February 23, 2023

Navigating Life with Chronic Illness: A Story of Growth & Empowerment

Chronic illness doesn't define you, but it can help to define the way you choose to live life. These are the words I try to live by.

Hi! My name is Ciara (“Kee-ra”) and I’m a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, functional foodie & mama to two busy little boys.

I also happen to live with polycystic kidney disease (PKD).

Over the past couple of years, I've grown from PKD patient to PKD patient, advocate & wellness educator. I want to share a bit of the story because it's been hugely empowering for me and I hope you'll find some inspiration here for yourself:

Feeling confident in my health journey was a process.

I now lead a full and rewarding life while managing PKD, but that wasn’t always the case.

I’m a fourth generation PKD warrior, so I’ve grown up knowing about the disease and I’ve seen how it’s changed the course of my relatives’ lives.

I received my own diagnosis in my final year of high school, which felt traumatic, so I packed it away and tried not to think about it. Throughout my twenties I lived in denial that this would ever affect me.

I’ve always been a health-conscious person, but after having my kids and entering my thirties, I started to feel extra motivated to take a more proactive approach. The key to this approach was accepting all the truths about my health, including the fact that I had large kidneys and would need to make some nutritional & lifestyle adjustments.

I knew it was time for change.

At the age of 32, I went to school to study nutrition. I was craving knowledge to better care for myself (and my family), so I could feel my best while preserving as much kidney function as possible.

I gained a whole new appreciation for the power of food, and I now very strongly believe that food is a lot more than just fuel: it’s empowerment, it’s medicine, it’s a healthy way forward.

Now, as a nutritionist, I’m passionate about educating others on how to understand their bodies and meet their needs with the right balance. I have a special affinity for inspiring those with PKD, because I personally know how hard it can be to feel in-control when you’re living with a chronic illness.

I choose to empower myself through the decisions I make each day: what I eat, how I move, and the thoughts I focus on.

I firmly believe that "food is medicine" and learning to optimize one's diet is a life-changing strategy in the fight against this disease. I'm also an advocate for the importance of lifestyle, mental health & community on this journey.

I’ll be teaming up with the PKD Foundation of Canada this year to promote health & wellness for families afflicted by this disease and to offer support & encouragement to those who need it most. Of course we ultimately need a cure for PKD, but we can also work to improve the way we live with it in the meantime.

My hope is that by speaking up & sharing my story, I can encourage others to find their way and feel their best with PKD.

If you'd like to learn more about my story, please check out my patient vignette video.

It's an honor to be a member of this amazing community, and I can't wait to see what we accomplish together this year.