Monday, April 28, 2014

Translantiversary--How to Stay Healthy Post-Transplant

The Transplant-iversary

The one-year anniversary of the day I received my kidney transplant is approaching.  Yesssss!  I'm excited about it.  Why?  Because it means I'll have accomplished what seemed like a daunting goal nearly 12 months ago. The goal-- to keep my kidney.

A lot of things could have happened between last year and this year.  I could have gotten really sick.  Or, I could have decided to not take my medicine for like a whole week.  Or, I could have just had bad luck and had the kidney fail.  

But we are SO CLOSE y'all!  So close to being able to truly breathe that sigh of relief knowing that I survived the first year of living with a kidney!!  Surviving the first year of marriage doesn't get here until June 15.  The jury's still out on that goal.  

If you have a transplant, I think it's important to accept that the new kidney does not have kidney disease.  It has taken me all year basically to get used to saying I don't have kidney disease anymore.  You spend so long having one thing be "your truth."  Once that thing is no longer the truth, it's not easy to completely switch into a new mindset, even if the new truth is so much better than the old one.  I had to really learn to walk in this new space of being healed and free from disease! But, it's just as important to recognize that we have some control over our health. And even though I'm OK now, I like to try to maintain some semblance of a healthy lifestyle, even with a suppressed immune system.  

Follow a healthy diet.  So the transplant fixed 98 percent of my health problems. But I knew that I couldn't just go all cray-cray and dive into a bowl of heavily salted cheese puffs just because I am walking around with a working kidney.  I was determined to maintain some piece of the diet that I've been trying to remain dedicated to for the previous 10 years prior to my transplant.  I absolutely love food.  I live to eat, for real.  And let me tell you one thing that I've learned:  that desire for food just grew stronger after receiving a kidney transplant.   No joke, at a recent surprise party I thought someone was going to have to burn the pizza boxes because I was CONVINCED that I needed to eat an entire pizza.  

Since the transplant, I've continued to follow the wonderful low-sodium diet.  It's the only diet you'll ever hear me advocate for on this blog.  I eat just about everything except for raw fish.  So I'm not the person who's gonna tell you to just eat kale.

The key to doing this low-sodium thing is to cook your own damn food.  That's the number one way to control how much salt you put into your body.  Too much salt = high blood pressure = possibly kidney disease, heart disease and other s*%t you probably don't want happening to you.

Attempting exercise.  This is definitely an area that I struggle in.  I wake up every morning to exercise, saying "I hate mornings. And I hate working out" without fail.  I'm just...not a gym rat. I like the feeling that I get after working out but during the exercising process, I'm less than thrilled.  However, I have to do it now that I'm "normal."  My post-transplant diet allows me to eat more foods and my cravings are stronger because my kidney is working correctly.  Which means...I can gain weight!! It's not uncommon for a transplant recipient to receive an organ and come back a year later with an extra 50 pounds on them.  I don't want to be that person.  So, I cry and curse and force myself to do lunges every morning until I forget what I'm doing and where I am.  

Taking temperatures and blood pressures.  This kind of saved my life a few times.  If I was ever having a day where I felt crappy I'd take my temperature to see that yes, I was indeed feeling crappy with a low-grade fever.  Before my last stint in the hospital, I'd taken my temperature every day and it was normal.  The day I went to the E.R. it had spiked to 100 degrees. I say this because, this isn't something regular people do--take their temperatures every day.  But it's something transplant patients should do frequently to make sure they don't have some kind of infection brewing underneath the surface.  Before this, I didn't know what it felt like when you have a temperature. But now I do, and that makes the difference between catching something that could destroy your kidney super early as opposed to finding out later, after you're back on the waiting list for a new organ.

Keeping a transplant healthy is not difficult at all when it comes to the things I can control. Its the other factors, the natural way our bodies are built to defend against a foreign presence and the effects of medicines that suppress our immune systems.  Those things, we can't control. But then I guess one of the best ways to keep yourself healthy post transplant involves building up a good attitude about your new situation.  Not worrying. Learning how too celebrate and be thankful for what you have in that moment. Understanding that even if you have CMV or forget a dose of meds, there's still a chance to fight to keep what we've been given. 

Throwback Bonus!
 A portrait of me, running around like a chicken with no head or wings, the week of my transplant last year.  Enjoy (again)!