Chronic kidney disease and me: A love story of sorts

I recently celebrated the second anniversary of the ER trip that ultimately led to me being diagnosed with a chronic kidney disease – IgA nephropathy – with another trip to the doctor for my usual 4-to-6 month checkup. My kidneys – while permanently damaged (I picture them looking like a Dick Tracy bad guy now) – have stabilized since the diagnosis in  2011.

The last checkup confirmed this. It seems I can hold off on begging family members for a spare kidney. (C'mon, you barely use it. What did you have today? One, two glasses of water? You're boring it. Let me help you out and find it a good home where it can roam and play.)

And while life certainly hasn't been the same since the diagnosis, I feel so fortunate to be in as good of shape as I am. Doctors believe the active part of my condition has run its course and that if I behave and treat my body right I should be able to hold on to my kidneys for quite a long time.

I'm left dealing with the diet restrictions. Sodium, potassium, cholesterol, saturated fats – all the enemy of my kidney and general health. It could be worse. At least I can eat gluten. Bread! I'm thankful for that. And – on the bright side – it helps me keep my weight down since exercise and I just haven't been able to get on the same page, yet. Exercise wants to get on the treadmill and lift weights and all that fun stuff. I want to sit on the couch and watch TV. We're still hammering out a compromise.

Mostly, the disease just makes me feel like an old man. I carry around a pill box with the daily medicine that keeps my blood pressure and cholesterol in check. I spend an inordinate amount of time reading the nutrition label on cans in the grocery store. I call people younger than me whippersnappers – one of the lesser known side effects of kidney disease.

But, two years later, I'm thankful more than anything else. It was detected and diagnosed. I have good doctors who keep an eye on me. And while I'm certainly not joyous to have chronic kidney diseases, there are far worse things out there – things that have stolen away two childhood friends in the past year. I am blessed.

We all have things in our life that we carry with us. This will be something I carry with me for the rest of my life. But I refuse to treat it as a burden. A slightly annoying companion? Sure. Does it have a tedious habit of not letting me eat french fries (high in potassium) or soy sauce (high in sodium)? Absolutely. But a burden? No.

I think back on that trip to the ER two years ago, with a blood pressure that was soaring above 200, convinced my heart was about to explode in my body. Today, I'm at my kitchen table looking out the window at Lake Michigan. The sun has just risen. I'm eating a bowl of peach oatmeal. Life is good. I am content. My kidney disease has not defined me. I have defined it – my slightly annoying breakfast companion, looking out the same window, silently enjoying the morning with me.

• Going for Gusto is a blog by Joe Grace that looks for the awesome in life. Please support Going for Gusto by liking the Facebook page at

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