In May 2008 I was told following a kidney biopsy that I had ‘cast nephropathy’ and that I would need dialysis within the year. In fact my kidneys deteriorated so quickly that I started dialysis in the September of that year.
At that time I was very weak. This was partly due to the underlying condition that had affected my kidneys, a little known blood cancer called myeloma. The myeloma had not only affected the kidneys but also had led to two collapsed vertebrae and the loss of 5 inches in height. I could walk but very short distances and going shopping required me to use a wheelchair.
When I knew I had to start dialysis I was given the option of haemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis. Having spent 17 weeks in hospital in the previous year I could not face three days a week at the hospital so opted for peritoneal dialysis.
I remember the nurse bringing a manual bag to the house and me trying to split the bag to mix the two fluids and finding it incredibly difficult. This was just another indicator of how weak I was. After initially being on manual exchanges four times a day I moved to the overnight machine by December 2008.
Shortly after I started dialysis I tried to get a little bit fitter by walking round the block, probably much less than half a mile. I gradually increased the distance slightly and asked my GP if she would refer me to BEATS (Bury Exercise and Therapy Service). In 2010 after an assessment by BEATS, they suggested I start tai chi, increase my walking and do a gentle gym programme which they worked out for me. I followed their suggestions and found ‘health walks’ too which I did with a friend.
Although I only went to the gym for a year as I found it a bit boring, I continued with walking and tai chi. Indeed I gradually increased walking distances so that I could walk three miles. The tai chi helped build up my leg strength and in 2012 I decided to start Zumba.
Now I do tai chi twice a week, qigong (slightly similar to tai chi) once a week, and Zumba once a week too.
I am so glad I chose peritoneal dialysis as I love travelling and since starting on the treatment I have visited Spain (4 times), Italy (twice), Latvia, Estonia, and Sweden as well as holidays in various parts of the UK.
I felt really down when I heard that I was going to have to be on dialysis for the rest of my life but whilst that may still be true I have now an excellent quality of life and wheelchair … what wheelchair?