Time flies when you have a healthy kidney & a happy life. Today marks one year since Mike’s transplant. Wow, right? It’s kind of difficult to even sum up the beauty this past year has held for our family. After two solid years of struggle and pain, the past twelve months have been a sort of restoration. Life surely isn’t perfect, but there’s a constant sense of gratefulness and relief that fills our hearts and our home.
As far as Mike’s specific improvements since surgery, I’ve mentioned many times here and on Facebook that since just hours after his surgery, he’s had perfect results from all his lab work. His levels went right to where they should be almost instantly after he awoke from transplant. His color still looks as good as it did that first morning after when I wrote about the tears streaming down my cheeks as we looked at his face, hands & feet together. For as long as I have known Mike, he’s always vomited a lot. He used to tell me he just had a sensitive stomach. As his illness progressed, it became obvious that the two were related. By the time we reached the fall of 2011, he rarely kept his meals down. It was terrifying to see his body reject food on a daily basis and his frame become more frail. Well, I am happy to report that he hasn’t thrown up once since surgery. Not even once. When he was on dialysis, he was so exhausted that he would frequently have to pull his truck over and sleep for a minute in between jobs. Actually, when I say frequently, I mean daily. I was so afraid that he was going to fall asleep while driving and hurt himself or someone else. No matter how much he slept, it was never enough. When he walked in the door after work, he basically collapsed as his body finally said it had had enough. These days, falling asleep at 2:00 pm is no longer a worry we have for him. When he gets home from work, he mows the grass, plays basketball with Lincoln, swims in the pool. It’s been quite the transformation. Later this month we have his official 1-year-anniversary visit at the hospital. They’ll do extensive blood work and and exam to make sure he’s on the right track. While I’m a bit nervous, his monthly labs and the way he feels make me feel pretty confident that all will be well. There are many complications that can arise at any time, so we are learning to take it one day at a time. Every good, healthy day is a blessing. We are praying & believing that he won’t experience any of the complications.
I was looking through my blog recently and found some posts that I had written but never published for various reasons. When I wrote a post about our 8th wedding anniversary, I mentioned that I didn’t write one the year before because it was such a difficult time. Well, I did actually write one and I found it. I can’t remember why I didn’t post it, but the fall of 2011 was a difficult and dark time for us, and I think I was just too gloomy to share. Besides the initial shock of finding out that Mike was sick, those few months in 2011 were by far the hardest. I hadn’t read my words since the day I wrote them nearly two years ago, and it was such a full circle moment to read where I was grasping for hope and then to realize we are here, in the “after”. We survived and I think we are better people for enduring the journey.
That’s really been the most incredible part of this experience is that everything has been so measurable. It’s been like, “Hey, remember last year’s vacation when you felt like crap and spent half your time in dialysis? And now here we are. Hey, remember last Christmas how you were so weak and tired? Look at you now.” It’s been fun to look back and see the difference a year and a kidney transplant can make.
During the two years of Mike’s illness, my attitude and emotions were all over the map. I was never expecting to be 26 and dealing with a life threatening disease in the man I love. It wasn’t part of the plan, that’s for sure. For whatever reason, it was part of God’s plan and it was meant to be a part of our story. I still struggle with that sometimes knowing that the vast majority of my friends haven’t experienced anything even close to what we have and it’s easy to ask, “Why us?” While we are truly joyful and full of so much gratitude, there are occasional moments when the weight of it all starts to come back to my memory. It’s like I’m not fearful anymore, but I can sometimes go back to that place and remember exactly what it felt like to be so fearful. Mike has a scar on his abdomen that will always be there, and I sometimes feel like I have a scar on my heart that will always be there as a result of knowing that it all could’ve ended up very differently than the happily ever after we feel we are living in today. It’s a lot to bear sometimes.
My brother has been speaking this month at our church and the topic has been how our lives are a story. He said something so profound this week that seemed so fitting for Mike & I as we reflect on where we’ve been and where we are today.
“What if God wants us to live great stories, so He allows us to experience conflict? What if tragedy and difficulties that shape us are actually part of the abundant life that God has promised us?”
The struggle is part of the story. He also said, “Great stories make great characters”. So I am learning to accept the pain and the scary things we endured as part of our story that God is writing with our lives. I do believe we have emerged stronger, better, more compassionate, more thankful, more loving people. And maybe that was the whole point.
Finally, Tim you are and always will be our hero. I still can’t grasp sometimes that you chose to give us this gift. How do you say thank you to someone for changing your whole life? I pray that God blesses you so immeasurably and so abundantly, because you literally gave up part of yourself to save Mike. We are family forever, and we can’t wait to celebrate together this weekend.
“Never be ashamed of the scars life has left you with. A scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed, you endured the pain and God has healed you.”