“Old-Fashioned Self-Discipline” – 3rd Place (Tie) Winner, 11th Annual Essay Contest

By Susan Decuir

Old-fashioned Self-Discipline-2

I savored each sip of my Starbucks tall decaf mocha with whipped cream and a mocha drizzle on top. Yet guilt pricked my conscience.

“Eliminate high-potassium and high-phosphorus foods like bananas, potatoes, peanut butter, milk products, and chocolate from your diet,” my nephrologist had warned many times.

I knew that my health was more important than tantalizing my taste buds with dainty delights that would escalate the damage polycystic kidney disease (PKD) had already caused. But no chocolate! No potatoes! This is going to take some serious praying and old-fashioned self-discipline, I silently groaned.

“With your kidney function below 10%, it’s time to begin the health-screening process necessary to get you on a transplant list,” said Dr. Peri, as her sober eyes pierced mine. “We want you healthy when you get your transplant, so eat sensibly and continue to exercise.”

Then came my mother-in-law’s 90th-birthday celebration. I was asked to bring my potato salad (everyone’s favorite). Miraculously, I didn’t even lick the spoon. After all, it’s more blessed to give than to receive, right? I’ll be content to eat cake. But what if it’s chocolate? So I’ll eat ice cream. Oops! No milk products.

“And having food and clothes, let us therewith be content.” (1 Timothy 6:8) Well, that settled that. I’ll be content with PKD-friendly foods and get over it, with His help, of course.

I loved my aerobics class at the senior center. When I tentatively squeezed into the front row for the first time several years ago, I scanned my surroundings and took a deep breath. Then ’60s music suddenly filled the air and an energetic 50-something woman with a ponytail stepped onto center stage. After she led us through a series of deep breathing and stretching exercises, then eased us into a jog, I thought, This is easy.

“Now step side-to-side and circle your arms. Big circles! Keep breathing. Now hustle up—one, two, three, four. Get ready. We’re going to switch to the grapevine.” I stumbled all over myself trying to keep up.

“Now kick your right leg to the front—right leg, left leg.” We must look like an older version of the New York City Rockettes, I silently chuckled, reminding myself that this was good for me.

“Now march it out and pump your arms.” Within 10 minutes, I was huffing and puffing and dying of thirst. How do those 60- to 80-plus grandmas and grandpas keep up? I wondered. And before joining this blood-pumping cardiovascular marathon, I thought I was in pretty good shape for a 58-year-old soon-to-be grandma battling PKD.

Following a short water break, we lifted weights. I pumped away with 2-pound weights, but found lifting them over my head a challenge due to low kidney function.

“Now grab your mats and lie down.” Whew! I could surely use a rest. But rest wasn’t what our drill sergeant had in mind. Crunches! And I’d never done crunches before in my life. Following 25 nonstop crunches, we worked our inner thighs, stretched our legs to the ceiling, and finally had the cool-down and dismissal, not one second earlier than our allotted hour!

I dragged my mat to the closet, dragging myself as well and doubting that I’d ever come back. But with a day between classes, I was rested up enough to go back and try again.

Several months later, my first grandchild was born, and this weight-lifting, stomach-crunching grandma with PKD was ready with strong, muscular arms for cuddling and rocking that precious little guy. That’s the only time you’ll see me in a rocking chair!

Thanks to sticking with the renal-healthy diet and aerobics, I lost 10 pounds and felt better. So at 62, I gladly donned a bathing suit that sizzling summer day in 2009 to go to the pool with my daughter, Sarah; my 3-year-old grandson, Evan; and my 1-year-old granddaughter, Emma. Two weeks later I received my miracle kidney transplant, just 2 months and 10 days after being added to the transplant list and before starting dialysis. Six weeks later, this new and improved grandma who had more energy than ever went back to her aerobics class.

I thank God every day for His abundance of blessings: my donor; my healthy kidney; my husband, family, and friends. Did I mention chocolate and potatoes? And thanks to old-fashioned self-discipline, this grandma still has strong arms for cuddling and rocking 8-month-old Ava.

Susan Decuir - self disciplineSusan lives in Carrollton, Texas