Call Me Gumby, 4th Place Winning Essay, 20th Annual Essay Contest

by Ginger White

It’s not far-fetched to say things have been difficult recently. In fact, it’s hard to recall “how things used to be!” Coping strategies have become creative, hard-fought, tried on and discarded as non-workable solutions, sometimes all in the same day. Perhaps we circled back around, modified what was set aside before, and tried again, to find it is okay this time, and will fit successfully into our efforts. 

For me, living roughly a two-hour drive each way from my nephrologist and dialysis center, coping methods have been achieved by trial and error. The best one? Be flexible.   

Being flexible with time allows me to get where I need to go, because one just never knows. A snowstorm hit the night before my av fistula was scheduled to be placed. I had to be at the hospital at 5 a.m. We drove up the night before and were able to grab a hotel room nearby, so we didn’t stress over not being able to get there. We had a lot of miles to cover, and there can be any number of delays, like traffic! I’d rather be there early and sit in a parking structure, than to be calling to report how I am stuck somewhere and will be late. That messes everyone’s schedule up! 

Be flexible in your interactions with staff. On days I don’t feel good, they may not feel good either. Perhaps they had a less-than-positive experience before me. Smile! I get that smile to go all the way to my eyes, especially when wearing a mask! Speak in a friendly manner, even when feeling frazzled. Empathize as needed. Call people by name. Be polite, inject a bit of humor if you can, and always say thank you. They will remember you and try harder for you the next time the need arises. Trust me, I know!  

Be flexible when getting feedback and suitable information. Rely on reputable websites, like teaching hospital sites, world-renown medical facilities, and established organizations for in-depth data. Steer away from “Dr. Google.” Ask questions of support groups, whether face-to-face or online, and pay attention to the things that worked for other patients. We are an invaluable source of knowledge for each other, and we never know when a phase we utter may be just the answer to someone else’s unspoken concern.  

Be flexible in your treatment options. The old saying, there is more than one way to skin a cat, presents a gross picture, but the meaning behind it is oh so true. Ask questions, listen, review, and make decisions with your medical team, as a team. You’re a part of that team too, you know. 

Be flexible with yourself. On some days I feel I am on top of the world; some days I feel the world is on top of me. And some days it is like I am stuck in the middle. And you know what? It’s all okay. Take a deep breath and begin again.  

You may find that the flexible option you take today will give you the chance to try flexibility in other parts of your life! 

Lea la versión en español de este ensayo aquí.


A person who has kidney disease for over 15 years, Ginger White recently started peritoneal dialysis to deal with an ultra-rare kidney disorder, while also living with a blood cancer. Combining involvement with, being a volunteer mentor for Mayo Clinic Connect, and advocate for Donate Life, she strives to educate and assist people in how to live each day to the fullest.

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