My Mother’s Toolbox –4th Place Winner, 17th Annual Essay Contest

By Joy Araujo

As a young girl, I distinctly remember my mother’s toolbox. It was a large black box that held a variety of helpful tools—a hammer, wrenches, and screw drivers of all sorts. I would see this toolbox come out to solve numerous everyday problems, like exchanging batteries in toys and hanging curtain rods. My mother was a strong, handy woman that often took it upon herself to fix things. All she needed was her tool box.

I would like to think that I am like my mother. As a young girl, I was also a young kidney patient, battling nephrotic syndrome, then end stage renal disease, then dialysis, then a transplant surgery, then rejecting said transplant, then more dialysis, then another transplant surgery. I was constantly in battle. However, I feel victorious. I may have battled treatments like large doses of prednisone, biopsies, and both hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis, but I have came out ahead. This is because, like my mother, I had my toolbox.

The day in 1998 that I awoke, abruptly and confusingly, with my eyes swollen nearly shut, was the day I found out I was chronically ill. It was a scary time for a child, who would eventually lose much of her childhood due to the lows of kidney disease and treatments. However, I started assembling my toolbox at an early age.

That day when I was diagnosed with kidney disease was the day I earned my first tool—courage. It takes courage to wake up and keep battling kidney disease, especially in the face of mass uncertainty. “Will the medicines work this round?” I would ask myself. “Will I survive this?” With a healthy sense of courage, I faced every day at my best, listening even as a ten-year-old to the words of my doctors, taking notes to keep myself healthy. I had the courage to face every day as my best, adhering to a sometimes frightening treatment and medication regimen while coping with uncertainty about life.

Then there was the day at the age of sixteen when my doctor told me, exasperated and visibly upset, that I would need dialysis or a transplant to survive. Facing this news, I gained another tool for my box—patience. Long hours of dialysis and long years of waiting for a transplant required the ability to withstand the odds of time gracefully. Every day was a battle… jumping at the sound of my phone ringing (it could be a kidney!) and passing the time when it wasn’t my turn, holding onto the notion that this was my life regardless of transplant status and that I was going to live my best life right now.

In addition, I will always remember the days I received the calls for my first and second transplants. I would feel relief, but also some apprehension. Would the surgery be successful? Would the kidney respond well to my body? What will life be like afterwards?

However, one emotion trumped them all—joy. This was pure, unadulterated joy at a new lease on life. Choosing to experience joy completed my toolbox. Joy helped me celebrate and stay positive even when my lab results would come back unsatisfactory, when I lost my first transplant, and when everyday stressors of transplant life started to affect me. Joy is something that I choose every day, regardless of external circumstances.

I believe that my battle with kidney disease is won on a daily basis when I use the tools from my toolbox—courage, patience, and joy. Like my mother solved everyday household problems with her handy toolbox, I solve my everyday kidney disease-related problems with the tools I have earned by battling this disease for most of my life. Every day, I carry my toolbox with me wherever I go, earning new tools as I continue to battle. Right now, I am living with my second transplant, utilizing courage to get me through the anxiety that creeps in as a remnant of my prior rejection.

I continue moving forward in my life, making up for lost time, using patience to remind myself that I am on my own life schedule and that I will “get there” where I want to be if I just keep moving. Then I choose joy and smile through it all, because where joy is not present, neither is abundant life. These tools, packed neatly away in my box, ready to be wielded at any time, give me the ability to battle kidney disease and win.

Listen to Joy reading her essay

Joy Araujo is a former hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis patient who now living with her second new kidney! She is a Biblical Studies student at Anderson University in Indiana and enjoys volunteering and spending time with her dachshund, Franklin.




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