I was 25 and my life had just begun: I had a new job, a new house and a new loving fiance who I was soon to wed. Everything was falling into place; I was finally an independent grown-up! I had big plans and big dreams and I just knew they were all going to come true – my whole life was ahead of me.
Then, November 30, 2008 came along; a day I will never forget. I had been feeling under the weather the past few months. I thought it was just a part of being a new teacher – it was no big deal. On that day though, something was different. I was scared and I didn’t know why; everything felt urgent. I called my fiance home from work to come sit with me until my mom could take me to the ER. I needed to feel better some how, perhaps they could give me an antibiotic for this mysterious bug I picked up at school. I had no idea what was in store for me that day and for the future that had suddenly changed.
For the next week, life was a whirlwind. I found out that my kidneys had failed and dialysis was imminent – words I thought I’d never hear. I thought I was invincible. How could this happen? What did I do to deserve this? Every day was filled with tears and I couldn’t stop them. I don’t remember much from the hospital – blood tests, procedures, bad food – none of it sank in. I spent the next three months suffering through Hemodialysis with a barely functioning catheter. That time in my life is a blur, a time I don’t want to forget but also a time I don’t want to remember.
I had one companion at the time, my iPod, where a song played continuously on repeat every session while I fought to sleep: “Swim” by Jack’s Mannequin. “Swim” is a song about not giving up and continuing on with life even if it keeps trying to drag you down. Even though my spirit was broken, there was no way I wasn’t going to fight – I’m far too young to give up. When life didn’t feel worth living anymore and I wondered if I should stop trying, I’d remember the words “Swim for your family, your lovers, your sisters and brothers and friends. Swim for the music that saves you when you’re not so sure you’ll survive.” – And I did. I’m proud to say I did survive it and things are going better than ever – life is starting again and I feel fantastic.
I got to meet the lead singer of Jack’s Mannequin, Andrew McMahon, last year shortly after starting peritoneal dialysis. I got to tell him how much his music meant to me, and how it essentially saved my life. He understood – he himself had taken on the battle of Acute lymphatic leukemia and won! Perhaps that’s why he knew just the words to write to get me through those dark times; he was a kindred spirit. The hug I got from him will stick with me for the rest of my life – the impact he and his music have had on me is probably greater than anyone could understand.
I know more trying times are ahead – Chronic Kidney Disease isn’t an easy road to walk and there are bound to be many more hurdles to come. But as long as I remember to keep swimming and keep my head above water, I know I’ll make it through. I’ve always said I’ve learned the greatest lessons in life from music. In the words of Andrew McMahon: “I swim for brighter days despite the absence of sun, choking on salt water – I’m not giving in, I swim.”
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