“Your kidneys are only functioning at 12%. It’s time to start preparing for dialysis”.
I remember how frozen with shock I was when my doctor delivered me the news. I felt like I had just been handed a death sentence. Dialysis?! But I’m only 38! My mind flooded with thoughts. What will my life look like? How much longer have I got? How can I break this news to my family? Can I still work?
Fear of the unknown set in. I just sat there staring incredulously at my doctor as he rambled on about the next steps. Afterwards I went home and sat there in a daze processing the news. I refused to believe this was real. “This is all a bad dream. I’m gonna wake up soon…” I tried to convince myself. It was just too scary to deal with.
A few months later, still riding the roller coaster of denial-anger-bargaining-depression-acceptance, I was handed another whammy: my husband died suddenly of a heart attack, right in front of my eyes. Just like that, in an instant, I was left on my own to deal with the detritus that my life had suddenly become.
Reeling in shock I pushed on through the motions of funeral, legal paperwork, surgery, dialysis, grieving the loss of my husband (support system) and loss of my health (independence), all while handling a full time job so I could have a roof over my head. Internally I was a wreck – I no longer knew who I was or how I was still going. All my senses were impacted. Things that were once important to me now appeared to be trivial.
When I looked at myself in the mirror I didn’t recognize the person staring back at me. I felt lost, numb. I had no identity. I struggled to grasp at my purpose and meaning and why this was all happening. “Who am I? Why am I here? and, What’s the meaning behind all this?” circulated through my mind unanswered for a very long time.
I journalled a lot, often early in the morning after a massive grief burst would wake me up. I had so many conflicting and overwhelming thoughts & emotions circulating my brain that needed to land onto paper just so I could take respite from myself.
I continued to move through the exhausting daily motions of grieve, eat, work, dialysis, sleep, repeat for a couple years. Eventually it took its toll on me and I had to stop working. My kidneys continued to deteriorate. I had less energy and my body was screaming at me to just stop. And so I did. And it was very hard to do, because I had pride. Pride in the role and the work that I did. But I knew I had to stop. I was literally working myself into the ground. The day I agreed to stop working was the day I felt as if 2 anvils had been lifted off my shoulders.
It was during this time of respite that I grieved even deeper and sought answers to my existence. I delved into journalling questioning my values, morals and identity. I joined a meditation group where I learned about stillness and mindfulness; self care and compassion. I made new friends who became great teachers to me. I went for counselling and became aware of my habits and thought patterns: the ones that helped me and the ones that hindered me. I learned the stages of forgiveness and radical acceptance. I had a thirst to shed the layers of misperceptions that had been holding me back from claiming my freedom. Freedom from my mind and the internal turmoil that often held me captive.
I started advocating for myself: as a candidate for a kidney transplant I was guided to canvas friends and family for a potential living kidney donation. This was completely outside my comfort zone but it helped me become more aware of myself. I gained more clarity of what I was made of and what made me tick. I could feel the old me peeling away slowly, like discarded skin. I was intentionally healing the past and embracing the now. And you know something? The more I chose to forgive and move forward, the more happiness and miracles I attracted into my life.
Before I knew it 3.5 years flew by since my journey had started. What had started out as a journey filled with grief and despair had transformed into one of self awareness, humility and gratitude. I was acknowledging, owning and forgiving my past. I was stepping into a new me that no longer felt lost. I had shifted my perception towards a new identity that felt redefined in a positive and meaningful, purposeful way. I was in love with life. With my life.
And in the midst of all this, a miracle happened. My brother offered me one of his kidneys. Before we knew it we were flying into Vancouver for the surgery & it was a huge success for both of us! Our doctors beamed with joy as they described how well the procedure went. I was in awe and amazed at the energy surging back into my body. I spent my time plotting how I was going to use this second chance to do something really meaningful. I was on top of the world! I’m going to live! Even today, words cannot describe the deep appreciation and humility I feel as I reflect on my brothers selfless act, born out of unconditional love and concern for his sister.
Months later while reflecting on my journey, my councellor said to me with a wry smile “funny how your body heals when you choose to heal your mind, hmmm?!”
Eventually I returned to work after being off on disability for over 2 years. I was ready for that stability and routine back in my life again. One day during meditation I heard a calling to go work with the bereaved. I knew what I had to do next and volunteered for the local hospice society. I had learned a lot on my personal journey and wanted to give something back. Through the hospice society I learned the nuances of compassionate companioning: creating a safe container for those in need so they could safely feel and express whatever was coming up for them in the moment without being judged.
Once again, being willing to learn something new I was able to discover deeper layers to who I was becoming, what I was made of, and what made me tick.
I had a deep passion to hold space for others and create meaningful conversations to help guide them forward. I signed up to learn the art and science of life coaching with world renowned Erickson’s Coaching International. I learned how to walk along side others to help them explore deep values, identify blocks and shift perception to a solution focused mind set.
These techniques coupled with my personal life experience have enabled me to walk beside others as they step forward into a brighter future. The human spirit is indomitable and it is always an honor to bear witness to another’s journey.