Some things are too grand for the mind to comprehend. For example, I am having trouble processing that my 14-year kidney transplant anniversary will be two days from now. It’s hard to think that, 14 years ago, I was basically on my deathbed. There were, however, a few key people who believed I would survive – including myself – who wanted me to live and helped make that happen.
Life is full of challenges, triumphs, pain, joy, sorrow and milestones. It is a beautiful work of art full of peaks and valleys that will include happy events and sad ones, good health news and bad news, too. The sooner we embrace the ebb and flow of life, the more enjoyable it will be.
In honor of my 14-year kidney transplant anniversary, I want to rewind to the year I received my transplant and recall major events that have taken place each year since, both good and bad, because life is a beautiful blend of triumph and adversity.
2002 – Both of my kidneys were removed. I was on dialysis and received a kidney transplant.
2003 – I started working full time.
2004 – I founded the South Central Pennsylvania Chapter of the PKD Foundation and became the Chapter and Walk Coordinator.
2005 – I discovered my love of public speaking after sharing my story at the PKD National Convention in Anaheim, Calif. Since then, I have shared my story at more than 85 events across North America.
2006 – I organized my third consecutive Walk for PKD and was the co-chair for Campaign for a Cure, where I shared my story and helped to raise more than $1 million for PKD.
2007 – I was severely injured as a passenger in a motorcycle accident.
2008 – My biography, “My Favorite American,” by Dennis McCloskey, was published.
2009 – I was diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease.
2010 – Noah, my then-boyfriend, and I took a month-long trip and moved cross-country from Pennsylvania to California. I also had my gallbladder removed after arriving in California.
2011 – My childhood seizure disorder returned, and Noah and I got married at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park.
2012 – I was selected as one of Donate Life’s “12 Inspiring Women” for their “20 Million in 2012” campaign, and helped raise awareness for organ donation by speaking at various events, participating in a photo shoot in Los Angeles and interviewing with the media.
2013 – A disk in my lower back herniated. It has been a marathon of chronic pain ever since. On the upside, our family became complete when a stray cat, Mister KaliKat ManCoon, “rescued us.”
2014 – I had back surgery to remove the part of my lower back disk that herniated.
2015 – I had the honor of being asked by Otsuka to share my PKD journey at their event to celebrate the launch of tolvaptan, the first treatment for PKD in Canada. I also had skin cancer removed on my shoulder.
2016 – Noah and I are in the process of buying our first home in California and we are so excited!
As you can see, whether facing PKD or other challenges, we all have good and bad days; great years and challenging ones; celebratory times and others of sadness. The important thing is to get up every morning, face the challenges before us and make the best of our lives. My life is living proof that life goes on amidst the deepest valleys of sorrow and the highest peaks of joy. I only see one option in life and that is to keep going!
Thank you to my kidney donor, Sally Robertson, for making these past 14 years possible! Cheers to many more years of life and living it to the fullest!
What are some of the greatest moments you like to celebrate? What keeps you strong and helps you overcome life’s challenges?