Hakuna Matata – Honorable Mention 16th Annual Essay Contest

By Tamika Smallwood

When I was first diagnosed with kidney disease at the age of 23, I was young with no plan on how to cope with my diagnosis. I was sad, angry, confused. I constantly wondered, “Why me?” I spent a lot of days crying and giving myself pity parties. There were days that I literally wanted to give up. It just seemed all too hard for me to cope. Kidney disease was something very new to me. No one in my family had it and I felt so alone.

My son was my constant encourager through it all. When I first started going through the motions of dealing with kidney disease my son watched as I cried and sat feeling sorry for myself on multiple occasions. Some days I felt like I could go out and conquer the world. Other days, I felt like I was drowning. One day, my son approached me and said two words to me. Those two words from him ultimately changed my life for the better, changed the way I thought about my illness, and most importantly, gave me the push I needed to keep going.

Who knew that two words from a cartoon my son had seen would be the very words that encouraged me throughout my journey?

My son said to me, “Mom, I want you to remember these words when you are down: ‘Hakuna Matata.”’ Many people have heard this famous line from “The Lion King” before. Hearing my son say them at first made me chuckle. But, as I began to process the meaning, my feelings changed. In the song Hakuna Matata one of the lines is “it means no worries for the rest of your days”.

My son was telling me not to have any worries. Yes, there are going to be days that are hard. Yes, there are going to be days that I don’t feel good. Yes, there are days that I may want to give up. Yes, this fight is not going to be easy. But it is going to be OK. Who knew that two words from a cartoon my son had seen would be the very words that encouraged me throughout my journey?

So, as I press on knowing that this year makes ten years on dialysis and 14 years with kidney disease, I realize how incredibly lucky I am as a mother. I would never have thought that the little person I brought into this world to encourage was encouraging me! Now, every morning when I get up and get ready to start my day, if I find myself letting kidney disease get the best of me; I remind myself of my son’s encouraging words and I smile… “Hakuna Matata, mom…. Hakuna Matata.”

Tamika Smallwood and her son Jayden

Tamika Smallwood was diagnosed with a kidney disease called FSGS in 2004 at the age of 24. She had no family history of kidney disease nor had she even been sick. She started dialysis in 2008, and has been doing it now for 9 1/2 years (Nov. will make 10 years.) She lives in Norfolk, VA and enjoys writing poetry. She hopes to one day publish her work. Her 13-year-old son named Jayden gets her through the rough patches in life living with this illness. Tamika is in college now studying criminal justice. She is on the honor roll and doing great. Dialysis does slow her down a lot, but she will never let it stop her completely. She lives by the motto that you have only three choices in life. To give up. Give in. Or to give it all you’ve got. So, Tamika chose to give it all that she’s got!

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