When you are sorrowful look again in your heart,
and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

~ Kahlil Gibran, from"The Prophet"

Monday, April 11, 2011

Some VERY Exciting News!

We did some serious celebrating yesterday up in Wisconsin.
My brother's birthday was last week on April 3rd, and mine was yesterday.
After all these years, it's pretty tough to come up with a truly unique gift idea,

but I think you'll agree, this one is pretty good.

On Tuesday, April 19th
Jim will officially become the new owner 
of my "gently used" left kidney!
How exciting is that?!

My big brother is an incredibly brave man who has weathered major health issues and faced into some pretty challenging experiences during the course of his life. Most recently, the long term use of one particular drug prescribed to treat an ongoing health situation caused his kidneys to fail, and he was forced to begin dialysis last fall. Dialysis has profoundly affected Jim's quality of life:  He's on a very restricted diet.  He's tethered to that machine for several hours three mornings a week and is absolutely exhausted for the remainder of each treatment day. His adverse reactions to this regimen limit not only his life, but its ripple effects reach the lives of his fabulous wife and two daughters as well.

My niece, Colleen, was kind enough to share this beautiful photo with me.

It was taken last week on Jim's birthday.
And this photo of Erin Elizabeth and my niece, Erin Kathleen,

was taken in August of 2006 at Erin's wedding.

Often one's current health concerns must be aggressively treated with toxic drugs whose long-term side effects could potentially damage the body's other systems, but the need for the immediate relief of symptoms or the potential cure of a disease overshadows what could eventually happen in the future. One is forced to take the risk at that time, and then deal with "what if" when/if it becomes an actuality. Such was the case for Jim; and had Erin survived Ewing's sarcoma there was a strong possibility that her future health could have been compromised in a similar manner due to the nephrotoxic and cardiotoxic side-effects of some of her chemotherapy drugs. She'd already developed some peripheral neuropathy and had most likely lost the ability to ever conceive a child by the end of her first protocol. Other long-term effects were likely.

Erin's (and therefore my) personal experience of this rock vs hard place drug dilemma, coupled with an empathetic understanding of a lifestyle limited by the ball and chain hold imposed by ongoing chemotherapy/dialysis treatments, were factors that led to the decision to undergo testing to determine my eligibility as a living donor, and I began the first series of medical examinations in early February. If only it was as quick and easy as is appears to be on Desperate Housewives. Really??
I've been throwing things at the TV during recent episodes!
First and foremost, the donor and recipient must have compatible blood types. We're both O+, so score one there!  Blood is drawn for tissue typing, crossmatching, antibody screening and to make sure the donor is free of any transmissible diseases (HIV, hepatitis, etc).  A closer "match" means fewer anti-rejection drugs for the recipient. (Because we're siblings, we're close. He's looking a little standoffish in this pic - too cool for the younger sister!)

Tests are performed to ensure the donor is cancer-free (Forced me to get up to date on things and to also have that over-50 test many of us avoid - piece of cake!) and that there is not a current medical condition that affects the kidneys such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Special tests determine current kidney function and cardiac wellness. Essentially, one's overall health must be excellent in order to be considered. (No chances are taken when it comes to the well-being of the donor.) The process also involves psycho/social evaluations, and meetings with a nurse practitioner, a dietician, a pharmacist, nephrologists... and requires the development of an ongoing and sometimes frustrating relationship with a donor advocate who works with a recipient advocate, each of whom has the job of protecting patient rights at their own ends of the spectrum, but must also work together using a communicative "team approach" method necessary to ensure the success of a complicated endeavor such as this. Tricky? That's putting it mildly!
SO... the weeks of poking, probing and scanning have proven that I am truly blessed to be the picture of health. Amen! After Selection Committee meetings, conversations with surgeons, some discouraging changes, the necessity of yet one more last minute test this past Wednesday and agonizing periods of waiting, we finally received the official news on Friday ~

IT'S A GO!  TUESDAY, APRIL 19th AT 1:00pm!


Am I afraid?  No. Not a bit.  I haven't had a second thought since I made the decision in January. I needed to survive the year of "firsts" without Erin to be certain I was strong enough, and then I was ready. I've carefully packed my bag with knowledge from life in the world of absolute neutrophil counts and have moved with confidence into the world of creatinine clearance levels.  My ability to do this is truly as much a gift to me from an emotional standpoint as it is to Jim to improve his physical well-being.  When Erin was sick I was helpless. I could hold her hand and stay at her side, and I take comfort in believing I did the best I could from that perspective, but so much was out of my control.

Thanks to advances in modern medicine I have the possibility of making Jim better.  Hopefully my little kidney will hum in pitch-perfect tune with his body and free him from the choke-hold dialysis has on his life.  I can do this without any adverse effects to my own body. Once I heal from surgery (it is a laparoscopic procedure) my lifestyle will not have to change in any way.  My life expectancy with one kidney will be just as long as it is now with two.
Honestly, it's a Win - Win situation for both of us.

I'm heading into surgery with a body that's healthy and strong, and I have the powerful spirit of one special angel who's been whispering in my ear since January ~
"Of course you should do this mom. Duh!"
Rest assured, I've chatted with her!
All your prayer energy needs to go to Jim because he's in a much more vulnerable state than I am.  I'll be fine.

Hey ~ did you know that when they give the kidney to the recipient they stick it in the front part of the abdomen and leave the other two in there? I didn't know that! So, Jim has assured me, "Mare, whenever I take a leak I'll pat your kidney and thank you... every time.  It's the gift that keeps on giving."
Spoken like a true, smart-ass brother!

Wow, that's even better than the Jelly-of-the-Month Club, Clark!
Thank goodness, because now I'll never have to give him another birthday present. Check that one off my future to-do list.
~ ~ ~

A few wrap-up nuts and bolts ~ Surgery will take place at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, and I will return home to recuperate within just a few days. (Anyone willing to rub my feet during that time, please send a note.) Jim will be hospitalized a bit longer. We both want to be home in time for the Easter Bunny's arrival. I'll take a couple of weeks off from my new part-time job (which I love, by the way), I recently accepted the position of newsletter editor for my Chapter of The Compassionate Friends and this wonderful bunch of kindred spirits is transitioning me into the preparation of the May/June issue, and I have this VERY important blood drive coming up that I've been planning for with the LifeSource rep. (I'll be ready to post sign-up details next Monday before I head up to Milwaukee.) ... Sarah's birthday is tomorrow, the magic has continued for what will be 31 years on 4/26, then there's Tasha's shower in June, and that leads to a very exciting wedding in August... so many exciting things are happening, my head is spinning!
If I don't see you sometime before, I'll see you on May 15th.

I'll be in touch when I can.
Peace to all.


  1. Mary, you are an amazing woman. Prayers accompany each of you as you prepare for this momentous event.

  2. Love this post and the photos of you and my dad! I need to look through your collection at some point. :) Thanks so much for doing this. We'll be up to see you soon in Milwaukee!

  3. Hugs to you... and countless thank you(s)!


  4. Amazing!! In so many ways!! I wish you all the best and I would rub your feet or fill your and Dave's bellies in an instant!!!

  5. Mary, you have caused me to sob on a Monday afternoon. This incredible gift of life to your dear big bro is part of one non-stop frightening/joyful ride of your life. You are such a wonderful person! Sign me up to give foot rubs, shoulder massages, and to provide a meal during recovery. Please wish GORGEOUS Sarah a very happy birthday and belated best wishes always to her BEAUTIFUL mother. I will be praying for you and Jim all day on the 19th.

  6. YAY, a foot rub! I love you, Kelly! Food is good too. xo

    Now I have to figure out how to sneak Keenan into the hospital. I don't think I'll be able to sleep without him. He was just groomed so he's clean. You have enough of a rebel streak in you. Help me figure this one out!

  7. Irene, I posted before I saw your comment. No sobbing - SMILES MY FRIEND! Pray hard and believe. All is well.
    Oh my goodness, more foot rubs and food. How blessed am I?

  8. Potts, you are courageous, inspiring, steadfast, funny, articulate and filled with grace...and that's only scratching the surface.

    I will be with you in spirit on the 19th, and I'll light a candle and send prayers to both you and Jim.

    Godspeed, dearest friend,
    xoxoxox LOVE YOU,

  9. Dear Mary, what a great gift to a very lucky brother..God Bless you both - see you in the barn
    Sorry, i don't touch feet, but if you need a shake or a soda or a beer, I can and will gladly deliver

  10. Dear Mary, what a happy and blessing post this is. Thank you for sharing your brave and generous decision with us. I admire you tremendously, and am so thankful that you the ability, and the spirit, to do this for your brother. That is for sure a gift that will keep on giving! I can imagine Erin's huge and beautiful smile over all of this.
    P.S. - My grandmother lived to be 96, after having one kidney removed (her surgery was in the 1930s, way before laparoscopy)!

  11. What a great gift the gift of life is! I am sure that all of us who love Jim and his family will love you forever as well for allowing us to enjoy his presence on earth for many, many more years to come! I am certain that God has a special place for you in his almighty heart for helping Jim through this! What a wonderful sister you are. God bless you always and forever!!!

    Caro (Colleen's Colombian friend :)

  12. Mary, what a mitzvah you are giving to your brother! I will light a candle for you on the 19th and hold all of you in my thoughts and prayers.


  13. My thoughts are with you Mary. Life with no fear anymore is what you get in exchange for your child's life and death. Such a cost for you - a gift for your brother.

    Best wishes..

  14. Mare, I don't know much about kidneys...other than what you have told me. I do know that the left kidney is, in most people, larger than the right. It doesn't surprise me that you are giving your brother your biggest kidney. "BIG Kidney for BIG brother from sister who has BIG Heart". Okay, I know that's corny...but I couldn't help myself.

    Jim will never forget what he got for his birthday this year. It sure beats getting a sweater, socks and/or underwear, right?

    I pray that the surgery goes well and you both have a speedy recovery!

    Love you,

  15. You know Wince, Jim has always been a pain in the rear when it comes to clothes. He's awfully picky about things and prefers a gift card to Eddie Bauer so he can choose his own wardrobe. Ever since he worked at a men's clothing store during his younger years, he's thought of himself as Mr. GQ! I'm tired of giving gift cards and didn't want to risk buying an argyle sweater that he'd turn his nose up at. I figured the kidney was a safe bet... there's enough elasticity so one size fits all, I think they're all the same color and it's a pretty safe bet that no one will duplicate the gift!

  16. So true. It may be unusual, but a kidney is a hassle-free birthday gift. Jim won't have to say "Hey Sue, will you please return this kidney for me? I don't like this one. It doesn't fit and it's the wrong color. I thought I told Mary that I already have one.
    Sheesh, she's so forgetful these days".

    Doesn't your kidney have a "no return" policy anyway?

    hugs & kisses

  17. Good Luck Ms. Potts!

    You will do great! I just got my tonsils taken out last Thursday and I was SO scared! I am still recovering right now but i'm so glad it's over- and it wasn't as bad as I thought.

    Thanks for continuing to be an inspiration : )

    PS- Happy late birthday!

    ~ loveknot <3

  18. What an awesome gift. I'll keep you and your brother in my prayers. Love, Lisa

  19. Hi Mary,
    What a wonderful gift you are giving to your brother, his family and your entire family! Dialysis is such a hard way to live, my husband's father (ironically a urologist, himself) spent years on dialysis - it's just very hard.

    I know Erin will be so proud of you! I also have been meaning to tell you how much I love Erin's pictures - her bright and shiny personality sparkles in all of them!

    I will be thinking about you and Jim next week and on the 19th - just imagine how wonderful he will soon be feeling!


  20. Mrs. Potts,

    It sounds like you have a lot of exciting things coming up! I hope you had a great birthday and have a safe and speedy recovery from surgery. You are doing such a kind thing for your brother, and I know that means a lot of great things will come your way. Good luck on Tuesday!


  21. I work with a gal that received a kidney from her cousin....it is an amazing gift. It really is the gift of life that you are giving to your brother.
    So excited for you....

  22. dear mary,
    i feel your happiness to have a chance to transform and enhance the life of your brother.
    thank you for being the person you are. for allowing your own suffering to strengthen your heart. to reveal in the opportunity of safe guarding another. bravo my dear friend.
    sending you love as you give the gift of a full life!

  23. Thank you for your kind comment on my blog today, and I am thrilled to visit yours. What you are doing is so generous, so beautiful, and I am glad to have "met" you and learned a little about you and your brother, your daughter and the rest of your family. I will bow my head and pray that all goes well -- and so look forward to hearing of your swift recovery as well as your brother's! Blessings to you both.

  24. Bravery...courage...strength, but mostly love.
    What a gift! Much health and happiness to your brother, speedy recovery to you! Prayers on Tuesday! Compnay when you are getting back on your feet. Chocolate too...it's always the answer!

  25. Happy Belated Birthday, Mrs. Potts!!! Congrats on the GREAT news!!! :) I am so happy for your brother.


  26. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. ~Winston Churchill

    As far as quotes go Mrs. Potts, I think this describes you perfectly. Whether it be a blood drive, organ donation, writing in your blog, comforting others, put others before yourself etc. you are always giving and that is such a special gift. I bet Erin is up in heaven right now elbowing God in the side and say "See that remarkable woman, that's my mom!" You are an inspiration to everyone and you touch so many lives each day! Good luck to you and your brother I will be praying for you both. And happy belated birthday!! See you at the blood drive.


  27. Carin's comment opened the door a crack and this morning the emotion is seeping out. You could call it a little pre-surgical bloodletting ~

    They sawed Erin's femur and hip, and then they yanked it out of her body and shoved a metal rod in there. They hacked out the lower lobe of her right lung. They removed a piece of her skull along with the brain tumor, whose pressure had caused a weakening of the right side of her body and the inability to speak, and when she'd quickly recovered from that within just a week, she had a stroke that robbed her of the ability to move the left side of her body from the shoulder down. She had two pairs of scars on her hips - stab wounds from the aspiration of her bone marrow. There were more stab wounds in her right thigh from the biopsies to determine the nature of the demon who had invaded her body. She had scars on her chest from the insertion and removal, and then reinsertion of her port, and those blended together with the ones caused by the puncturing of her chest with needles to access her port for chemotherapy, transfusions and blood draws more times than I can count. She was drugged and irradiated until I wanted to scream. I did scream. And then she died before my eyes...

    I anticipate that whatever physical pain I experience from my upcoming surgery can only be likened to a skinned knee when compared with the emotional torture I endured while I watched the above happen to my daughter.

    and that's the way it is - I think Walter Cronkite used to close with that line.

  28. I don't know your friend Reed, but I just read her post. I love her...you hold tight and know how many people will be holding tight to you on Tuesday, well..every day! Kidney bean...perfect!

  29. Hi Mary,
    You may have seen my comments on Karen's blog. I just wanted to say what a wonderful thing it is that you're doing for your brother. My brother-in-law had polysystic kidney disease and received a kidney from his younger brother several years ago. It completely changed his life and the bond between him and his brother is about as close as it could be. My brother in law is doing extremely well, as is his brother. Could there be a more loving gift? I hope you recover easily and that your brother does very well and enjoys years of good health as a result of your kind heart. Bless you!

  30. Mary, you are one awesome, kick-ass inspiration, a shining blinding ray of light in the dark. I am so in awe of your fortitude and buoyant spirit. May all forms of blessings come to you on this chapter of your journey. xp

  31. The photo of you with the bow on your kidney is priceless! Good thoughts your way. :D

  32. Coming your way through Flux Capacitor.

    Sending lots of good thoughts to you and Jim that all goes smoothly. What a truly wonderful gift.

  33. Hi Mary,

    I got here by way of Maggie May. Your relationship to your brother sounds very familiar. I have a few myself and they are much older than me, and they are sweet smart asses too!

    Good luck to both of you. My prayers and well wishes are with both of you and your families.

  34. Mary -

    I am writing to tell you good luck and you'll be in my thoughts and prayers (as will Jim) tomorrow.

    I read what you wrote above about all that Erin went through - I'm so sorry. The images we parents of children with cancer are left with are so painful. Mine run through my head like a horrible filmstrip. I'm so sorry again for all that Erin went through.

    Again, my thoughts and prayers are with you this week! You are doing a wonderful thing!

    Caroline's mom

  35. You and your brother are in my prayers Mrs. Potts!

    Love, Meggie

  36. Prayers and well wishes for you and your brother! What an amazing gift!


  37. Hello there. I'm a friend of Karen's and have been very bad at keeping up with her blog lately. Today i finally caught up and read about your amazing gift to your brother. You sound tough and clear-eyed, but i think it's probably still a scary situation. My boss, who's in his mid 40s, donated a kidney to his father a few years ago. I think it took him longer to recover from the surgery than he expected, but he's doing great, and so is his father. My boss's stature increased immeasurably in my eyes for his generosity, as does yours. I wish you and your big brother an easy surgery and a complete and rapid recovery.