During the silent moment prior to blowing out my birthday candles, I always think of the reality that I was not expected to see my 19th birthday. Also, that it is a true miracle I have turned 32 years old today. Thirty-two! Wow! It is hard to process all I have endured and how lucky I am for the second chance at life I’ve been given.
Two years ago, in celebration of my 30th birthday, I wrote a blog post that reflected on all I have learned as a PKD survivor. Please see Three Decades of Living and Learning to read the 30 lessons/thoughts of what my health hurdles have taught me. Last year’s birthday was a tough one. I was at my parents’ home in Pennsylvania recovering from two back surgeries. It wound up being a 9-week stay until I was well enough to fly home to California. Noah and I celebrated my 31st birthday via Skype. Today, I am thankful to be home and able to celebrate my 32nd birthday with Noah in person.
I am living today because of the medical “army” and loving “soldiers” that have fought and stood by my side. In honor of this special day and reaching 12.5 years post-transplant, I thought it would be fun to share 32 things I have seen, accomplished and experiences I have been afforded over the past 12.5 years thanks to my kidney donor, Sally Robertson. There are endless things to share, but here are the first 32 that popped into my mind and in no particular order:
- Hiked in the Badlands National Park in South Dakota.
- Became an avid public speaker, sharing my story at more than 80 events across North America.
- Drove to the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado.
- Nominated as the 2005 Davita Kidney Idol.
- Walked on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
- My biography, My Favorite American, was published and received the first ever Helene Kenigsberg Award for Excellence in Public Awareness of Polycystic Kidney Disease from the PKD Foundation of Canada.
- Toured the Santa Cruz, California Monarch Butterfly Groves.
- Saw two of the three Old Faithful Geysers in the world, one in California and the other in Yellowstone National Park.
- I was able to work full-time for 10 years.
- Explored and saw wildlife, such as baby bison, elk, moose, a bald eagle and a wolf, in Yellowstone National Park.
- Became a Donate Life Ambassador.
- Saw Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota.
- Recipient of the 2009 Susan P. Byrnes Health Education Center, Celebration of Life Award.
- Hiked at the Grand Teton National Park.
- Became an advocate for PKD: Chapter and Walk Coordinator.
- Walked around Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming.
- Married my husband, Noah, at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park.
- Became a blog writer – PKD Will Not Beat Me.
- Saw the largest tree by volume on earth at Sequoia National Park.
- Winner of the Astellas “Ride of a Lifetime” Contest, giving me the opportunity to be a float rider on the Donate Life Float in the 2011 Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade.
- Explored Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
- Received the 2012 Outstanding Media Ambassador award from Sierra Donor Services.
- Walked through Garden of the Gods in Colorado.
- Became a national spokesperson for University Kidney Research Organization (UKRO).
- Rode in a submarine; zip-lined; watched the sunrise on the top of a volcano at Haleakala National Park; and snorkeled in Maui, Hawaii.
- Selected as one of Donate Life’s, 12 Inspiring Women of 20 Million in 2012 Campaign.
- Hiked to the top of Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park.
- Parasailed above Lake Tahoe, Nevada/California.
- Traveled with my husband, Noah, on a month-long cross-country move from Pennsylvania to California.
- Graduate of the Dale Carnegie, Effective Communications and Human Relations Course & High Impact Presentation Course. Recipient of the following Dale Carnegie Course Awards: Outstanding Performance, Human Relations, Human Relations Champion, and Highest Award for Achievement.
- Hiked to the top of Maggies Peaks in Lake Tahoe, California.
- Rode a bicycle across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California in celebration of my 28th birthday.
The past 12.5 years have been the most extraordinary of my life. My life is better post-transplant, because I am healthy enough to finally live as life should be lived – to its fullest with every cell of my being.
“Health is not valued until sickness comes.” –Thomas Fuller
Every year when I blow out my birthday candles, one wish is constant: I wish for good health. So, as I begin my 32nd year of life, I wish for good health and cheers to the next 32.
What do you wish for on your birthday?