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What Losing a Kidney Taught Me

Updated: Oct 13, 2022

Taniesa L. Sullivan | The Weekly Ledger News

About 13 weeks ago, I had surgery to remove my left kidney.

Why? Well, I had a gastric sleeve on March 28, and on April 1 (April Fools on me) I was having server pain in my abdomen going up into my left shoulder, so my gastric sleeve surgeon had me go to the ER for the pain which turned out to be just gas I had not released yet after my surgery, but while at the ER they done a CT scan and found a Bosniak renal cystic mass class III which was 50 percent chance malignant (cancer).

I learned a lot in the three months from the time we caught the mass to the time of my surgery and even more in the next 3 months after my surgery when I began my recovery from my kidney removal surgery.

At first, it was just frustrating. I’m always on the move and busy with what seems to be a mile-long to-do list. I didn’t like the way all this slowed me down. I didn’t like how it took control of me and I needed to be the one taken care of because I have always been the one that needs to have control and take care of others. But this journey has opened my eyes and made me realize how badly I needed to rest, heal, and let go. And that’s when I started to reflect on what this time and God was teaching me.

It was teaching me “It’s okay to not be okay” “It’s okay to not be productive sometimes” and to “live life, don’t let life live you.”

I hate not being productive, which is why I have chronically burned myself out and never slow down until I am literally forced down by illness. The kidney wasn’t the first time this had happened –– it’s been my whole life. Even as a kid, I never stopped moving until I got so sick.

But after the big surgery, I couldn’t do much of anything. I couldn’t get out of bed by myself, couldn’t go to the restroom without assistants, couldn’t shower by myself, and couldn’t sit up by myself. I felt like my body had been cut in half.

And so out of necessity, I just rested. And guess what? The world didn’t fall apart, my business didn’t crumble, my family was perfectly fine, and my dog was taken care of.

You don’t need surgery as an excuse to rest. You aren’t more valuable if you’re constantly productive. You have full permission to sit and be. And that can be enough. You are valuable simply because you exist. I think we can all use a little more intentional time to do nothing.

When you know you need to rest, take more time than you think you need.

If you struggle to rest as I do, don’t just take intentional time off. Take enough time off.

The point here… take more time to rest than you think you need. Our bodies feel stress and burnout first. Then it works its way to our emotions. And then finally, it gets to our thoughts. This is when we become consciously aware of the body’s need for serious rest. But by this point, it’s already severe.

By slowing down more than I wanted, I could listen to my body and give it the rest it needed.

I began prayer meditating to help me stay centered and grounded. Meditating and being still really is hard, but also worth doing.

Once I learned how to simply rest, I started learning how to be more intentional with my time awake and began prayer meditating more. It’s hard to be there, focus on my breath, and let my thoughts move through.

I still at times use guided meditations because it helps me think less. I can simply listen and focus where the voice asks me to focus, rather than trying to rein in my thoughts.

Remember when I said I couldn’t use the restroom by myself at first? Yeah… embarrassing. I’m not great at receiving help. That first week I tried to do several things before I was ready, and just ended up more tired and in more pain. Refusing to receive help simply didn’t work.

Learning how to receive help is partly about trust. Can you trust another person to be there for you? If the answer is yes, the next question is this: Can you let your vulnerable self be seen? That’s much harder to say yes to. But learning how to receive help will ultimately strengthen our relationships and increase our sense of empathy and compassion.

At this point in my recovery, I’m feeling pretty good. But I hope that this time, I will learn and keep these lessons about rest. I hope they can be helpful to you too when you need much-deserved physical, mental, and emotional rest.

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