The Kidney Disease Rollercoaster

From a 20 year old Sports & Fitness Studies student, to kidney Failure, to becoming the “Fastest Sick Person in Europe”.

Or, I could start with; healthy student, to dialysis patient, to transplant recipient, back to dialysis patient, to transplant recipient again, to husband and father, to…

I love the goal of “…bringing real life experience from those that have travelled the road of kidney disease” however, if we are honest, life with kidney disease is more like travelling on a rollercoaster than a road!

If I was to offer any advice from my journey with kidney disease it would be that we need to focus more on the mental and emotional aspects of our health.

When I was diagnosed, as a 20 year old sports student, I put my very ill body in the hands of my healthcare team. They did a fantastic job. I went into the hospital with blood pressure so high they worried I would have a stroke. Several of the blood vessels in my eyes had burst resulting in vision problems, and my body was in a very toxic state.

Two weeks later I left the hospital, as a dialysis patient, in a better physical state but, what about me, as a person? My life, my goals, my family situation, my work, my mental and emotional health?

There was no help. There was no “treatment protocol” for these things, nothing.

I found the shift to becoming a “sick person” very difficult to comprehend not only on a physical level, but on a mental and emotional level also. Maybe even more so! 

Today, after experiencing 2 transplants and 1,800 haemo-dialysis sessions, I’m in a much better place. I’ve been lucky enough to become a public speaker highlighting the realities of living with a long term illness and overcoming adversity”.

Today, I look at three key stages we need to consider.

Firstly, ACCEPTANCE. When we understand and begin to accept our illness, in all its limitations and challenges, we can begin to move forward with our lives.

Next, our ATTITUDE. As hard as it may seem, we need to create a positive, forward thinking attitude which again takes into account the realities of living with the disease. We need to see the potential we have to thrive with the disease. Kidney disease can change us but it can also inspire us to create a better version of ourselves. This attitude enables us to “live” with kidney disease and not “suffer” with kidney disease.

Finally, ACTION. Without taking action to better ourselves, acceptance and attitude are merely words and wishful thinking. For me action is vital, and I credit exercise and becoming involved in the Transplant Games as pivotal in developing both acceptance of my illness and a positive attitude. This is mainly due to meeting role models who inspired and taught me what was possible through their living example.

darren cawley Transplant games podium

From my viewpoint what I’d like you to understand is that life with kidney disease IS hard and certainly a bit of a “rollercoaster” but it doesn’t have to be debilitating.

We all have goals, dreams and passions and If we look to our mental and emotional health, as our healthcare team looks at our physical health, we all have the potential to live well with kidney disease.

Finally, you might “lose yourself” for a while on this difficult journey but be assured, the kidney community is a great community. There are loads of people out there who have been through difficult times, like you, and will gladly help you in any way, myself included.

Darren Cawley

Motivational Speaker


Editors Note: The Kidney Trails Team would like to thank Darren Cawley for sharing his valuable insights about Kidney Disease. If you would like to find out more about him visit his website: Darren Cawley – Irish Motivational Speaker and while you are there download his book “5 Ways I Tackled and Thrived Through Kidney Failure.” This book has many valuable insight to help you on your journey.

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