What a difference a year makes

I have been slightly off Facebook recently (having deleted the app off my phone in a half-hearted Lenten attempt to reduce my phone use) and thus, it was only this evening I became away of the fact that today is World Kidney Day. This has made me feel a little emotional as it reminds me that exactly a year ago today, I took Ana to Southampton General for her kidney biopsy only to find that her symptoms had improved so much since the op was booked, her consultant no longer believed a biopsy was necessary.

Looking back now, a year on, I can see that this last minute reprieve marked the turning point from which our family slowly and painfully began to piece ourselves back together following six long months of illness, uncertainty and hideous medication that nearly broke us all.

Just a month after this momentous event, we had a conversation with a health professional about the psychological impact of Ana’s illness on everyone in the family. I remember thinking at the time that we would never be able to return to normality given that – whilst Ana was now in remission and making good progress – the threat of relapse was a constant and very real one and the prospect of heading back into the abyss was terrifying for all of us.  As we sat at that office desk – Mike, Ana and I – I can imagine we looked a pretty sorry sight: fear etched on our faces and the threat of tears never far from the corners of our eyes, but the advice we were given that day has stayed with me and been a touchstone for my feelings in the months that followed.

The doctor – a New Zealander – told us we would learn to adjust to the potential threat of relapse in the same way that those living in Christchurch had adjusted to the constant threat of an earthquake. He told us that people there were able to live their lives as if there were no threat, whilst simultaneously knowing that another earthquake was inevitable at some point. At the time I couldn’t imagine how this was possible, but as this year has progressed, and as we have moved further and further away from the darkest days of Ana’s illness, I have come to realise that this IS possible. We really are back to living normal life. It’s not quite the same life and we are not quite the same people we were pre-illness, but it’s closer than I ever thought possible.

I can’t pretend I never worry about the prospect of Ana relapsing; it stays in the back of my mind like a dark shadow, but I have managed to put it in perspective and realise that parenting will always involve living with the possibility of illness, accident or crisis. In fact, isn’t that true for all of us, all the time?  Isn’t that just life?

And so, on World Kidney Day, I reflect on the past year with an overwhelming sense of relief, gratitude and something resembling amazement that we have come so far.  Day by day and little by little we are rebuilding our defences and replacing the missing pieces of our puzzle. We may not know what the future holds, but no-one does and that’s okay.  Uncertainty is a part of life I am adjusting to…I think.

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