January 2013 – New Beginnings

In January 2013, I turned the big 3-0!  My, how time flies (especially now I am 31)!  I have lived almost as long with my donor lungs as I had with my diseased ones – incredible!  So much to be thankful for!  As part of the birthday festivities, my sister, Kimberly, gifted me a huge basket bursting with 30 of her favorite things – favorite books, favorite spices, favorite water bottle, favorite chocolate, etc. – which have now become my favorite things!  Little did we suspect that in less than a year she would be blessing my life with an even greater gift – and definitely one of my new favorite things – her/my kidney!!!!  Isn’t my sister the coolest?!

My 30th Birthday

Patrick and I also had lots of fun riding our bikes…and so did Kiwi.  She is responsible for distracting many walkers, joggers and drivers alike with either her cuteness or her ugliness…really can’t be sure.  As my dad says, “She’s so ugly, she’s cute.”

Carlsbadcravings 1-13 bikes1 Carlsbadcravings 1-13bikes2 Carlsbadcravings 1-13bikes3

We also bought a new couch which Kiwi loved…


…and we loved it because Kiwi could fit under the couch – no more lost toys!

Video: Kiwi plays fetch under the couch

In January, I also learned I was in the final stages of renal failure.  After I received my lung transplant, I always knew I would eventually need a kidney transplant.  The life-saving immune-suppressants I take twice a day to prevent my body from rejecting my lungs unfortunately cause damage to the kidneys over time.  I have tried to prolong the life of my kidneys by drinking over 3 liters of water a day and staying clear of colds/germs (also to prevent lung rejection and pneumonia) because a normal cold inevitably turns into a bacterial infection (because I am immune-suppressed and can’t fight it) which I have to treat with antibiotics which further damage my kidneys.

When my lung transplant doctor referred me to a nephrologist (kidney doctor) for the first time  in January 2013, I didn’t think my chronic kidney disease (CKD) was very severe because my blood creatinine levels (measures kidney function) had only risen slightly and I felt pretty much the same.   In fact, kidney damage usually doesn’t cause any noticeable symptoms until about 75% or more of kidney function is lost.

As I was discussing my forthcoming nephrology appointment over the phone with my brother, (a 3rd year medical student at Dartmouth at the time), he asked what my creatinine level was so he could determine my Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR).  GFR is based on a scale of 1-100 and is the best measure of kidney function.  A person with a GFR greater than 90 has normal kidney function and a person with a GFR of less than 15 is in Stage 5 of CKD or End Stage CKD/renal failure. He calculated my GFR at 17.

As He told me I was close to end stage CKD and would need a kidney transplant soon, I was surprised, but calmly accepting.  My kidneys had been the focus of my doctor’s appointments year after year, and they were tired; and I was tired of always trying to prevent the inevitable.  To be completely honest, I was somewhat relieved it was time to surrender and invest in a different action plan that hopefully would yield much more rewarding results.  He continued to question me regarding my various symptoms of end stage CKD, and with each answer I could hear the concern in his voice intensify.  He was sweetly more worried than I was!

I was so grateful I was able to learn and accept the severity of my CKD by my own brother, in the comfort of my own home; otherwise, I would have had to weather the unexpected bombshell that I would need a transplant in less than a year and dialysis in the near future at my very first nephrology appointment (by myself).  The tender mercy of finding out from my brother was a sweet reminder of how much my Father in Heaven is mindful of me.  It was now time to trust him and press forward with faith.

There have and always will be things to worry about in my life – even as weighty as life or death—but I have learned not to let my concerns paralyze me or rob me of my joy; what a waste of precious time and happiness that would be!  As someone once said, “You can’t tell me worrying doesn’t help because most of the things I worry about never happen.”

Instead, I try live by D&C 123: 17: “Let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.”

I know there will still be difficult times and times of gut wrenching sorrow, but with the promises of the Savior, we can live in hope instead of fear as we trust him and fill our lives with people and things we love – like cooking!

Reader Interactions

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  1. Jessica says

    Thanks for your update and inspiring words! They just made my day! Im excited that we can keep in touch through your blog! We miss you and Patrick and kiwi.

    • Jen says

      We miss you guys too! You are forever friends. We love you and hopefully will see you soon!

  2. Mame says

    What a perfect scripture. How have I never discovered it before!? I am loving your blog and am excited to read your book.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for visiting my blog and letting me know you are enjoying it – that means so much to me! Whenever I get a comment on my personal vs. food posts, I am always so honored that people care 🙂 From the bottom of my heart, I hope you enjoy my book as it is so near and dear to me. I think you will find it is full of many more uplifting words, quotes and scriptures. Thank you again Mame for taking the time to brighten my day!

  3. alicia says

    I loved reading this blog. I pray that your new lungs and kidneys are pumping along!
    Jesus is truly good, isn’t He?

    • Jen says

      You are wonderful, thank you so much Alicia! I am doing really well and grateful every day! Yes, Jesus is good! Wishing you a very blessed Christmas! xo

  4. Betsy otterness says

    God is good all the time! I happened to be looking for an outstanding pork chili recipe for a chili cook off and bumped into your sweet blog. I too am in renal failure and I’m waiting to have a kidney transplant which my sweet sister will be donating as well. The Lord has been faithful in my life and I’m grateful to have a relationship with him! I cannot imaging my life today with all of the ups and downs, not being able to go to him in praise and worship in who HE is! It has renewed my strength in ways only my heart knows. Thank you for your testimony and it reminds me to keep on keeping on! Betsy O

    • Jen says

      Hi Betsy, we are kidney TX kindred spirits 🙂 That is amazing your sister is donating her kidney to you – what would we do without our loving sisters?! I echo your sentiments of faith! I don’t know where I would be without it – definitely not living the peace filled life that I have which I am forever grateful for. My thoughts and prayers are with you! You will feel AMAZING with your new kidney – I am so excited for you!

  5. Janet says

    I had a chance to have lunch with your wonderful mother-in-law yesterday. She shared your blog with me and told me how awesome you are. What a blessing to have you in their family.
    Life is not easy, especially for you, but you are a perfect example of how we should see life and life it to the fullest.
    I look forward to reading your book. I love the name and I agree: ” My Heroes Ask Wall Flowers to Dance”, especially since I am a wall flower.
    Thank you for inspiring me,

    • Jen says

      Hi Janet, thank you so much for taking the time to write! Marcia is an angel! I hope you love my book – you will learn more about me than you ever wanted to know 🙂 Praying all the best for you and yours! xo

  6. Samina khattak says

    I loved reading ur blog you are very courageous May Allah (God) keep u and ur loved ones in his countless blessings always

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Samina! May God bless you and yours as well! xo



  8. Kathryn Eikenberry says

    You are an awesome example of how God can protect, heal and give you all you need each and every day. Good Health is so important and crucial to how we spend our days. May God continue to strengthen, encourage and give you joy and peace.

    • Jen says

      I’m sorry I’m slow to respond Kathryn – we just moved and things have been crazy! Thank you so much for your kind words and blessings. I love the quote by John Groberg: “God’s love fills the immensity of space; therefore, there is no shortage of love in the universe, only in our willingness to do what is needed to feel it.” May God bless you and yours! xo