When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going, Honorable Mention, 20th Annual Essay Contest

by Bill Naifeh

I was a retired bakery owner and professional chef when I got the news that I had chronic kidney disease. I knew for several years that I could possibly go on dialysis, but life went on and I didn’t think much about it. “That’s not gonna happen to me,” I thought, that is until the day my nephrologist said, “You need to go on dialysis.” Honestly, I never heard another word he said that day. I thought this was going to be the end of my life. I thought there’s no way that I can weather this storm, and do I really want to weather this storm? I was maybe at one of the lowest and worst times of my life. It was certainly the toughest time I had ever experienced. How in the world do you get through a tough situation like dialysis? I wasn’t even sure I was going to be alive tomorrow. It truly was just an awful time in my life. 

I let myself wallow in misery. I remembered something my dad used to say to me: When the going gets tough the tough get going. That’s pretty trite, and I’m sure we’ve all heard it before, but this time it really meant something to me. I raised up and wondered what I could do right now to get my mind off this. I thought about all the things I could do, and most of them always wound up back at the stove. I put on my apron and started to bake like a madman. Soon every brother and sister, every relative, and most of my friends and neighbors had cinnamon rolls or bread baked from my kitchen. That really took my mind off the fact that I was likely going to have dialysis every other day for the rest of my life. It really worked for me. It took my mind off dialysis and put it where I could do some good, baking bread and rolls, doing something for other people. Because of my baking, one of the toughest times of my life became one of my favorites.  

I suppose that when you’re faced with a tough time, like going on dialysis, you’ve got to do something that you like. You have to straighten up and forge ahead and not let a diagnosis defeat you. My way of doing that was to go to my kitchen and start baking. Somebody else may go to the wood shop and start cutting wood and making something that somebody can use. Others may start sewing, planting a garden, or painting, or taking up pottery. There are so many things you can do to be active and help get your focus in a different direction. It helped me learn to be more positive and to focus my attention on a different direction. I learned that good days don’t just happen to us, we make good days happen. I’m sure this has helped shape my mood and my attitude and I cannot help but think it has helped maintain or maybe even improve my health.  

Tomorrow is a new day and I’m going to make it a good day in the kitchen cooking something I love for people I love. 

My name is Bill Naifeh and I was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I attended Oklahoma State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Administration. I met and married the love of my life, Helen in 1976. We have two daughters and four grandchildren. In 1980, Helen and I opened a bakery/deli, Bill’s Bread Box, in Kingfisher, Oklahoma and operated it for 16 years. When we closed the bakery, I got a teaching certificate and taught Family and Consumer Science and Culinary Arts. I then switched to working in the healthcare industry as a chef and dietary manager. My journey with dialysis began in 2014.


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