KDA 1 year update –
To have a platform like Kidney Donor Athletes to share my donation story has been another unexpected benefit of sharing my spare. As an endurance athlete, I learned through success and failure what it takes to continue to keep my body running at age 59 and beyond. But a year ago I placed it all on hold, donating to a stranger, an immigrant from the Grenada’s. A mother of 4 with 7 grandchildren, she was in the Mayo Clinic pool for the better part of a decade and her kidney disease was winning. There had been no prospects and no matches. She explained that she prayed every day, but was at peace with God to lose her battle.
I felt strongly for decades that I would someday become a kidney donor. I watched, learned, and felt I understood all the risks. I took care of my body and the time was now. Aside from an altruistic angle, I also looked upon this as a new physical challenge. And what better way to prep myself for my surgery recovery then to train for a marathon. Better yet, strength-train to where I knew I could handle the back half of 26.2 and qualify for the 2020 Boston Marathon. It worked! On 10/13/18 I became a 2020 BQ’er with a 3:46:59.
Three weeks later, on 11/5/18, I (crazily) climbed onto an OR table placing my faith in the best medical professionals in the world. 5 days later, I walked 2 miles. 3 weeks later on Thanksgiving Day walked 5K, running the last 100 meters. 6 weeks later I resumed running.
Feeling better, and surrounded by congratulatory messages with my new life as a living donor I admittedly began to lose my focus on recovery. With a history of 3 hernia repairs, topped off with new donor incisions my core strength weakened. I’d tell myself “I’ll get it going next week,” then it became “next month.” Then the famed polar vortex moved my running indoors. My one time out I slipped on our icy driveway hitting my head. Running turned to walking. At 2 weeks, I still had symptoms. At 4 weeks I was able to start again. Now in catch up mode, I focused on shorter runs on a daily basis. Toronto training would begin in June and I wanted to start with a solid base. Then in March, I broke my toe on a piece of luggage in our basement. It was 8 weeks and almost June before I could run without pain. With a sound mind, I can honestly proclaim donating a kidney was less painful than a concussion, or a broken lesser toe.
Starting marathon training with little base mileage, I still managed all to get in all my training runs along with a decent half marathon finish in September. I knew I lacked the power to finish strong in a full marathon. My weight training had suffered. I was down 7-lbs of muscle from last year’s pre-surgery marathon and BQ. On 10/20/19, and only 2 weeks shy of my 11/5/18 kidneyversary, I ran my 42.2K in Toronto. My last 500 meters was an out-of-body experience I’ll never forget. Clocking a 3:59:59 finish was a fitting time I will always treasure as, of course, a 59-year-old. For me, goal 2 of every marathon is always a sub 4. Now I have one by the time it takes for a half sip of water — all while somehow remaining uninjured after a hard, painful race.
Reflecting back, this year has been a wake-up call. Being a living donor is an indescribable honor that will always serve as a spiritual sense of joy and the fabric for my being. Kidney Donor Athletes challenge their bodies to the extreme. They have given one of their kidneys to save another’s life, yet do so with great humility, respecting the science and adhering to the health responsibilities of being a living donor. They maintain personal contracts with themselves to not only build their bodies back to their pre-donor fitness level but to continue to excel as athletes. They become advocates, and mentors for other would-be donors. They remain as living examples of the amazing things a healthy human body can endure, and the ultimate gift of what one human can do for another.
As a KDA competing in the sport I love, I allowed myself to fall into an undisciplined, recovery with very little cross-training. Last Sunday’s mile 23 became a hard reminder to continue to respect my body and provide it with all it needs to be an endurance athlete. As donors and athletes, we ask our bodies to do hard things. Equally important though, I learned this year I’m not invincible. Hard things require hard work. I’ll lay low for two weeks, but my November 5th kidneyversary will be spent with a trainer. I will get stronger, eat better and train smarter. Why? Because it’s fun and I dearly respect all my KDA peers, to do no less than my best too.