My (Temporary) Pee Bag Life

Last Monday I had a procedure done to install a tube in my back so my left kidney drains directly into an external bag. Because said bag has to stay below my kidney, I have become accustom to velcro-ing it to my left calf. It’s convenient, but probably not an “on trend” look.

The procedure itself was pretty smooth. I was in and out of the short term stay hospital in less than 5 hours. The pain was intense for awhile – like I’d been stabbed in the back – but bearable as long as I didn’t move my back. Initially sleeping was rough, but over the course of the last week the pain has dissipated and I’m sleeping much more regularly. I wouldn’t say that I’m quite back to feeling like my normal self – I still tire out really easily, but I’m certainly closer than I’ve been for awhile.

For the most part I’ve been pretty confined to my house since the procedure and will probably stay that way until my left kidney is removed next week. When I do get out to watch one of the kids play ball, I don’t really mind the double-takes or staring that occasionally occurs. I know it’s just curious folks trying to make sense of a bag strapped to my leg. But it’s physically hard for me to be on my feet for long periods of time. I’d compare the exhaustion of a typical grocery shopping outing to be similar to trying to keep up with Tony during one of our 6-hour adventure races. By the time I’m done, I’m ready to just sit down and watch TV for awhile.

Up next: Surgery to remove the left kidney is scheduled for Tuesday. I’m nervous, but also eager to get this all over with and behind me.

Throwing it back to

1982? What the heck happened in 1982?

Well, I wasn’t even 2 years old, so I can’t tell you anything from my direct memory. But I can tell you from the stories I’ve heard, and am now, in a different season of life, am sort of re-living.

I was a sick child. I had been diagnosed with pneumonia 3-4 times before I was potty trained. It was only at that time that the doctors realized that it wasn’t actually pneumonia, it was kidney infections. Apparently the bladder valves that block your pee from going back up into your kidney didn’t form/function completely for me and the urine reflux was making me sick.

I’m sure it was an amazing relief for my parents to finally figure out what was going on with their baby daughter and learn that it was a fixable issue. What they’d later learn is that a lot of damage had been done and it wasn’t a simple surgery. Over the course of the next 12-18 months, we’d make several trips to Children’s Mercy in Boston for consultations and surgeries with special children’s urologist.

I don’t remember much from those days, but I do have a few core memories: constantly getting my blood drawn, placing pretend IVs in my Cabbage Patch doll, singing songs from Annie with my hospital roommate Julie and fighting over who got to sing, “We love you Miss Hannigan.”

I also remember exploring Boston with a pee bag strapped around my leg and being vaguely embarrassed by it. In hindsight, we may have only been walking in a different wing of the hospital – but I sort of remember seeing artwork…?

Anyway, that’s back. Minus the trips to Boston. And the kids hospital. Now it’s a regular hospital.

Recent History
About a year ago I got sick with a kidney infection that put me in the hospital. Little did I know that it was the first of many infections I’d have over the course of the year. If I wasn’t taking a pretty heavy-duty antibiotic, I was essentially guaranteed to have a kidney infection within two months time.

This latest infection has been a doozy. My body has been trying to fight it for more than a month. I’ve been on 4 antibiotics; nothing is working. On the bright side, because my body realizes the chronic pain and infection in my kidney, it no longer reacts like normal. No fever, just a lot of exhaustion and, at best, I’m always uncomfortable. At worst, I feel like I’ve taken a direct punch to the left kidney (also known as the bad one).

Yesterday I had a CT Scan to confirm that I did not have kidney stones. (If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked by a doc/nurse if I have a history of kidney stones, I’d be able to take an entire ball team out for dinner.) It did confirm that my left kidney still sucks. It’s small and sort of folds over on itself. And while it had been providing some ongoing functionality, it seems now like it’s mostly a harbor for infection and all that is bad.

Moving Forward
Tomorrow I go in for another test to see how well the good kidney functions. In the past I’ve been told that it’s functionality was impaired because of the damage done as a child. I’m honestly not sure when I last had this type of test done. I’m hoping for at least 80% or greater functionality so my chances of kidney failure/going on dialysis/needing a kidney transplant remain relatively low. Ole’ righty has been doing great work for a long time, I have faith that she’s not going to let me down now.

From there I have a couple of surgical paths ahead of me, depending on when I’m able to get on the doctor’s schedule. Nearly all directions lead towards some time with a pee bag again, so I’ll be looking for wearable options to hide a pee bag. But even if I don’t find something suitable, it will all be worth it when my bad kidney is out and I can finally get back to being healthy again.

The Ball Field Life

It’s the end of March and we’re solidly into the beginnings of our longest seasons of the year – baseball and softball. Leo’s high school team has been loosely practicing once a week since November, shifting to everyday practice as soon as basketball season ended. Alex’s team and Kate’s team have been doing weekly practices since the beginning of February. And we’ve had several days where I’ve taken the kids into town to play catch at the ball field while waiting for Leo’s pickup time.

I’d be absolutely lying if I didn’t confess to loving it. Every dang minute. Even the cold ones like last night!

I’ve been nervous to see how Leo would transition into high school baseball. So far, it’s been great for him. He’s gotten plenty of playing time and been able to play several positions (first base, third base, shortstop and pitcher), even a few new to him. He looks confident and is working to be more of a vocal leader than he’s been in the past. It’s good to see him working hard and having fun.

Tony’s coaching Alex’s team this year and I’m really excited to see how they’re already growing. 10U baseball is an important time – it’s where the kids need to start making strides with their skills and growing their confidence. Tony’s a great coach for that. His love for the game shows and he’s been great at helping the young players break down their skills to help them start learning proper form and habits. I don’t think this team has the ability to be a league contender this year, but it is possible that they could be in future years if they continue to work together and grow they way that I’ve seen thus far.

Kate’s team is a bit of a wildcard as nearly all 8U girls softball teams are, lol. So far we’ve been stuck inside for practice sessions, which admittedly, is tough. But I am seeing glimmers of the starts of these girls’ love for the game pop up. Kate doesn’t show it all the time, but when she decides to be serious, the girl is all-in. For now our focus is keeping it fun and helping them build the skills they’ll need as they get bigger.

For me the biggest question of the summer will be how much I will be playing. Tony and I have regularly played in at least one weekly league and picked up a couple of weekend tournaments for the past 10+ years. As the kids are getting older, my interest in being on the field without them is dropping off. I can’t probably say the same thing for Tony, but I can kinda feel the end of my playing time coming soon. We shall see what opportunities present themselves … maybe I still have another season or two of league ball left in me?

Holy Moly, Where Did 6 Years Go?

It’s timely that I decided to look at my blog today – my last post was about my goals for 2018. The list seemed solid, but honestly, it was so long ago I can’t tell you how many were accomplished. Let me take a walk down memory lane and make a few guesses…

I’m nearly certain I finished 15 books. That goal, or larger variations of that goal, have been on my Goals List for years. I always crush them. I’ve become an audiobook lover and almost always have a book of some type on loan from the local library. I’d guess that I’ve probably listened to 50+ in 2023 alone. It’s become so routine to me that I no longer need to set a goal to make sure I’m making time for reading.

I clearly didn’t post on my blog twice a month. Big fail in skipping 6 years. But hey, that seems like something that makes sense to work into my Goals for 2024. So I’ll add it. (See full list in future post.)

Run 3 adventure races with Tony. I doubt we accomplished this one. I think one year we ran 2 races, but never more than that. I enjoy training for races. I hate running the races. I love winning the races. And at some point mid-race, I always contemplate ways I could kill Tony during the race so that I could slow down, lol. I haven’t ran an adventure race in several years, and I’m not entirely sure I will do one again, at least not with Tony. I could see myself doing one with Tony and one of the kids at some point. I will still fulfill the role as the slow one, but maybe I’ll enjoy it more? Anyway, I have rode the Dirty Kanza/Unbound Gravel race several times now – 50 miles the first year, 25 miles with Leo the past 2 years. We’ll throw our names in the hat again later today and cross our fingers that we get in. I’m still trying to decide what distance I want to go for.

Go on one big adventure. Eh, I probably did that? We’ve done a much better job of adventuring these past few years and 2018 is around the timeframe that started. Adventures take on all shapes and sizes, but they usually involve something strenuous outside. It’s what we can second level fun – it’s a lot of work in the moment, but usually in beautiful surroundings and we make a lot of memories to look back at later. I can promise there will be more of this in the future – it’s something that we hope to pass down to the kids as a beloved family tradition.

Make more memories doing stuff, focus less on things. I don’t know that I achieved that in 2018, but like the adventuring, it’s something that we’ve really embraced and do better with each year. Hopefully before long we’ll be able to fully transition away from giving “stuff” for birthdays and Christmas and can instead give experiences and travel. It’s far more memorable than any tangible item.

The other facet to that memories goal was spending more time with people. I probably didn’t accomplish that in 2018 or the year after. But the pandemic in 2020 coinciding with the start of cohort.digital really gave me the opportunity to prioritize the important relationships in my life. Honestly, 2020 was one of the biggest blessings I’ve had to date.

I am sure I didn’t help DARI hit its 2018 sales goals, mostly because I left the company mid-year and went back to jhP. I am still connected to DARI and think their future is bright, but I’m not really in a position to help them generate sales like I used to me. Now I’m focused on generating new business for cohort.

When I read last two goals for 2018, I had to giggle. I had forgotten about the time where we were undecided if we were going to stay in the greater Topeka area or if we were going to move back home, closer to our parents. We realized that we were probably always going to have ties to Topeka from an employment standpoint, and that the long-distance commuting wasn’t a great fit for our family. Luckily 2 years ago we found a great house southeast of Topeka that puts us close enough for a pretty easy commute, but far enough away that Topeka still feels like “going to the city.” The house is big enough to allow us to spread out and breathe – it’s perfect for where we’re at in life right now. I’m guessing this isn’t our forever home, but I’d bet (hope) we’ll be here for awhile.

I also had to laugh about my goal to stay within my lunch budget. The struggle there was real. One of the biggest benefits (aside from the saved commute time and expense) of working from home is that I also eat the majority of my lunches at home. I’d suppose that it’s increased our grocery bill some, but probably not significantly. The other thing that really helps is that I’ve significantly cut back on my soda intake. In 2018, I was a Dt. Pepsi junkie – it was nearly the only thing I drank unless I was working out. I quit drinking soda completely in January of 2020 when I went to Cuba for a few days. They don’t have soda there (at least nothing like ours), so it was easier to just stop cold turkey while my brain was so captivated by the different culture and customs. When I came back, I just stopped buying pop. Fast forward to today and I can drink soda in moderation. We don’t typically keep soda in the house, but when we do I can have a can or two a day while still drinking plenty of water.

2018 Goals

I’ve spent several weeks thinking about these, trying to come up with a well-rounded list that included a tangible tracking mechanism so it would be easier to determine success. Without further ado, I present Alissa’s 2018 Goals:

  1. Listen to 15 audiobooks.
  2. Post on my blog bi-weekly (or at least average two posts a month).
  3. Run in three adventure races with Tony.
  4. Go on one big adventure.
  5. Make more memories doing stuff. With the kids. With Tony. With my parents. With my sister. With my brother. Focus less on things.
  6. Help DARI hit it’s 2018 sales goal.
  7. Decide where we’re going to live and make it happen.
  8. Stay within my lunch budget each month.

Some of these will be pretty easy to do. (I’ve already listened to two books this month.) Others will require work – training, writing, thinking. And my favorites will require quality time, something that I’m cherishing more and more as I get older.

Update: I decided to add an additional goal to my list (see #8 above). It seems like a simple one, but it’s going to be a challenge… I always like challenges.