First, I took out a banana. Bananas remind me that nothing lasts forever, even your struggles. I was on a very restrictive diet while waiting on my transplant, and was not allowed to eat bananas. Now that those restrictions are gone I eat at least one banana every day.
I then placed a toilet seat on the stage. I stopped peeing while sick since without kidney function there is no more urine output. So the simple act of using the restroom is something I don’t take for granted anymore. Running to the bathroom only takes a few minutes for most of us. It took about 12 hours a week of dialysis to make up for my body’s inability to do that simple task.
My last item was a running shoe. It reminds me to just show up in life, even when you don’t feel like it. I physically couldn’t climb the flight of stairs that lead to my apartment 10 years ago.
Since then I’ve done the 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer, hiked trails with friends, and am on the treadmill every day. I learned that being alive is reason enough to experience more than you’re motivated to at the moment.
This month also marks the 9th anniversary of my transplant. While debating ideas of what to do that day my girlfriend, Katie, came up with a great new symbolic way to commemorate my so-called second birthday. We went out and purchased a blueberry plant and planted it in the back yard.
We also decided that every year I get the privilege of celebrating my transplanted kidney, we will plant another fruit tree. That growing orchard will remind me that regardless of what season we’re in or what storms may pass, those trees and their gifts will remain.
Who knows, I might even try and learn to cook, using the various fruit in dishes to pass along to others in an effort to share the gift that was freely given to me — unless I give my friends food poisoning, which would change the symbolism altogether.
The message I wanted to convey to patients that day was that Life Moves On. Despite my intention of becoming the perfect human being when I got well, to always be happy and appreciative and make the most of every moment, I returned to a life that also included frustration and disappointment. And that’s how it should be since the best life is not one sheltered from the world.
But my journey through illness and potential death did have an impact on me and I need to remember and honor the dreams of that pale, emaciated Melissa. All the aforementioned symbols help remind me of what those dreams were.
So over the next month or two when you are getting bumped and shoved in the mob of the airport, fighting other shopping piranhas at the mall, or eating a lonely take-out without family, pick an item and give it special meaning. Through the pandemonium it will serve as a beacon to navigate your way to being thankful.
Melissa Carter is former co-host of “The Bert Show” on Q100, where she broke ground as the first out lesbian radio personality on a major station in the city and was one of the few out morning show personalities in the country. Keep up with her at www.melissatimes.com.