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Trying to function when the kidney doesn’t...

The Campbell River Kidney Walk will be held this Sunday, Sept. 28
Cindy McLean – shown here with her son Kayne Charlton

Cindy McLean

Special to the Mirror


This is my story....I was born and raised in Campbell River. I was diagnosed at age 6 with type 1 diabetes.  Suddenly my life changed. For the rest of my life I would not know what was to come in the future.

After 43 years of living with type 1 diabetes, I spent the last eight or so years struggling with kidney disease.

My mom passed away when I was the age of 25 of a massive heart attack, and my father passed away five years ago of cancer.  At the time when I became diabetic, there wasn’t a lot of information on the disease then. Not like today.

I have two adult children and one grand-daughter. My son has also been diabetic since the age of 14 and is now 26 and my daughter is 28.  I have two step-children; the youngest being 18.

Here I am 43 years later struggling with kidney disease. Really... me. Over the last eight years, I have been travelling to Victoria and back to see my kidney specialist.  At first my visits were every six months, then three, now once a month.  My kidney function is now as low as 12 (GFR).

For the past two years, I have been searching for a kidney donor for myself and trying to get the word out there that I am needing this to stay alive and watch my grand-daughter, kids and family grow.  It appears to me that people are scared or don’t know what this means.  If they only knew that I’m scared too. I don’t know if I’m going to get a kidney and how long it will be before I will have no choice but to go on the dialysis machine. If they only knew how you can live a full life with only one kidney...

Sometime ago, I had posted this on Facebook saying how I needed a donor and I had people that I know that commented with a joke. I got very angry with the comment and then realized that, that is the way people respond when they’re nervous and don’t know what to say or they don’t know what it means. This is not a joke. This my life.

I have people tell me “really, you need a kidney?”…”well you don’t look sick”....hmmm I thank God I don’t look sick, because on the inside I’m dying. You can’t judge a book by its cover. Everyone always looks at people from the outside and makes a judgement on that. I wish people wouldn’t judge like a book and realize that without donors, people like myself will die or be dependant on a dialysis machine until one or the other happens.

Yes, I have diabetic neuropathy and my kidneys are dying slowly. Diabetes and kidney failure go hand in hand with me. Unfortunately, the diabetes has attacked my kidneys and without a kidney, I die. This disease is killing me from the inside out.

I am on a very strict diet that does not include a lot of vegetables and fruit, which is what I love but my kidneys don’t. These food choices have a very high potassium content that my kidneys cannot filter properly causing high potassium in my body which is very hard on the heart. Too much protein in my diet is not good for my kidneys because, again, my kidneys cannot filter properly. So when it comes to my food choices, I am very limited.  I cannot eat regular breakfast, lunch and dinner. I have to eat small meals throughout the day. This is easier on my kidneys for processing and easier on my stomach for digesting, because of having diabetes for such a long time my food does not digest properly.

I was booked Aug. 21 to have tubing put in my lower abdomen to start my peritoneal dialysis. I cancelled it telling them I am not ready. I have my blood work checked monthly and look at my results online and I now know what I am looking for in terms of kidney function, creatine, urea, iron etc. – all affecting my kidney function and diabetes. Staying positive and exercising regularly helps me get through my days, but sometimes have to ease it up due to fatigue.

If someone would donate their kidney to me, this would mean my life. To have someone save your life, and to be able to spend the years with my granddaughter and family would mean the world to me. How would I ever thank that someone? I don’t know yet, but would like to know.

But for now I wait and I hope that I will be here to watch my grand-daughter grow and be with my family for a very long time.