Hello readers! Today’s post is one very close to my heart because I’m going to tell you all about my number one fan — my mom.
Now this isn’t your typical “my mom brought me into this world and has always believed in me” post. While my mom has of course always been there for me from the day I was a tiny newborn to that time a few years ago when my bathtub leaked through my ceiling, there’s something even more extraordinary about my mom that I feel needs to be shared with as many people as possible — the fact that I almost lost her quite a few times.
When I was about six years old, my mom was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease called Polyarteritis Nodosa (or PAN). In my mom’s case, the disease seriously damaged blood vessels in her kidneys. The doctors expected that she’d be forced to start dialysis within a few short years. But my mom didn’t like that prognosis, so she sought out other opinions, started taking extra care of herself, and somehow managed to set her mind to the utmost positive she could manage. I grew up never really thinking my mom was “sick” – she continued to work full-time until I was 18, cooked all our meals, read us bedtime stories, and went on vacations. During these years, she had her share of setbacks and complications, luckily none of them serious.
But right around the same time I graduated high school (and my Pap – her dad — passed away), Mom’s kidney function function started declining again. She was forced to quit her job, and two summers later, had no choice but to start going to dialysis three days a week.
From 2005 to early 2015, Mom drove herself to the dialysis clinic and sat patiently while a machine performed the duties her body no longer could. In these nine years, she had countless procedures and surgeries related to the dialysis itself, as well as all the other health issues that go along with PAN and kidney disease, like low and high blood pressure, thyroid problems, and neuropathy, which primarily affected her feet and made it difficult to walk. Still she insisted on driving herself as often as she could to maintain her independence.
Then in 2010, an infection of her peritoneal cavity spiraled out of control and landed her in the hospital for three months. We spent most of October through January at the hospital, including the ICU, wondering if this was the end and if Mom had finally had enough.
But like she had countless times before, Mom came back to us. She spent another several weeks in a rehabilitation facility considering she was so weak she could barely roll over in bed under her own strength, and finally came home mid-January 2011, just in time to see me get engaged.
Somehow through nine difficult years, Mom maintained her positive thinking and trusted that she would one day get a transplant. Then one random night in January 2015, she got the call from her transplant coordinator that a kidney was on its way to Pittsburgh from California.
Mom underwent yet another long, complicated surgery, and we were thrilled when the surgeon and her regular doctors were overwhelmingly optimistic from the get go. Mom was dialysis-free within a few months, and nearly four years later, her kidney is still functioning properly.
While she still has some residual health problems, Mom is miles from where she used to be. And the best part is that she doesn’t have to rely on dialysis as a form of life support anymore.
That being said, Mom still has to take a slew of anti-rejection drugs for the rest of her life. Even with insurance and Medicare, out-of-pocket expenses can be overwhelming — to the tune of around $1200 a month. At the bottom of this post, I’ll share a link to an amazing organization that helps patients like my mom cover these costs, so if you’d like to help, even a little bit, she would greatly appreciate it.
I don’t want this post to be one hundred percent about Mom’s health problems. While her medical issues are a big part of her life and our family’s life, they don’t define her as a person — unless you count the strength and resilience she’s showed time and time again. But Mom is so much more than her kidney disease. She loves traveling, especially to the beach, and loves all aspects of nature, namely bird-watching and anything to do with horses. She even took an equine massage certification a few years before her health took a turn for the worst. Mom is also a big reader, a good swimmer, and an awesome cook. When she was still working, she was a legal secretary, and a damn good one at that.
Her professional skills carried over into her personal life at times, like whenever she had to write strongly-worded letters to companies and doctors offices about unfair or downright wrong treatment. And I distinctly recall her encouraging me to write my own very first strongly-worded letter to Lisa Frank Company when I was about eight years old and my brightly-colored mid-nineties-style binder fell apart only a few weeks into the school year.
Mom has always encouraged reading, writing, and imagination for as long I can remember. She read me and my sister countless stories when we were growing up, and was always in awe of our imaginations whenever we played as kids. When I started writing short little stories around age 9 or 11, she made sure I knew how cool it was and encouraged me to keep at it. Now, she’s the first one to offer to proofread and edit anything I write, and the first to post all over Facebook anytime I get any sort of recognition for said writing.
The fact that my mom has been encouraging me to pursue my writing dreams for as long as I can remember means the world to me. But maybe the only thing that overshadows her unending support is the fact that she’s also a huge inspiration for how to live life in general — to always get up one more time than you’ve fallen, and never let anything break your spirit.
Mom’s 60th birthday is on December 18th, and I’m excited to see what she does her with new lease on life over the next few decades. If you’re inspired by this amazing woman like I am and have some cash to spare, please consider donating to help pay for her lifesaving anti-rejection drugs so she can continue to live life to its fullest. And thank you, from the bottom of my family’s hearts!