Let me say at the outset, that I’m basically a very private person. I have 37 years of recovery experience that has taught me to share my feelings, and I do so regularly. For the last number of years, however, I’ve been dealing with some significant health issues, and aside from my immediate support group, I rarely share what’s been going on with me. I’m gradually coming to terms with the need to get more support from my recovering friends.
Let me give you a little history. About six years ago after a routine physical, my doctor (who also happens to be a close friend of mine in recovery) noticed that my lab work showed several anomalies. After more testing, he told me that my kidney functions were showing a significant decline. I needed to see a nephrologist immediately. This was the beginning of my journey. I went to a nephrologist who did more tests, including a biopsy of my kidneys. That procedure normally takes a few minutes, but my procedure took over two hours due to scar tissue on my kidneys. At this point I was starting to get concerned.
I anxiously awaited my diagnosis, but the doctor kept sending it to different labs because she felt that the diagnosis was incorrect. She explained that the diagnosis kept coming back as a disease called FSGS which is usually only found in African Americans and drug addicts. It was at this point I reminded the doctor that I had a major history of drug addiction. It all made sense. This was more “wreckage from my past.”
I made major changes in my diet over the next five years, but my kidney functions declined to the point where I needed to look into a transplant or start dialysis. I started attending all the transplant seminars and was placed on the transplant list. I was told that I was a good candidate. At this time, my dermatologist happened to find a mole that was suspect, and after a biopsy, confirmed that I had a malignant melanoma. I had surgery a few days later, removing the melanoma and my sentinel lymph glands, which came back negative for the spread of the cancer. This was great news!
A few weeks later, I got a call from the transplant team at Cleveland Clinic: because of my cancer diagnosis, I had to be removed from the transplant list for at least five years. I needed to start dialysis right away.
My kidneys were only functioning at 6% capacity at this time, and I felt absolutely terrible every day, although when people asked me how I was doing, I’d respond, Fine! I always try to keep a good attitude and I rarely complained. However, I knew that I wasn’t being honest.
I was referred to a private dialysis center where the two nurses’ names were Grace and Mercy. I took that as a sign from above, because I could use a little Grace and Mercy in my life at this point. I had heard from some dear friends in recovery that dialysis was a terrible procedure and to put it off as long as I could (which is what I did). However, once I started dialysis, I felt much better! The toxins were being removed, and I lost over twelve pounds of fluid in the first three sessions. The bottom line? I now go for dialysis treatment three times a week, which takes four hours per session. It gives me time to catch up on work, read a book or watch a video. It’s not as bad as I was told, but it’s no panacea either.
I’ve decided to host a brand new video meeting on In The Rooms called Illness in Recovery. This isn’t a 12-Step meeting, but a place where people dealing with health challenges can find support. A place where we can share things that we wouldn’t normally share in a meeting. Illness in Recovery will be on Monday nights at 8 p.m. EST. If you need support, I hope to see you there. Be sure to tell any of your friends that are struggling with health issues about this meeting!