of the sudden at the age of 35 you could fly. Any time you wanted, you could just lift off the ground and fly anywhere you desired. You never knew what it felt like because your world never gave you the option of flight. And for most of your life, you didn’t think you would EVER be able to fly, but NOW YOU CAN FLY! So what are you going to do? You’re probably going to fly as high as you can, as much as you can, to every place you can imagine simply because all of the sudden YOU CAN FLY!

Chris asked me if I was going through a mid life crisis. I laughed and told her I suppose it’s something like that, but not really. It’s like my view of life has shifted slightly. I still see most things in the same way, but some things are entirely different. There are new and exciting possibilities everywhere I look. Life is golden, and I want to grab it and carry it with me before it's over.

I am lucky to have this opportunity and I am grateful to be alive. I will not take anything for granted ever again. We only have one life. This is not a rehearsal. This is the real deal.

This is it.

*2011, Year of the Golden Rabbit
Not many people know that the Rabbit is the symbol of the Moon, while the Peacock is the symbol of the Sun, and that together, these two animal signs signify the start of day and night, represent the Yin and Yang of life. It is said that anyone making supplications for wishes to be fulfilled are certain to get what they want... and in the Year of the Rabbit, the wish-granting aspect of the Sun and the Moon combined is multiplied. The Moon is YIN and this is the Yin of Heaven, signifying magic. Thus on each of the Full Moon nights of this year, go out into your garden to gaze into the Full Moon and visualize plenty of Moon dust and Moon glow flowing into you, filling your whole body with bright white light and granting you fearlessness, love and courage. This will not only strengthen your inner "Chi" energy, it will also bring wisdom into your life.


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