Serving as a voice for young people with PKD
The average teen is more concerned with school, friends and a ride home from volleyball practice than the health of their renal system. For Kerilyn Benoit, health is at the forefront of her worries. At just 13 years old, Kerilyn was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD) after an ultrasound for an abdominal cyst turned out to be more serious. Doctors detected cysts on Kerilyn’s kidneys, and with knowledge of her family history with the disease, it was quickly determined that she too had PKD.
Being a young adult dealing with a recently diagnosed disease did not prove easy for Kerilyn. She found herself feeling set apart from her friends and classmates, and unable to participate in hobbies she once enjoyed.
“I used to like to play sports, like volleyball, but with the disease, I couldn’t play as much as I wanted to because I had to avoid any kind of blow to my lower half,” Kerilyn said. “I had to be the person cheering on the sidelines instead.”
Even though she felt isolated from her peers because of her disease, Kerilyn decided to make the most out of her situation and become a positive influence to those around her, despite the adversity she faced.
“I felt different after I was diagnosed because kids didn’t treat me the same,” Kerilyn said. “My best friend at the time even told me she didn’t want to be my friend because I had a disease. As I got older, I realized I had to put my health first, and I made better friends who supported me in that.”
Having experienced the struggles of being a young person with PKD, Kerilyn wants to be a voice for others who share her situation.
“Kids with PKD have to know that they aren’t alone in the fight. So many other patients will fight with them and be positive influences in their life. And that’s important; you have to surround yourself with positive influences when you’re facing a disease.”
When she was a senior in high school, Kerilyn presented her senior project on the PKD Foundation, for which she raised more than $700.
“The PKD Foundation has given me such a sense of support and hope,” Kerilyn said. “When I sent them the money I had raised through my senior project, they sent me a thank you note back telling me that my money had gone towards research. That made me realize I can make such a difference. I can give the Foundation support, and they can help give me and my family solutions for our futures.”
Kerilyn says her family is where she draws the most of her strength, support and optimism through her fight against PKD. Kerilyn’s father was diagnosed with the disease as a child, as well as many members on his side of the family. Kerilyn is the youngest member of her family to be fighting the disease.
“The whole family comes together,” Kerilyn said. “Even though we each have different levels of kidney function, we’re still fighting the same fight together. We support each other, and know that we’re not ever alone.”
Kerilyn is now a freshman in college pursuing her degree in nursing. She hopes to use her career to one day help the PKD Foundation in its efforts to raise funds, develop treatments, and one day find a cure for all those affected by PKD.
“No one battles PKD alone,” Kerilyn said. “We are one family standing together.”