Deciding I Could Lose Weight – Presidents Pick 15th Annual Essay Contest

By Karen Delfin Peacock

losing weight for a kidney transplant

Nobody asks for end-stage renal disease. I’m still not even sure what started the process of IgA nephropathy I was diagnosed with a few years ago. I took my medicines, watched as my hair fell out from the chemotherapy drugs and my face get round from the high dose of prednisone. I followed all the recommendations and instructions on what to do, what to take, what to eat. Despite that, because of the nature of kidneys, I found myself at stage 5 kidney failure and getting my first surgery to prepare my arm for the dialysis that I would need at some point.

the news that I knew, but didn’t want to hear: “They will not give you a kidney at your current weight. You need to lose over 50 pounds.”

During that time, I felt like everything I was doing was as a result of what was happening to me. To be honest, I felt a bit helpless. Nothing I did made my kidneys better. Nothing would heal them back to normal. I would soon need dialysis. I would later need a kidney transplant. It was inevitable. No matter what I did, these things were going to happen.

Then we moved from Indiana, where I had lived all my life, to Utah. My first appointment with my new nephrologist went something like this: “You’ll have to begin dialysis when you start to feel bad, but we’ll try to postpone that as long as possible.” Then the news that I knew, but didn’t want to hear: “They will not give you a kidney at your current weight. You need to lose over 50 pounds.” There it was. I have struggled with my weight most of my life. I had lost some weight a couple of years earlier, but gained most of it back. At first I was devastated, thinking I would never get there. I was really struggling because I really wanted a kidney, I wanted to be able to not only be alive, but be able to live again.

My husband was compassionate, but told me: “You don’t lose weight because you don’t think you can. You have to believe that you CAN do it.” Thinking about how much I wanted more time with him and the rest of my family and friends, how much more of the world I wanted to see, how many more things I wanted to experience, I made the decision to lose the weight. I told myself that I COULD lose the weight!   After years of feeling helpless about my kidney disease, I was empowered to do something to help myself.

Fifty pounds seemed so far away at times, but it took me years to add all this to my body, so it was going to take some time and work to get it off my body.

It certainly started out slow and rough. I paid more attention to my diet, especially after starting dialysis. I was already limiting my sodium and potassium intake, but now I had to watch my phosphorus also. I remembered to take my phosphorus binders when I ate. I would think about snacking, then remember being hooked up to the dialysis machine, and would decide I really didn’t need a snack.

I started working out with my friends, doing toning exercises, light cardio, etc. I was really out of shape, so it was very difficult at the beginning. Gradually it became less tortuous and I was gradually losing weight. I could see the results of my decision, which encouraged me to press on. Fifty pounds seemed so far away at times, but it took me years to add all this to my body, so it was going to take some time and work to get it off my body.

The day came when I got on the scale and had not only reached my goal but surpassed it. In less than 18 months I lost 70 pounds. The transplant team has started my testing, screening, vaccinating, and anything else I need to do to get closer to being placed on the transplant list. That is where I am today, jumping through hoops, but each jump gets me closer to getting a new kidney and a new life.

I would not be where I am today if I had not made the serious decision to seriously lose weight. I would also not be here without the loving support of my family and friends. I am proof that you can lose that much weight on your own without programs or surgeries. You have to decide to do it, decide that you can do it, and decide that your life is worth fighting for.

losing weight for a kidney transplantKaren Delfin Peacock is a veterinarian living in Utah with my husband and two pug-kids. She still works and goes to in-clinic dialysis three times a week. Karen loves all things geeky and enjoy going to conventions in costume, playing computer games with my hubby, and watching Star Wars movies countless times.

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