My motto these days has been “stay fighting”. My life has always been a fight but nothing like the fight of my life. I wanted to put photos of me during my decade fighting kidney failure and 5 year fight with valley fever and see how it’s changed me throughout the years. It’s the first time to see this comparison and it just makes me appreciate “my fight” even more. I feel like I’m this ever-changing person. From the dialysis, medications, treatments, surgeries and all the wonderful side effects. The kidney failure and dialysis brought lethargy, weakness, swelling (edema), Loss of appetite, the list goes on… Which only got worse during my 5 year wait. I did hemodialysis for 2 1/2 years until my access in my arm my fistula got so big from huge aneurysms. They tried to repair it several times but eventually had to just remove it and I switched to Peritoneal dialysis. This treatment made me feel close to normal with it being done daily. You could even see it in my appearance. Than I would get the infection called Peritonitis which is an inflammation of the peritoneum, the tissue that lines the inner wall of the abdomen and is usually caused by infection from bacteria or fungi. It was the worse pain I felt, probably worse than childbirth. Between treatments and medications it made my gums swell, discolored my teeth, darkened my skin and changed my appearance.
When I finally got my transplant I was the picture of good health. I almost forgot the original version of myself. But I was older… The older healthy version of me. My skin looked healthy, my gums stopped swelling and my teeth were nice and bright; and I put on good weight. It did come with a price there was side effects from the immunosuppression medications I had to take. One being having no immune system to fight simple viruses and infections. In time I would catch the worse infection I could ever catch just by breathing the air, Valley Fever/coccidioidomycosis. It started in my lungs and I developed pneumonia and was put on medication that would make my muscles ache, give me night sweats and constant fatigue. I lost my appetite, my hair and my weight. I would make what I thought was recovery but just a year later the infection moved from my lungs into my soft tissues and bones which required many painful surgeries. This is when I to started my first rounds with the infamous Amphotericin B which is well-known for its severe and potentially lethal side effects. Consisting of high fever, shaking chills (leading to the medical slang term “shake and bake”), hypotension, anorexia, nausea, vomiting, headache, dyspnea and tachypnea, drowsiness, and generalized weakness. The surgeries only made it more challenging. At one point the doctors didn’t know if I was gonna make it. I was 68 pounds, skin and bone, with open wounds from infected area, and a raging fever.
This lead to my first kidney rejection and was immediately put on high dose prednisone steroid. It helped with gaining weight but in time I would experience all the other side effects like anxiety, dizziness, fast, slow, pounding, or irregular heartbeat or pulse, aggression, headaches and the classic moon face. When that didn’t work they added other other treatments such as IVIG –Intravenous immunoglobulin and plasmaphereses and that has other adverse side effects like muscle cramping, shortness of breath and for me the worst headache ever imagined. I escaped the rejection and did my best to take care of myself. Going to the gym and eating right. But the damage was done and slowly my kidney transplant failed and I needed the support of dialysis. Valley fever crept its way back and had another run with Ampho. It brought complete kidney failure and had an immediate access put in my chest which is connected to my heart called a permacath. I had 7 weeks of back to back treatments that lead to other problems. After they removed the transplant I developed ascites peritoneal fluid overload. I was doing dialysis and having to drain fluid from my tummy. They stopped one medication because I started to get fluid in my heart. I was drained emotionally and physically. This was all going on during some trying times in our life. I kept fighting and thought I was walking away from the infection when it resurfaced in my shoulder. Surgery and another round of ampho and this is where we are now. Fighting pneumonia and trying to get my healing back on track.
I tried to explain everything just as fast as that slideshow above. The side effects would be physical, emotional, not visible and very visible. I would look in the mirror to see all the changes. I learned to accept the ever-changing me. No matter what I still had the fountain of youth with me. A gift I believe God gave me for all that I must endure physically. It’s a testimony in itself. I always knew healing would come. Looking back makes me realize I was fighting all the way through it. The kidney failure, the transplant, the valley fever, the transplant failure, valley fever again, and again, and again… One thing I’ve learned from being sick is that I no longer could rely on my flesh. In the 10 years I felt like I was continuing to die to my flesh and learned how to be a spiritual being. I don’t know what your beliefs are but I do believe it’s important to have faith in something. I decided I rather believe in God than not believe in God. Just like I rather accept things than resist. It’s what the fight requires. I always have hope for a better tomorrow. Between all those battles, I stayed active and there were lots of good days and joyous memories that I was able to enjoy with my family and friends. Every day is certainly a gift. Even in the deep valleys. I’ll stay fighting to get to those peaks!
Till next time,
Psalm 23 – A psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord