Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Facing My Fears ... Again

  This past Saturday, I celebrated 15 years since I received a new kidney from my mom.  Sometimes it seems so long ago, and other times it seems like it was only yesterday.  It's been quite a ride.  It hasn't always been smooth.  I had two rejection episodes that require IV meds to treat, which require going to the hospital 2 days a week for 3 months in a row.  The second round of meds caused really bad migraines.  During the second round of treatment I also received an IV infusion of a really strong immunosuppressant to wipe out my immune system, which made me really sick.  And because of the immunosuppressants, I get sick at the drop of a hat.  But in spite of all that, I wouldn't change a minute of it.  After all, anything worth having is worth fighting for!
  As much as this is a happy occasion, it's also somewhat bittersweet.  As you may know, my kidney is failing and I'm about to embark on a new phase of my journey with kidney disease: dialysis.  My nephrologist is in the process of having the paperwork to refer me to the dialysis team filled out, and sometime soon I will be undergoing surgery to have a catheter implanted in my abdomen to facilitate this.  (I'll do another post on the catheterization and the dialysis process another time.)  I've been really scared about this part of my journey; much the same way I was scared before the transplant.  But, as my cousin Kristi said in a recent Facebook post, "God is at work. I have no idea of the outcome, and I am totally okay with that. The shifting is unsettling, but we are finding our core strength through the process."  Her words really struck me, and once again I had the feeling that God was smacking me upside the head to get my attention (I have to admit that I don't always learn his lessons the easy way).  I am okay with the outcome, because I've seen what he can take what seems like the very worst circumstances and turn them into wonderful things.  I've seen that by going through these trials, I'm being made stronger.  And most surprisingly, somehow, somewhere along the way, I realized...I'm not afraid anymore.
  Back in 2013, I wrote a post about my trip to Mexico for my friend Shannon's wedding, and the epiphany I had about facing my fear of heights the day we went rappelling.  (You can read about it here.)  In retrospect, I firmly believe that God helped me to face that fear so that I would be able to deal with a bigger fear when I was hit just a couple of months later: the fear of my transplanted kidney failing.  Since I found about the kidney failure and that I would require dialysis (something I didn't have to do before I had the transplant because I had a compatible living donor), I've been scared: scared of the catheter surgery, scared of what they were going to be putting inside me, scared of the dialysis process, scared of what my life might look like once I started dialysis... I think you get the idea.  I can't put my finger on just when it happened, but somewhere along the way the notion got into my head that if I learned about what I was facing, that it wouldn't be so scary.  So I did just that.  I've joined a number of groups on Facebook and read about other people's experiences with peritoneal dialysis (aka PD).  And  I got out the handbook that I was given at the hospital about living with kidney disease and read all about PD in it.  Turns out that little voice that was yapping in my ear was right: learning about PD really has made it less scary.  Today I realized WHY that little voice was yapping in my ear...
  A few weeks ago, I discovered a wonderful blog called The Artist and The Architect (there's a link to it in my blog list at right).  I love this lady's writing; after reading her posts I often feel as if she's speaking directly to me.  Today I read a post that she had written called "Bravery for The Anxiety-Ridden {Five Ways to Be Brave}".  One of the ways that she writes about is this:
"Understand that the very thing you fear will be the thing that conquers your fear."  Hello! When I read that, I suddenly realized that this was exactly the reason I had been moved to learn about my upcoming dialysis.  God used the very thing that I feared to help me overcome my fear of it.  It's easy to be afraid of that thing which you know nothing about; it's much harder to be afraid if you make that thing your friend and learn about it.
  Sometimes when we're going through difficult times, it can seem like nothing good could ever come of the situation.  But oftentimes, when we look back on those times, we realize that it was then that we learned some of the best lessons life can teach us.  And now, if you'll excuse me, I have an anniversary to celebrate!

Until next time,

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Friday Five: Cooking For My Kidneys

  Happy Friday, my friends!
  Most weeknights, our local news is followed by eTalk, a Canadian-based entertainment show.  On Fridays, they have a segment called ... wait for it ... The Friday Five.  It's made up of their favourite clips and stories from the past week.  I have lots of favourite things, so I thought, "Why not do my own Friday Five and share my favourite things?".
  This week's theme is "Cooking for my Kidneys", and I'm using it to introduce my upcoming series of posts "In The Kidney Kitchen".  I love to eat, but my kidney failure has necessitated some changes to my diet.  However, as you will learn, I have found many ways to follow my kidney diet and still eat really well.  And one of my strategies involves the use of the following products.

5.  Campbell's No-Salt Added Broths
Available in beef, chicken and vegetable, these ready-to-use broths have only a fraction of sodium of the original versions.  For example, the NSA chicken broth has only 40mg of sodium per 150 mL serviing, compared to 380mg in the 30% Less Sodium and Organic versions, and 570 mg in the Original version.  That's a HUGE difference!
4. Rice Dream Unfortified Rice Beverage
I LOVE this stuff! I've been looking for a low potassium, low phosphorous, low protein dairy substitute since I found out I had to start following a renal diet, and this is it! I use this anytime I make a recipe that calls for milk or cream, and I haven't found that there isn't any difference to the taste. Some of my favourite uses are French toast, scrambled eggs and my new favourite alfredo sauce.

3. Unsalted Corn Nuts
One of the things that is tricky to find when you're on a renal diet is a good, munchy snack. But if you look around, there are things you can find that are suitable. One of my new favourites is unsalted corn nuts. I buy them in bulk at Bulk Barn. They're great on their own straight from the bag, but I'm working on adapting my favourite honey-glazed snack mix recipe to make honey-glazed corn nuts. You could probably also use them in places of nuts in homemade Poppycock. (Note: they don't work so well as a nut substitute in butter tarts though, unless you eat all the tarts as soon as you bake them - after sitting for a few days the corn nuts get really tough.)

1. Clubhouse No-Salt Original Seasoning Blend & Epicure Fine Herbes Seasoning Blend
I couldn't decide which of these products I liked best, so I'm giving them a tie for first place. Seasoning with salt on a renal diet is not an option, but I don't care for the Mrs. Dash seasonings (one of the first ingredients in all of the blends is black pepper, which I not only don't like but which also gives me heartburn). I'm also not good at creating my own blends. So I've been looking for other options. The first one I found was the Epicure Fine Herbes blend. It's SO good! I haven't found anything that it doesn't taste good in. This morning I used it to add flavour to a creamy omelet filling with crab and mushrooms - YUM! Then I found the Clubhouse No-Salt blend. It's got pretty much the same herbs and spices as the Mrs. Dash table blend without the black pepper. Perfect! There's also a garlic and herb and an herb and pepper blend.

I hope you've enjoyed this first look at some of my favourite things.  I'm looking forward to being able to share more in the coming weeks!

Until next time,

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

God Is Bigger Than The Bogeyman

  Fear can be an overwhelming thing.  Especially at 3 o'clock in the morning when you can't sleep, and it's dark and lonely, and fear sneaks up on you and grabs you in its tentacles.  I don't know what it is about that time, but things always seem the worst at 3 o'clock in the morning.  Especially fear.
  One of the best lessons I learned about handling fear came from Veggie Tales.  For those who are unfamiliar with VT, it's a collection of animated videos aimed at teaching kids (and adults too!) about the Bible and starring a cast of vegetables.  Some of the stories are veggie versions of Bible stories (Dave and the Giant Pickle, Josh and the Big Wall), some are imaginative re-tellings of classic stories (Sweetpea Beauty, Robin Good and His No-So-Merry Men) and some are more abstract lessons in Christian values (Madame Blueberry, which is about thankfulness, King George and the Ducky, which is about not being selfish).  Each movie teaches something using relatable stories and some really fun songs.  Those who are fans of the series also know about the Silly Songs With Larry (the part of the show where Larry comes out and sings a silly song) but that's a story for another day.
  Back to the lesson about fear.  In Tales From The Crisper, Junior Asparagus gets scared after staying up and watching a scary Frankencelery movie.  With the help of Bob the tomato, Junior learns that there's no reason to be scared because God is bigger than any monster (and that Frankencelery is really just a guy named Phil from Cleveland).  The "theme song" of the movie is called "God is Bigger Than The Boogie Man":
  God is bigger than the boogie man!
  He's bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV.
  Yes, God is bigger than the boogie man,
  And He's watching out for you and me!
  (This song is available for download on iTunes.)
  The lesson that Junior learned is just as important for us to remember.  There's no reason to be afraid of the "monsters" in our lives when we have God on our side.  Even the scariest Frankencelery is no match for our God! And when daylight comes, we might even realize that what kept us awake all night is really not that frightening at all...just a guy named Phil from Cleveland.
  So the next time you're awake and scared at 3 o'clock in the morning because of a monster, try this: sing this song a few times and see if that doesn't just chase that nasty ol' monster away!

  Until next time,