A hard-charging PR pro battles kidney failure, as chronicled in this heartfelt memoir.
Weeks before Christmas 1998, Frieden (The Offering, 2013) received devastating news. Her kidneys had stopped working; by the time she was admitted to the hospital, these essential organs were just 4 percent functional. Frieden, a self-described “blonde Amazon” in her early 30s, was highly educated, professionally successful, and athletic. With no history of prior health problems, she wasn’t sure how to cope with the diagnosis of anti-glomerular basement membrane disease, a rare autoimmune disorder. She began dialysis immediately, but the Bay Area resident, who previously had “lived at a frantic pace,” had difficulty adjusting to her new reality. “Delays and endless waiting, and then sitting for four long hours on dialysis, all violated what I valued most: the speed and efficiency that drive successful high tech PR,” she recalls. Eventually, she switched from traditional dialysis at a clinic to at-home peritoneal dialysis, which gave her more flexibility but presented its own challenges. Struggling to maintain a sense of normalcy, she continued to work full-time (and even took on a high-pressure new job) while waiting for her health to stabilize enough to receive a kidney transplant from her husband, Kurt. Despite the prosaic title and occasionally grim subject matter (kidney disease is often fatal), Frieden’s memoir is fresh and engaging. She takes time to discuss the reality of living with kidney disease and how her various surgeries and treatments changed her physical health and relationship with her body, but she gives equal weight to how the disease affected her emotionally. Frieden recounts how she eventually had to accept that “I no longer fit my life story,” a realization that led to a shift in perspective and a “simplicity of consciousness that nourished a profound peace.” This memoir will naturally be of interest to those with kidney problems and their loved ones, but it will also speak to anyone who’s led a life rocked by a personal crisis.
A compelling story about coping with a serious illness, offering lessons in the value of slowing down and appreciating life in the moment.