Hi, my name is Josh and I am a kidney stone survivor! I didn’t beat the odds, since almost everyone makes it through alive, one way or another. But after one deals with a kidney stone, getting little wins is important in getting your life back on track.
“Lucky” for me, my stone was small enough to pass without needing surgery. I don’t want to get too far down the ureter hole, but let’s just say that if your friend just got proposed to and the stone on their engagement ring was the size of my kidney stone, you may suggest they hold out for a better offer.Not so “lucky” for me, holding out for something better isn’t really in the cards when it comes to kidney stones.
The truth is, you don’t have kidney stones as much as kidney stones have you. By the balls, and just about everything else.
Probably just like having a human baby, birthing a calcium stone means getting lots of advice from people who have already gone through it, and looks of horror from people who never want to be in your shoes.
And why would they? Having kidney stones means leveling down on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I don’t care how phenomenal life is or isn’t in your “before” picture because under the duress of the stones, you drop all the way back down to the physiological level.
THAT’S BELOW SAFETY! This is a full system reboot, after the blue screen of death.
Oh but you have plans? Go ahead and make those past tense. Those don’t matter anymore. Nothing does, besides your new dumpster-level expectation of homeostasis. For me, I had been training for a 10-mile race, the day after my kidney stone reared its jagged edges. Ironically, I got tripped up in the first 4 millimeters and never even made it to the start line.
I find it condescendingly cute that—in that same week—people cared about a picture of a black hole infinity miles or light years away. Every day I woke up wishing it would suck me away. The problem is that you can’t care about anything way out in the universe when you can’t even trust the tiny vessel you call a body.
You start to question the things you have always taken for granted. Is that a fart? Is it nothing at all? Why do I have wake up to pee overnight? Am I going to fear urination for the rest of my life? You’re not the one making those decisions anymore. Your body’s Congress is in charge. And like the other Congress, this one also includes massive gridlock, extensive self-loathing, and substandard health care.
One relatively tiny, but also QUITE PROBLEMATIC ISSUE, is that you are strongly encouraged to “recover your stone” after you pass it. Take a second to think about what that requires. Whatever disgustingness worst case scenario you just dreamed up is probably not too far off from reality.
Here’s another quick tip tangent: You are going to have to learn the “incognito browser” function of your internet application, because you are going to type queries that you never imagined and will not want record in the annals of web-browsing.
Tom Petty famously quipped, “The waiting is the hardest part.” I don’t know if Tom Petty ever had kidney stones because apparently the Freedom of Information Act doesn’t trump doctor-patient confidentiality, but for our exercise today, I will assume he was not suffering this malady. The wait is the most annoying part and the longest part and the most helpless part, sure.
But the hardest part, without question, is the debilitating, searing pain in and around your crotchal region.
For example, while watching the first episode of the new season of Game of Thrones, I found myself wondering if Theon Greyjoy and the Unsullied Army had it good because they would never know this kind of pain. Then I realized they still had kidneys but now had no way to pass a potential stone, meaning it would just live in them forever. I cried. I threw up.
I finished the episode so traumatized that the kid hung al fresco on the castle wall barely affected me.
I think I was planning on giving tips here, so here’s how I would recommend you proceed if kidney stones befall you.
1) Drink lots of water. You have to flush your system.
2) Find someone who can stand you at your worst, because you are now at your worst.
3) Pray to the old gods and the new gods.
4) Find a painkiller that does more good than harm. If you don’t want to feel like a constipated zombie for 10 days, try ibuprofen and a stiff upper lip.
5) Wallow, though that will come naturally.
6) Resist googling photos of kidney stones until you’ve already passed yours.
7) Try to laugh at yourself, but also know that laughing hurts, so maybe just chuckle. You’ve already suffered enough.