They say good things come in threes. There is red, white, and blue in our nation’s flag. “Goldilocks and The Three Bears” is a favorite childhood story. My nephrologist just told me I might need a third kidney transplant. Wait, hold up! I know what you are thinking – one of these does not match the others! I know. The latter are not the words I expected or wanted to hear either. However, here we are.
The day my doctor told me that I would likely need a third kidney transplant in my lifetime, as this second kidney I am living with now would not last forever with its current complications, it was a tough pill to swallow. There was not much I could do. Yes, I can go up on certain medications, but there’s more to living with kidney disease than surviving. There are ways to cope and thrive with kidney disease and all the diagnoses and sobering realities that come with being a kidney patient. For me, this comes through writing music and, interestingly enough, in layers of threes.
When I first got diagnosed with kidney disease at the age of ten, I began writing poetry to cope. I had a way with words, combining interesting thought forms into imagery that evoked emotions in ways that expressed my innermost thoughts, whether it be the pain of pulse steroid treatments or the joys of my first transplant at age sixteen. However, I began to yearn for more melodies and ways to back up these words with music. Thus, I took up the guitar. I dabbled in this for years, but I never really connected to the instrument. My songwriting was stagnant.
About five years ago, a friend took me on a trip to Hawaii, where I spotted a ukulele in the marketplace. My soul knew I had to have it! The ukulele and I have been inseparable ever since! I began writing songs on the ukulele and the world of songwriting for emotional release truly opened! I was able to accompany the lyrics I had been writing for years to this melodic instrument, with ease. When my creatinine went up (or down!) I could write a song! When I missed out on social engagements because I needed another biopsy, I could write a song. When I fell in love, I could write a song!
Ukulele became the much needed first musical layer to accompany my emotional lyrics. However, something was still missing. You see, the ukulele has a delicate, high pitch sound. While this is good for happy and even sad songs, what about, say, angry songs? What if I am trying to write about the anger that comes with a kidney disease diagnosis? Songwriting allows me to express the emotions that are hard to express otherwise; no one likes to talk about shadow emotions like anger, but we all feel it. On exasperating days, I know I have certainly questioned in anger, “Why me?” when I had to sit out yet another social engagement, because I was feeling unwell, or my immunocompromised body could not overcome yet another contagious illness. And you know what these feelings need musically? They need the rumbling of a bass guitar. So, I picked up a bass at my local music store and began to write simple bass lines after watching a series of internet tutorials. I added these to my songs for a much-needed low end sound. Second layer complete!
With bass added to my songs, I was rocking and rolling! However, I knew another rhythmic element was missing. It was percussion and I knew I couldn’t learn the drums well enough to add them in. I purchased an affordable synthesizer with drum pads, loaded drum sounds on them, and tapped out sounds with my fingers. If there is one thing kidney disease has taught me, it’s resilience and fortitude. I can find a way to get through tough times and I wasn’t going to let not knowing how to play a drum set hold me back! Layer three done! To this day, you can find my songs online. I have successfully released music. I have successfully coped with kidney disease and will continue through my journey with music. When it comes time to be transplanted again, I know I will cope through that as well, because I have made it through one hundred percent of my tough times in the past. I am still here. Cheers to the number three!
Joy Araujo is a Development Specialist at a local non profit in Indiana. She has had two kidney transplants and spends her time volunteering and writing music. Her future goals include coaching those with chronic illness to feel confident about themselves and their personal goals.
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