Janet Hofman of Ypsilanti lost her father, George W. Hofman, to kidney disease in 2018. Last year, she and her team were one of the NKFM’s top fundraisers at the Kidney Walk at the Detroit Zoo. The following is taken from Janet’s 2019 team page:
“Kidney disease has been an unwelcome guest in my family for probably longer than I even realize. Although it seemed to be an inherent part of my grandmother's life, one would hardly know “Mom Mom” was suffering on any given day because of the joy she brought to everyone around her. With a great sense of humor, quick wit, kind heart, and an undeniable Philly accent, I always felt so much love from her even though our geographical distance and her medical issues made it challenging to spend ample time together.
Because I was a child, the effects of kidney disease and the process of dialysis was never really explained to me. I just knew that more days than not, and for several hours at a time, Mom Mom sat hooked up to medical equipment, waiting patiently until it was time to leave and go about her day. It was always strange for me to picture Mom Mom in that scenario. I knew dialysis could make people feel sick and/or tired, but, despite growing increasingly frail as the years went by, Mom Mom always had such an uplifting spirit and we always had fun together, even if we were just talking and playing cards. Watching someone have an unwavering strength of character despite a body that fails them has always been a powerful source of inspiration for me.
Mom Mom died in 1999 after years of dialysis treatment. A couple of years later, her sister, my Aunt Edna, also passed away from kidney issues. Like my grandma in so many wonderful ways, she also endured a similar health journey.
Despite my prior exposure to our family’s kidney issues, I did not fully take it seriously until my father's kidney failure became serious almost twenty years later. Maybe it was easy for me to not think about it because I lived far away from my dad and did not witness how it impacted his daily life. Or maybe I did not because, whenever I talked to him, he downplayed it so as not to worry me. Or maybe it had just been so long since losing my grandma and my aunt that I simply forgot about kidney stuff.
Whatever my line of thought was, it felt like the timing between my dad getting sick and him dying happened in the blink of an eye. Although he did not endure years of dialysis like my grandmother, he also did not have the chance to learn how to live a prolonged, fulfilled life, despite a disease. It was as if one day he was not doing well and then, the next, he seemed okay and then, the day after that, he was gone.
There are no words to describe losing someone so abruptly. With each passing day, I have experienced not just sadness, but ALL the emotions. And then there are the days that I do not feel anything at all. Just an emptiness, the kind that leaves you feeling alone in a room full of people. Although I believe that time heals in a certain way, I have also found that, the more time that passes, the stronger the feelings become. I am being forced to accept a reality that I do not want, that my dad is gone and I will never see him again.
This is where I am at today, almost one year later - learning to accept the fact that the one thing I want, I cannot have, and what, if anything, I can do instead. Here is my list so far:
• I can walk.
• I can fundraise.
• I can pay more attention to my health.
• I can deal with my emotions (ugh).
• I can share my story and the memories I have of my father.
• I can continue to work on being a better daughter and human.”
The 2020 Kidney Walk at the Detroit Zoo will be Sunday, May 17 and is now accepting registrations at nkfm.org/zoowalk.