If you are one of the lucky ones who receive a transplantation, and the operation is successful, a long and fairly slow period follows, a period in which your body is getting used to its current situation. To prevent kidney rejection, a copious amount of immunosuppressants and corticosteroids is required. The constant and insatiable hunger (one where eating a horse simply wouldn’t suffice, one would have to eat the whole barn!), isn’t the only new thing in your life, chubby cheeks being the other… The name of this phenomenon is “Moon face”, because your head looks like a full moon. 

Apart from the shock and newfound problems you are facing, the issue of “well-meaning” people with “well-meaning” questions arises. Now and again, someone who isn’t familiar with your condition asks you, with genuine wonder in their voice: “Darling, have you gotten a bit chubby?”, completely unaware of the pain they are causing to you. Nobody realizes how painful that sentence feels to someone who is trying to appear normal in spite of the side effects, to carry on as they usually do. At a dinner occasion around eight months after my transplantation, one of the guests bluntly told me “You’ve put on a lot of weight”. I barely held my tears back (I was twenty-four at the time) and ran out into the garden, where my sister found me crying my eyes out. I’m not proud of the way I handled that situation. It was not vanity that made me act this way, but the shock from being snapped out of this illusion I had created for myself, an illusion of regular life. It’s very hard, to constantly be playing this game, to hide behind a mask. Corticosteroids cause hypersensitivity, unstable behavior and excessive emotionality as a side effect, especially in the beginning. 

When my kidney stopped working after 24 years, one of the side effects was anorexia, caused by my distaste for food due to the high levels of poison in my system. It took me eight months on dialysis to regain my usual weight, a period during which I received “compliments” such as “You look very thin” and “You’ve lost a lot of weight, are you alright?” These hurt too, only this time I’ve learned not to take them to heart (too much). 

Everyone’s vain, some less, some more. When you’re handling life-threatening problems, no matter how strong you get, you stay vulnerable deep down inside. Apart from it being impolite, ask yourself: would you like to be asked this sort of question?    

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