I know it must sound crazy, but I think that kidney disease has been a good thing for me and my life. I will go one step further; if I wasn’t diagnosed with kidney disease when I was, I might be dead today.
Rewind to 2012. I was going through a divorce, and I was still using marijuana heavily (not as heavy as some, but still daily). I was already feeling the onset of depression before my ex-wife wanted to separate, and when she told me that she didn’t want to be married anymore, I spiraled down into the depths of the dark places of my mind. I had suffered from depression before in my life, so I knew that I needed professional help. I had Kaiser insurance through my work at the time, so I called them up and scheduled appointments with both a psychiatrist and a therapist.
The psychiatrist wanted to put me on psych meds (like they all do), but first he asked me to take a blood test. Now, I should tell you that I hadn’t had blood taken in probably more than 15 years, as I was deathly scared of needles (I am well over that fear now!). So, I figured it was about time that I bit the bullet and took a needle in the arm.
The phlebotomist who was to take my blood noticed that I was a bit nervous, and he asked if I was going to pass out. I told him “I don’t know!” He prepped my arm, I took a deep breath, and 3…2…1…. It was nothing! I didn’t even feel the needle going into my arm. Is that what I was scared of all those years? Boy, did I feel like a fool. But I felt like even a bigger fool when I got the test results back.
At the time, I was working for a Social Security Disability law firm, helping claimants try to win their cases, so I was used to looking at medical records and interpreting test results (with some help from Google). Kaiser has an online system that notifies users of new test results, so naturally I looked up all the test results myself before I talked to a doctor (maybe not the best idea). My blood glucose was around 220, and for those of you that don’t want to google it, that means diabetes: not pre-diabates, but full-on diabetes.
I found another result that I didn’t quite understand at the time; my creatinine was at 2.1. I will save you all from another Google search; I had kidney disease. When I finally did get to see my primary doctor, and he confirmed what I had found on google, I was in shock. I asked him to check it again, and the next blood test showed the same result. He referred me to start seeing a nephrologist, and the rest is kidney disease history.
What I didn’t expect was the sense of relief that I felt at these test results. I suppose that I felt that I had some direction and some action that I needed to take in my life, and that broke me out of the depressive funk I was in. I did also take some antidepressants for about a week, but that is not enough time for them to start working.
I was posting on Facebook about all my health issues, and on the advice of a friend, I watched the movie Forks over Knives.
I immediately went vegan, and I started exercising. I reconnected with an old flame, and we are now happily married. Good things were happening, even though I knew that I was destined for dialysis. Even though I eventually (temporarily) fell off the vegan wagon, I still had lost a bunch of weight, and I was still exercising.
Fast forward to April 2016: I was on dialysis, and I had a (minor) stroke, but I think that the stroke would have been much worse if I hadn’t started making positive health decisions in my life. My now wife and I had made the decision a couple weeks before to do meatless Mondays, and we were actually out for our evening walk when I had the stroke. I have since made my way back to full vegan, I have been without any animal products for a couple years now, and I have never felt better.
To sum up, if I didn’t get the diagnosis of diabetes and kidney disease, and start making positive lifestyle changes when I did, the stroke could have been much worse, and I may have even died.