Happy first birthday, kidney stone

Yes, that’s right. I am celebrating the one year anniversary of passing my first kidney stone. Why would I want to celebrate such an excruciating memory?

Because it taught me I’m a badass.

Maybe a naïve badass. Initially, I tried to meditate through the pain, but couldn’t shake the fear that maybe one of my organs was about to explode. So I went to the ER and was diagnosed with a 5mm stone and a few smaller ones. Begrudgingly, I began pain medication around the clock. I started to feel pretty good. So naturally, I flew to Nashville for a work conference.

And then that f’er decided to move. Good thing “kidney stone” is free ride to the hospital from strangers. (“Oh, bless your soul, my daddy used to get those. A grown man, and he’d be on the floor crying.”)

To say I was a badass does not also mean I was a peach throughout the experience. I quickly surpassed the ugly cry. Every time the pain medication wore off, I became a werewolf, growling and clawing in my hospital bed, restrained only by the IV that became my lifeline. I was admitted for surgery, but sure enough I passed that f’er as the sun rose.

And I didn’t even get a gold star. Or card. As if nothing happened, I had to submit a summary of the work conference that I half missed.

Our society struggles to recognize the sour milestones of our lives. I celebrated my MCAS diagnosis with donuts. And it made everyone uncomfortable. One guy even tried to put a donut back once he realized the occasion. Although bittersweet, my diagnosis was a more memorable and life-changing milestone than any of my birthdays.

The internet says passing a kidney stone can be more painful than child birth. I abandoned the 1-10 pain scale long ago, but find the kidney stone pain comparison very useful nowadays. Instant credibility.

So today I’m celebrating that little stone that now resides in a laboratory in Tennessee. And the absence of any siblings since. Sometimes pain is inevitable and there is nothing to do but endure it. With MCAS, pain is a daily visitor. I suggest you celebrate when you escape it.

Rare Disease Day 2016

Happy Rare Disease Day! Please wear jeans today to raise awareness.

Because I can’t. I cannot fit in any of my jeans at the moment, thanks to prednisone. Even if I could fit, it’s unclear if my skin would tolerate it. Yes, I am now “allergic” to many of my clothes.

On my first post-diagnosis Rare Disease Day, this is what it means to me to be one of the rarities:

I am a guinea pig. It is scary, isolating, and frustrating.rdd-logo

I am a research participant in pioneer studies – that are underfunded, primarily with philanthropy.

I don’t have adequate medical care. It’s typical to wait three to six months to see a doctor who understands my disease. And money always is a factor.

I carry emergency protocol with me at all times, because most ERs are unfamiliar with my disease and how to treat the life-threatening reactions it causes.

I am one of the lucky ones. I have a diagnosis. I am fortunate to have ping-ponged my way to a world-renowned specialist after decades of suffering. My diagnosis unlocked years of validation.

Today is hard and tomorrow will be hard. Everyday, I try to adjust to this purgatory, as I wait for better understanding of the disease and treatments.

However, I have hope that someday it will get a little easier. In the meantime, I am thankful for the support I receive at home and through the rare disease community.

This post appeared on The Mighty on Rare Disease Day.