Throughout this blog, I’ve tried to focus on the emotional and internally physical aspects of my transplant/diabetes/celiac experience, but there’s a small part of this process that I’ve largely left out. A part, that no matter how small it may be, still effects some people in a very big way …the appearances. Let’s be honest, we have all been touched with a bit of vanity, and when we look in the mirror every morning, the first thing that comes to mind is not exactly the status of our internal organs! We are looking at the bags under our eyes, our hair sticking straight up, and the spare tire that’s formed around our waist…the small things that (most of the time) only we can see, but are quick to focus on. We can thank our society’s obsession with vanity for how those small “faults” or even “assets” make us feel for the remainder of the day, good or bad. It’s that image of “perfection” we focus on to feel good about ourselves even when we try so hard not to. Many people are able to get past the negativity of it, and realize that no one’s opinion matters on this issue, but we all have at least one thing about ourselves that we are not that comfortable with.
I try very hard not to let anyone’s negative opinions about my image effect how I feel or how I’m going to present myself. However, I admit, I do like to look good, and I will be the first to jump on the latest magazines, etc. to find out what the newest/latest trends are. I have fun doing it… and if I find something I like, all the better! No harm, no foul. After all, it’s the experimentation and the ability to try new things that opens up doors to the fun in life, right? As I’ve often said (usually to my friends when trying to talk them into some crazy idea), it’s an adventure! (My college friends are falling over rolling their eyes right now…haha). That being said, there are several aspects about this transplant that have changed certain parts of my body physically from an appearance point of view. These are the things that ironically most people are most afraid of when they get ready for a transplant (nevermind that the surgery itself is the biggest part to worry about). The side effects, the “aftermath”, the scars…yes, they happen, and I was just about as worried about them as the next person. They are the daily visible reminders that show us what has happened…so we don’t/can’t forget. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this because I’m in any way upset about it…not all changes are bad! I would take my scars and deformities any day over having the quality of life (or lack of it) I had pre-surgery! I’ve already mentioned that my scars are my rewards…and I will be thankful for them (and Kirby) for the rest of my life! There are, however, a few things I would just like to aknowledge about these changes, so that anyone who is afraid of them can feel better about it. I should also point out, like I just mentioned, not all effects are bad ones! Most of my effects are actually positive changes!
1. My coloring/overall appearance is healthier. I had a lot of people tell me after my surgery that my coloring has “come back”. I had no idea that it had ever been that bad, but when people are pointing it out right and left, there must have been a definite change! I guess when you see yourself everyday, you never actually “see” this change because it feels normal.
2. I’ve lost ten pounds since the surgery…and kept it off. One of the side effects for the anti-rejection drugs is weight gain, as well as weight loss. I had no idea which way the pendulum would swing for me, so I’m glad I ended up with the weight loss! Part of me, though, believes that it doesn’t have anything to do with the drugs. When I was on dialysis, the cycler (my dialysis machine) did it’s best to keep my body from retaining fluid, however, it can’t work miracles, and I’m sure there was still a small amount that would not get filtered. My face was a bit puffy, and I had to cover my torso with more baggy clothing because of this excess fluid and also because of the two liters of dialysis fluid I was holding in my stomach everyday. Since my transplant, my new kidney has been able to get rid of that last remaining fluid (apparently ten pounds worth!), and I’m able to now fit back into the wardrobe pieces I bought before all this kidney stuff started! (It’s also given me a good excuse to go shopping…hee!) Even my shoe size went down a half size!
3. I have eyebrows again! Another confusing either/or side effect was hair loss/gain. Again, I had no idea if I was going to go bald, or grow a beard! Well, I lucked out, and strangely, I’ve noticed that my eyebrows have been filling in! I haven’t noticed any other hair growth…would be nice if the hair on my head got thicker, but I’ve always had thin eyebrows, so of all things, this is the most exciting change for me. LOL!
4. My stomach is deformed. This, so far, has been my only negative visible change. My stomach slopes up on the right side where my new kidney is. When I look down, it looks like a crooked mountain/ski-slope that peaks right next to my right hip and slopes down to my left. I had prepared myself for the scars. I knew they’d be big, and many. However, I wasn’t ready for my belly to be so different. One of my doctors told me it will flatten out eventually, but after two months, I haven’t seen a change. I was somewhat hopeful that my doctor would be right until a surgeon asked about it, pointing out that this was not what it normally looks like post-surgery. He suggested that it’s possible I just happened to get a very large kidney! Ok, I’m just going to keep telling myself that. Apparently, my donor was a giant. Of course, I say this as if I look like a total freak, when it’s not really that big of a deal. In my head, though, it IS kind of a big deal. It’s the one part of my body I’ve always been most self-conscious about, and had mastered the art of camouflaging it well…now it’s even more of an issue for me, and I’m sure I’m going to have to stock up on spanx to flatten it out so my clothes don’t look weird…to me. I have learned to accept this one, single and only negative as a “price to pay” for my survival and 2nd chance at life. If a quirky belly is all I have to worry about, I’m totally OK with that! 🙂 Things could be SOOOO much worse!
So, if there’s anyone out there who is terrified that they are going to look like a freak after a transplant, rest assured… it’s not that bad! Given the fact that you just had someone else’s body organ placed in your own body, whatever small visible changes you experience are minuscule in comparison and not worth worrying about.
Things I’m thankful for today:
1. On Demand. Since I haven’t received clearance to go to the movies yet, I’ve had to rely on On Demand to keep me up-to-date. The best part? Free food at home, and I can wear my jammies! 🙂
2. MySugr app. It’s an app for people with diabetes that helps record your blood sugars, but it’s got a game angle to it that keeps it from getting boring. If I’ve got to track these stupid numbers every single day, might as well make it fun!
3. Paralympics. Not only does it allow me to prolong my Olympics obsession another week or two, but the stories are totally inspiring and the details of how they have adapted each competition to those with disabilities is really interesting!
4. Nothing Bundt Cakes. They make a gluten free single serving-size bundt cake in chocolate chip, so I can have my fave flavor cake on my birthday tomorrow!! Weeee!