Surviving Kidney Disease, True Stories of Love, Courage, Hope and Heroism for the Future
If you are reading this, there is a good chance you, or a loved one, have been diagnosed with a kidney disease. Nearly 30 million Americans suffer from kidney ailments, yet a diagnosis can make you feel terribly alone, cut-off from the world and the life you knew before. It’s as if you’ve suddenly plunged down the proverbial Rabbit Hole, into a new existence filled with procedures, diagnoses, doctors, tests and long medical terms you’ve never heard before. It can be frightening, confusing and isolating.
I wrote this book, in large part, to urge you to have hope and to let you know that you are not alone! There are many of us who care about you and there are answers to the multitude of questions you may have. Most importantly, there are plenty of great reasons to believe that you can enjoy a long and fulfilled life, even with an advanced diagnosis. To help prove this point, I have included a number of inspiring stories, many from my own patients in their own words, who have overcome astonishing physical and psychological challenges. These provide moving and sometimes amazing proof of what the human spirit can do.
This book is also highly practical, providing information that will help you feel more knowledgeable and in control of your situation. As a doctor and kidney specialist and part of the University of Southern California School of Medicine for the past 35 years, I have treated thousands of patients suffering from a variety of kidney diseases. During this time, I searched for books which would help my patients understand their disease by explaining the pathology in layman’s language. I also looked for literature that explained the sometimes complex and serious psychological and emotional challenges patients often face. When I couldn’t find a book that covered both of these issues, which are so critical to my patients, I decided to write it myself. This is the result, and I hope it provides some guidance and light for you as you take your own pathway back to good health.
I have included a Primer to kidney diseases, including an understandable explanation of terms, causes, and treatments. Other chapters include a look at future treatments, including the exciting development of artificial kidneys, a how-to chapter on prevention and wellness, and vitally important chapters on renal transplantation and finally, a detailed look at the steps necessary for you to gain a kidney transplant.
The book also explores the all-important relationship between you and your doctor. I know how critical that relationship is for patients because for the past few years my role has been reversed – I became a patient myself when I was diagnosed with serious lung cancer in 2013. After being on one end of the spectrum, as a doctor for more than three decades, I suddenly found myself on what I call the ‘medical conveyor belt’ where you feel as if you have lost control over your own life and are moved from test to test, from procedure to procedure, in a system that can feel cold and frighteningly impersonal. It can be overwhelming and confusing and sometimes you feel more like a number than a human being. I understand what you may be going through because I’ve gone through it, too. That experience motivated me to write this book more than anything else. It provides the information you need to stop the conveyor belt, and gain the personalized treatment you deserve.
This book is about regaining health – your health. I wrote it to help you understand and successfully deal with your kidney disease and to help provide the hope and the belief that you can face whatever challenges lie ahead and live an exciting, productive and healthy life. I’ve seen it happen thousands of times before! You certainly are not alone, we are all in this together.
As I wrote the manuscript, I realized that many of the patients that I wrote about had severe emotional trauma which resulted in what I would consider chronic stress. Their illnesses manifested during this timeline and lead to kidney failure. My own observations over the course of my practice of 50 years was that there was a pattern of chronic stress followed by organic disease. Writing this book has given me the opportunity to study the medical and psychologic literature to see if compelling evidence of this relationship is documented. It is!
Genetic makeup of course is an overwhelming factor that determines what sicknesses we will acquire during our lifetime. However, I agree with Dr. William Osler, the father of modern medicine who in the first edition of his textbook of medicine, in 1892, discussed the etiology(cause) of what was like likely rheumatoid arthritis that he called arthritis deformans. “It is difficult to separate some cases from ordinary chronic rheumatism, but the multiple form has in all probability a nervous origin.” His view was based on such facts as the strong association of the disease with shock, worry and grief and his opinion was this was not coincidence.
I am convinced that if we can develop a deeper understanding of ourselves, and are willing to modify a potentially very toxic environment that envelops each of us daily, we can overcome high stress, poor nutrition, sedentary behavior, and the apparently diminishing role of family and friends in our lives. The people around the world who live the longest, have used this simple formula as the core value for their lifetime.
One more thought. Even though the vignettes that you will read are about people who overcame a variety of kidney ailments that at the time appeared to be insurmountable, their collective stories are a metaphor for how the human spirit can soar when unexpected disaster of any type appears. It can be cancer, loss of a spouse or child, divorce or loss of property as a result of a hurricane. When there is hope and love, people have the capacity to rise above even the most daunting situations.