As I proudly held the microphone and looked out at the crowd of Denver Walk for PKD participants, I asked, “Those of you with PKD, please step forward.” I watched the crowd separate into two sections as those affected with PKD walked away from their friends and loved ones and stood in front of the group. “By a show of hands who has been on dialysis?” I asked. A few joined me in raising their hands. I followed that by asking, “Please raise your hand if you have received a kidney transplant.” A handful of walkers and myself raised our hands. People in the audience cheered and clapped for the gift of life we have been given. My misty eyes scanned across the front row of walkers as I saw a mother and daughter with PKD– my dear friends Jody and Lauren Balaun– embrace each other. At that point I got choked up, as I could feel their love from where I was standing. I wished I could have embraced my Mom at that moment. My voice quivered as I acknowledged the PKD fighters in the front row. I then gave a special thanks to the friends and family standing behind their loved ones with PKD, as they are a vital part of our lives. We could not do it without their support, love and dedication.
As my teary eyes connected with other emotional PKD friends in the audience, it made me thankful to have PKD. It is thanks to the Balaun’s that I was standing before the Denver Walk for PKD sharing my story. Jody and I met after she heard my story during the webinar I did for the PKD Foundation and she now follows my blog. They so graciously used their frequent flyer miles and opened their home to me. They are such a special family and I am grateful to now have them as part of my PKD family. I know I have just made another life-long friendship thanks to my PKD.
During the weekend we talked about our PKD, did some sightseeing and made amazing memories. It is hard to believe that we have only known each other for a few months. But that is the special thing about people with PKD. We are all kindred spirits. We get it. We have an instant connection and bond. Friendships like theirs helps to heal all of the pain I have endured from this disease. Each wonderful experience I have had, because of living positively with PKD, is one-by-one replacing the bad memories of the days I was fighting for my life.
I was grateful to be one of the more than 50 people who were on Jody’s “Dragonflies” team. What a wonderful feeling it was to cross the finish line healthy, happy and smiling with such strong supportive friends. I looked upward to the beautiful blue Colorado sky, stood still for a few seconds and closed my eyes. As the sunshine warmed my face, I smiled as I replayed the end of my talk that morning, in my mind. As I concluded my speech to the Denver Walk for PKD participants, as part of their kick-off ceremony, Jody yelled, “PKD Will Not Beat Me!” Then others chimed in and shouted, “PKD Will Not Beat Me!” My heart was overflowing with joy, because together we are encouraging each other to never lose hope and we will END PKD!