Wednesday, June 20, 2012

No Guidance Needed

I have a very clear memory of Mr. Davis, my high school guidance counselor. His physical presence was unremarkable, but he once told me something that left an indelible impression.

His exact words:

"You will never amount to anything in life if you don't take a full math and science curriculum."

Ouch. Thanks, Mr. Davis, for failing to notice my writing talent and my interest in the humanities. That's a mighty well-rounded view of education you have, sir. 

My high school math and science courses consisted of biology, algebra and trigonometry. And then I'd had enough. Mr. Davis wanted me to take calculus, chemistry and physics, but I had zero interest. His method of motivation was the threat/insult mentioned above, and if anything that just made me resist his idea even more. Anyone who knows me knows that the harder you try to talk me into something, the more I resist. Taunting me won't help.

I never took the courses that he suggested. In college my math and science experience was just as sparse: two math classes and one science course -- geology -- otherwise known as rocks for jocks.  I took every English class I could find and filled the rest of my schedule with business and humanities courses. I loved college.

Now that I'm older, and I'm learning to live with CKD, I wish Mr. Davis had been more prophetic and said something like:

"One day, when you're much older, you may have a chronic illness that will require deciphering lab work and understanding how the human body works. You may want to take some more science courses."

I probably would have blown that off, too, but who knows? I do get very frustrated trying to make sense of my test results and trying to understand what's going on with my body. Case in point: This weekend I was at a wonderful outdoor party with close friends when I suddenly realized that I couldn't regulate my body temperature. It was SO hot (I was in Chicago, and it was crazy warm), and despite drinking water and going into the house to get into the air conditioning, I got to the point where I needed to go to the basement (the coldest place in the house) with a large ice pack on my head. It took about an hour for my temperature to return to normal. For a brief period I was very scared, as my body just felt completely out of control.

I'm now Googling homeostasis and trying to understand the role my kooky kidneys play in all of this. Was the weekend mishap due to my kidney disease? Or my meds? I'm still not sure. I've never had a reaction to the heat like that.

What I do know is that kidneys do a lot more than just make pee. They are responsible for regulating blood water levels, re-absorbing substances into the blood, maintaining salt and ion levels in the blood, and regulating blood pH. And I know that my kidneys have some challenges, so I need to be extra careful when I'm in extreme heat.

I'm still frustrated, but I'm starting to learn. Not bad for an English major, eh?

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