The Fear of Becoming White Noise

It is hard to believe that a year has passed, since that #GivingTuesday, when I first wrote here. One year ago, I was heartbroken. I was trying to find any good, any meaning, in the unexpected plot twist in my story. After months of careful preparation and testing, I had just learned that the plan to donate my kidney, my scheduled transplant surgery, had been cancelled.

I had intentionally been quiet about the surgery. I was fearful that once my story went public, it would be misconstrued into some prideful spotlight onto myself. I refused to make this about me. But I thought that somehow, once public, the spotlight would be on me. When really all I wanted was to bring awareness to my friend’s situation and find someone who could help.

Once the surgery was cancelled and I learned that my ultimate goal of being able to save a fellow mother’s life was no longer something I was capable of, I knew I couldn’t keep my story quiet. I needed to speak up. If I couldn’t help her, maybe there was someone I knew who could. I shared my journey with the hope that it would inspire at least one person to action. If I was unable to provide the life-saving kidney, the least I could do was ask if anyone else could. And if I couldn’t find her another kidney, maybe I could inspire people to give something else. Give blood? Give money? I was passionate about doing something. Even if it was the seemingly small act of speaking up.

So, I used my voice.
I became an advocate.

After sharing my story and heartbreak, I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and encouragement I received. But I was even more overcome by the amount of people who were willing to help.

People who wanted to do something.
To donate blood.
To donate finances to assist the kidney community.
To volunteer at the many fundraisers.
To sign up to be an organ donor.
To be present.
To support.

After the grief of having two surgery dates cancelled, we were finally cleared and set for transplant on February 8, 2017. Both of our surgeries were a great success and my friend, Julia, has been in great health ever since. The two of us have become quite the team. We both feel compelled to do anything and everything we can to help those with kidney disease whose time is running out; those who are still waiting on the kidney transplant list.

This became my passion.

If there was an article, an event, any way to help — I shared it. If you scroll through any of my social media feeds, in no time will you know exactly what I am passionate about. Any simple conversation of “What’s new?” or “What have you been up to?” and I can almost guarantee you will hear the word “kidney” somewhere in my response. My heart breaks more and more with every story I hear of those in need and dying from kidney disease. I will do anything I can to help them.

However, kidney disease isn’t the only thing that breaks my heart.

Our world is hurting, grieving, broken — in countless ways. Skim the headlines or watch the news and you’ll inevitably be hit with the story of another tragedy. There are so many people in our world, so many situations, in need of advocates. People to come alongside and amplify their stories, take the needed action, and put aside their own comforts to help. I am honored to say that I know quite a few people who are exactly this. I’d venture to say that you can also think of at least one person in your world who is passionate about a cause and everyone around them knows it.

  • The co-worker who runs the 5K every year, raising money for his loved one with MS.
  • The relative perpetually sharing the stories of the beautiful souls she serves at the local shelter.
  • The Facebook friend who posts articles and statistics to bring awareness and speak encouragement to those with mental illness.
  • The friend who takes trips to Uganda to dig wells that provide clean drinking water to the people of a village.
  • The families that rally together and put everything they have into adopting children in need of forever families.

These are the people I want to specifically encourage today.
The advocates.

When I first began sharing my kidney journey, it was uncomfortable. I was out of my comfort zone. But I felt supported. I felt heard, listened to. With each “like”, I was confident I was getting the word out about this great need. But over time, the “likes” lessened.

I fought the persistently louder and louder questions in my mind.

“Have I become white noise?
Should I stop talking about kidneys?
Am I pestering people with information they don’t care about?”

But then, seemingly out of nowhere, I received a Facebook message. Someone telling me that they’ve been following my story and that they’re interested in talking about the testing and donation process. Then I received a call from a friend, saying that she knows someone who needs a kidney and she’d like me to put her in touch with my transplant team at the hospital. These are two incredibly brave women who reached out to me because I decided that I needed to use my voice and share my story even when I was feeling self-conscious. There are two people currently undergoing the tests to potentially give the life-saving gift of a new kidney to someone whose time is running out. Because I brought awareness. Because I shared my story, others have been encouraged to write their own kidney journey.

I feel blessed that I was able to hear the effects of my advocacy.
However, we may never know the entirety of the ripple effect created by sharing our stories.

So, to my fellow advocates: PLEASE KEEP SPEAKING UP.
Please keep reminding us of ways that we can help.
Don’t let discouragement creep in when the “likes” aren’t as plentiful as they once were. Your journey has the potential to inspire others, even if it feels like your words are falling on deaf ears. I hope that one day, when you least expect it, someone will reach out and ask you how they can help.

We ARE listening. And we DO care.

Unfortunately, we cannot all passionately act on and loudly speak out about every single thing that breaks our hearts. I’m fairly certain that it is physically and emotionally impossible, or at least unhealthy and irresponsible, to bear that kind of weight. Which is exactly why each voice is needed. YOUR voice is needed. Keep passionately fighting for what breaks your heart. Keep working towards a cure, towards justice, towards helping those unable to help themselves.

On this #GivingTuesday 2017, I have a challenge to every reader:
Think about the advocates in your circle. The people who you immediately thought of as you read through this story. Reach out to them today. Most likely they are working passionately to prod others to give towards their passion today. If you are financially able, please give to support the work they tirelessly pour themselves into. But more importantly, please take the time to encourage them and let them know that you are listening. Remind them that they are heard and that you refuse to let their passionate pleas become white noise. Our world desperately needs people like them. And people like them desperately need you and me to link arms with them and their efforts.

As for my passion, you know where my heart lies today and where my pleas point. My heart is with the thirteen families gathered around their loved ones, saying goodbye after losing their fight with kidney disease. And tomorrow my heart will be with the next thirteen families doing the same. Should you be able to help those struggling with kidney disease on this #GivingTuesday, here is a link to do so:

http://healthykidneys.org/make-a-gift