What started as a “little niggle” that Heather Boyle decided to put off having looked at by a doctor has led to the Marcoola resident undergoing 15 surgeries in the past 12 months and the diagnosis that she will lose both of her kidneys in the next 18 months.
Far from languishing in her home and worrying about her future of spending six hours every second day on dialysis, Ms Boyle has chosen to adopt a positive outlook on life and is even channelling what little energy she has left into hosting the Sunshine Coast’s first Big Red Kidney Walk on September 9.
“I can either sit down and cry in a little hole, or think, ‘Let’s kick this and go forward’,” she says.
“I have had such great help from the doctors and nurses who have taken care of me throughout this journey and I believe in karma, so I want to pay it forward to the community to spread some awareness of kidney diseases so other people don’t end up in the same situation.”
The 49-year-old single mother says her diagnosis of staghorn calculi, which are branched stones that fill the renal system, came on Australia Day 2016 and says her early warning signs were simply feeling lethargic and “a little bit off” and it was her daughter Tahni Nawin who encouraged her to get a blood test done.
“I used to do boxing for fun and after a few minutes, your arms feel that heavy that you can hardly lift them, but one day I was just brushing my daughter’s hair and I was getting that same feeling even though I hadn’t exercised and I knew then something was going wrong,” she says.
“But I was busy, so I kept putting it [getting checked] off. I want people to know that if they have a little niggle or something, just get yourself checked out.
“If I had caught it earlier, there would have been treatment options and they could have blasted away the stones that were growing in my kidneys and they would not have been damaged.
“I would have been able to keep my kidneys. But I have now had 15 surgeries and my combined kidney function is just 13 per cent.”
Ms Boyle says once her combined kidney function reaches eight per cent, she will be trained in how to self-dialyse, so she can undergo dialysis at home until she can find a match for a double kidney transplant.
“It’s something I will have to deal with for the rest of my life,” she says.
“I love my freedom and losing my freedom is just going to be devastating, that part is just going to suck. I do get a little overwhelmed at times, but I know I will get through it and my daughter has been such a great support for me. She is very wise for her 10 years.”
Ms Boyle says the Big Red Kidney Walk will be a unifying community event as well as a great way for her to begin her healing process by connecting with other Sunshine Coast families that have been affected by various kidney diseases.
The four-kilometre walk starts at Mudjimba Park at 9am and when the leisurely stroll is complete, people can get involved in an energetic Zumba class, tuck into a sausage sizzle, buy a treat from the bake sale stall, get their face painted or enjoy live entertainment from Dylan Maitland and the GMU Aboriginal Dance Troupe.
Every dollar raised will go towards Kidney Health Australia’s services for the more than 1.7 million Australians affected by kidney disease, including Kidney Kids Camps, the Big Red Kidney Bus mobile dialysis service, the Kidney Transplant houses and the Kidney Helpline.
For more, visit bigredkidneywalk.org.au/events/117/sunshine-coast.