The First Three Months After Kidney Transplant

11270574_10205781819058001_4961367288152030148_oThey say the first three months after kidney transplant are the worst. Some say it is worse than dialysis. After reading the kidney forums online, my husband had told me it was true. The majority of transplant recipients not only agreed with these statements, they shared personal stories to back them up. One man had screamed at the doctors to take the damn thing out and put him back on the dialysis machine. I shook my head and vehemently disagreed. Nothing was worse than life on dialysis. It was no life at all.

“This isn’t going to be easy. Are you sure you’re up for this?” The interviews and probing questions for transplant failed to discredit the online forums and comments from patients who had been there and done that. Every Neurologist confirmed the inevitable truth. The truth I refused to believe – this was going to be hard as hell.

Today, I can honestly say with conviction and experience that it is true. The first three months after transplant are the worst. I have never been so emotionally stripped. Worst case scenarios play hide and seek. Ridded of short term memory, my mind allows insecurities to run amok and reign supreme. Pediatric nightmares re-play in real time.

Labs can change on a dime, and do. The toss of that coin is consistently inconsistent. In one day for blood work and back the next. Then it’s two days or three, maybe an entire week – only to start the cycle all over again. I refuse to watch one more re-direct. The only comfort was a man who once sat two seats down from me cursing at a Phlebotomist. I am not alone. As my labs go, so do my meds. Twenty some odd pills with a plethora of side effects, results, and consequences add to my fragile emotions and mental state of mind. What a ride.

I could go on, but that doesn’t feel right on a day like today. I hit my three month mark. It has been exactly three months since I received my husband’s kidney. It was his anniversary present to me – twenty-four years together. I was too sick to give him a present. Three days ago I received another gift. My labs showed no signs of kidney rejection.

I started writing again. The fire to finish editing my novel has returned. Back issues of Writer’s Digest that had been left unread are now marked up. The other day I picked up a book and focused long enough to read it. I’ve been flipping through my gourmet cookbooks again since I am no longer shackled to renal diet restrictions. I am beginning to enjoy the things that made me want to get out of bed and live. I am now three times cancer free. Thanks to my husband, I have a new kidney and a second chance at life. Believe me when I say, It was worth those three months.

I Am a Childhood Cancer Survivor Forty Years. It is Never “Over.”

Little Princess in cotton field

September 4th is right around the corner. It is Childhood cancer awareness day. 41 years ago I was diagnosed with stage 3B Hodgkins. I was 7 years old. I was a guinea pig on experimental drugs while suffering from shingles and then viral meningitis. My years of treatment included radiation and chemotherapy cocktails created from the same serum mustard gas used in WWII, and the Pink Periwinkle flower from Madagascar. Cancer treatment was archaic in the 70s. Brutal. I watched all of my little Leukemia and brain tumor friends die. I am the only child who survived our group.

 

I was left with huge physical and emotional scars. Radiation left me sterile. I never went through puberty. My teenage years were hell. I was pulled out of P.E. and got breast implants at age 16 because teasing was so bad. At age 21 I was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer. At age 46 I was diagnosed with kidney cancer in both kidneys. I suffered renal failure. Both kidneys were removed. I spent two years on dialysis. It was no way to live. Two and a half months ago my husband gave me his kidney for our 24th wedding anniversary. It is such a blessing, but I am still struggling. It is still a fight. Slowly, there is progress, but I find myself re-living the haunting memories of my past. I try to be strong, but I am not. I am the terrified child inside.

 

So the next time you are tempted to tell a cancer survivor to “Get over it,” remember that it is never over. The side effects of childhood cancer never end. They are decades long. They creep up and blindside me. Again. And again. And again. So please get over your discomfort when cancer fighters and survivors must talk, must weep, must grieve. We are broken. Often shattered. It takes an uncertain amount of time for us to pick up the pieces of shard and rebuild our lives. Your thoughtless words only add to the emotional scars we carry. Please spend less time trying to shut us up, and more time spreading the hope because your friend, your co-worker, your family member, or the love of your life survived.

 

I am still here. I am surrounded by the most precious guardian angels that went before me. They are etched in my memory forever. And some day, when it is my turn to go, I will embrace them with tears and laughter. I know it.