I woke up this morning with a distinct awareness of all the wonderful things I have in my life for which I should be – and am – thankful. Today has been unseasonably warm, and as I left my 5:30am CrossFit class, I couldn’t help but smile at the fact that it is finally light out when I leave the gym to head home. March 8th – that’s today – is World Kidney Day. And for me, my recipient, and the other recipients and donors in the chain I kicked off , today marks one year since that fateful day that changed all our lives forever.
On March 8th, 2011, I went into the hospital with two kidneys and left with one. Elsewhere in New Jersey, a woman about my mother’s age was waiting on an operating table as my left kidney made its journey to, and eventually into, her. Her friend also donated that day so that my recipient could get my kidney, and so on and so forth.
I won’t sugarcoat it and tell you my recovery was a walk in the park. It wasn’t (and you can read all about it on earlier posts). But it was nothing compared to what my recipient faced before my kidney came into her life. And here I am, exactly 12 months later, feeling stronger, fitter, and healthier than ever, and with an entirely different outlook on life. I’ve learned that health is a delicate thing that can be taken from us in an instant, so all we can do is give it every bit of attention it deserves (and more) and cherish every second of it while we have it.
Since I donated my kidney, I’ve gotten engaged, started a new career, joined CrossFit, and became a vegetarian (Ok, ok. I slip here and there). But I’ve had just as many downs as I’ve had ups. Life’s funny like that. But what’s different about life now and life pre-donation is how I approach it, view it, and handle what it throws my way. I absolutely still have my I-just-can’t-take-it-anymore moments, and there are still days that I wish I had never gotten out of bed at all. I’ve cried, yelled, been overwhelmed and spread too thin, gotten angry or sad, had aches and pains and sores, and days when nothing seemed to go right from sun up to sun down. Then again, I’ve laughed so hard my cheeks hurt, I’ve loved so deeply it brought me to tears, I’ve run and played and let go of every care in the world, and had moments of such sublime happiness and feelings of being more alive than ever before.
Every day has brought me something new, but there was one thing that has not changed for the last 365 days: I’ve opened my eyes in the morning and thanked the powers that be that I got to see another day. And then, without fail, my thoughts have drifted to my kidney, the one I decided to part with all those months ago, and how that one little organ has allowed another fellow human being to see another day too. That’s when I know that no matter what this day brings, I’m ready, and it’s worth it.
So on this one year anniversary of my kidney donation, and on World Kidney Day (how perfect!), I ask you to do a few simple things: Drink a lot of water. Make sure you’re getting enough fruits and veggies, every single day. Eat clean. Train dirty. Work smart and play hard. Laugh, relax, and love. Stay positive, keep cool, and aspire every day to be even a slightly better person than you were the day before. Make your health a non-negotiable. Take time to really see your life for what it is and truly appreciate everything it has given you. We only get one body, one life, one chance; better do it right.
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. [Ferris Bueller]