Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas and Family

Regardless of whether or not you are religious or what religion you practice, this time of year is about family. It's about spending time with people who are important to you, taking the time to call loved ones who are far away and remembering special people in your life that are no longer with us.

This year is the 15th anniversary of my Dad's last Christmas. In July of 1995, he was diagnosed for the second time with Esophageal Cancer. That time around it was inoperable and terminal. He chose to fight it and did a pretty good job of it well into the fall of that year. But by Christmas, the disease was taking its toll on him. He was becoming a shadow of the man I knew and as a 20 year old, that was pretty hard for me to understand.

Despite how sick he was, there are good things I remember about that Christmas. For one, his illness had slowed all of us down enough that we had time to stop and really get to know each other better. I think I had more conversations with my Dad in those last few months than I had in the five years prior. One of the really  good memories I have of that time is the shopping excursion we took late in December to get my Mom one more present. My dad was a creature of habit and every year his gift buying formula for my mom was exact-there was always a fancy Christmas decoration like a wooden antique Santa or some kind of festive table top display. There was also some kind of orange and chocolate sweet (bleck..not my thing). The third part of the formula was that he always got her something nice to wear. No longer able to drive, he needed me to take him to downtown Oakville to a little boutique, where he found a pretty purple silk blouse for her. The snow was falling, the picturesque streets were bustling with people walking past well decorated store fronts.  It was something out of a Disney movie and more importantly, it was wonderful to spend that kind of time one on one with my Dad.

Of course it was a difficult time too. He had lost a lot of weight, was on strong medication and often slept most of the day and night. He couldn't do most of the things he enjoyed doing before which took a toll on his spirit. Even just walking around the house would tire him so easily. He became so thin that even now, I hate looking at pictures from that Christmas. I think that it's almost harder to watch someone get sicker and sicker and slip away than it is to get through the moment they actually pass on.

This is a small part of what is motivating me to continue on in this journey to help someone by donating my kidney. I can't help but think that somewhere out there right now, someones dad or sister or child is getting sicker with kidney disease. Christmas and all its required activities are probably magnifying how much the illness is taking away from who they normally are. They are just waiting, trying to continue on, not knowing when or even if things will get better.

I have recently been reading a blog of a woman, Heidi who just received a kidney transplant at the start of December.  She has made several comments about how she was doing leading up to her transplant that really have given me insight into what life is like on dialysis. Heidi tried very hard to keep how sick she really was from her friends and family but so many things were slowing her down. Post-op she is a different person. For example, to put it in perspective in under 4 days post surgery she lost 15lbs of water weight with likely more to come off.  She said "And then to think I survived the last couple months when I was in such dire fluid overload and dialysis just wasn't working any more that I struggled to do the simplest tasks, like walking across the room or getting dressed, all the while doing my best to keep this from everyone."

I hope that I will be able to donate my kidney and give someone their life back like that. While I have no idea who will get my kidney or what their lives are like now, I hope that I will be able to make this the last Christmas a family has to watch their loved one struggle with a diminished quality of life. It's not something I could do for my Dad, but this is something I can do for someone else.

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family”

Merry Christmas. everyone :)


  1. Yet another great blog from Lauren. This one made me cry.

  2. Your blog left me overwhelmed and very also again caused me to wonder at how the world turns: decisions are made, lives are changed and because of that other lives are changed and so on... providential I think. Thank you Lauren for the post. You are living the spirit of Christmas!

  3. Thanks is neat how the world turns isn't it? I hope you (and Lynda!) and the rest of the family have a wonderful Christmas.

  4. Hi Lauren! I just came across your blog and wanted to write to encourage you in your desire to donate a kidney. Three of my 6 children have a rare pediatric kidney disease. We have been on what we call our kidney adventure for about 4 years now.

    All three of my children have had transplants because other people like you decided to share a kidney. I cannot write this without crying. We are soooo grateful for those precious gifts. These donors have truly given the gift of life to my children.

    My 17-year old son, Samuel, who is incompatible with 99.9% of the population, just had a miraculous 2nd transplant on November 12th. It was made possible by an altruistic non-directed donor (like you!) who started a chain of 32 surgeries - 16 donors and 16 recipients. A match for Samuel was found among this group and we traveled from Vermont to Texas to participate in the historic event. Samuel was so sick before the transplant and now, exactly 6 weeks later, is doing fantastic!

    This Christmas we will all be together. No hospital, no dialysis! It is wonderful!

    So if you ever doubt that what you are hoping to do will actually make a difference in someone's life, think about my children. You may be that kidney miracle for someone else!

    God bless you, Lauren!

    Nancy Smith

  5. Hi Nancy;

    Thank you so much for your comments and sharing your story. I have read a bit of your family's story and will read more. Its very meaningful to see the other side of the story!
    All the best to you and your family.

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