Thursday, November 25, 2010


Since I've been an adult, Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I love the anticipation of knowing exactly what the day is going to be like, and never being disappointed. It's an easy holiday. Easy, because there is nothing superficial about it and people have little to no expectations from others. It requires little effort and lots of love. Sure, preparing the meal requires time and hard work but something tells me that those who volunteer to serve up the goods, are just as happy to share their labor of love with you as you are to savor it. Plus, it's my annual tradition to watch 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles', and laugh my a** off again and again at the same stupid scenes.

This Thanksgiving will be special to me because I will be participating in my first 5K race since my surgery. I ran the local Turkey Trot 5K last year on Thanksgiving and really enjoyed the energy and stimulus of the crowd. This year I decided I would participate in the Cardiac Classic 5K, here in Schenectady's Central Park. Truth be told, I'm terrified - not of the race, but of the temperature right now. Mr. Weatherman says it's at around 22 degrees. Scorcher, eh?  I will look like the Michelin Man, with my 5 layers of clothing, but I don't care. This is a big day for me, and I don't expect anyone to understand, but...  I'm running a 5K  two months after I donated my kidney!

I have been dedicated to my training since I was given the green light by my doctor to start running again on October 22nd. I am still slow, I'm winded a bit, and I still have small and short stabbing pains in my abdomen that come quickly but leave just as fast. I'm just now beginning to get back to my goals at the gym with my strength training, and hopefully soon will be much stronger. See, I find this all fascinating. It blows my mind that a person can donate their organ, recover, and then feel as though nothing really happened only two months later, and then have the ability to run a road race. I'm dreading the cold temperatures but very excited to participate. My goal is to finish (before Christmas). I don't care how long it takes me (yes I do), and I'm sure this is not going to be one of my better races, but, it's a huge accomplishment for me.

For today's race I posted this sign on the back of my Michelin Man outfit...
I'll be wearing it proudly.

Perhaps some of you readers would consider donating your kidney but are concerned about your ability to successfully continue your physically challenging activities long after your surgery. You should be concerned, just as I was. Because just as fitness is the balance in my life, I know that many others have prioritized activities in their lives too. I'm here to tell you that you will not lose that ability. Please don't let that fear hinder your decision to become a living kidney donor.  You will recover. You will get your strength back. You will feel fantastic. I do!

This year, as I reflect on what I'm thankful for, among all the elements I have in my life that make me feel blessed, I'm most thankful for my health. Look where it took me, look at who received it, and look where it's going...  today.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone,  and I hope that I might inspire somebody today to take the path I chose and be a living kidney donor. The journey will be uniquely yours, but you will have me and many other donors, behind you and supporting you every step of the way.

Until next time... for today  -  eat lots, love your family and friends, and never take your health for granted.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

the dash

On Sunday, November 7, 2010, I had the pleasure (sad pleasure, but meaningful nonetheless) to attend a donor memorial, presented by the good people who work for The Center for Donation and Transplant (CDT), here in Albany, NY. My friend, Jen, is an organ procurement specialist for CDT and was kind enough to ask me if I would be interested in joining her. My immediate response was, ‘Sure, I’ll go, will there be any cake served?” Because it’s all about the sugar, really.

So, on Sunday afternoon, I put on my dress-up ‘girly’ clothes and off we went. Mistake #1 was not asking enough questions about exactly what this event entailed. Mistake #2 was neglecting to tote a large box of Kleenex with me. All I remember Jen mentioning was that there was going to be a guest speaker representing the transplant program at Albany Medical Hospital. I was intrigued by this and knew that I would walk away learning something about organ transplants, so I was game. What Jen didn’t tell me was just how sad, touching and heart-wrenching this ceremony would be.

This memorial is an annual event that pays tribute to all those beautiful people who have lost their lives, and donated their organs. Family members and loved ones of the donors were there to represent them and remind us all just how special they were and how special they continue to be, by giving the gift of life to someone else. Jeffrey Orlowski, CEO for CDT gave a beautiful opening speech, followed by a reading given by the parents of a donor. This poem is called, "The Dash". I was so moved by these words that I felt I should share them with you all. As I’ve said before, I understand that organ donation is not for everyone, and I can appreciate this. It’s a very personal decision. I do believe though, that anyone that reads this poem will for even a moment, think twice about how precious our lives are.

The Dash
by Linda Ellis

I read of a reverend who stood to speak
at the funeral of his friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
from the the end.
He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth…
and now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own;
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard…
are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left.
(You could be at “dash mid-range.”)

If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real,
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect,
and more often wear a smile…
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy’s being read
with your life’s actions to rehash...
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent your dash?

See, I wasn’t kiddin’ ya, was I? Wow, talk about rippin’ your heart out. After I abused the hell out of a box of tissues, it was time to strike up the band for more grief and misery. Why not add to the despondency in the room by inviting a musical trio to share a dirge or two with the crowd as the family members were invited to come to the front of the room to announce the name of the donor, and light a candle in their honor? There were 42 families invited, so I only tore up 42 tissues in the second half of this somber ceremony. I don’t remember the last time I felt so emotionally exhausted and torn up. While I would never volunteer to subject myself to this afternoon of torture again, I will never forget the meaning and acknowledgement shown toward so many deceased people that have given a new lease on life to so many others.

This event was important to me because it reminded me how much the gift of an organ, cadaverous or living, means to someone who’s life is diminished without it. For those that can’t go forward with the decision to be a living kidney donor, please don’t forget that you can still donate life by registering to be an organ, eye and tissue donor upon your death. How wonderful to be able to let your memory live on in the body of someone else, long after you’re gone.

I never got my cake at the memorial service, but I did get the opportunity to be among so many others that can appreciate and honor the meaning of organ donation.

Until next time... register to be an organ donor  today!