Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Chronic Kidney Disease

Catching up with myself

One of my faithful readers has challenged me (informally, of course) to tell you the story behind the photo above. It was my last photo in the Valley Forge National Park post about a week ago.

I immediately thought of three true stories, but another turned up this morning. Nonetheless, just so you don’t feel deprived, here’s a one sentence version of each story I’ve chosen not to tell in detail.

  1. Because Elouise is the firstborn of four daughters, she feels the need to keep running or walking faster in order to stay ahead of the pack breathing down her neck.
  2. Elouise and D love to go for walks during which D takes pictures while E just keeps walking ahead and circling back and then walking ahead again, again and again for as long as it takes.
  3. This was a very long walk with restroom facilities and a comfortable car at the end of the journey which Elouise has now almost reached.

OK. All true, and I could produce more of the same. However, on a more serious note, I’ve never thought of myself as needing to catch up with myself. Which means my self knows where it’s going and I need to learn to follow it. So I’ve chosen to see the photo as a kind of allegory of my current life: learning to listen to what I need and can deliver to myself.

Just over two years ago my life changed. Full stop. Don’t move. Breathe deeply, relax and learn to accept.

Short version: Multiple heart problems partially resolved by lovely Lucy Pacemaker. Two weeks later, nasty fall on sidewalk and a broken jaw that forever changed my walking and eating habits. Slow slide afterwards into adrenal fatigue with improvement, not yet resolved. And just over a year ago, a diagnosis of chronic kidney disease.

The impact on my life was sudden and confusing. I never dreamed recovery would be a long, slow forever slog. Or that other issues already residing in my body would be discovered and need attention as well.

The upshot was that I can no longer predict with certainty what I’ll need or be able to do day-to-day. I know the general limits and possibilities of each day, yet I never know how each day will play out. Things that seemed easy yesterday often feel impossible the next day. There isn’t much I can count on except that I have to eat, sleep, listen to and follow my body.

I remember when I first heard the phrase ‘listening to our bodies.’ I thought I knew what that meant. Yet I now know this is an invitation to controlled chaos. In the midst of this chaos, my body is the only reliable indicator I have to get me from here to there. That is, to a place of acceptance and gratitude without becoming bitter, cynical or despairing. And without making presumptions about tomorrow.

The photo reminds me that though this is a lonely task, beauty accompanies me. Sometimes it isn’t as obvious as Valley Forge National Park. Yet it’s always there waiting to be discovered. Sometimes in my backyard; sometimes in other people; sometimes in music or writing or the wanderings of my mind. I may seem alone and feel lonely; yet there’s more going on than loneliness when I’m willing to receive it. That’s when I truly catch up with myself and am grateful.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 May 2018
Photo taken by DAFraser at Valley Forge National Park, 6 May 2018

A quick and happy update

I’m just back from  seeing my kidney doctor to go over recent lab tests. Two things in particular have me ecstatic!

  • First, my Vitamin D is no longer a hair’s breadth from ‘deficient.’ It’s now proudly ‘sufficient’! This means good things for my health overall including more energy, happy kidneys, happy heart, happy blood pressure and happy bones. Well…happy enough for me.
  • Second, my Chronic Kidney Disease Stage 3 ranking got kicked in the butt! It’s now Stage 2, and should hold right there as long as I’m a good girl and do all the right stuff. That means eating the right food, drinking enough water, exercising regularly every day, getting enough sleep, saying No to just about every invitation that comes my way (slight exaggeration), lazing around when that’s what I feel like doing, writing my heart out, and visiting you as I’m able.

Speaking of visiting, tomorrow D and I are going next door for tea with our neighbors. He cooked the fabulous Quinoa and Garbanzo Bean dish (Indian style) for me, and she’s a medical doctor. Yesterday I saw Rita while we were out walking. I’m due a cup of tea with her, as well.

That’s it for now. Just felt like I would pop wide open if I didn’t share my good news!

Elouise ♥ 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 July 2018
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Tea

My one-of-a-kind body

Dear Friends,

This past week was a blur. Not a horrible blur, but the kind that softens my outlook and strains my capacity to take things in. I knew it was coming, yet living through it physically and emotionally was more exhausting than I anticipated.

It’s all about my dear, one-of-a-kind body. The one I’m learning to treat tenderly–with special care, huge respect and growing gratitude. It’s easy for me to fall into a sense of despair when things don’t improve as quickly as I’d like.

And yet…the outcome of this week’s saga is positive. I now have four more lab tests to get through—three involve separate blood draws. The other is a 24-hour collection I won’t describe because you really don’t want to know.

I met my kidney doctor on Wednesday, and relaxed immediately. She had a welcoming, patient-centered approach and treated me as the adult woman I am. I was surprised to hear she wasn’t sure what’s going on in my body. The numbers are clear on my lab results for the last ten years.

At the same time, having seen me, she doesn’t consider me an ‘average’ 73-year-old woman. For example, I’m still physically active and don’t look that old. Hence the standard measurements don’t necessarily apply. So she wants to find out whether I’m at an earlier stage of kidney disease, or whether something else might be going on. I left with orders for further testing.

My exhaustion continues, as do other issues that have plagued me for the past year. Which brings me to yesterday’s appointment with my integrative doctor. She’s also totally patient-oriented, and is treating me for adrenal disorder (sometimes related to kidney problems).

Last December she told me it might take 2 full years to recover my energy. Along with more supplements and directions about diet, she gave me a list of changes to make in my lifestyle. I had to start putting myself first, cutting way back on things I didn’t need to do, meditating regularly, enjoying the outdoors, and I think you get the picture.

In short, I had to begin loving my body more than I loved pleasing or even being with other people. I had to treat my weary body as tenderly as I might treat a newborn baby. It’s no exaggeration to say I was a rank beginner at this, even though I thought I’d been treating myself well.

After reviewing how things were going in all parts of my health care, she wrote orders for follow-up blood work, gave me a big thumbs up, and sent me home to carry on!

The way ahead still feels heavy. My attitude, however, has changed. Each evening I make a short journal entry about how I’m feeling. Now, instead of dwelling on the challenges or discouragements of each day, I recall things that brought me joy and delight.

I’ve also decided I might like to live to be 100 after all! Not because I think the world is getting better each day, but because I’m finding ways to celebrate little things instead of focusing on stress-points in my life or in this world God loves so much.

With hope and gratitude,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 June 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Tender 

An unexpected gift | Recipes

At 11:00 am yesterday I left my house and walked two short minutes to my next-door neighbor’s house for a show and tell cooking lesson. A simple Indian dish he concocted of quinoa and garbanzos. He wanted to cook something that would fit my health needs, and thought this might fit the bill.

I sat on a kitchen stool watching as he started from scratch and put it together, checking each ingredient with me as he went along.

There weren’t any mysterious ingredients or fancy maneuvers at the stove. Just water for the rinsed quinoa (2 cups dry), cooked first (about 4 cups water, no salt) and left to sit when done, covered, while he prepared the flavorings in a large frying pan.

Here’s what went into the frying pan:

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil, heated, to which he added
  • Sliced fresh garlic – 6 or 7 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon each, cumin seed and mustard seed
  • Turmeric powder to taste
  • Chili powder to taste
  • About 1 teaspoon ground coriander

When the seed were popping and the spices fragrant, he added prepared caramelized onions and let things simmer. Next he added the drained garbanzos (a large can) and let the mixture simmer in the olive oil. Finally, he added another smaller handful of chopped coriander and one chopped yellow onion. Then it all simmered until the onions had lost their bitterness but not their crunch.

Finally, he added the flavorings and beans in the frying pan to the pot of cooked quinoa and mixed everything together.

Then the moment of truth! He served up small portions for everyone present—his twins and their nanny, and me, of course. Delicious. Nourishing. Easy to make.

This unexpected gift came because the day before he’d seen me out walking, asked about my health, and wanted to do something that would be good for me and easy to make for myself. I brought most of it home and had some for lunch today. Yummy!

For me, this was a big event. Nonetheless, it doesn’t take much to make my day. Just bits and pieces here and there. A note or email from a friend, a smile from the clerk at the grocery store, seeing friends when I’m out walking, a lovely song on the radio, a late afternoon walk with D, evening birdsong or a call from a family member. Small things that let me know I’m not alone, and that I matter.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 June 2017
Photo found at betazeta.com, not the dish described above, but similar

Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Portion

House of Cards? | A Dream

A week ago I had my first coherent dream after months of nothing but bizarre images that bordered on nightmares. Here’s the dream, lightly edited for clarity.

I’m in our house. D is there. It feels smaller than it should be. Especially the kitchen.

Without warning, a woman shows up. In her 40s? She’s living in our house but I don’t remember asking her to move in, or placing an ad. But there she is. No name—quiet and tidy.

I’m just starting to ask questions about how she got here when a young man shows up. He brought lots of clothes. In fact, he’s already taking over precious space with his belongings. I can’t imagine where he came from. He’s single, seems to be in his 20s, and feels entitled to service.

I’m annoyed to find out from him that he’s renting a room in our house and has a key and a contract. His collection of clothes takes up all the hall space. Now he’s in the kitchen, asking me what’s for breakfast.

Just then a 30-something man and woman arrive with their three young children and luggage. They demand to see their living quarters. The young children, perhaps 7 to 12 years old, are running wild through the house, and the couple is on our phone, arguing about something with their relatives. They’re also complaining loudly about the services here and lack of space.

I’m at my wit’s end. Things are out of control. I look up and see to my consternation that the young woman has put on a maid’s uniform and is calmly pushing a service cart around, cleaning up. I didn’t ask her to do this. She might be a good person to have around.

The demanding young man and the couple with children are out-of-order. I want them out of our house immediately. Yet they’ve signed contracts. I don’t know when, where, or at whose direction.

I retreat to our kitchen, now a narrow galley kitchen, to investigate a loud noise. To my dismay, things have fallen from the top of the refrigerator. Broken pottery and dirt cover the floor. I pick up the plant it contained, and discover the bulb has sprouted thick, healthy leaves, some now broken. A beautiful magenta purple blossom has already begun to bloom.

What’s going on? Is this a circus gone out of control? The descent of chaos, with no time to address anything? A rollercoaster ride with moments of possibility and beauty snatched away willy-nilly?

After much thought, I got back into my dream, took a deep breath, and focused on the blossom, the quiet woman, and D. This house is my body, my home for now. Forget the intrusions. They aren’t going to stop.

Three things stand out–each saying something about who I am right now:

  • The unexpected lovely blossom is my favorite color. Just look at my Portland rose Gravatar above!
  • The quiet woman calmly steps in to help without being asked. She seems to know just what to do. Part of me?
  • D is there behind the scenes, a sign of internal stability and strength. Also part of me?

For now, this is more than enough to calm my heart and free my spirit.

Thanks for reading and listening.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 May 2017
Photo taken by DAFraser at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon

Letting go my desire for survival

I’m missing the routines
that keep me steady
and grounded.

Living moment to moment—
So happy to be with her again,
my daughter.

A little off-balance in my daily life—
Grateful for a quiet mid-day
so I can write, eat, be with myself and rest.

The rain has stopped and the sky is brighter.
Still feeling the edge of cold damp air
on my hands, legs and torso—
Wore my wool undershirt today
and flannel-lined jeans.

I want to mother her—
The thought of end-of-life stuff
gives extra meaning and urgency to our visits.

Have I been faithful to her?
Always such a distance to travel
for such a small bit of time.

Is it time to practice letting go—for good?
Whatever that means—
I’m not sure.

I’ve never done this before.
Neither has she—
So many unknowns.

It’s hard to see through tears.

Just being alone for a few hours in this house
feels sad—too empty,
too quiet.

What will it be when she isn’t here—
Or when I’m not here?….

***

I wrote this journal entry during a recent week-long visit with our daughter and her husband. Our first visit with them since I learned I have Chronic Kidney Disease. Surprisingly, the words sing to me–sweetly and sadly. No rushed or distressed cadence. Just the leading edge of a reality unknown to me as a mother.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 May 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Survive

One Big Blur | An Update

Carolina Anne Fraser’s First Prize Youth Division, 2016 Audubon Photography Competition – Great Frigatebirds taken Near Española, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

The last four weeks have been one big blur. Mostly medical appointments and family time, plus writing and visiting when I was able and awake. You’ve already heard about our visit with daughter Sherry and her husband to Longwood Gardens.

Another highlight was a visit to the James Audubon House and grounds. We met our son there and toured the old house and grounds. There were birds all over the place! The day was crystal clear, breezy and sunny, cool but not cold.

We went because one of our granddaughters had a prize-winning bird photo on display along with those of other winners and honorable mentions. Proud? Who me? Not just proud, but absolutely floored by her gift.

Back to reality and on another subject, “endless beauty” was my 900th post! I didn’t even notice until it was already out there. When I began blogging over three years ago, I never guessed I’d still be chugging away. One of the most personally rewarding things I do these days is look back at some of my writing, often getting teary in a happy way.

What I thought would be writing about my life has become writing my life. Not looking back so much as looking into the present. Especially as it impacts me directly as a citizen of the world and as a retired woman making my way toward the end of this life.

Daughter Sherry and her husband flew back to Oregon last week. It was bitter-sweet to be together. A reminder of how much family means as I age, and my health changes.

The day after they left, I saw my primary care physician to follow up on lab tests. My kidneys are in good shape right now. No sign of damage. I’ll see my cardiologist at the end of this week. I also have a call in to schedule a first appointment with a nephrologist (kidney doctor) who will oversee my Chronic Kidney Disease care.

My most difficult challenge is dealing with unpredictable energy and emotional highs and lows. That, and the constant need to prepare kidney-friendly food and get enough of it in me each day. D has kindly offered to learn a recipe or two that he can make for me each week.

On Mother’s Day I woke up exhausted after a tough night. Still recuperating from my relatively busy social life last week. So I stayed home from church and slept all morning. Got up, had some lunch, then went straight back to bed and slept more. A wonderful way to celebrate Mom’s Day! I recommend it highly.

I’m not able to write or visit as often as I once was, and am more laid back about what I write. So far, there’s always more than enough when I’m ready and able to write.

With hope for today, and huge thanks for your visits and comments,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 May 2017
Photo credit: DAFraser, May 2017

Ode to Cruciferous Delight

First things first for amateur poets such as I:
Ode – a lyric, often overly embellished poem
Meant to be sung or chanted with rapture

Please note no resemblance
Between ‘ode’ and ‘odiferous’ or ‘cruciferous’
Which meaneth no clothespins or otherwise pinch-ed nostrils

I commence herewith—

Loveliest of bitters, I adore you
With every aching cell of my body
And from the depths of my deep kidney hunger

My body aches for your bitter potion
That bringeth solace and life to my most inward of inward parts
Blazing a path of glorious heat

Straight and steady as an arrow
You sweetly sour my tongue, my throat, my very life
With your healing poison

You causeth my lips to pucker
And my tongue it quivereth with heat
My kidneys anticipate the glories of your delectable cleansing

Forgive me, dear radishes, brussels sprouts,
Kale, cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, and your near cousins
Sweetly called lemon and lime

How did I live my life so long
Without your tender ministrations burning
In the most secret of secret depths of my being?

Should you e’er forsake me
I will languish tormented as I await
The joyous moment of our bitter-sweet reunion!

Thus endeth my Ode to Cruciferous Delight.

Written in honor of my CKD (Chronic Kidney Delight) diet, mostly raw and bitter
Special thanks to my trusty Vitamix that maketh all things possible

***

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 May 2017
Photo found at foodandnutrition.org
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Bitter

Just to let you know…

Dear Friends,

Our daughter and her husband arrived Wednesday night for an eagerly anticipated visit with us. I’m in Mom Heaven! Though the weather is cool, damp and rainy, my heart is warm, happy and sometimes achy-teary. This is the first time a visit has felt so heavy with change and uncertainties.

Yesterday was gorgeous. We went to the super market and brought home lots of good veggies, fruit, and other things healthy and not-so-healthy. I’m sticking to my disgustingly healthy CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease) diet, and enjoying every opportunity for conversation and afternoon walks.

The rest of the week promises versions of today: messy/rainy on the outside, laid back and warm on the inside. I hope your weekends also include time for conversation that matters with people you love.

I’ll post as I’m able.

Love,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 May 2017
Photo found at pixabay.com

I don’t know where to begin…

So I’m just going to blunder along for a bit. Which is, I’m told, the best way to begin. I think Eeyore would agree with me.

I’m a total novice when it comes to Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). It wasn’t on my horizon and it isn’t in my family of origin.

But that doesn’t matter now. I have it. Stage 3A. In fact, I probably passed ‘Go’ well over a year ago without even knowing it.

So here I am. Floundering around, lurching through each day with emotional highs and lows, energy highs and lows, eating highs and lows, and little sense of overall wellbeing.

High means I’m upbeat, alert, happy to be alive, and at peace with my body. Giving happy hugs to D.

Low means I’m virtually asleep, can’t move a muscle including my brain, and don’t want to look at another healthy smoothie or make another easy-to-chew soup or stew. Weeping silently or openly. Collecting hugs from D as needed.

Do I feel sorry for myself? No, I don’t. Nor do I ask God, “Why me?” There are millions of us out there with this disease. What I regret is the relative invisibility of the disease—often until it’s too late.

Which raises the question of my status. You might think Stage 3A out of 5 stages is fairly decent. Answer: It is and it isn’t. It’s better than Stage 3B. That’s when you start talking about what’s coming in Stage 4 (preparation for the end game). Followed quickly by Stage 5 (dialysis, kidney transplant and, sooner or later, death).

At Stage 3A I have the possibility of leading a different yet fairly ‘normal’ life. That means constant attention to self-care, lab tests, and endless appointments with various doctors. Some people are able to reverse the progress of CKD, but it’s rare at Stage 3. Difficult but possible at Stage 2; often possible at Stage 1.

So what’s the solution? For me, I’m in a crash course I didn’t want. That means reading books, finding online resources, talking with family members, facing the reality that this is a terminal illness for which there is no magic pill. And of course, writing about it, especially about how I’m feeling.

It also means reordering each day as it progresses. Do I need to take a little nap? Meditate? Write my heart out? Do nothing but sit on the porch listening to the birds? Listen to music? Take a little walk? Have a good cry? A good rant?

This is an invisible disease. If you could see me, you probably wouldn’t know anything’s amiss. Most people without CKD haven’t heard much about it, think they won’t get it, or don’t know how to determine whether they’re at risk. Yet millions of us have it. Go figure.

I’ll post more from time to time. Not necessarily because you need to know, but because I want you to know and it helps immensely to write it out and make it public.

Thanks for visiting and reading!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 May 2017
Image found at pinterest.com
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Apprentice

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