Little steps taken over time have the potential to make a massive difference. Microsteps that help you prioritize hydration, nutrition, rest, or connection can add up to large improvements in well-being. I start every morning with a warm glass of lemon water, and I drink a minimum 1.5 liters of water daily. I prioritize an organic, whole-food, plant-rich diet that includes fresh, nutrient-dense ingredients. I connect with myself through meditation, yoga, and journaling. I focus on strength training and HIIT workouts three to five times a week. The best part of my day is when I finally unplug from my phone and all social media applications. This usually occurs around dinner to spend quality time with my fiancé. We prioritize our relationship and connect intimately while cooking, meal prepping, reading, watching documentaries, and walking our 11-year-old Shih Tzu.
At the age of 14 I was diagnosed with renal failure and lupus. When I was 16 years old, I received my first kidney transplant from my mother, Maria. My mom takes pride in saying, “Even before I was tested, I knew I was a match.” The first transplant was successful and lasted a number of years during which I enjoyed good health, completed both a BA in philosophy and chemistry at St. Francis College, and earned a license in massage therapy. I traveled the world, became a published model, started a successful small business of Affirmation Candles, served as a wellness spokeswoman for the National Kidney Foundation on FOX 5 News and Live on NY, while obtaining certifications in reflexology, Thai massage, and reiki. I truly felt gifted with a second life and didn’t want to waste a moment of it. Nursing school would be my next endeavor, and in August 2015 I was accepted into the Accelerated Nursing Program at the College of Mount Saint Vincent.
Two months into starting the nursing program, my health took a turn as my body began rejecting the transplanted kidney. I ended up on dialysis at the Rogosin’s Manhattan East facility and I had no choice but to take medical leave from my program. But I maintained a positive attitude and I did not give up. While on dialysis, I completed online coursework towards my nursing degree. I did homework, read, practiced mindfulness, meditation, studied nutrition, and built lasting friendships with the Rogosin staff, particularly my dialysis nurse, Thomas. He inspired me and provided encouragement and support while working through my nursing courses.
In October 2016, I received a second kidney transplant through my father. He was not a direct match for me, but was able to donate one of his kidneys to someone who was a match so that I could receive a transplant from someone else. Fast forward, five years later I have met my donor, Amal, who lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C. She is my hero. She is family. She is a part of me, sustaining me, giving me freedom and life.
In December 2017, I completed my nursing degree. It is customary at nursing graduation ceremonies for the graduate to receive a pin from a family member or mentor who is a nurse. I asked my dialysis nurse, Thomas, to present me with a kidney pin during graduation. Having him participate in the momentous pinning ceremony was incredibly powerful.
When dealing with kidney disease and the pits of life, I truly believe perspective is essential. Only you have control over how you perceive and deal with your situation. Through all challenges, I see opportunities for growth. The Microsteps I maintain for health daily are reflective of my gratitude for life. I honor this body, mind, and soul with every decision.
At work, I lead by example. I believe education is key, but witnessing someone drink 1.5 liters of good quality water daily outweighs any educational pamphlet explaining its benefits.
When my co-workers witness my joy and satisfaction while hydrating, I educate them on the importance of drinking water. At lunch, I eat my nutrient-dense meals with a focus on macronutrients: fats, carbs, and proteins. I prioritize daily walks, even if it’s just to the cafeteria Keurig, and I often stretch at my desk. At the end of my shift I change into workout gear as I head to the gym. I try to communicate the importance of self-care to all with sincerity, positivity, encouragement, and joy. The Thrive community is inspiring. Partaking in a community that proactively approaches well-being while being a valued member of the healthcare system is what it’s all about. As a registered nurse I can educate and inspire through my daily choices, experiences, and knowledge.