Kristen Walsh, Lamaline NL
Inspirational stories used to be just stories to me.
We've all seen and heard them - you listen to a story about someone who has lost a limb, had a incurable diagnosis, lost their husband or wife, or had some form of tragedy and how they readjusted to their life.
I never really understood it, until I had something like that happen to me.
I got diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease or PKD in July of 2019. I don't remember much about the appointment. I do remember though, my doctor saying they discovered "innumerable cysts" - there were so many they couldn't count them.
I always knew I had the chance of having PKD. If you've been following my journey, I spoke about my diagnosis in May of 2020. At that time, I was doing a rotation as my final pharmacy internship with the kidney care centre located here in Newfoundland, where patients are seen in a dialysis clinic and also as outpatients. I had to face the fact that I could be sitting here, in a chair, having a machine doing the work of my kidneys one day.
Looking back, a lot has changed. My diagnosis hasn't changed, and the grim reality hasn't changed. But the outlook I have on life has. My determination, and perseverance has.
It took me a long time to realize that PKD was handed to me for a reason. A good friend of mine has always said this - everything happens for a reason. You don't want to hear this when it comes to chronic, incurable illness. Why would something like this be handed to me?
PKD is a part of me, but it's a part that actually inspires me. It inspires me to take every moment and cherish it. It inspires me to put my best foot forward every day. It inspires me to look after myself in the food I eat. It inspires me in my every day work as I help patients who also have chronic disease. It inspires me to be thankful for every second I have with my mother, who is also struggling through PKD.
I've learned that after something like this swallows you whole and leaves you wallowing within yourself, there is a moment of clarity. There is a fresh breath that comes along to breathe life into you again. Tolvaptan helped do this for me. Working with some wonderful people at UHN, the Centre for Organ Donation have helped me help others with there struggles through diet and PKD. My nephrologist and the team at the kidney care center, both while I was a student and patient, have been more than helpful. My family and friends, especially Brandon (my partner) and Rachel (my sister) who help me move through life every day are amazing and I wouldn't be able to do it without them.
Life with PKD has been difficult. I won't sugar-coat that. However, it has also been a blessing.
For every difficult moment, there has been an opposite and equally great one.
Read more from Kristen in the Memorial University Gazette, here!