Though I successfully celebrated the 17th anniversary of my second kidney transplant and have begun the 18th year with a bang of speaking engagements in the transplant and arthritis communities, a mysterious bout of nausea and light-headedness that is apparently due to stress, work insanity, and relationship wonders, there are two fears that still lurk and sit heavily in me.
Fear #1: My second kidney transplant will [eventually] fail. I would think that with each successful passing year that this fear would have waned by now, but the fear increases with each given anniversary as to when could be my last anniversary. Yes, I know this fear is completely morbid, negative, and unnecessary, but after years of my arranged marital health problems poking at me, living the good and healthy life is unreal to me. I often hear my Father's reassuring words when the fear overcomes me: "There is no way that this kidney could fail. Look how many years have past. This kidney is yours through and through."
Fear #2: The prospect of finally getting my left total hip replacement surgery. This has been in the back of my mind for the last five years, but it has now been pulled front and center to the point that I've asked EVERYONE (and I literally mean EVERYONE) if I should get the hip replacement surgery this Autumn 2012 that I was set to do a couple months ago. The thinking, waiting, not knowing WHEN I should get this hip replacement surgery is beating me down and a major stressor that leaves me helpless, hopeless, and mentally drained. It already took me years to come to terms that I need this surgery, but the not knowing WHEN is more than I can take.
I've done the math. I've dealt with my kidney and urinary tract issues in total for almost 30 years of my life. I've dealt with my left hip osteoarthritis and avascular necrosis for nearly 20 years of my life. I can take pain. For me, pain is normal and a part of my everyday life. And, I know the details. I know that this hip replacement surgery is a voluntary and quality of life procedure that also involves the maintenance and care of my second kidney transplant before, during, and after. I toss back and forth obsessively and desperately if I should undergo the hip replacement surgery now to prevent further damage or if I should wait until I can no longer walk.
Out of this desperation and obession over my fears and the frontburner hip replacement surgery prospect, I talked to my closest friends and rambled on and on to my poor Father. I was left more confused, lonely, and frustrated than ever before upon hearing opinion after opinion that ended with:
"In the end, Mary, it is your choice because it is your body."
And, I want to yell and scream and say: "Tell me what to do! I don't want to be responsible for what happens after the surgery, which can be better or worst and nothing in between! I don't want ownership of my body and what to do anymore!! Get me out of this damn arranged marriage!"
Finally, it was my Stepmom who was the voice of reason, logic, and her tough love attitude that put everything and me into understanding and "The ME Project."
"The truth is this: You are too fat now," My Stepmom said in her simple, calm, and almost nonchalant way.
I blinked at her. I was expecting sympathy, but had a backhanded verbal response instead.
She continued on as I was speechless and just giving her a blank stare: "You've asked everyone for advice, but no one can tell you what to do, Mary. This is now up to you. You've turned to your doctors to alleviate the pain, and of course they can't do anything more for you because you have done nothing-- ABSOLUTELY NOTHING-- to take care of yourself! You are your own worst enemy!"
Her words stung like acid. I was wordless.
"Here, let me show you something!" She dragged me to the living room and pointed to a picture that was taken in Canada about a year ago with my Dad, Stepmom, my older sister, and me grinning into the camera with the fake picturesque Niagara Falls as the backdrop.
"Do you see this?!" She ranted, "Look how much thinner you are here! In a year, you must have gained at least fifteen pounds or more! You are too fat and have too much weight on your hips so, naturally, your hip is going to hurt more! You have to lose the weight NOW!! I absolutely do not think you should go forward with the surgery until you lose weight"
"But-but, the doctor said my weight does not have to do with my hip getting worst!" I sputtered, "The hip naturally deterioriates over time because of the avascular necrosis!"
"Yes, that is true, but the extra weight that you have gained has not and will not help. The extra weight is just a burden, and more than that, the weight will just do more harm."
"But, I thought that I should get the surgery now while you and Dad are young and can take care of me!"
My Stepmom scoffed, "Mary! Do you really think that we are going to be able to take care of you now or even five years from now whenever you get the surgery? Your Dad is going to be 70-years-old before you know it! I'm just going to get older, too! We won't be able to take care of you now or even in the future if you get the surgery. We will have to pay people to take care of you, because we have to take care of ourselves in our old age!"
I winced, and gave her a wounded expression. I was hurt. Hearing these words hurt me even more than her saying to be bluntly that "I was fat." I did not even want to think or hear about the demise of my Dad and Stepmom. My Dad and Stepmom not being in my life was my #1 fear, and even more so than dealing with my health. How come it just seemed harder and harder as we got older? Time going faster and faster. All of us aging. Our bodies changing from young, buff, fit, and beautiful to creaking joints, slack faces, wrinkles, white hairs, silver strands, crow's feet, slow metabolism where fat pockets would permanently stay with us. Our attitudes changing from innocent, ignorant, and idealistic to harsh, aware, and realistic. I just wanted to stop time. I just wanted my Dad and Stepmom to be free from me as the burden with health problems yet again in their aging years. I just wanted to be a kid again.
My Stepmother's tightened face softened and she said: "If I didn't love you, I would not say these reality things to you. It is tough love. All I am saying is that you really, really need to take care of yourself. You really, really need to lose the weight because the challenge is not going to be the surgery. The challenge is going to be AFTER the surgery where it can be really good or really bad. You have less weight on yourself then your rehab will be better. You use to weigh 185 pounds and then you lost it at 116 pounds. Now, your weight keeps to increase. You can't keep going like this anymore, and have to take responsibility for yourself and for getting better. You lost the weight once, and you can do it again."
Refusing to cry, I tried in vein to explain: "But, it is hard. I'm not young anymore. It was easier when I was younger. It was easier when I did not live alone and there were people to watch over what I ate. It is so hard to be all alone in my apartment at night and to want to eat. It is also getting harder and harder for me to have the physical and emotional energy to move when my arthritis hurts so much."
With her eyes steely fierce, she spat out: "You are 29-years-old! You aren't old! Stop making excuses. Sure, everything is easier when you are younger, but that does not mean everything is impossible. You are very determined and when you make up your mind to do something, you do it. So, do it."
Out of all the people in my life, my Stepmom is the one person who is bloodless family to me. She ironically came into my life after my second kidney transplant. She was my motherly figure who raised me with a tough love stance of biting and harsh words in her soft-spoken voice. She had an abundance of common sense dignity, wisdom, and nurturing in her quiet and unassuming way. According to her, I learned the most when I was quiet, observant, and truly LISTENED rather than TALKED on and on, was hot-headed, and the analytical Wu that I had apparently inherited from a combination of my Father and biological Mother who was non-existent in my life since 8-years-old. When my Stepmom came into my life, she was and will always be my Mother and family. Blood does not make family. Experiences and just being there when it is needed most makes family. My closest friends are proof of that. My Stepmom is ultimate proof of that.
My Stepmother's recent words and our conversation continue to play in my mind. And, so I've taken her advice to make a project out of losing weight, entitled:
"The ME Project"
I have always hated the dreaded D-Word (that would be Diet). This latest project is NOT about dieting. This is truly about me undoing all the damage and responsibilities that I've unconsciously put on other people- my doctors, friends, my work/job, and especially my Dad and Stepmom. This is me turning away from my whole life being revolved around my "woe is my arranged marriage health and all these problems" attitude when I could have and will now make it "wow, this is my health and body and I am damn sure going to do something about this in the best of ways." This is no longer about anyone else, but only about me finally taking ownership and responsibility for my own body here and now and going forward. It is about getting healthy and taking control and care of my body to prepare for the future surgery and whatever else my future may hold.
This is officially "The ME project" of improving my overrall health of mind, body, and spirit. I've been jokingly saying that the ME stands for "Mary Evolving."
So, my readers, MARK IT DOWN: I now weight 143 pounds.
Last week, I weighed 145 pounds.
My goal weight is 120-125 pounds, or as I've been wheedling and making compromises with my parents at the 123 mark.
20 more pounds to go.
As my Stepmom said to me: "So, do it."
And, I say right back: "I'm doing it. It will be done."
Until we meet again Keep smilin',
To learn more about becoming a registered organ donor, go to: www.donatelifeny.org
To learn more about arthritis, go to: www.arthritis.org