Living With Kidney Failure
“Why do I feel LUCKY to have kidney failure? My mom died from pancreatic cancer after 6 months of terrible suffering. She didn’t get any options to keep living. My only brother died of a massive heart attack on his way to work at age 52. He didn’t get any options to keep living. We have options.” Stephen B.
“Dialysis and transplant are treatments—not cures. They let us extend our lives. Both offer a chance to live as normal and productive a life as our attitudes allow.” Carol Z.
You may have found out about your kidney disease too late to do much about it. Or, the disease that is attacking your kidneys may not respond to your best efforts to slow it down. At some point, you may need to choose a treatment for kidney failure.
It may help you to know that you do have options to live—and you can have a good life.
People whose kidneys fail can have friends and pets and hobbies. They can travel by jet, car, boat, train, camper—or on a raft down a river. They can keep their jobs and lifestyles and partners—IF they take an active role in their care. To live well after kidney failure:
- Keep a positive attitude — focus on what is good in your life
- Learn all you can — be your own expert
- Find people who can support you — in person or online
- Take action — be a partner in your own health
Having a chronic disease can make it feel as if your life has spun out of control. But, knowledge really is power. We worry when we don’t know what to expect, and what we think up can be far worse than what really happens. Learning about your disease is a way to feel more in control of your life and your health again.
Make an Active Treatment Choice
You can live well with kidney failure—but not by accident. Your treatment can affect every part of your life:
- What and how much you can eat and drink
- How well you sleep
- Your energy level
- Your job
- Your sex life
- How long you may live
Kidney failure treatment is not just medical. It’s about what your life will look like from one day to the next. This means it is vital to think about what you want your life to look like. Learn your options. Choose based on your values and the things you want to be able to do. That’s the best way to live the life you want.
There are three main types of treatment if your kidneys fail, and some have more than one option. You have choices! Here are the other parts of this section:
Options for Dialysis
The word "dialysis" may sound scary, but it does not mean "die". Dialysis lets you live.
Hemodialysis (HD) takes some wastes and water out of your blood. Your lifeline on HD is a vascular access. An access is a way to reach your blood to clean it.
Dialysis does not always help people live longer. For those 80 years old or older and frail or with other illnesses, dialysis did not extend life.