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Brenda's Story

" I didn’t know anything about kidney disease before it happened to me."
Doctors discovered that I had type 1 diabetes when I was 24 years old, which is kind of an unusual age to be diagnosed. I was getting a lot of headaches and feeling very tired.  I was able to control the disease with diet and exercise at first. Then, two years later, I got pregnant and became insulin-dependent.

After the diagnosis I tried to be very careful about my health and follow the rules. Once in a while, though, I would stick my head in the sand, not take my insulin and eat whatever I wanted.  It was probably during one of those times that my kidneys started to get damaged.

There were no signs of kidney problems at first. It was only later, when I was in my forties, that my legs started to swell. At one point I was organizing a big fundraising event and got deathly sick afterwards. My family doctor said I had pneumonia, and sent me home to rest. The next day I was rushed to hospital in an ambulance.  I was in kidney failure.

I was flabbergasted. I didn’t see it coming. I went on dialysis and about four years later received a kidney and pancreas transplant. The surgery fixed the kidney disease and also eliminated the diabetes. It was remarkable! While there were some side effects to the surgery, it felt like I had my life back. 

I lost the transplant a number of years ago, and that was tough. My family and friends provide a lot of support, but there are still days when I find it hard to get out of bed. Meditation helps a lot. I find it immensely calming and it turns around how I think. It helps me focus on what I am grateful for and stay positive. I am sick a lot, but have a lot to be thankful for and a lot that I can do. 

I am a long-time volunteer and was the Ambassador for my local Kidney Walk this year.  I like to volunteer. It doesn’t take much and it costs nothing to help other people. I didn’t know anything about kidney disease before it happened to me. Now I know that it impacts so many people and it is not well understood. If I can help raise awareness about kidney disease and organ donation, that is my goal. We all want to leave a mark of some kind and I think this is mine. I want to make that difference.