Megan's Incredible Comeback
About 17 years ago, I was diagnosed with Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease, or PKD. It is a genetic disease that causes one’s kidneys to become covered in cysts and grow extremely large, sometimes the size of footballs and can weigh up to 25 pounds each. As the cysts cover the kidneys, they infiltrate the kidney tissue and cause the person to slowly go into kidney failure. There is no treatment and there is no cure. The only hope for a PKD patient is to hopefully get a transplant when their native kidneys fail.
I was, unfortunately, very familiar with this disease. I watched my grandma, my mom, and two uncles suffer. My mom allowed this disease to consume her and take over her life. From the time I was diagnosed, I never wanted to become like that. I was lucky in that I did not experience any complications until I was 27 and at the end of my last pregnancy. My blood pressure was climbing quickly and never really came back down after delivering the baby. So, I started taking blood pressure medication.
Around the same time as my diagnosis, I began having chronic headaches. I was told they were migraines and was given pain medication to control them. In April of 2016, I came down with a headache so powerful, I couldn’t sit up straight without becoming violently ill. I was going to the doctor’s office daily for pain medication and steroid injections. I have to take the steroids any time I’m in pain because kidney patients cannot take NSAIDs. I ended up having 4 steroid injections and taking oral steroids for 10 days to control any inflammation that might be causing the headaches. Unbeknownst to me, all of these steroids and pain medication were causing other health concerns.
In May of 2016, I discovered a PKD study being conducted at KU Medical Center in Kansas City. I went and did the preliminary lab work and was told that my a1c and Fasting Glucose levels were dangerously high. After being referred back to my PCP, I was given an additional diagnosis of Drug Induced Diabetes. I had also gained a lot of weight in a very short amount of time. My kidney function was now down to 55%. My PCP prescribed medication for the diabetes and also to jump start my weight loss. After a brief visit with my nephrologist, I stopped taking the medications, as they were too dangerous for my kidneys.
By June of 2016, I had lost over 10% of my kidney function, and was now down to 44%. My a1c and Fasting Glucose labs were staying elevated, even with diet and exercise. I was still gaining weight and weighed the most I had ever weighed not pregnant. My self-esteem was low. I hated leaving my house. I was asked daily if I was pregnant again or someone would congratulate me on the baby I was about to have, but I wasn’t pregnant.
I was getting dressed for a family get together in September 2016 and tried putting on at least five different pairs of jeans. Not a single pair of jeans fit me. IF I could get them up over my hips, I couldn’t zip them. IF I could zip them, I couldn’t breathe or move in them. I threw every single pair into a bag to be donated. That was probably my lowest point. I cried for the rest of the day because I had gained so much weight and didn’t know what to do to lose it. I was also becoming sicker, unable to function as a wife and mommy at home after a full day at work at the hospital. My weight had also reached the highest ever at 207 pounds. It was late in September that I made the decision to sign up for a family membership at the YMCA that was about to open in Newton. I walked past Josh and Ben twice a week and finally stopped to sign up.
October brought about my decision to quit my job to stay home and focus on myself and my health. In my head, I thought I was going to stay home and wait until I either felt better or got so sick that I would be able to get a transplant. Neither prospect sounded good to me, so I decided to do what I could to make myself better. I began walking on the treadmill in the evenings at home. Just before leaving the hospital, I stopped and spoke to Josh about the possibility of working with a personal trainer once the YMCA opened. He told me he had someone in mind and asked if I could come by after the YMCA opened and meet with this person. That was the first time I felt like I was doing something to help myself get better. I had also lost a few pounds.
It wasn’t until the second week the YMCA was open that I stopped in and reconnected with Josh about a personal trainer. That was also when I met Morgan. She was a smaller version of myself- no nonsense and intense personality. She asked what I wanted out of a personal trainer. I needed someone that wasn’t going to let me get away with anything and would call me out when I tried to be lazy. She was just the person I needed. My initial thoughts were that I would give this a try, and if it didn’t work out I would ask for a different trainer. I believe it was my second session with Morgan that she told me she had looked up my kidney disease and asked me actual questions about where I was at with that. It was that moment that I knew Morgan was who I was supposed to be training with.
November is also when I had six month labs for the PKD study I was in. My kidney function had rebounded some and the doctor was initially pleased with my progress. Unfortunately, some of my lab values were red flags and they were sent off for analysis by another doctor. Just before Christmas, I received a phone call stating my labs from the previous year had been analyzed by multiple doctors at KU and given my history with elevated a1c and fasting glucose values, they felt I was dealing with more than Drug Induced Diabetes. I was referred back to my PCP for further testing.
I was finally able to see my PCP in January of 2017. We discussed my eating habits and how I was now working out 3-5 times a week. Morgan was killing me!! We did the labs, and my a1c came back in normal range! The doctor stated I was no longer in immediate danger of becoming diabetic. My other labs came back later in the week, all within normal ranges. It was decided that I still need close monitoring, but I am no longer in danger. I had also lost 32 pounds. With the weight loss, my blood pressure has come down some on its own, and I was allowed to cut the dose of one of my blood pressure medications in half! I’m feeling better than I have in years!! My energy is better, my moods are better, and I no longer feel sick. The other day, we were at the rodeo with our kids and as we were leaving my pants felt looser than I remember. When we got home, I tugged on the waist of my jeans, and they slid down over my hips while they were still buttoned! I have lost so much weight that I get to go shopping for new pants- in a smaller size!!
I am not motivated by the numbers on my scale or the size of my clothes. I am motivated by how I feel. My doctors are amazed that I am feeling so good now after being so sick last year. I decided that I will tell them how I feel and they can worry about my numbers. I couldn’t and probably wouldn’t have been able to do this without Morgan at the Newton YMCA. She has become so much more than a personal trainer. She’s been my cheerleader, my therapist, and most importantly, my friend.
I never took any before pictures, because this was never a thought-out process, I just jumped into it. I won’t take any after pictures, because I feel that I will always be a work in progress. Of course, this isn’t my whole story. This is just one small chapter. I am so glad that Morgan and the Newton YMCA are a part of it.