SlowItDownCKD | Early and Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease
Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease explains to the newly diagnosed CKD patient and others the medical terms and information, and the overwhelming task of trying to understand all this at once. It covers the initial suspicion of the disease and the necessary tests to verify that suspicion.
By now, you probably all know that I chose a clinical trial to treat my pancreatic cancer. But did you know that today, May 20th, is Clinical Trials Day? What’s that, you ask? Let’s find out together. According to The Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) at http://www.clinicaltrialsday.org/:
“WHY MAY 20?
Clinical Trials Day is celebrated around the world in May to recognize the day that James Lind started what is often considered the first randomized clinical trial aboard a ship on May 20, 1747.
HERE’S THE STORY
The HMS Salisbury of Britain’s Royal Navy fleet patrols the English Channel at a time when scurvy is thought to have killed more British seamen than French and Spanish arms.
Aboard this ship, surgeon mate James Lind, a pioneer of naval hygiene, conducts what many refer to as the first clinical trial.
Acting on a hunch that scurvy was caused by putrefaction of the body that could be cured through the introduction of acids, Lind recruited 12 men for his ‘fair test.’…
Without stating what method of allocation he used, Lind allocated two men to each of six different daily treatments for a period of fourteen days. The six treatments were: 1.1 litres of cider; twenty-five millilitres of elixir vitriol (dilute sulphuric acid); 18 millilitres of vinegar three times throughout the day before meals; half a pint of sea water; two oranges and one lemon continued for six days only (when the supply was exhausted); and a medicinal paste made up of garlic, mustard seed, dried radish root and gum myrrh.…
Those allocated citrus fruits experienced ‘the most sudden and good visible effects,’ according to Lind’s report on the trial.
Though Lind, according to The James Lind Library, might have left his readers ‘confused about his recommendations’ regarding the use of citrus in curing scurvy, he is ‘rightly recognized for having taken care to “‘compare like with like’’, and the design of his trial may have inspired ‘and informed future clinical trial design.'”
I’ve written about James Lind before, so you may want to re-read the 8/20/18 blog to read more about him and his experiments.
Time travel to 2019 with me, if you will, to read what Antidote.Me has to offer in the way of Chronic Kidney Disease Clinical Trials.
Headline: Chronic Kidney Disease Research: How to Get Involved
By Nancy Ryerson
May 20 is Clinical Trials Day. Every year, patient advocates and research groups participate to raise awareness of how clinical trial participation drives research progress. You may know that new treatments for Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) can’t move forward without clinical trial volunteers, but you may not know how to find active, relevant trials in your area.
Below, you’ll find answers to commonly asked questions about finding CKD clinical trials, including who can join, how to find trials, and the kinds of questions CKD research aims to answer.
How can I find Chronic Kidney Disease clinical trials near me?
There are currently 171 research studies for CKD looking for volunteers in the United States. All clinical trials are listed on ClinicalTrials.gov, but because the website was developed with researchers in mind rather than patients, it can be difficult for patients to navigate. Antidote is a clinical trial matching company that provides a patient-friendly clinical trial search tool to health nonprofits and bloggers, including this blog. With the Antidote tool, you can answer a few questions about your medical history and where you’d like to find a trial to receive a list of trials you may qualify for in your area. You can also sign up to receive alerts when new trials are added near you.
Who can join CKD clinical trials?
It’s a common misconception that clinical trials only need volunteers who have been recently diagnosed to take part. It’s also untrue that clinical trials are only a “last resort” for patients who have exhausted other options. In reality, clinical trials can be a care option for patients at any point after diagnosis. CKD trials need volunteers with mild, moderate, and severe kidney disease to participate in different trials. Some trials also look for patients with specific comorbidities, such as hypertension.
What does CKD research typically focus on?
Clinical trials for Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) research potential new treatments to slow or stop CKD, as well as treat common conditions associated with CKD, such as anemia or hypertension.
CKD clinical trials aren’t limited to research into new drugs, either. For example, a kidney-friendly diet can make a significant difference in reducing kidney damage, and more research is needed into specific interventions that can help. Research studies are also looking into the impact exercise can have on CKD symptoms and progression.
Clinical trials may also be observational. These kinds of trials don’t test an intervention – a drug, diet, lifestyle change, etc. Instead, participants are divided into groups and observed for differences in outcome.
Do clinical trials always use a placebo?
In clinical trials, placebos – also known as “sugar pills” – help researchers understand the effectiveness of an experimental treatment. While they can be an important part of the research process, it’s also understandable that patients hope they won’t receive the placebo in a clinical trial.
If you’re considering taking part in a trial but you’re concerned about receiving a placebo, it’s important to know that not all trials use one. Many trials test a potential new treatment against the standard of care, for example. In some trials that use a placebo, everyone in the trial may receive the study drug at some point during the trial.
I don’t have time to participate in a clinical trial.
Time restraints are another reason many patients hesitate to participate in clinical trials. While some clinical trials may require weekly site visits, others may only ask participants to come in every month or so. Some trials may also offer virtual visits online or home visits to help reduce the number of trips you’ll need to take to get to a site. When you’re considering joining a clinical trial, ask the study team any questions you have about the trial schedule, reimbursement for travel, or anything else about participation.
Interested in finding a trial near you? Use the SlowItDownCKD trial search, powered by Antidote, to start your search. (Gail here: It’s at the bottom right hand side of the blog roll.)
Ladies and Gentleman, start your motors! I hope you find just the right CKD Clinical Trial for you.
Being on chemotherapy is very tiring, so I stay home a lot and delve into anything that catches my eye, like FSGS. I’ve seen the letters before and had sort of a vague idea of what it might be, but what better time to explore it and whatever it may have to do with Chronic Kidney Disease than now?
Let’s start at the beginning. FSGS is the acronym for focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. Anything look familiar? Maybe the ‘glomerul’ part of glomerulosclerosis? I think we need to know the definition of glomerulosclerosis to be able to answer that question. The National Institutes of Health’s U.S. National Library of Congress’s Medline Plus at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000478.htm defines it this way:
“Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis is scar tissue in the filtering unit of the kidney. This structure is called the glomerulus. The glomeruli serve as filters that help the body get rid of harmful substances. Each kidney has thousands of glomeruli.
‘Focal’ means that some of the glomeruli become scarred. Others remain normal. ‘Segmental’ means that only part of an individual glomerulus is damaged.”
So, we do know what the ‘glomerul’ part of glomerulosclerosis means. It refers to the same filters in the kidneys we’ve been discussing for the past eleven years: the glomeruli. This former English teacher can assure you that ‘o’ is simply a connective between the two parts of the word. ‘Sclerosis’ is a term you may have heard of in relation to the disease of the same name, the one in which the following occurs (according to Encarta Dictionary):
“the hardening and thickening of body tissue as a result of unwarranted growth, degeneration of nerve fibers, or deposition of minerals, especially calcium.”
Wait a minute. When I first started writing about CKD, I approached NephCure Foundation… not being certain what it was, but seeing Neph in its name. They were kind enough to ask me to guest blog for them on 8/21/11. By the way, as of August 15, 2014, NephCure Foundation became NephCure Kidney International. That makes the connection to our kidneys much more clear.
Back to FSGS. The NephCure Kidney International website at https://nephcure.org/ offers us this information:
“How is FSGS Diagnosed?
FSGS is diagnosed with renal biopsy (when doctors examine a tiny portion of the kidney tissue), however, because only some sections of the glomeruli are affected, the biopsy can sometimes be inconclusive.
What are the Symptoms of FSGS?
Many people with FSGS have no symptoms at all. When symptoms are present the most common include:
Proteinuria – Large amounts of protein ‘spilling’ into the urine
Edema – Swelling in parts of the body, most noticeable around the eyes, hands and feet, and abdomen which causes sudden weight gain.
Low Blood Albumin Levels because the kidneys are removing albumin instead of returning it to the blood
High Cholesterol in some cases
High Blood Pressure in some cases and can often be hard to treat
FSGS can also cause abnormal results of creatinine in laboratory tests. Creatinine is measured by taking a blood sample. Everyone has a certain amount of a substance called creatinine floating in his or her blood. This substance is always being produced by healthy muscles and normally the kidneys constantly filter it out and the level of creatinine stays low. But when the filters become damaged, they stop filtering properly and the level of creatinine left in the blood goes up.”
Whoa! Look at all the terms we’ve used again and again in the last eleven years of SlowItDownCKD’s weekly blog: proteinuria, edema, albumin, cholesterol, high blood pressure, and creatinine. This is definitely something that we, as CKD patients, should know about.
The type of treatment you get depends on the cause. Everyone is different and your doctor will make a treatment plan that is right for your type of FSGS. Usually, treatments for FSGS include:
Corticosteroids (often called “steroids”)
ACE inhibitors and ARBs
Corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs: These medications are used to calm your immune system (your body’s defense system) and stop it from attacking your glomeruli.
ACE inhibitors and ARBs: These are blood pressure medications used to reduce protein loss and control blood pressure.”
Diuretics: These medications help your body get rid of excess fluid and swelling. These can be used to lower your blood pressure too.
Diet changes: Some diet changes may be needed, such as reducing salt (sodium) and protein in your food choices to lighten the load of wastes on the kidneys.”
I think we need another definition here. Yep, it’s Plasmapheresis. Back to the Encarta Dictionary.
“a process in which blood taken from a patient is treated to extract the cells and corpuscles, which are then added to another fluid and returned to the patient’s body.”
Let’s go back to The NephCure Kidney International website at https://nephcure.org/ for a succinct summary of FSGS Facts.
“More than 5400 patients are diagnosed with FSGS every year, however, this is considered an underestimate because:
a limited number of biopsies are performed
the number of FSGS cases are rising more than any other cause of Nephrotic Syndrome…
NephCure estimates that there are currently 19,306 people living with ESRD due to FSGS…, in part because it is the most common cause of steroid resistant Nephrotic Syndrome in children,… and it is the second leading cause of kidney failure in children…
NephCure estimates that people of African ancestry are at a five times higher diagnosis rate of FSGS…
About half of FSGS patients who do not respond to steroids go into ESRD each year, requiring dialysis or transplantation…
Approximately 1,000 FSGS patients a year receive kidney transplants… however, within hours to weeks after a kidney transplant, FSGS returns in approximately 30-40% of patients….”
As prevalent and serious as this sounds, please remember that FSGS is a rare kidney disease. Knowing what we now know just may help you keep your eyes open for it.
It’s like I’m attuned to anything kidney. After eleven years of writing about Chronic Kidney Disease, I’ll bet I am. Sometimes, it’s the smallest connection that triggers something in my mind. For example, Sjögren’s syndrome kept nagging at me, although I’d never heard of it as a sort of kidney disease. So, what was it and what did it have to do with the kidneys? I went right to the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation at https://info.sjogrens.org/conquering-sjogrens/sjogrens-kidney-disease for information.
by Philip L. Cohen, MD, Professor of Medicine, Temple University School of Medicine
About 5% of people with Sjögren’s develop kidney problems. In most of these patients, the cause is inflammation around the kidney tubules, where urine is collected, concentrated, and becomes acidic. The infiltrating blood cells (mostly lymphocytes) injure the tubular cells, so that the urine does not become as acidic as it should. This condition, called distal renal tubular acidosis, is frequently asymptomatic, but can cause excessive potassium to be excreted in the urine, and may lead to kidney stones or (very rarely) low enough blood potassium to cause muscle weakness or heart problems. Very occasionally, injury to the renal tubules can cause impairment in the ability to concentrate urine, leading to excessive urine volume and increased drinking of fluids (nephrogenic diabetes insipidus).
A smaller number of patients with Sjögren’s may develop inflammation of the glomeruli, which are the tiny capillaries through which blood is filtered to produce urine. This may cause protein to leak into the urine, along with red blood cells. Sometimes a kidney biopsy is needed to establish the exact diagnosis and treatment. Treatment options may include corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs to prevent loss of kidney function.
This reminds me of when I was teaching critical thinking on the college level. First, we’d hit the class with an article about something foreign to them and then, we’d show them how to figure out what it meant. For our purposes, a few explanations and perhaps a diagram or two might be a good place to start.
Tubules, huh? What are those? Actually, the word just means tube shaped. Remembering that renal and kidney mean the same thing, we can see the problem area.
Here’s another picture. This one to show you glomeruli.
“Potassium does many important functions in the body. This essential mineral is mainly found inside the cells of our body. Low potassium levels are associated with many health conditions including hypertension, irregular heartbeat, and muscle weakness. We should take adequate amounts of potassium-rich foods for a healthy life.
Potassium is essential for the heart
We need potassium to maintain the blood pressure within normal range. There should be a balance between sodium and potassium in the body to regulate our blood pressure. Too much sodium and too little potassium can elevate your blood pressure.
In addition, potassium is needed for the contraction of the heart. Potassium levels in the blood should be kept nearly constant or within a narrow range for the proper pumping action of the heart. The heart may stop beating if we have high or low levels of potassium in the blood.
We need potassium for stronger muscles
Most of the potassium in the body is found inside the muscle cells. It is the main positively charged ion inside the cells. It is essential for the contraction of muscles. Low levels of potassium are associated with muscle twitching, cramps and muscle weakness. Very low levels can cause paralysis of the muscles.
Hypokalemic periodic paralysis is a disorder that causes occasional episodes of muscle weakness and paralysis caused by lower levels of potassium in the blood. It is a genetic condition that runs in families.
It is essential for nerve conduction
Sodium and potassium are needed to maintain the electrical potential across the nerve cells. This electrical charge is essential for the conduction of nerve signals along the nerves.
It protects from stroke
Researchers found eating potassium-rich foods is associated with reduced incidents of stroke. A recent study conducted in postmenopausal women supports the findings. One of the co-researchers says, ‘post-menopausal women should eat more potassium-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, milk and unprocessed meats in order to lower their risk of stroke and death’.
It is important for water and electrolyte balance in the body
Water and electrolyte balance is maintained by the kidneys. This is one of the important functions of the kidneys. Aldosterone, a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands plays the primary role in the balance of sodium and potassium.
The normal blood level of potassium is 3.5 to 5 mmol/l. A level of less than 3.5 is called hypokalemia, and more than 5 is called hyperkalemia. To achieve the normal blood level, we need to take about 4 to 5 grams of potassium per day. An average size banana will provide about 25% of daily requirement.
It is recommended to eat foods that have plenty of potassium. In addition, your diet should contain low amounts of sodium (salt). Taking supplements is not a good idea. It can cause many side effects.
People who have certain medical conditions such as chronic kidney failure should not eat large amounts of potassium-rich foods.
People who take certain types of medications should consult a doctor about their potassium intake. Some may need additional intake while others may need to restrict the intake of potassium rich foods.”
So, while Sjögren’s syndrome may not be a kind of kidney disease, it can affect your kidneys. Thanks for keeping me company while I made the connection for myself.
“GFR: Glomerular filtration rate [if there is a lower case ‘e’ before the term, it means estimated glomerular filtration rate] which determines both the stage of kidney disease and how well the kidneys are functioning.”
39. That’s stage 3B, the lower part of stage 3B. During the intervening 11 years, I’ve been able to raise it to 50 (and sometimes higher for short periods) via vigorously following the renal diet, exercising, avoiding stress as much as possible, maintaining adequate sleep, and paying strict attention to the medications prescribed for me. While the medications were the ones I had been taking for high blood pressure prior to being diagnosed with CKD, they worked in my favor.
This excerpt from The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) part of the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM), a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK492989/ will explain why:
“The decision of whether to reduce blood pressure levels in someone who has chronic kidney disease will depend on
how high their blood pressure is (when untreated),
whether they have diabetes, and
how much protein is in their urine (albumin level).
A person with normal blood pressure who doesn’t have diabetes and hardly has any albumin in their urine will be able to get by without using any blood-pressure-lowering medication. But people who have high blood pressure, diabetes or high levels of albumin in their urine are advised to have treatment with ACE inhibitors (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors) or sartans (angiotensin receptor blockers). In people who have diabetes, blood-sugar-lowering medication is also important.”
When I was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer early last month, it changed my medical priorities. With my nephrologist’s blessing, my primary focus was the cancer… not my kidneys. It took constant reminders to myself not to be so quick to say no to anything that I thought would harm my kidneys. In other words, to those things I’d been saying no to for the last 11 years.
For example, once diagnosed with CKD, I ate very little protein keeping to my five ounce daily limitation. Not anymore. Protein is needed to avoid muscle wasting during chemotherapy with a minimum requirement of eight ounces a day. I even tried roast beef and other red meats. After 11 years, they no longer agreed with me so I eat ground turkey, chicken, cheese, and am considering soy.
Another change: I preferred not to eat carbohydrates, but was warned not to lose weight if I could help it. All of a sudden I’m eating Goldfish, bread, and pasta. I can’t say that I’m enjoying them, but I am keeping my weight loss to a minimum. Other limitations like those on potassium and phosphorous have also gone by the wayside. I’ve eaten every childhood favorite, foods that I’ve avoided for the last 11 years, and anything that might look tempting in the last month, but none of them really taste that good. I like the foods on the renal diet now.
Oh, the only thing I have not increased is salt. My daughter takes me to my chemotherapy sessions. There’s a Jewish style restaurant across the street and we showed up early one day. I wanted to try a toasted bagel with butter, the way I ate it before CKD. The damned thing was salty! I hadn’t expected that.
Back to chemo and my kidneys. I admit it. I was nervous. What was this combination of poisons going to do to my kidneys? If it was so caustic that I had to have a port in place so that it wouldn’t be injected directly into my veins for fear of obliterating them, what about my kidneys?
I anxiously awaited my first Comprehensive Blood Panel, the blood test that includes your GFR. Oh, oh, oh! My kidney function had risen to 55 and my creatinine had lowered to 1.0. Let me explain just how good this was.
“Creatinine. Creatinine is a waste product from the normal breakdown of muscles in your body. Your kidneys remove creatinine from your blood. Providers use the amount of creatinine in your blood to estimate your GFR. As kidney disease gets worse, the level of creatinine goes up.”
Yet, mine went down. How? I asked and it was explained that all the hydration used to clear my veins of the caustic chemotherapy had worked this magic. I had two hours of hydration before the chemo-therapy itself, two hours afterward, and another two hours the next day. My kidneys had never been this hydrated!
But wait, there’s more. I have diabetes. The pancreas is the organ that produces insulin. Could my diabetes be from the tumor blocking the production of insulin by my pancreas? I truly don’t know, but my glucose level is within the standard range for the first time since I’ve been diagnosed with diabetes.
Would I recommend chemotherapy to raise your GFR, and lower your creatinine and your glucose level? Of course not. But I am feeling so very lucky that my kidneys are not coming to any harm during the chemotherapy necessary to save my life. I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I am.
“Dr. Seuss, pseudonym of Theodor Seuss Geisel, (born March 2, 1904, Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.—died September 24, 1991, La Jolla, California), American writer and illustrator of immensely popular children’s books, which were noted for their nonsense words, playful rhymes, and unusual creatures.”
And why begin the blog with the title of his book you ask. Last month, I received an email from bookmednow.com. Now, I’m not endorsing this new company since I’m not on dialysis and so have not made use of their services myself. However, after reading about the difficulties my dialysis readers were having finding a clinic while they traveled, I was intrigued. Could this be another way to lessen the burden of being on dialysis?
Whether you travel for holidays or for work, with booknowmed.com you can now find dialysis clinics that have availability for your treatment dates and book your treatments on the spot, anywhere in the World. And most importantly, booknowmed.com is FREE for patients.
Browse 440+ dialysis centers, in 380 destinations across 5 continents.
Find clinics that have availability based on your search criteria.
Know the price of treatment, before booking.
See ratings and read reviews from previous patients at the clinic.
Book your treatments on the spot in safety.
No booking fees, no hidden costs.
Track the progress of your booking, directly from your account.
Booknowmed.com is supported by the European Union and 60 national Kidney Patient Associations globally.”
Based on this alone, I asked Vassia Efstathiou, the User Experience Manager, if she’d be interested in guest blogging… and she was. This is what she had to say, with just a bit of editing from me.
“Free booking engine for dialysis treatments? Dream or reality?
Travelling while on dialysis is a challenge on its own. Consider having to research, book and coordinate your dialysis treatments abroad. This process can be particularly stressful for dialysis patients, especially when faced with language barriers, lack of information – like the availability of clinics and cost of treatments- and, of course, safety concerns.
Many dialysis patients know this already but the power of the Internet alone cannot do much in this case. So it is definitely good news to hear that the first booking engine for holiday dialysis is live, and even better news to see that it actually works. Let alone the fact that it is free for patients!
Since its launch, thousands of dialysis patients have used booknowmed.com to book more than 27,000 treatments around the globe.
booknowmed.com allows dialysis patients to browse, find and book their dialysis treatments anywhere in the World. We are talking literally – anywhere.
By visiting booknowmed.com you will be able to browse more than 450 dialysis centers in 380 destinations, across five continents. This includes standard holiday options like Spain, Greece, and Turkey, as well some less ordinary destinations like Bali, Sri Lanka, Miami, Brazil and Argentina. Cuba, Barbados, and Curacao are coming up this month.
Bookings are completely free for patients, meaning there are no booking or other hidden costs. Overall the platform is very user-friendly and the booking process is very simple:
Patients select their treatment dates and desired destination.
They are then presented with a list of the clinics that match their search criteria and – most importantly – have availability for the requested dates.
Booking is completed after a simple registration process, which is there for safety reasons. The process takes three minutes and includes registering the patient’s full name, email, and telephone number.
But let’s examine what differentiates booknowmed.com to the online directories currently available to dialysis patients.
Firstly, we are talking about a booking engine where you can book your treatments on the spot. In contrast to online directories, booknowmed.com allows you to know the availability and price before booking. You can select your exact treatment dates and preferred shift, and complete your booking without picking up the phone or waiting for a reply that takes weeks. Consider that the average booking time on booknowmed.com is six minutes compare to 15 days, the average booking time when you contact the clinic directly or go through a directory service.
Secondly, you have a wide variety of options to choose from, not only in terms of destination but also in terms of the type of the medical facility. booknowmed.com offers the largest network of independent dialysis centers. From global leaders – like Diaverum – to public and private hospitals as well as independent state-of-the-art clinics around the globe.
Thirdly, the simplicity of the booking process itself.
And last, but definitely not least, the great features offered to patients, which promote transparency and allow them to have all the information in hand before booking. These include:
Know the price of treatment before booking.
Use smart filters to narrow down your research. If you are an EU patient, for example, you can select to be presented with only the clinics that accept the EHIC.
See ratings and read reviews written by real patients who have completed treatment at this particular clinic.
Track the progress of your booking through your account. All the details of the booking including the exact time frame of the treatment, contact details of the clinic, and even a map with instructions on how to get there can be found in your account.
booknowmed.com was created by professionals with years of expertise in renal healthcare and the goal to serve a true need for patients. It has received the support of the European Union as well as of national kidney patient associations globally.
The company has plans to expand the functionalities of the platform, with the goal to become a 360o platform serving various everyday needs of renal patients, from nutrition and supplements to an online database and the online exchange of medical reports.
booknowmed.com is the living proof that we have entered a new era for dialysis patients, who can now find and book treatments abroad, with no hassle, no risk, and no language barriers.
Gail here, hoping this is exactly what you’ve been looking for to make your travel while on dialysis an easier experience for you.
Okay, so I was finally ready to give up World Kidney Day and National Kidney Month. Maybe it’s time to give up the 1in9 chapter contribution, too. Since each contributing author also had their biography accompanying their chapter, I think the best way to do that is to print the biography… although it’s all me, me, me. Indulge me, please.
Ms. Rae-Garwood’s writing started out as a means to an end for a single parent with two children and a need for more income than her career as a NYC teacher afforded. Gail retired from both college teaching and acting – after a bit of soul searching about where her CKD limited energy would be best spent – early in 2013. Since her diagnose, Ms. Rae-Garwood writes most often about Chronic Kidney Disease, although she does write fiction. She has a three time award winning weekly blog (Surprise!) about this topic at https://gailraegarwood.wordpress.com and social media accounts as @SlowItDownCKD.
Hmmm, it seems to me I’ve done a lot more with Chronic Kidney Disease awareness advocacy since I started with this in 2010. Let’s see what else there is. Aha! These are on my website at www.gail-raegarwood.com.
Working with Chronic Illness: Are You Aching to Write 1/11/10
I’m going to keep today’s blog very short so you have the time to click though on the hyperlinked podcasts and articles. When I was teaching college, my students thoroughly enjoyed the time to choose what they’d like to hear or read from a prescribed list. I hope it’s the same for you.
As you already know, I’ve been posting the chapter I contributed to the book 1in9 as my contribution to National Kidney Month. This will probably be the final post of that chapter, unless I decide to post the biography that goes along with the chapter at a later date.
Most of you are aware that I now have pancreatic cancer and the chemo effects are getting in my way. I’m hoping that I’ll not be feeling them so severely in the near future and will be able to research some new material for you. Right now, that’s just not possible. You may have noticed that my Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages no longer contain original posts. That’s due to the same reason.
But let’s complete the book chapter:
When I was diagnosed back in 2008, there weren’t that many reader friendly books on anything having to do with CKD. Since then, more and more books of this type have been published. I’m laughing along with you, but I don’t mean just SlowItDownCKD 2011, SlowItDownCKD 2012 (These two were The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1, until I realized how unwieldy both the book and the title were – another learning experience), SlowItDownCKD 2013, SlowItDownCKD 2014 (These two were formerly The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2), SlowItDownCKD 2015, SlowItDownCKD 2016, and SlowItDownCKD 2017. By the way, I’m already working on SlowItDownCKD 2018. Each book contains the blogs for that year.
I include guest blogs or book review blogs to get a taste of the currently available CKD news. For example, 1in9 guest blogged this year. Books such as Dr. Mandip S. Kang’s, The Doctor’s Kidney Diets (which also contains so much non-dietary information that we – as CKD patients – need to know), and Drs. Raymond R. Townsend and Debbie L. Cohen’s 100 Questions & Answers about Kidney Disease and Hypertension.
I miss my New York daughter and she misses me, so we sometimes have coffee together separately. She has a cup of coffee and I do at the same time. It’s not like being together in person, but it’s something. You can find support the same way via Facebook Chronic Kidney Disease Support Groups. Some of these groups are:
Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness
Chronic Kidney Disease in India
CKD (Kidney Failure) Support Group International
Dialysis & Kidney Disease
Friends Sharing Positive Chronic Kidney Disease
I Hate Dialysis
Kidney Disease Diet Ideas and Help
Kidney Disease Ideas and Diets1
Kidney Disease is not a Joke
Kidney Disease, Dialysis, and Transplant
Kidney Warriors Foundation
Kidneys and Vets
Mark’s Private Kidney Disease Group
People on Dialysis
Sharing your Kidney Journey
Stage 3 ‘n 4 Kidneybeaners Gathering Place
The Transplant Community Outreach
UK Kidney Support
Women’s Renal Failure
Wrap Up Warm for Kidney Disease
What I hit over and over again in the blogs is that diabetes is the foremost cause of CKD with hypertension as the second most common cause. Simple blood and urine tests can uncover your CKD – if you’re part of the unlucky 96% of those in the early stages of the disease who don’t know they have it.
Each time I research, I’m newly amazed at how much there is to learn about CKD…and how many tools you have at your disposal to help slow it down. Diet is the obvious one. But if you smoke or drink, stop, or at least cut down. If you don’t exercise, start. Adequate, good quality sleep is another tool. Don’t underestimate rest either; you’re not being lazy when you rest, you’re preserving whatever kidney function you have left. I am not particularly a pill person, but if there’s a medication prescribed that will slow down the gradual decline of my kidney function, I’m all for it.
I was surprised to discover that writing my SlowItDownCKD book series, maintaining a blog, Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest accounts of the same name are not enough for me for me to spread the word about CKD screening and education. I’m determined to change this since I feel so strongly that NO ONE should have this disease and not be aware of it.
That’s why I’ve brought CKD awareness to every community that would have me: coffee shops, Kiwanis Clubs, independent bookstores, senior citizen centers, guest blogging for the likes of The American Kidney Fund and The National Kidney Foundation, being interviewed by publications like the Wall Street Journal’s Health Matters, The Center for Science in The Public Interest, and The United Federation of Teachers’ New York Teacher, and on podcasts such as The Renal Diet Headquarters, Online with Andrea, The Edge Podcast, Working with Chronic Illness, and Improve Your Kidney Health.
I’ve been very serious about sharing about CKD before it advances to end stage… meaning dialysis. To that end, I gathered a team for the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona Kidney Walk one year. Another year, I organized several meetings at the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Education is vital since so many people are unaware they even have the disease.
You can slow down the progression of the decline of kidney function. I have been spending a lot of time on my health and I’m happy to say it’s been paying off. There are five stages. I’ve stayed at the middle one for over a decade despite having both high blood pressure and diabetes. That’s what this is about. People don’t know about CKD. They get diagnosed. They think they’re going to die. Everybody dies, but it doesn’t have to be of CKD. I am downright passionate about people knowing this.
Thanks for taking the time to finish the chapter. The more people who know about Chronic Kidney Disease, the more people can tell others about it. I’d hate for anyone to be part of the 90% of those with CKD who don’t know they have it.
The chapter I contributed to 1in9 goes on beyond National Kidney Month, so since I think every day should be World Kidney Day, I decided to just keep printing it until it was finished. Gotcha! Bet you thought I was going to write every month should be National Kidney Month. Although, that’s not a bad idea either. So, for those of you just tuning in, this is actually part three of that chapter. You can just scroll back on the blog to read the first two parts. Ready? Let’s go.
I realized I needed to rest, too. Instead of giving a lecture, running to an audition, and coming home to meet a deadline, I slowly started easing off until I didn’t feel like I was running on empty all the time. The result was that I ended up graciously retiring from both acting and teaching at a local college, which gave me more time to work on my CKD awareness advocacy.
But, I had to be oh-so-vigilant with other medical practitioners. One summer I had four different infections and had to quickly research the medications prescribed in the emergency room. One hospital insisted I could take sulfa drugs because I was only stage 2 at the time. My nephrologist disagreed. They also prescribed a pain killer with acetaminophen in it, another no-no for us. I didn’t return to them when I developed the other infections.
My experience demonstrates that you can slow down CKD. I was diagnosed at stage 3 and I am still there, over a decade later. It takes knowledge, commitment and discipline—but it can be done, and it’s worth the effort. I’m sneaking up on 72 now and know this is where I want to spend my energy for the rest of my life: chronic kidney disease awareness advocacy. I think it’s just that important.
At the time of my diagnosis, I was a college instructor. My favorite course to teach was Research Writing. I was also a writer with an Academic Certificate in Creative Non-Fiction and a bunch of publications under my belt. It occurred to me that I couldn’t be the only one who had no clue what this new-to-me disease was and how to handle living with it. I knew how to research and I knew how to write, so why not share what I learned?
I wasn’t sure of what had to be done to share or how to do it. I learned by trial and error. People were so kind in teaching me, pointing out what might work better, even suggesting others that might be interested in what I was doing. I love people. I’d written quite a few how to(s), study guides, articles, and literary guides so the writing was not new to me. I asked for suggestions as to what to do with my writing and that’s when I learned about unscrupulous, price gouging vanity publishers. I’m still paying for the unwitting mistakes I made, but they were learning experiences.
My less-than-stellar experience with being diagnosed and the first nephrologist are what prompted me to write What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease. Why, I wondered, should any new CKD patient be as terrified as I was? Of course, I constantly remind my readers that I’m not a doctor and they need to consult their nephrologists or renal dietitians before making any changes to their regiment.
I didn’t feel… well, done with sharing or researching once I finished the book so I began writing a weekly blog: SlowItDownCKD. Well, that and because a nephrologist in India told me he wanted his newly diagnosed patients to read my book, but most of them couldn’t afford the bus fare to the clinic, much less a book. I published each chapter as a blog post. The nephrologist translated my posts, printed them and distributed them to his patients—who took the printed copies back to their communities. It would work!
But first I had to teach myself how to blog. I made some boo-boos and lost a bunch of blogs until I got it figured out. So why do I keep blogging? There always seems to be more to share about CKD. Each week, I wonder what I’ll write… and the ideas keep coming. I now have readers in something like 106 different countries who ask me questions I hadn’t even thought of. I research for them and respond with a blog post, reminding them to speak with their nephrologists and/or renal nutritionists before taking any action… and that I’m not a doctor. The blog has won several awards. Basically, that’s because I write in a reader friendly manner. After all, what good is all my researching if no one understands what I’m writing?
Non-tech savvy readers asked if I could print the blogs; hence, the birth of the SlowItDownCKD series of books. Some people think SlowItDownCKD is a business; it’s not. Some think it’s a profit maker; it’s not. So, what is it you ask? It’s a vehicle for spreading awareness of Chronic Kidney Disease and whatever goes along with the disease. Why do I do it? Because I had no idea what it was, nor how I might have prevented the disease, nor how to deal with it effectively once I was diagnosed. I couldn’t stand the thought of others being in the same position.
One of my daughters taught me about social media. What???? You could post whatever you wanted to? And Facebook wasn’t the only way to reach the public at large? Hello, LinkedIn. A friend who is a professional photographer asked me why I wasn’t using my fun photography habit to promote awareness. What??? You could do that? Enter Instagram. My step-daughters love Pinterest. That got me to thinking and suddenly SlowItDownCKD had a Pinterest account. Then someone I met at a conference casually mentioned she offers Twitter workshops. What kind of workshops? She showed me how to use Twitter to raise CKD awareness.
There’s more and you’ll get to read it next week. I hope you’re enjoying your look into how I entered the world of Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness Advocacy.
National Kidney Month is just flying by. This is actually the last week and I doubt I’ll be able to post the rest of the 1in9 chapter before next month. But then again, it’s always Kidney Month for those of us with Chronic Kidney Disease. By the way, thank you to the reader who made it a point of telling me she can’t wait to read the rest of the chapter. Sooooo, let’s get started!
Nephrologist switch. The new one was much better for me. He explained again and again until I understood and he put up with a lot of verbal abuse when this panicky new patient wasn’t getting answers as quickly as she wanted them. Luckily for me, he graciously accepted my apology.
After talking to the nephrologist, I began to realize just how serious this disease was and started to wonder why my previous nurse practitioner had not caught this. When I asked her why, she responded, “It was inconclusive testing.” Sure it was. Because she never ordered the GFR tested; that had been incidental! I feel there’s no sense crying over spilled milk (or destroyed nephrons, in this case), but I wonder how much more of my kidney function I could have preserved if I’d known about my CKD earlier.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are 13 early signs of chronic kidney disease. I never experienced any of them, not even one. While I did have high blood pressure, it wasn’t uncontrollable which is one of the early signs. Many, like me, never experienced any noticeable symptoms. Unfortunately, many, like me, may have had high blood pressure (hypertension) for years before CKD was diagnosed. Yet, high blood pressure and diabetes are the two leading causes of CKD. I find it confusing that uncontrollable high blood pressure may be an early sign of CKD, but hypertension itself is the second leading cause of CKD.
Here’s the part about my researching. I was so mystified about what was happening and why it was happening that I began an extensive course of research. My nephrologists did explain what everything meant (I think), but I was still too shocked to understand what they were saying. I researched diagnoses, descriptions of tests, test results, doctors’ reports, you name it. Slowly, it began to make sense, but that understanding only led to more questions and more research.
You’ve probably already guessed that my world changed during that first appointment. I began to excuse myself for rest periods each day when I went back East for a slew of family affairs right after. I counted food groups and calories at these celebrations that summer. And I used all the errand running associated with them as an excuse to speed walk wherever I went and back so I could fit in my exercise. Ah, but that was just the beginning.
My high blood pressure had been controlled for 20 years at that time, but what about my diet? I had no clue there was such a thing as a kidney diet until the nutritionist explained it to me. I’m a miller’s granddaughter and ate anything – and I do mean anything – with grain in it: breads, muffins, cakes, croissants, all of it. I also liked lots of chicken and fish… not the five ounces per day I’m limited to now.
The nutritionist explained to me how hard protein is on the kidneys… as is phosphorous… and potassium… and, of course, sodium. Out went my daily banana—too high in potassium. Out went restaurant burgers—larger than my daily allowance of protein. Chinese food? Pizza? Too high in sodium. I embraced an entirely new way of eating because it was one of the keys to keeping my kidneys functioning in stage 3.
I was in a new food world. I’d already known about restricting sodium because I had high blood pressure, but these other things? I had to keep a list of which foods contain them, how much was in each of these foods, and a running list of how much of each I had during the day so I knew when I reached my limit for that day.
Another critical piece of slowing down CKD is medication. I was already taking meds to lower my blood pressure when I was first diagnosed with CKD. Two more prescriptions have been added to this in the last decade: a diuretic that lowers my body’s absorption of salt to help prevent fluid from building up in my body (edema), and a drug that widens the blood vessels by relaxing them. I take another drug for my brand new diabetes. (Bye-bye, sugars and most carbs.) The funny thing is now my favorite food is salad with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I never thought that would happen: I was a chocoholic!
Exercise, something I loved until my arthritis got in the way, was also important. I was a dancer. Wasn’t that enough? Uh-uh, I had to learn about cardio and strength training exercise, too. It was no longer acceptable to be pleasantly plumb. My kidneys didn’t need the extra work. Hello to weights, walking, and a stationary bike. I think I took sleep for granted before CKD, too, and I now make it a point to get a good night’s sleep. A sleep apnea device improved my sleep—and my kidney function rose.
I realized I needed to rest, too. Instead of giving a lecture, running to an audition, and coming home to meet a deadline, I slowly started easing off until I didn’t feel like I was running on empty all the time. The result was that I ended up graciously retiring from both acting and teaching at a local college, which gave me more time to work on my CKD awareness advocacy.
There’s so much more to tell you about my personal CKD journey… and you’ll read more of it next week. Although, I should remind you that the entire book is available in print and digital on both Amazon.com and B&N.com, just as the entire SlowItDownCKD series of books is.
I was trying to figure out a new angle from which to write about Chronic Kidney Disease during National Kidney Month and decided that my chapter in the newly released 1in9 just might be the way.
By the way, I really don’t like shopping, but did so for a ‘fancy blouse’ for the fancy book launch. The day of the launch turned out to be the day I unexpectedly had anesthesia and I ended up not being able to go. From the pictures I’ve seen of the event, it was a fun event. Now I need another fun event to wear that ‘fancy blouse’ to. After all, we can’t let a dreaded shopping trip go to waste, can we?
Without further ado, I present the first part of my 1in9 chapter:
My name is Gail Rae-Garwood. I like to think of myself as an average older woman with two adult daughters, a fairly recent husband, and a very protective dog. But I’m not. What makes me a little different is that I have Chronic Kidney Disease… just like the estimated 30 million or 15% of the adult population in the United States. Unlike 96% of those in the early stages of the disease, I know my kidneys are not functioning well.
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, before I’d ever heard the word nephrology, I paid no attention to my kidneys. I had just a vague idea of where they were located because I had big brothers. Every time they watched boxing, one or the other of them would yell, “Oh! Right in the kidneys!” when one guy hit the other on the back, sort of near the waist. My mother attempted to feed us kidney beans once or twice, but three voices chorusing the 1950’s equivalent of “Uh, gross!” was enough to convince her they weren’t that necessary. My father had a friend who’d moved up in the world and had a kidney shaped pool. Of course, I never had a bird’s eye view of that as a child. So, we were a family pretty much ignorant about kidneys.
When I grew up, I never let my children watch boxing; it was too violent. I never even tried to feed them kidney beans, probably due to some residual abhorrence left over from my own childhood. I had no friends with kidney shaped pools, but I had flown in an airplane and could recognize one if we were flying low. That was the sum total of my kidney education. I didn’t even recall if they were covered in high school biology. My daughters, now grown women, said they were, but I didn’t remember anything about that.
I was blindsided over a decade ago. That’s when I started seeing a new doctor solely because she was both on my insurance plan and so much closer to home than the one I’d been seeing. It seems everything is at least half an hour away in Arizona; her office wasn’t. As a diligent primary care physician, she ordered a whole battery of tests to verify what she found in my files which, by the way, contained a kidney function reading (called the GFR) of 39%. That was something I’d never been told about.
39%. I’d been a high school teacher for 35 years at that point. If a student had scored 39% on a test, we would have talked and talked until we had gotten to the root of the problem that caused such a low score. No one talked to me about my low kidney function until I changed doctors.
“That’s not normal,” said my new doctor as she looked at my blood test results.
I made the supreme effort of tearing my eyes away from the height and weight chart to ask, “What’s not normal?”
“Your GFR,” she told me. I looked at her blankly. (In retrospect, I can understand how hard it probably was for her not to laugh at my empty eyes and a face without a shred of interest showing on it.) I said nothing. She said nothing.
Finally, I asked, “What’s that?” She gave me a simple explanation with no indication that I should panic in any way, but of course I did.
“It’s what! It’s below normal? My kidneys aren’t functioning to full capacity? Why wasn’t I told? What do I do now? How do I fix the problem? I want them at 100%.”
Her voice rose over mine in a steady, sure manner. “This does not mean there is a problem. It means you must go to a specialist to see if there really is a problem.”
“Oh.” I didn’t believe her, but she not only talked, she had me in a nephrologist’s (kidney and hypertension specialist) office the next day. That’s when I started worrying. Who gets an appointment with a specialist the very next day? I was diagnosed at stage 3; there are only 5 stages. I had to start working to slow down the progression in the decline of my kidney function immediately.
I read just about every book I could find concerning this problem. Surprisingly, very few books dealt with the early or moderate stages of the disease. Yet these are the stages when CKD patients are most shocked, confused, and maybe even depressed—and the stages at which they have a workable chance of doing something to slow down the progression in the decline of their kidney function.
This first nephrologist might have been reassuring, but I’ll never know. I was terrified; he was patriarchal. All I heard was, “I’ll take care of your kidneys. You just do as I say,” or something to that effect.
Nope, wrong doctor for me. I wanted to know how medication, diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes could help. I didn’t want to be told what to do without an explanation as to why… and when I couldn’t get an explanation that was acceptable to me, I started researching. (More about that later.) You see, I’d already had a terrific Dad who’d known better than to ask me to give up control of myself. I didn’t need a doctor assuming his role… especially in a way I resented.
… to be continued. (This will take several weeks. It is a chapter in book, so it’s longer than my usual 1,000 or so word blog.)