Guest Post By Alicia Faehrmann
An old friend once asked me if I could have a superpower what would it be? And I replied with something along the lines of once you realise how hard it is to have a ‘normal’ life, you’ll know that just to be human is itself super. Long before I knew I had polycystic kidney disease, I was taught how to live with a disease by the example of other people in my life who suffer from chronic illnesses.
The first person who comes to mind is my mum, diagnosed with lupus at 26. She too suffers symptoms of hypertension and chronic pain and also has arthritis. In spite of it all she constantly pushes herself to be generous with others. While looking after dad and raising four kids, she was often the first port of call for my grandparents whenever they needed anything and would never refuse them. She is also the most reliable person I know, often agreeing to help out a friend here and there, never failing to through regardless of how worn out she is.
My dad is another example – he suffers from symptoms of depression and despite feeling tired all the time, he would get up every morning at 5am and go to work for his family. He often mentions his experiences with a sense of humour; both conveying the depth of his difficulties without making me feel uncomfortable. His example of sincerity and humility to call his situation as it is without playing the victim to me is simply heroic.
As both family and friends to people with illness, the demand on me to be there for them during tough times makes me to forget my problems by means of distraction. Shortly after I was diagnosed, mum suffered vertigo and anxiety and was housebound for months. As the only family member without full time work at the time, I was put in the position of caring for her in her weakened state. It taught me the importance of concern for others’ health and wellbeing. I also have two close friends who suffer from depression and while it may be challenging, nothing I do is too much when it comes to helping them through a low period.
After the initial upset of diagnosis with PKD I realised that I already had mechanisms to cope as I had been shown them my whole life through my parents’ example, which was later reinforced by my friends that also suffer serious illness. I am now blessed to be a small part of the PKD community, which full of people with a fighting spirit, who offer great hope to us all.