what’s the alternative?

Whew. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I apologize for my long absence – but sometimes, life just gets in the way, doesn’t it?

First and foremost, an update on the kidney front: my recipient and I have finally connected! As a testament to the weird ways the universe works some times, it all went down on September 11th. At that point, more than 6 months since my surgery, I had essentially given up on ever hearing from her. I told my coordinator I was open to it, gave her my contact information, and trusted that it would find the right hands. Little did I know, my recipient (and her friend who donated so that she could get my kidney) had been searching for me for months. Months. How that happens when both coordinators are aware of the search on both ends, I won’t even venture to guess. But there I was, watching coverage of the 9/11 Memorial in downtown NYC, saddened by the memory of such incredible loss, and a Facebook notification popped up on my phone, alerting me that I had a message. The message was along the lines of “I hope you’re the right Melissa. I believe you donated your kidney to my friend. We’ve been dying to talk to you.” A few quick messages later (ok, after I completely broke down in tears for a good 15 minutes, too) and I was emailing with my recipient herself – alive and oh-so-well! Her story is beyond incredible, and her passion for life and deep appreciation for my kidney is nothing short of extraordinary. It was the most perfect, beautiful ending to this crazy ride, and I’m so happy to say that I have a ‘kidney sister’ for life!

Incredibly emotional, tear-jerking reunions aside, these last few months have really flown by. Between starting a new job (finally!), planning a wedding (yay!), working with my non-profit, and the usual demands of friends, family, fiance, and furry children, there just hasn’t been a spare minute to collect my thoughts! I have a bit of a problem saying ‘no’ to people – friends, family, coworkers, you name it. As a fellow donor who shares this problem said, this need to always feel like we’re helping or caring for someone is epitomized by the fact that we donated. Great point. And helping others, making sure our loved ones are happy, that is a truly noble and wonderful way to live life. But sometimes, we need to remember whose life it is to begin with.

The silence here on my blog is so very reflective of my life since my last post. Oh, sure, there has been so much going on, but when it came to putting myself first – nothing. Somewhere in the midst of trying to be the perfect new employee, the perfect fiance, daughter, sister, friend, humanitarian, animal mom, and kidney donor, I forgot to just be… me. The hard proof of that fact is that I haven’t written in months (something I truly love), but more importantly, I haven’t really given myself the time to even reflect on my life and all that’s going on right now. And what good can I be to others if I’m no good to myself?

On top of all this, I’ve been battling some unrelenting fatigue as a result of my kidney donation. I’m only about 7 months out of surgery – technically speaking my insides are still healing – so this is completely normal and expected. But the more research I’ve done, the more donors I’ve spoken with, the more I’ve realized that sometimes, even long after the body is done healing itself, the fatigue sticks around like the last, lingering guest at a party that went on for too long to begin with. I’ve always loved the fact that I had the energy to keep myself healthy and active, and so this was something I just could not accept. ‘It’s just how it is,’ I was told. ‘You’ll learn to live with it.’ Well, not me. I’ve never really been a rule-follower.

A huge advocate for alternative healing methods, I decided it was time to turn to an expert. I went to see a natural health consultant last week and it was like a little light bulb went off in my head. Everything she said seemed to just make sense and it was then, sitting in her office on the Upper East Side, that I began to feel all the pieces of my fragmented life come together. I eat healthy, I take a daily multivitamin and a few other supplements, and I work out – hard. I was making such an effort to do all these things for myself, but forgetting ‘me’ in the process. I was told all the things I expected and long believed in (but needed a good kick in the pants to get going on): that I needed to take even more supplements, start juicing, and cut out meat, dairy, and wheat from my diet (I’m Italian so this is like telling me to stop breathing air). But what I was completely losing sight of was the mind-body connection. Ahhhhhh, yes. The ‘Me’ in ‘Melissa’.

I was given the following directives: meditate at least 30 minutes a day; take one full hour (though not necessarily all at once if not possible) away from my desk each work day (no more working through lunch!); rid myself of negative people and emotions; and begin to look at stress in one of two ways: as good information (acknowledging how I can change the things that are within my control) or free, live entertainment (learning to let go of the things that I can’t change). We can eat all the super foods in the world, take every supplement known to man and nature, and work out 7 days a week, but the fact of the matter is, if we’re not healthy mentally, we’ll never be healthy physically. My body knows that already – my external donation wounds are all healed and barely noticeable, but the internal healing takes more time. Though I can’t see that, I can sure feel it. Now I just need to get my mind on board. Going through the movements of eating right and working out will no longer cut it. I need to let go of past hurts and grudges, harness my inner calm, and learn to put me first again. My life – and my remaining kidney – depend on it.

I know it won’t be easy. I’ll have to make some difficult sacrifices, completely change the way I think about life (and food), and learn how to really and truly be in the now. But isn’t that what life’s all about anyway? What good is a life which, at the end of it, was never truly lived to begin with? And doesn’t true living require true wellness – mind, body, and spirit? I’ve always known the answer. Now I finally have the tools to get there, and get there I will. After all, I owe it to everyone myself.


Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.  [Steve Jobs]


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