One perk offered at dialysis is a private TV. During those tedious hours, it’s impossible not to watch some and often a whole lot (though reading makes the time pass faster). What has amazed me is the incredible number of ads promoting some kind of pill or medical device, either that or offering legal help in suing the company that sold you said pill or device.
Watching this stuff my imagination takes off. I discover symptoms of maladies I can’t pronounce and in many cases don’t even know what they are and I even spot a few situations where I might be able to sue somebody. Being on dialysis makes it worse because I get a complete blood workup every single day as a natural part of the process along with a mini-checkup on arrival and departure. Needless to say, there’s always some measurement that’s just a little off which sends me to my computer in an effort to pin down the dread disease that might be threatening me.
I am in awe of the medical professionals who saved my life and now are giving me a new and better one, but enough is enough! There’s a difference between health and obsession about health. We all should care about our health but we shouldn’t become its servants. I am dismayed by the number of people who regularly dash off to emergency rooms with a stuffy nose or who demand a potentially addictive pill because of the slightest irritation. To me, this attitude is itself a kind of addiction and an exercise in self-absorption.
The cure for all this is putting our focus on activities that give our lives meaning and joy while understanding health as something that helps us pursue those activities. We do well to take care of our health but only because we want something much bigger, happiness and a productive life – greater things that truly deserve our time and attention.
In my latest post, I wrote about dialysis, how I don’t like it at all and indicated some ways I try to cope with it. Today I want to go beyond that and share how any tough situation can be transformed.
The secret to facing a difficult challenge is faith in God but more specifically faith that God is actively involved in your personal daily life. Lots of people believe in God but the Lord they worship is the God of the creeds who gives us heaven but little more. The Bible reveals a different God, someone who counts the hairs of our heads, who not only pays attention to us but participates in the mundane events of our lives.
I have witnessed this intimate attention over the last few months (see earlier postings) and know it now as a matter of fact, not just faith. One reason I write this blog is to share my discovery. I was always religious but my experience has taken me far beyond all that, it’s a paradigm change, a new perspective.
I no longer think of my life and God separately. God is there in everything that happens to me and everything I do – including dialysis. I have no idea why I’m on dialysis but I’m certain that there is a reason because God is part of it.
This assurance changes everything. Many people at my clinic view their treatments as a disaster. They lay in their dialysis recliner cold, wrapped in blankets, self-isolated, their head covered, all signs of deep depression, a depression they take home with them, as confirmed to me by their family members. But some of us are different; we take our treatment in stride with good humor, express appreciation for the technicians, nurses, nutritionists and doctors who work with us and treat other patients as friends.
For me, the difference is that I know that these treatments are part of God’s plan for my life. I don’t know the plan but I trust the planner. So I try to make the most of it – in my attitude and in other ways including this blog. The idea is as simple as turning lemons into lemonade, an old idea but one that always works. There’s nothing good about difficulties but they can be redeemed when we find a way to turn them into blessings for ourselves and others. We can do that when we remember that whatever our situation we are not outside God’s love. God is present and for that reason, the things we endure can and will yield something good. Instead of worrying or complaining we can trust God and keep our eyes open for opportunities to bring something good to light.
The most difficult part of my life is dialysis. A kidney injury years ago recently forced me to accept dialysis and I don’t like it. Make no mistake I’m grateful for it. Someone said dialysis is a form of life support – and it’s true, it’s a radical but beneficial medical intervention. But it’s still tough to deal with for many reasons including these:
- It’s an intrusion on my life three times a week and in my case five hours per session.
- Just as I am moving toward overcoming my amputation and regaining freedom of movement with a prosthesis, dialysis throws me back into dependence on detailed medical care, something I don’t like at all.
- Most of the time my energy and activity levels are high these days but dialysis wears me out and puts me in a funk for several hours after each session.
- It doesn’t just intrude it tends to dominate. I usually measure my weeks in terms of dialysis/no dialysis days and see only the free days as truly mine which depresses me. It also inconveniences my family and restricts many things like diet and travel.
Sometimes I come to a short-term peace with dialysis but more often it gets the best of me. The deepest problem is that barring a transplant (itself a long and difficult process) three days of dialysis is locked in for the rest of my life. That’s tough to take.
Two things sustain me. First, I remind myself that dialysis is a gift of God that makes everything beautiful in my life possible – and so I should and do give thanks for it. Second, as I move toward walking and driving again I’m making plans to do meaningful volunteer work. With dialysis there has to be a reason why, otherwise it’s just a matter of staying alive and that’s never good enough. But I’m teaching myself to think of my dialysis as making possible some wonderful things I will soon be able to do. That makes those long hours in the dialysis chair pass a little easier and binds the week together in a way that focuses on a broad future instead of a narrow medical schedule.