Sunday, March 10, 2013

Life Imitates Hoops

Indiana beat the University of Michigan 72-71 today in men's basketball to win the Big Ten Championship. As a UM fan, I was disappointed in the outcome -- but what really struck me was how much this game reminded me of my journey with kidney disease. I'll spare you the obvious sports cliches ("it's not over til it's over"), and I won't provide a complete statistical breakdown of the game. Instead, I give you:

Five Ways Today's IU-UM Game Reminded Me of Life With Kidney Disease

1. It Doesn't Always Matter Who Your Parents Are
Glenn Robinson III went 1-for-2 from the free throw line with :52 left and Tim Hardaway Jr. missed the front end of a one-and-one with :38 left. It didn't matter that both have fathers who played in the NBA. These moments were all about the sons. It was time for the sons to deliver, and the ball didn't care about what their fathers had accomplished.

How does this relate to kidney disease? Genes only mean so much. While some types of kidney disease are hereditary, mine (IgA nephropathy) is not. As far as I know, I don't have any relatives who have kidney disease. I had one cousin with diabetes (RIP, Brian), but that's all I'm aware of. Diabetes and high blood pressure are two major causes of kidney disease. My father didn't have kidney issues. My mother doesn't have kidney problems. This disease is all about me.

2. You Can't Do It Alone
I cringed several times when UM came down the court and immediately jacked up a shot. I'm all for being aggressive, but there's a reason each team gets five players on the court. Pass the ball, force the defense to move and defend, and increase your chances of finding an open player.

I am also guilty of trying to do too much myself. I sometimes forget that I have a big team of doctors, alternative medical specialists, family and friends, all working with me to keep me healthy. I get in trouble when I don't lean on others and let people help.  

3. You Have to Handle Pressure
UM led by four points with :52 left but failed to score a basket the rest of the way -- going just 1-for-4 from the free throw line and then missing two layups in the final seconds. A win would have meant a share of the Big Ten title (along with Indiana, Michigan State and Ohio State). Instead, they lost, and Indiana won the title outright.

Living with kidney disease also means having to handle pressure. Maybe stress is a better word, but the point is the same. Having a chronic illness is difficult, and it takes a tremendous amount of composure to stay focused. You have to execute the medical plan and not get distracted by all that life throws at you.

4. Momentum Swings Come and Go and Sometimes Don't Make Sense
Basketball is a game of runs and momentum. Case in point: IU led 10-3 to start the game, only to get outscored by UM 12-0 over the next few minutes and fall behind.

My life with kidney disease definitely mirrors this. At times, I'm able to put together a nice little streak of momentum, and everything seems to fall into place. Then, suddenly, the disease takes it turn and dominates me. I can't always predict when this is going to happen, or how long it will last. My goal is to keep fighting long enough so that when momentum turns again, I will be ready to capitalize. 

5. You Often Don't Get Out What You Put In
I can't imagine how much time UM put into preparing for this game, only to come up short. Practice. Film sessions. Walk thrus. But in sports, one team wins and the other loses. That's just how it goes.

My kidney disease is autoimmune, so it's like my body has a mind of its own. I can do everything the right way -- diet, exercise, rest, manage stress -- and my tests will still show that the disease is progressing. It can be extremely frustrating. But there are no guarantees in life. All I can do is try my best. 

TGI March

Hello, March. So nice to see you!

March is National Kidney Month, and organizations like DaVita and the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan have been tweeting stats and helpful information at a dizzying pace. Most shocking to me is that 1 in 9 adults in the state of Michigan (and 1 in 10 adults nationwide) have chronic kidney disease -- although most are unaware because kidney disease offers very few visible clues.

Early detection is the key to helping slow down the progression of the disease.

My hope is that all of my friends and family will ask their doctor for a kidney screening in 2013. Will you do that? Will you ask for a screening the next time you are at the doctor?