One year has already gone by and I have to really stop myself and think about everything that has happened in this one year of my life. On July 1st, one year ago I received a simultaneous pancreas and kidney transplant. If I didn’t have a scar thirteen inches long down my stomach I would tell you, you are crazy and that it didn’t happen. And here I am, almost speechless and completely a mess at the enormity of the meaning of this milestone in my new life post transplant. The amount of things to be thankful for are enumerable and I find myself really stunned when I think about where my health is today compared to just one year and a few weeks ago.
Before my transplant, I had type one diabetes. I also developed chronic kidney disease and hypoglycaemic unawareness (the inability to sense your low blood sugars until its at a dangerously low level). I was at an all time low mentally and physically in my life. At times I really wasn’t sure that I was going to survive at all. The only hope that I felt was when close loved ones shared their love for me and I wanted to hold on to that as long as possible.
Today, I am on a diabetes vacation with no need for insulin injections at all. I have a fully working kidney and blood work where when it comes back I have to question if they mixed up the vials because my body has never been this stable. Aside from a continuance of slight anaemia, I am a healthy person with two extra organs inside my abdomen. Its really mind blowing for me to think about. My blood sugars remain in range (80-120) almost all of the time. Exception was the one time my partner and I decided to go to Portland and order a dozen donuts from Voodoo donuts. After which I had a minor freak out when my meter read 180. (Not going to test that out again any time soon, sorry to my new pancreas).
Most of all my mental well being is the best it has been in a long time as well. There is so much to be said for therapy and taking care of that component of your life as well as your physical health. I am able to appreciate all the moments of life, whether they are the most joyful or the most annoying. Believe me there are more joyful moments than annoying but I still get frustrated like any human does. I mean I only have this one life and why do I have to spend so much of it waiting in line? I would like to think that I am superhuman, even Wonder Woman but I really love this new lease on life and its not a perfect one by any standards. I am so thankful for so many things, so many I cannot list them all but I am going to give you the abbreviated version.
1. Physical and Mental Strength
I know that because of what I have been through, the highs and the lows, that I am capable of strength that I never knew was possible. I cannot believe that I can hike nine miles in a few hours and walk away feeling wonderful. I cannot believe that I am able to look at my life and be present in the now and know that I can appreciate the world around me critically and with an educated sense of hope. I am evolving as a human and continually want to be a better one, with the knowledge that I am enough as I am.
2. Loved ones
Whether I call them friends or family, they are all loved ones. They are an integral part of my survival and a source of my strength. I owe a special thank you to my mom who stayed with me for two weeks in the hospital. My dad and his wife, Jill, who came to visit almost everyday and took me to countless appointments in the months following. My partner, Katie, who came to the hospital even after a full day of work at her hospital. My siblings and stepfather who called and texted everyday to check in. Everyone who sent flowers, cards, virtual love or made the trek up to UCSF during my recovery. My transplant allowed me to meet my new nephew, spend time with my first nephew and see my brother come home from Iraq again. I helped my dad and his wife celebrate one year of marriage and went to Monterey and saw whales with my mom and stepfather. I celebrated another birthday with close friends, went on weekend trips to Tahoe and Washington DC and Oregon. I met a few photographers that really fueled my fire to keep pursuing my dream. Whether its a quiet dinner made at home with a friend or a birthday celebration of sorts, time spent with loved ones has kept me alive throughout this journey.
3. Travel and Nature
I saw whales. I saw elephant seals. I saw a grizzly bear. I saw basin and elk and all the little forest creatures. I got to hike mountains, swim in the ocean and snowboard in fresh snow. There is so much beauty on our planet and the fact that even just in this one year I was able to do all of those things, I cannot begin to count my fortune. There are more adventures to come and I cannot wait to see more of our world as I venture even further out into the wild.
Even though I thought last year that I was going to lose my sight, I am continuing to be the photographer that I have dreamt of being. I continually want to grow and learn and photograph more and this year has presented so many opportunities for me to do so. From portraits to nature to holding my own teen photography camp, I am ready for a comeback. We also just finished up the third edition of my passion project, co founded by Kat Ree and I, T1D Exposed. This year we had participants fly in from different parts of the country to be a part of the message of body acceptance.
There is so much more, I could write forever. I am humbled by the opportunities that life has given me this year. Thank you to you for your support in reading this post. In telling my story, my hope, is that we can all find the time to be grateful and that that will motivate our actions in our daily lives. Its a big picture and this is just one small story. Thanks for reading and sharing!