Writing is a funny thing. It’s one of the most solitary acts in the world, but conjures such a profound feeling of sharing – even if your writing is never read, as is the case with this blog (thus far, at least!). Here’s where I am with the kidney donation process: I got my first round of blood and urine tests done but a few numbers from my 24-hour urine collection came back a bit elevated. I found out from a visit to the nephrologist that those ‘high’ numbers actually point to excellent kidney function, but the NKR’s medical board still asked that I redo my urine collection (I’m a pro at this point). The second time around, my numbers were a bit lower, giving me new hope that I would be approved by the board, and I hurriedly sent my results to Diane at the NKR who then forwarded them to the medical board. Angela, who has been an amazing mentor through this entire process, mentioned that it took about a week for her to hear back about whether or not she was approved. So here I am, exactly one week since I’ve sent my results to the NKR, just waiting, and hoping, and crossing my fingers. While I do have a good feeling about it all, there is still a small chance that because my numbers are technically outside of the NKR’s range, I might not be approved. For that reason, I haven’t yet told my mother or basically anyone in my family and most of my friends about my decision. To me, it’s better to save them the worry (which is inevitable) until I am absolutely positive that I will be able to donate. Aside from my boyfriend, my stepfather, a few of my closest friends, and some people within the donor community, no one is aware of my decision. That’s where my blog comes in.
Blogging through this experience seemed like a natural choice for a writer. The written language is where I most clearly and effectively express my thoughts and can organize them in a rational manner – unlike when I speak which tends to resemble an oral diarrhea of stream of consciousness. My tongue gets me in trouble – my pen gets me out of it. However, I do love to talk (hello, winner of ‘Most Talkative’ senior superlative in high school!), so not having that option during this process made blogging even more vital to my sanity. When I began researching the donation process and stumbled across the blogs of other donors, it only solidified my decision to become a non-directed donor (and hopefully kick off a donor chain). While articles written by doctors and researchers gave me the scientific facts about the process, I found myself repeatedly returning to blogs to get the nitty-gritty – the ups and downs of the process, the emotional effects of both the testing and the donation, the physical and psychological sensations before and after the actual surgery. These blogs, and the bloggers who wrote them, were a gold mine of invaluable information that stripped away all the technical med-speak and gave it to me straight.
Perhaps the most striking thing about reading those blogs however, was the effect they had on my ultimate decision to begin the process. From the first day I read the Glamour article about Christina Do, I knew deep down that I would do this. But reading the emotional accounts of those who had already donated their kidneys and saved countless lives and families, and spared so many suffering patients the endless agony that had previously been their life, gave me the determination and resolution to follow through to the end. For that, I will be forever and deeply appreciative of those individuals who put their stories out there and, in many ways, influenced me to continue the good will that so many have shown before me.
The first thing I needed to do before I could blog was come up with a name. I came up with a few options and ran them past my boyfriend, but nothing jumped out at me. And then I remembered a quote from Virginia Woolf’s Night and Day:
‘When you consider things like the stars, our affairs don’t seem to matter very much, do they?’
This was it. I had always considered getting a shortened version of this quote – ‘consider the stars’ – tattooed somewhere on my body, but making it the title of my blog was a much less permanent decision. To me, this phrase speaks volumes about life and is an incredible reminder about what’s truly important. Our problems, the things we stress about and fret over and ruin relationships and lose friends and countless hours of our lives over are, when compared to stars and their vast and infinite glory, so minute and insignificant. The stars serve as a reminder that, in the end, most of what we consider to be so significant and life-altering, really doesn’t matter much, as long as we have our health, our happiness, and love. I try to remember this when I encounter some problem in my life, though since I, like the rest of us, am a work in progress, I’m not always successful. However, when I get upset about bills or money or disagreements, I remember all the people out there, suffering through diseases that keep them from living the normal life I live. I think of the families that are forced to helplessly watch their loved ones become sick, live in pain and agony, and even die. I try to put myself in the shoes of all the people out there fighting an uphill battle against an uncontrollable force. And suddenly, my problems don’t seem so bad or unmanageable anymore. It is in those moments that I find the strength to rise above self pity and forge ahead – for myself, for those families, and for those patients who would give anything to be dealing with my problems instead of theirs. These people – not those celestial bodies in the sky – are my stars, and they have done more for me than I could ever do for them.
‘People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may take advantage of you.
Be kind anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.’ [Mother Teresa]