To live or die, that is the question

As  people with end stage renal disease (ESRD), we are in the unique position of being able to control our destiny. Nothing brought this home to me more than the recent death of my grandson.

Trite but true, my first thought was “why, dear God, didn’t you take me instead.” I was so prepared to go, and only chose dialysis because I knew Gabe still needed me. I would gladly have gone before him, and, in fact, I almost did. If I hadn’t been so selfish, wanting to stay here, thinking he still needed me, I could have been waiting on the other side with arms open wide. Or even better, maybe God would have spared him altogether, and I could have been his guardian angel, instead of him being mine!

My second thought was, now that he is there, waiting for me, I can leave this world, and all its problems, dialysis, and the unknown future of ESRD with the promise of more pain than gain. I am now free to go!

On several of the dialysis blogs I follow, someone will inevitably post a comment that they are “done”, they are ready to quit and let nature take its course. The discussions that ensue are a veritable firestorm of protests, of keeping the faith, trusting in God, staying strong, thinking of your loved ones. Rarely does someone respond with a “go for it”.

I am here to throw my hat into that ring of controversy! Dialysis, in its various forms, and transplants are not the only treatment options available to ESRD patients. Doing nothing is a legitimate treatment option, and one that is not discussed often enough. I plan to devote more time to this topic  at  a later date, but for now, I  am dwelling on the very personal side of this topic.

Even though, when push came to shove, I wavered from my commitment to do nothing, and opted for dialysis, doing nothing is still something I consider every day. I am sure I am not alone with these thoughts.

Just as an alcoholic chooses not to take a drink, I choose dialysis instead of death. I held firm to my belief that dialysis would not become a viable option for me until the day came when I could no longer get out of bed,  When that day came, I chose life.  And then, instead of the pain and discomfort I expected, my health was radically restored. But then my grandson, who was the poster child of vitality and health, was tragically taken from this world. Trying to find a rational explanation for the reality of this is beyond my capabilities.

I don’t know what the future holds. I thought I did, but I don’t. I just put one foot in front of the other, do my dialysis, grieve the loss of a special life, and try to make plans for the future.

As  long as I am capable, I choose life. Still, again, for now. Should things change, should the days hold more pain than not, if the hope of a better day eludes me, then I thank God that I have the option to do nothing, and fade away (with the help of hospice and good drugs) into a peaceful and lifeless sleep. I have to believe I am here for a reason, although, at this moment in time, it escapes me.


Or just maybe, it hasn’t! If you feel hopeless, let me know. I promise not to spout platitudes.



4 thoughts on “To live or die, that is the question

  1. I agree. We can do nothing. These past weeks I haven’t said” I’m done” but in fact, I’m ready.
    Each time when my blood pressure would bottom. Or when my body would spasm and cramp all over. When I would be experiencing the side effects that leave you lifeless until th hour of having to o back to the machine.
    But each time after closing my eyes and admitting silently that I have ran the race, my God sets in.
    He hasn’t taken me yet.
    He whispers., I’m not done with you my child.

    • I truly understand. I waiver each day, questioning my purpose for being here. The loneliness can be intense, and sometimes I think about how easy it would be to give up. But I am a born fighter, and, for now, I choose to live and fight for another day. If that changes, I promise to let you know!

  2. I struggle with this every day. I am stage V and by the numbers, I should be in dialysis, but I’m still not. I’m also pretty much totally alone in the world with the exception of my beloved dog. And it is for her that I even consider trying to stay alive while dependent on a machine. That dependency goes against every grain in my body and soul. But for now, I have a tentative contract with myself to try PD as long as my dog is also alive (she’s nearly 13 but in much better shape than I am). And when she passes, I will make the decision whether to continue or to check myself into hospice. I agree that this is a unique position to be in. In my state (Massachusetts) death with dignity is not an option at this time. But with CKD there is always the option to just say no to deferring the inevitable and to check myself into hospice to exit stage right.

    Every day i also consider whether today will be the day that I crash. It is such a surreal state to be in knowing catastrophe is just over an edge somewhere and yet to continue living as if were not always front and center.

    Thank you for bringing up the subject. I think way too few people even acknowledge it as a legitimate one. As I look around at a world that is in chaos and will only get worse, I feel fortunate to not HAVE to stick around to endure it. Be well.

    • I understand completely. I spent 20 years avoiding the inevitable, and although I feel amazingly well since I started dialysis, I struggle daily with the problems it creates. How to pay the bills, loss of friendships, and newly found ones, loss of family support, the list is endless. It truly is one day at a time. I promised no platitudes, so feel free to post your feelings here! I promise to support you in whatever you decide to do, whenever you decide to do it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *