6. My Daughter’s Gift

6. My Daughter’s Gift

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

My Daughter’s Gift

Action is the antidote to despair.
 ~Joan Baez

I was 5’2” and I weighed over 200 pounds. I never felt motivated to change my eating habits despite how uncomfortable simple activities like showering, dressing, walking, and even sitting eight hours a day at my job as a programmer had become.

I was in the doctor’s office with my daughter, Amanda, when she was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease. The diagnosis presented a challenge I knew I would not turn away from. I was prepared to give her a kidney.

“Amanda, I can give you a kidney,” I assured her confidently.

The nephrologist spoke slowly, not quite looking me in the eye. “Toni, you won’t be considered a viable donor because of your weight.”

Embarrassed, I glanced at my daughter.

“It’s too dangerous anyway,” she smiled, as she reached over and took my hand. “I don’t want you to do it.”

But her sweet acceptance of the situation made me even more determined. That day I made up my mind to lose the weight I had carried for more than 20 years.

“At work, there have been quite a few people who’ve lost weight going the low-carb route,” I explained to Amanda as we discussed diet options. “Charles had success on Weight Watchers. Gail and her husband are on Nutrisystem. And there have been lots of positive results with Jenny Craig, Atkins, and the South Beach diet.”

“You know,” she cautioned, “you don’t really do well when things are strictly regimented.”

“Then I’ll come up with my own version of a low-carb diet.”

My diet consisted of the foods I liked the most and wouldn’t tire of eating on a daily basis. Dinnertime staples consisted mainly of lean, braised steak or oven-baked shrimp and fish, with steamed vegetables completing the meal.

I eliminated all fast food, fried food and snack food. Bread, buns, rolls, donuts, muffins and potato chips were exorcised from the house, eliminating temptation. But by far the most difficult challenge was giving up Coca Cola. I never drank coffee, tea, water or milk. For years, the only beverage that passed through my lips was Coca Cola. Some days I’d down as many as four to six 20-ounce bottles.

Eventually I made new friends: Crystal Light, Nutri-Grain cereal bars, Healthy Choice and Lean Cuisine.

The pain of caffeine withdrawal overshadowed the hunger pains from my decreasing calorie intake. I counted calories religiously and as my daily calories declined my energy level increased. I remembered hearing somewhere that unless you feel hungry, you’re not losing weight. As hungry as I constantly felt, I was sure I must be losing weight.

Keeping the big picture in mind, I weighed in only once a week and wasn’t preoccupied with minor fluctuations. I didn’t have a target weight or an end goal in mind when I began dieting. After all, I wasn’t sure I’d even be able to maintain any sort of diet plan, but watching my daughter grow weaker every day gave me all the incentive I needed to stick with it.

It wasn’t until I had lost 40 pounds that my co-workers, friends, and neighbors even noticed.

“Toni, did you get a new hairstyle?” my boss asked me one day. “It makes you look thinner.”

That’s one terrific hairstylist, I thought. Give her a big tip.

“How much weight did you lose?” asked my neighbor. “I told my wife it’s got to be from walking the dog. I always see you out here.”

That’s a lot of shoe leather.

So I wasn’t surprised when five new dogs became members of the neighborhood in the following months.

My slow walks around the block soon evolved into regular jogs throughout the subdivision, a pleasant surprise for our miniature greyhound.

“Are you sure you’re not sick?” questioned my friends periodically.

No, I thought sadly, that’s my daughter.

Months flew by and the diet became a way of life. Many of my cravings disappeared. Our days were filled with doctor appointments and medical testing to qualify my daughter for placement on the National Transplant wait list. No longer weighing in every week, I didn’t even notice how much weight I had lost.

“I didn’t even recognize you,” gushed the nephrologist at one of our appointments. “I never thought you’d do it. How much have you lost?”

Hopping onto the scale in the corner of the exam room, I found I had lost 70 pounds.

I placed my arm around Amanda’s shoulders pulling her close. “I think I’m ready to give my daughter a kidney now,” I proudly informed the doctor.

“Finish her tests and once she’s on the list you can begin your testing,” instructed the doctor.

Finally the day arrived when my daughter took her place on the National Transplant wait list. And I was ready. I rushed to the LifeLink office on my lunch hour to fill out a mound of paperwork and begin the battery of tests required to become a living donor. First up, a simple blood test.

“We’ll call you this afternoon with the results,” said the donor coordinator as she walked me to the elevator.

Four hours later my phone rang. “What test is next on the list?” I practically yelled into the receiver. I was excited to get through all the red tape and get my daughter back on the road to health.

“Toni, I have some bad news.” The coordinator hesitated a moment too long. “Your blood type is not a match.”

My disappointment was nearly insurmountable. Instead of giving my daughter a kidney, she gave me the gift of a healthier life.

It’s a gift I do not take lightly and will value forever, so I continue to count calories and count my blessings.

~Toni L. Martin

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