I Wasn't Worried about Kidney Failure, until I Was Forced to
Last updated: February 2021
Three weeks ago, my whole life changed. It all started with a passing reference to my kidneys.“It could be a sign of kidney failure.” The doctor had his back to me, as he dipped several sticks into the urine sample I’d given him. He gave me a prescription for antibiotics to treat the possible UTI that would explain the high number of white cells my tests were showing. Troubled but calm, I headed towards my local pharmacy.
The doctor’s words completely befuddled me. I just didn’t see how my kidneys could fail. I followed a healthy approach to life - I barely drink any alcohol, no smoking, I do regular exercise, follow a plant-based diet - why would my kidneys suddenly malfunction? Surely, this had to be a mistake. In my head, the doctor was clearly deluded.
Kidney failure was nowhere on my radar. My biggest fears surrounding endometriosis were always linked to cancer, but showing signs of kidney malfunction was something that felt completely disconnected from reality.
An OB/GYN explains
Until it hit me: Endometriosis and kidney failure, it does happen
Two days later, I lied awake at 2 am. Writing about endometriosis means I read endless articles and medical studies on the disease. In the back of my brain, a nagging realization rang true: there is a connection between endometriosis and kidney failure when the disease spreads to one or both of the ureters.
Endometriosis affecting kidney function is considered rare, yet this didn’t provide me with any solace. With the limited research there is around endometriosis, anything can be labeled as “rare”, can’t it?
Sometimes knowledge is power, others it can give you anxiety
I decided to act on my worries, and as soon as I woke up, emailed my GP. Describing what her colleague had flagged, I explained what I knew about the disease. I reassured her I wasn’t googling any symptoms:“I’m a science writer, it’s my job”. I tried to sound polite yet assertive, pressing "send" while I crossed all of my fingers.
She soon replied, admitting little knowledge on the disease, but not seeing the connection. I emailed again, deeply apologetic, yet insistent.
Arguing with doctors is part of life with endometriosis. There is always a point in which I have to explain something they may not know. Sometimes they are receptive. On several occasions, they have been totally unsupportive. Fortunately, in this case, my doctor agreed to do further tests and determine the health of my kidneys.
I feel lucky, but cannot shake my nervousness
I don’t know what to expect. Because symptoms of kidney failure can be similar to endometriosis, I don’t have an inkling of what my diagnosis will be. I may require further surgery, or it may involve me making further lifestyle changes. I will cross that bridge once I have my results.
What has shaken me is how unexpected all of this was. As much as I have heavily researched this disease, it took me too long to react on what the doctor had said. I also never thought of having my kidneys checked as a pre-emptive measure. It never occurred to me that my disease could behave that way. The few friends I've told were shocked, admitting they didn't know endometriosis could do that.
The fact is that endometriosis can spread everywhere, even when you're on a form of hormonal medication. We simply don't know enough of the disease to understand or predict this better.
As I've come to realize since my diagnosis, with endometriosis everything is quite unpredictable. Yet, pursuing tests to establish the health of my kidneys has given me a renewed sense of control. Here's to no more sleepless nights, and a big fat yes to conclusive answers.
Which symptoms are you experiencing the most this week? (Check all that apply):