A couple of weeks ago, I was finally coming to terms with the fact that I’m thirty years old. My birthday was back in December, and watching your youth fade away with each lost hair and each added pain can be a bit overwhelming at times. Even with all these new and strange things happening to my body, I was finally getting to accept everything about my new age. Looking on the bright side, I realized that I am the healthiest I have ever been in years, I had lost a bit of weight, and with my blood pressure under control, I felt great! Thirty is going to be a breeze!
Then, I was diagnosed with a life-threatening and incurable kidney disease.
This is the same, exact kidney disease that has haunted my family tree for generations. Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) took the life of my mother and my grandfather, and is currently wreaking havoc on my sister, my uncle, and several other relatives.
The threat of it has always loomed over my head, and I’ve known that any one of my brothers and sisters could have it. But it’s me. I’ve got it, now. I’m scared. Scared of dying and scared to live. I’m healthy for now, but the uncertainty of how many good years I have left before I get sick is terrifying. Will I be able to provide for my family? Should I send my wife to college just in case my health keeps me from working? Should I have bought more life insurance? Am I going to be able to afford the doctor bills that will come from my treatment? Should my wife and I have any more kids knowing that each one has a 50% chance of having the disease?
Thanks, thirty. Thanks a lot. I really needed this.
Until it’s your CT scan report that reads things like “innumerable cysts” on both kidneys and the on the liver, you really don’t know how you will react. Everyone will probably read this story today, think to themselves, “awww, poor fella”, then go on to something else and not think any more about it. I know how that process works… I’ve reacted the same way when others have announced similar sad news. The only problem is that this time, I’ve got to live with it for the rest of my life, however long or short that may be. Mom died at 47… how much longer do I have?
When the sharp pains began in the left side of my back, I knew something was wrong. The next day, upon arriving home, I sat in my truck as the realization hit me that the problem was that I had PKD. I wouldn’t have the confirming results from the doctor’s tests for another four days, but I knew that this time the bullet could not be dodged. I had this distinct feeling that this was PKD, and that this would be with me for the rest of my life. I was terrified of how this would affect not only my life, but everyone around me until the day I die.
In all of this selfish pity-party I was going through, I remembered that this was Easter weekend. This is the time of year we celebrate the death and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. This is the same Christ who Isaiah said “was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
This is also the same strong and eternal being who cried out to God the Father in agony in his darkest moment saying, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” (Mark 14:36) Oh, how I wish this were not the cup I am called to drink. But, surely if Jesus Christ called out to His Father in prayer and supplication, I may do the same and find help. If Christ can overcome all things, surely I can overcome the few stumbling blocks that have been placed in my way.
One of the most tender moments in Mormon scripture is when the Prophet Joseph Smith was locked up in Liberty Jail in Missouri. This was Joseph’s plea:
- O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?
- How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?
- Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them?
- O Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven, earth, and seas, and of all things that in them are, and who controllest and subjectest the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol—stretch forth thy hand; let thine eye pierce; let thy pavilion be taken up; let thy hiding place no longer be covered; let thine ear be inclined; let thine heart be softened, and thy bowels moved with compassion toward us.
- Let thine anger be kindled against our enemies; and, in the fury of thine heart, with thy sword avenge us of our wrongs.
- Remember thy suffering saints, O our God; and thy servants will rejoice in thy name forever. (Doctrine & Covenants 121:1-6)
7. My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
8. And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.
9. Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands. (Doctrine & Covenants 121:7-9)
What a comfort it is to be reminded that when I signed up for “life”, the Lord only intended for it to be a temporary time. That’s been His plan from the beginning for all of us. If we stick with it…all of it… then we’ll be blessed with an eternal reward that is greater than anything this temporary life could ever give to us or take away from us. I also couldn’t dream of any greater earthly support system than the loving family and friends that I hold so dear to my heart.
And now at the end of this beginning, I’m realizing that I have many things to be thankful for. What lack of gratitude would I be showing God if I forgot all of those numerous blessings and only began focusing on how dreary my condition is going to be? What a blessing to know that even though PKD may be incurable, my faith, my hope, and my spirit may be renewed and revived. As hideous as polycystic kidneys may be, Christ has made it possible that I may one day be resurrected, perfect and disease free.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:22)
Joshua B. Pettus
Your Friendly Mormon Neighbor