I would like us to think about a four letter word for a moment. This word can cause us to do great things, but it can also cause us to lose hope, to lose our will to live. It can allow us to perform superhuman feats, or cause us to shrink away from the world. It can motivate us to become better people, or cause us to drive those we care about away. We can choose our reaction to this word, whether good or bad. Have you guessed the word yet?
When I first started dialysis, I was full of fear. Fear for the changes that would be occurring to my life, fear of the possibility of death, fear that I could no longer provide for my family. I was fearful for my way of life, for what I might have to give up, fear of becoming a burden to my family. What would the cost be, both monetarily and emotionally? Could I pay that cost? Being a man, I don’t frequently deal with emotional issues. I have no male friends who have gone through similar situations, I felt alone. I didn’t want to appear weak to my family, so as not to cause them undue anxiety. So I did what any red-blooded male would do: I sucked it up. I stuck my head in the sand, and pretended that nothing was wrong. In reality, something WAS wrong. I was dying inside. I did what I needed to do to survive, but in the process, I alienated my friends and family becoming difficult to live with and causing exactly what I sought to avoid. I needed help. But where to go? Who do I talk to?
I finally realized I was going nowhere. Where I had sought to avoid the problem, I was in fact making things far worse. My health was deteriorating, and I finally realized I needed to make a change. I contemplated the fear, and realized that I could use it as a tool. Instead of allowing it to rule my life, I used it to propel myself forward in positive directions. Because of that realization, I made changes in my life that allowed me to receive my new kidney. My kidney is healthy, and my outlook is good. Fear now acts as a motivator, allowing me to help others and show them what they themselves can do as well. I did not let the fear turn me into someone I’m not. I have used it to become a better person.
Now, I speak to groups of people every month about overcoming their anxieties and limitations. I am a patient advocate, ready to help whenever and wherever needed. Do not let fear stop you. Instead, let it motivate you to great things, let it push you forward and live your life to the fullest. Never let your life be wasted by surrendering to fear.