Kidney Thunderdome: A Health Story

Last week I had one of those dreams where you know you are dreaming but don’t want to wake up, even if that means you are dead and will have to be buried in cake-themed pajamas. I won’t say the dream was pornographic, exactly, but I wouldn’t say it wasn’t pornographic. It was just MY kind of sexy.



The dream consisted of me eating a neverending supply of Cool Ranch Doritos. Each chip was the ideal shape – a perfect triangle, no broken halfsies or fold-overs – and each one had an obscene amount of Cool Ranch Dorito dust on both sides. I sat in the sun for hours, licking the dust off each chip in slow motion, while basking in what I’ve come to recognize as carb euphoria. Inhaling those Cool Ranch Doritos brought me closer to my authentic self – a new kind of mindfulness! – and completed me in ways no platitudes from Oprah ever could.

Welcome to Week 7 of my life without salt.

In May, I noticed that my ankles were swelling up and weren’t very happy. True to my nature, I ignored what was in front of me and carried on as usual. In June, swollen ankles had given way to insane water retention (30 pounds in three weeks) and extremely numb legs. My husband insisted we go to the ER and I, of course, said NO THANKS I AM GOING TO THE BALLET. Husband called Mother and they ganged up on me, as people who raise you and marry you are required to do. Fine. To the ER!

Created in the Over app. Title: "Leaving The Hospital"

Title: “Leaving The Hospital”

What followed has been a disheartening journey into the midst of our medical community. Nephrology appointments and zero answers. Endless bloodwork and peeing in cups and a diet that would make Pope Francis stab the Baby Jesus himself. Salt is verboten; sugar is, too. Same with dairy, red meat, pork, and The American Dream. The new definition of “unfair” is a mysterious condition that makes me fatter the less I eat.



Perspective, though, is a funny thing. I previously had a love-hate relationship with my fat body – peppered with bouts of true acceptance and a lot of cheese – but now I can’t wait to see that body again and feed it ALL THE CHEESES. That body could move with confidence, and walk up the stairs, and fit into human clothes. That body didn’t feel like two battling waterbeds strapped to my legs.

Funny food.

Funny food.

The diet, which is kidney-specific, has been good and bad, mostly good  – and one day I was terrible, meaning I ate what I wanted with two middle fingers raised in salty defiance. Food prep has long been my nemesis – someone in a restaurant can make that same food for 40 bucks and add fancy butter! – but I did enjoy making these green smoothie packs for the freezer. The funnier my food is, the more likely I will eat it.

photo 3

Yeah, I watched this. Twice.

A major part of my kidney issue is they can’t process protein. That means when I take vitamins – thousands upon thousands of IU’s of Vitamin D, for example – it attaches to those proteins and the kidneys are like GTFO, KTHX. The unfortunate end result is like perma-PMS, where I cry over toothpaste commercials and watch questionable late-night YouTube videos.

Once more into the breach, dear friends.

Once more into the breach, dear friends.

It’s been seven weeks and we still don’t know why my kidneys need the thrill of adventure, so today I will be having a kidney biopsy. At first this was scary as fuck because of [EVERY REASON YOU CAN THINK OF]. I thought they would stick a wrench the size of a hockey stick into my back, and rip a kidney chunk from me with the finesse of an epileptic gravedigger. I assumed that medical technology hadn’t progressed past 1802, but thankfully I was wrong.

Before my last appointment, I sent out this text to my besties. It was time to get real:

If I get bad news at the doc today, my wishes are as follows:

-Any women at my funeral under 100lbs are required to eat lard out of a bucket throughout the service.

-Justin can remarry after 4 years but she can’t be Asian. We have discussed this.

-Oren has to finish college out of guilt. I don’t care what degree.

-Any girl babies born in May across the City of Seattle must be named after me.

-Photos of my nephew must be auto-posted on my Facebook Wall until he marries or Facebook dies.

-Once a year gathering to eat cake and drink whiskey where everyone talks about my awesome hair.



The aforementioned nephew

I have no wisdom to share around this particular moment in time. To be honest, I feel like this health stuff is the least interesting thing about me – wouldn’t we all rather talk about ham and celebrity gossip? But I also need to capture the seriousness and silliness of this whole situation, if only to have a starting point to look back on. This started many weeks ago, sure, but somehow the biopsy feels like a commitment, something my doctor and husband and mother and friends and community are all very much a part of. This will give us a definitive answer, good or bad, and moving forward from that will be a whole new adventure. Until then, I will wrap myself in the lovely unknown, and stay thankful for all that I have – like a husband who rubs my feet every night and a best friend who sends me fancy Coach bags at work. Despite these recent challenges, life is still good.



12 thoughts on “Kidney Thunderdome: A Health Story

  1. […] fierce fertility goddess a-bloom in Spring; from the neck down, I was someone’s lumpy mom in cake-themed pajamas, hugging a giant barrel of cheese puffs and looking like a confused, middle-aged centaur. In that […]


  2. […] woke up from a sexy dream, much like the one I had about Cool Ranch Doritos, and my day got exponentially better from there. My first real reflection on identity and race was […]


  3. […] Drug Overdose But Not The Cool Kind (June) […]


  4. […] excellent work,” the Grief Doctor might say. “But it’s time to stop eating Cool Ranch Doritos and get back to living. Marika, your grieving will end in 3…2…1….” and then […]


  5. […] I went to McDonald’s and ate nine million French fries, which is the equivalent of punching my kidneys in the face with brass knuckles. I shed angry tears in that McDonald’s booth, too, overwhelmed by […]


  6. […] made little bargains in my head all day before getting my biopsy results. It felt like a prayer kind of afternoon, so I prayed to my favorite Elizabethan ladygods: […]


  7. […] Today we (kidneys crossed!) find out the results of my kidney biopsy. […]


  8. […] to my ongoing kidney adventures, though, being this fat has proven to be difficult. Losing the water weight I’ve gained in the […]


  9. Thank you for posting this amazingly honest, irreverent thing. Sending all the best kidney thoughts I can muster!


  10. Fox Anthony Spears says:

    “Let them eat kale!” said no one, ever. (I take that back, vegetarians/vegans probably say this ALL THE TIME.) Glad you are managing to find some humor and optimism in all of this. You know we love you and I will shower you with Coach bags–provided that you have a note from your doctor–if that is the will of your kidneys.


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