Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Top 10 Things I Learned From the Kidney March

While I could probably go on foreever about the Kidney March, and all the things I saw, experienced and learned, I realize I am rapidly becoming "the Kidney March Girl" so this will be the last post on the subject (till next year).

Top ten things I learned from the Kidney March
  1. My choice to donate Leftie the kidney was bigger than I knew. I know what you are could you not know? Here is what I thought I knew. I was helping someone-one person. I read stories of people on dialysis. I thought I understood what that was like, as best I could without having been there myself.  Family members of people affected by kidney disease emailed me to tell me the impact I might have-I could relate having experienced serious illness in my family. I thought I understood the scope of what I was doing. But until the march I don't think I really did. I understood it on paper but not in practice. In a bizarre, round-about, weird analogy way, it's like my knowledge vs.experience with death when I was younger. Until I was about 16, no one I knew had ever died. But I understood death (or thought I did!) An avid reader, I knew a ton about the biology of death, as well as the emotions, the steps and stages of grief. I knew what rites of passage and rituals came with death. I had even participated in one by going to a  co-workers dad's funeral-a big RCMP funeral with mounted escorts and all.. I thought I knew what death was all about, how it felt and what it meant. Then, when I was 17, my dad got sick and almost died. Then he got better. And when I was 19, he got sick again. And then he died. I realized in his last few months I didn't know or understand a thing about death. It isn't something you can fully grasp, no matter how empathetic you are, until to have seen it's impact. The Kidney March made me feel that way about my donation. Hearing people talk about their kids with weakened kidney function, or their own transplants and even failed transplants was humbling. Knowing people were leaving to do dialysis mid march or were doing it at night at the camp was a dose of reality I hadn't expected. How other marchers and crew viewed me and shared their thoughts on my choice to donate was also overwhelming. Without actually meeting Leftie's new home, I think I came as close as I ever will to understanding the enormity what I did. And I am grateful to have had my eyes opened more than I thought they could be.
  2. On a lighter note, I still can't effectively type kindey kidney. Despite actively blogging, Facebooking, Twittering and emailing about things related to kidneys for 11 months,  I think it is the number one thing my spell check catches. I think this explains why I almost failed grade nine typing.
  3. 100km is far. Really far. But you can fit a lot of great conversations in there. (I think it would be a good dating exercise to get to know someone don't you?)
  4. People don't always think before they speak which can make taking the high road a bit tougher. Sometimes on the march people got cranky. Blisters, heat and distance can do that. On my first day near the end, as I rode in the van feeling dejected for "quitting" we stopped at a rest station. Someone in the march asked me if I was done for the day and I said yes, feeling worse for having my failure outed. This person knew I had recently donated a kidney. They were in a position to know the impact that can have on your energy levels for months afterwards. And they said "Well you really didn't train for this at all" with a shrug and walked away. At that moment, tired, sweaty and upset, I had to take the biggest deep breath of my life to not respond because it wouldn't have been pretty. But I am proud of myself for making that choice. It made me more aware of everything I said and every interaction I had with marchers and crew for the rest of the weekend to make sure I wasn't going to repeat that person's mistake of not thinking before speaking..
  5. It doesn't matter how far you go. I learned this on Day 1. And again on Day 2. I believed it as of Day 3. Kudos to those who went the distance-whether it was 10km or 100km
  6. It doesn't matter how much you raise. (See #5 but convert KM to $$)
  7. The ability for people to overcome obstacles and challenges in their lives is amazing. The grace which some people have in doing it is inspiring.
  8. Kidney disease/damage touches everyone-old, fat, skinny, rich, young, poor, urban, rural, Black White, Asian, ugly and good looking. It's a sneaky devil and wears many faces. It is a lurker. Think you haven't been affected? Just wait.
  9. I need to do more to raise awareness about living donation. I have a responsibility and if I wasn't sure of the value I can bring on the subject before the march, it is crystal clear now. By telling people my story, I can have an impact on making living donation more common and understood.
  10. Kidney disease isn't sexy. Guess what? As much as I heard a few people say we need it to become a "sexy" disease like the others that get more attention (no one named names but let's throw Cancer and AIDS out there as obvious high profile targets)-it doesn't need to become sexy. First of all, I can tell you from experience there is nothing nice, stylish, interesting or sexy about cancer. It sucks. 1000%. Same thing with AIDS. All diseases actually whether they be more or less well known than Kidney Disease. This isn't a popularity contest. Know why there are diseases that have more awareness, more funding, more media attention? Because those causes went out and found champions (if the champions didn't find them). People with clout in their local communities/nationally/internationally (for other reasons beyong the disease) who understood just how brutally sucky those diseases are. They found famous people affected by those diseases who are passionate about finding a cure and bringing the community together as a whole. Kidney Disease doesn't need sexy. It needs a face people know and look up to (for whatever reason). It needs a voice that will raise it awareness above the din of the crowd. And it needs people to work together, towards to the same goal so the message isn't watered down..
So that's what I learned (oh and that double running socks not only are awesome but they are $4 cheaper at Mountain Equipment Co-op than at the Running Room). See you next year Kidney Marchers.


  1. Hi Lauren,
    I am still reading every one of your posts with great interest. I am still in awe of what you have done and what you continue to do. 100km a short 3 months post dontion!? It's unheard of! It's amazing how motivated and committed you are and how much you do EVERY day for the kidney donation cause.

    I am so glad to read #1 on your list. I'm glad you had to opportunity to feel first-hand the enormity of you donation and the life altering impact it has on countless others beyond Leftie's recipient. It's the reason I shared my sister's story with you. Your generosity affects so many people - so even if you never get to meet the recipient I hope you can feel some sense of relief having spent so much time get to know others who have been impacted by a kidney donation.

    Bravo to you!


  2. Just wanted to share with you the FB page I recently set up to share my sister's story. I shared this blog post on that page. Please share this link and encourage others to "Like" the page.

  3. Thanks Kerry-I will share for sure. Your letter meant so much to me and also to my family (you made both my moms proud I think :). Both the letter as well as your sister were on my mind several times during the march and kept me going. Thanks again

  4. This just may be one of my favorite posts of yours so far. It's amazing and exciting to see how your awareness and passion about this has heightened.

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