There is one topic that occupies the mind of the dialysis patient.
We obsess about it, placing it as the starting point of our introductory conversations. Names are irrelevant, it is your point in the dialysis/transplant cycle that identifies you to your fellows in the same boat.
In happy moments, I sometimes think we should all follow the trend of Flavor Flav, that god-awful rapper with the giant clock around this neck.
In less happy moments, I picture myself and all dialysis people as kids in our respective houses, who desperately want to go out and play, but who are looking out the window at endless rain. Fun spoiled.
For many of those awaiting transplants of other organs, time is their enemy, with only a finite supply of oxygen left in their lungs or beats left in their heart, but for the one on dialysis, it is more sophisticated in its torture methods.
Not for us, the knowledge that time is running out. We have the means to stay alive.
No, for us, there is the knowledge of time being wasted. It is usual amongst those who have received a life-changing diagnosis to say they realised quickly that life is short.
“Carpe Diem”, they holler.
We too realise the fleeting nature of a human life, but we can’t get out of the blocks to seize this day. We maintain a half-existence, with 10 hour sleeps at night, a nap during the day and the ongoing feeling of being in a hungover haze.
When I was diagnosed with CKD, I was told that I would have to get worse before I could have a chance of getting better. In this way, pre-transplant patients are unique. New organs are hard to come by and they are precious; you have to wait your turn.
In my case, I had to wait until my kidney function dipped below 20% before I was considered sick enough to be placed on the transplant list. Then came dialysis.
This too brought its unique aspect, in that here was a treatment that would continue for an indefinite period of time. The cancer patient knows they will have a course of chemo or radiation therapy for x amount of weeks or months; others know they will be on medication for the rest of their lives; but the dialysis patient doesn’t know how long they will endure the blood-cleaning services of their machine.
How can you steel yourself for a process when you don’t know for how long it will continue?
So time bullies us and taunts us. Every day, we watch the rain, fully aware of what normality we are missing and of all those elements of life that are passing us by.
We talk about time – the months or years spent on dialysis, the months or years on the waiting list, the hours per day hooked up to the machine.
And we wait.