“I’m going to need you to fly to the moon for me.”
Did I hear that correctly? Did my nephrologist really just order me to fly to the moon? How could I undertake such an impossible task? Was this really necessary to lower my phosphorous? I was taking binders religiously. Were they not working?
The nephrologist repeated, “Yes, you will have to cut out all cheese if you want to stay healthy and eventually get a new kidney.”
I decided that I would tackle my health head-on. I would learn to fly to the moon.
I couldn’t believe it. This doctor really wants the impossible, I thought. Doesn’t she know I’m the world’s biggest cheese lover? As borderline traumatizing and definitely cry-worthy as this moment was, I knew I had to listen. I spent the weekend visiting my sister, itching and scratching until my skin was raw. My phosphorous level was entirely too high, and I was symptomatic. I called my mother, literally crying on the phone, bracing my vegetarian, cheese loving-self for the task of flying to the moon, also known as a tough task of eliminating my main comfort food for an unspecified amount of time. How was I to cope with my kidney disease woes if I couldn’t eat anything good? I was distraught with my new diet recommendations and the idea that my diet was no longer under my control. When I got home from the clinic, after calming down in my car, I decided that I would tackle my health head-on. I would learn to fly to the moon.
If you want to do this, you’ll need some preparation. I took to the task of researching every low phosphorous, vegetarian source of protein available. Though I had not eaten eggs in years, I decided to experiment with egg whites, a suggestion from my clinic team and internet research. I began looking up egg white recipes and added them in any way I could. In addition, tackling a seemingly impossible task like this involves getting help from others. My meat-loving mother offered to give up her favorite food for a month in solidarity (all meats!), my personal trainer gifted me a plant-based athlete diet book for more cheese-less recipes, and my sister bought me a jackfruit sandwich for satiety. We were all on a mission to the moon, and we were all doing well!
I learned to be happy in my cheese-less life. However, I learned more than that; I learned to lean into change and adaptation. I learned to become flexible. I once heard a phrase that went something like, the rigid and stiff break before they ever reach the moon. Although these are probably not the exact words I heard, there’s still a kernel of truth in them. As humans, leaning into flexibility is what saves us and allows us to grow. Letting go of cheese and a staunch control over my diet taught me this, and the lesson became applicable in other areas of my life.
Because of my kidney disease, I struggled to finish my college degree at my school, but once I became flexible and open to the suggestions of others, I was able to resume my education at a different pace made for adult learners at a different university. In addition, my relationships with others became more peaceful as I grew more open and adaptable.
When things don’t go right, it’s okay to go left. It’s okay to lean into new changes.
My new, happy food experience did not stem from eating whatever I wanted. It didn’t come with phosphorus binders that worked with my body chemistry that may have allowed me to eat some of my favorite foods. No, it came with letting go and becoming comfortable with change. With this, I wiggled a bit with my food choices some of the time, but happiness was right around the corner. I would eventually get a kidney transplant, but I take with me today the art of leaning into change. One transplant medication causes high cholesterol, so I still try to limit my cheese intake, but this time it isn’t traumatizing. I’ve learned to be happy with my new flexibility, so I am glad to find new ways to eat within my doctors’ stipulations. I love researching new recipes. Flying to the moon isn’t so bad after all!
Listen as Joy Araujo reads her essay:
Joy Araujo is living with her second kidney transplant, after doing both hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. She loves to volunteer with the National Kidney Foundation, Make-a-Wish, and Go Red for Women. She recently graduated with her BA in Biblical Studies from Anderson University in Indiana and finds everyday joy in playing the ukulele.
More essays by Joy Araujo
My Mother’s Toolbox –4th Place Winner, 17th Annual Essay Contest
Unexpected Inspiration – 2nd Place Winner 16th Annual Essay Contest
Just Keep Moving – 15th Annual Essay Contest Honorable Mention
Silver Linings – 2nd Place Winner, 14th Annual Essay Contest
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