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Me and my freeloading kidneys

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I'd say the one word that describes my attitude in the past few months regarding my chronic kidney disease and impending renal failure has been "flippant." I've even been "facetious," and have treated what most people see as a serious situation with comic disdain and inappropriate humor. Sometimes the joke has gone over others' heads, including my own family's. Such was the case last week when I made a remark on social media that my lackluster kidneys are basically just taking up space. "At this point my kidneys are basically freeloaders," I posted to Facebook. My stepmother promptly lost her mind and fussed at my father as if he had something to do with it. She made him text me to make sure I was OK. "I just thought maybe they'd failed completely, and you were going to die," Debbie told me Saturday. She wasn't the only one. I got about 10 texts in the span of an hour from folks asking if I was all right, if I was at the office, if I was in the hospital, etc. So, I caused a stir. But just as I told my stepmother, the best way for me to deal with this serious illness - one that I'm well aware could indeed kill me - is with humor. I've mentioned before that I had a battle with another chronic illness in my 20s. From about 2004 until 2011, I dealt with hidradenitis suppurativa and its aftermath. It's a sweat gland disorder, and I eventually had some of mine removed to get rid of it. HS took seven years of my life, from 23 to 30. I did not face HS with humor. Instead, I withdrew into myself. I stopped going out with friends, I stopped talking to people, I stopped seeing family members, unless they came to my home. In short, I let HS control me, instead of controlling it. I spent much of that time depressed and not in a great place. I continued to work and continued to "act the part," but I wasn't me.

And the only thing I keep thinking with kidney disease is, "Not this time around." One of my favorite jokes - and it's probably a little mean on the other person, I get that - is when people who haven't seen me in quite a while admire how much weight I've lost. If I'm not looking run down and twitchy that day, they will usually remark, "You just look so good. I would love to know what you've done." "Oh, well I destroyed my kidneys," I usually say with a laugh. Cue crickets and odd looks. I eventually explain to them that I'm joking, and I usually have to apologize. But it makes the best of a bad situation. Call it a defense mechanism. Some friends have told me I'm in denial. I'm not. I realize more than anyone that I will eventually have to do thrice-daily dialysis treatments and have a kidney transplant. I know that kidney transplant will not be a cure; it will be a treatment, and 20 years down the road, I will have to have another one, or go back on dialysis. I realize that this is going to cost a lot of money. It's also going to take a lot of friendly support, and I hope that you all continue to provide that, despite my flippant and facetious demeanor. I've been told I'd probably make fun of the end of the world. That's probably true. But, really, the best thing I can do for my sanity and my happiness is continue to make jokes about kidney disease. And this may be off-putting to others, but they're not the ones dealing with the nausea, the cramps, the hiccups, the gout, all the medications and the dizziness and brain fog. I am. And I choose to laugh about it. Don't think that means I'm not of the realization of how serious this is. I appreciate all the kind words and prayers, and I hope they keep coming. But if I make a joke on social media, it's just a joke. When the proverbial crap hits the fan, believe me, you'll know it's for real. So yes, my kidneys are basically freeloaders. Not just that, they're like the relatives that come for a visit, and then don't pay their way, and wreck up the place, and they refuse to leave! I'm looking for new tenants, preferably non-smokers with good references. As long as they work, I'm not too picky.

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