“Light at the End of the Tunnel”
by Mark Cunnin
Originally published in the VIKPA newsletter February 1996
Did you ever notice that when things start to look bad, as things tend to do, someone will always say that no matter how dark the tunnel is, there is a light at the end of it? Who are these magical soothsayers that know the future so well, and how do they know the light isn’t train?
When I was younger than I am now, I was diagnosed with renal failure. I had to spend the first six years of my life getting ready for my big ride in the tunnel. I was left with a loop of intestine protruding from my abdomen, and external appliance (a bag,), one kidney with a low grade infection, and a collapsed bladder, and with hopes in the future to deal with the infection and hook everything backup. Yea, the big light a t the end bit. If I had known how long my ride was going to be I would have brought a pillow and a lunch … maybe two.
Well, for the next ten years I believed in that light, but as I went through life as a teenager with this millstone of a bag around my waist, I could swear I was starting to hear a train whistle.
As I grew into a young man, I grew into the hand dealt to me. I found that there was nothing really that I couldn’t do. I figured if this is the way things are then, fine, I can live with it, had to. But then I could hear the clickity-clack of the train’s wheels on the track when the doctors told me about dialysis. HOLY COW!! It was bad enough, I figured, having to live my life so far with this bloody bag, that can come off at the worst possible time, but now they want to strap my butt to a bed three times a week for up to four hours at a time. Sorry buddy, but that light you promised me is a train, and there was no way I was getting on.
I spent my twenties doing anything I could get away with and some things that I couldn’t. I was determined not to go on the machine, and I was going to prove it. I fought every notion they came up with. Try peritoneal; what, walk around with a belly full of fluids looking for a place to drain. Yea, right, choo choo.
Unfortunately, time and renal failure wait for no one and I have come to face my demon. I was told last year that I have run a good race but after 32 years my kidney has run out. I started dialysis at the beginning of the New Year. What was I going to do? I’ve heard the horror stories from other hemodialysis patients: headache, cramps, dizziness, tiredness, and I have been sick enough times to know that without dialysis my life would not be pleasant, nor long.
I then realized the one thing I had been missing all those years: a fully functional healthy kidney that would do the work it’s supposed to, like filter out the toxins and help with the regulation of red blood cells, and being able to go for a walk without getting tired a block from the house, or just being able to take a breath and get a rush of oxygen to the brain. Wow.
Well, that’s what my machine is doing for me. I must admit, I have never ever felt better. I go twice a week and I can’t believe the energy I’ve gotten back. I have started to eat better and I’m back lifting weights. After the E.P.O. kicks in I’ll be back on the bike.
On the twenty ninth of February 1996 I will lose my last kidney and will have to face life with dialysis three times a week. I have no choice. My last kidney is failing and in order to receive a transplanted one, my remaining kidney has to be removed for fear of infection. My baby sister is awaiting results of her tests as a donor. I have plans to return to college either September of January, and I would like to do it with my new kidney in, but if things don’t work out in time I know I can still go to college and succeed, even on dialysis. With the machine I can keep my toxin levels down and with E.P.O. keep my hemoglobin levels up, plus the having around four hours on the machine to do homework. VIVA LA LAPTOP!
In four years it will be the year 2000. By then I will have completed my journey. I will have finished my studies, with or without a kidney, but I will have one. Whether it comes from my sister or not, I know that I am strong enough, both physically and spiritually, that when I do receive my transplant I will hit the ground running. Because of dialysis and hopes of a transplant, my health concerns will no longer be so restricting. I know this because I am no longer in the tunnel, I am out looking at the sky of endless possibilities of what I can do and where in the world I can do it! So if you are about to embark on your tunnel trip, or you are already in the tunnel, remember to keep the faith and keep on trucking. It really is daylight you see at the end; it has to be. If there is no end, then you’re not in a tunnel; you’re in a cave and this story has no bearing.