Nephrectomy countdown

me herman 2011.01.11 bwI’ll have surgery next Wednesday at Duke. I am expected to remain at Duke until Friday or Saturday. The surgeon has every intention of sucking out that massive abomination of a kidney through a small hole a tad larger than my belly-button. The procedure should take 4-5 hours; I’ll be under general anesthesia.

Having had my pre-op appointment today, the reality is now setting in far more weightily than it had been.

Sitting in a chair. Taking a drive. Bending down to do laundry. Reaching up to put laundry away. Or doing dishes. Or scooping the litter box. And many more activities…they all require generous use of abdominal muscles, and I am quite hindered when my massive left kidney gets in the way. I am not exaggerating to state that I have probably quit on myself a good 20,000 times on takes mundane and challenging when my kidney ached, and it seemed best to retreat and not complete the task.

I was close to joining the track team in 10th or 11th grade. A sympathetic Mr. Y was just going to let me on, to at least practice even if I didn’t have a role, because this would help my self-esteem and help my overall fitness. But, one day, I just flipped and decided it was too demanding given the pain my kidney caused. And that was that.

Here’s one instance (out of many) for which, despite quality therapy, I am unable to forgive myself for being a quiter. I despise myself for having walked away on something that may not have been the answer to everything but could have provided a rewarding experience.

The summer after my freshman year of college, I worked for a month in the men’s clothing department at Macy’s in Edison, New Jersey. I hated, hated, hated this job. But objectively, it was not a terrible. I just hating standing for long periods of time; my kidneys probably hated that. And the monotony kicked up swirls of anxiety and depression that made it excrutiating to get through the day. So one day, approaching the Menlo Park Mall on Route 1 North, I made a U-Turn and drove home. And I later called in sick, citing kidney issues, and I quit soon after. To make a long story short, I wound up spending the rest of that summer in a mental health program that did very little good, but what choice did I have? I had sabotaged a decent summer job. It should be said that had I worked that entire summer, it’s like my financial situation would have been impoved to the point that sophomore-year credit cards may not have been needed to the extent that they were, and my entire financial future and related decisions could have gone differently.

I could dig up dozens of others of examples of how my PKD got the way of something important–and I left it.

I have been told upon occasion that I am attractive. I’ve gotten this from women. I’ve gotten this from gay men who were either flirting or just trying to make me feel better. I have never been able to accept any of these judgments. Over the years, there have been the issues of my detestation of my moles, my stockiness, my lack of athleticism, and, especially in recent year, my protruding gut, home to my two overgrown kidneys. Again, I am not sure that being lopsided by continuing to carry a huge kidney is going to solve the latter problem. But it’s an enormous deal that the left one is coming out.


4 thoughts on “Nephrectomy countdown

  1. Good luck! I’m sure it will go great and be a huge relief post-recovery.

    I can relate to how debilitating it can be to not have use of your core…between my back issues of earlier this year and the time in college when I sunburned my stomach to the point of scaling (i fell asleep in the sun…trust me, it was disgusting), i’ve had some pretty humbling experiences of not being able to do things we take for granted. Let me know if there’s anything we can help you with!

  2. Have the doctor prescribe a homemaker. Insurance should pay. They make sure you take you meds, cook, do dishes and laundry. They might even drive you to dialysis.

  3. Good luck with the operation. Any reason they are leaving one kidney? Do you have residual function in it? Is the plan to remove it later if all goes well? Sorry for all the questions. I’m impressed you were able to make a U turn in New Jersey. Every day is the first day of the rest of your life. Don’t beat yourself up over your past. You may not have had control of it back then and you definitely can’t change it now.

  4. @Mary – Thanks, and I’m sure I’ll be in touch soon to ask for some favors.
    @Mom – I’ve needed help with cooking, dishes, and laundry for 15 years and haven’t really gotten much help. I’m not going to get a prescription for a homemaker. Thanks you for the suggestion.
    @Kevin – Thanks. It’s pretty much my decision to leave one kidney. I’m used to passing lots of liquid through my two kidneys and have managed not to have dramatic dietary restrictions. While I eventually want the other one out, I am afraid of the massive, sudden adjustment I’d have to make with no kidneys. I’m hoping the one remaining kidney will still have enough function to allow for me to make any necessary changes gradually. Yes, I have made many U-turns on Route 1 in N.J.!

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