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Caring for a caregiver offers chance for others

As my mom's disease progressed, we've had the opportunity to be for her what she was to us.

I had never heard of Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis before. None of us had. Even Mom, whom we lovingly (and only half-jokingly) refer to as 'Dr. Shannon,' had never heard of it.

It is a disease that affects the filters in the kidney … but what did that mean? Would she be okay? What would come of this whole thing?

Shannon (Walsh) Senz has been a lifelong resident of Forest Grove. After graduating from Forest Grove High School with the class of 1977, she married Ed Senz and moved to Verboort. One of eight children, she has four of her own, dozens of nieces and nephews, and a 'fresh-out-of-the-oven' grandson of four months. All this is to say that this revelation profoundly affected a huge number of people.

It turned out that this was a progressive kidney disease - in other words, things would get worse before they got better.

Mom began to get more and more fatigued; the simplest tasks, like folding laundry or going to the grocery store, have become arduous Iron Man-type struggles. Her immune system has become increasingly compromised, and the objective has now become staving off any further progression of the disease as much as possible until a donor can be found. A number of people have stepped up to the plate, but there is still a long way to go.

This set of circumstances has brought about a unique challenge for my mom and dad: concerning themselves with themselves.

My mom and dad have always been the type to spring into action to help others - I've never known either of them to put themselves before anybody else. Now my siblings and I have a profound opportunity to give back to them what they've given us; their siblings and their friends have a chance to give back.

As the youngest of four, I've always seen my parents as caregivers and providers, and my siblings and me as the objects of this care and provision. As my mom's disease has progressed, we've had the opportunity to reverse these roles more and more, and finally have the opportunity to be for them what they've always been for us. Two such 'other-oriented' individuals may have had a difficult time adjusting to this role reversal, but they see how important it is to the rest of us that we do this for them.

Mom's family is organizing a fundraiser next Friday evening to help with expenses related to her transplant and the extended inability to work during the post-transplant recovery. However, as my mom has always said: the most important thing about this event is people coming to show their support.

We're not the only family in this situation. Lately it seems as though every month I hear about another family friend or someone from our church in similarly dire straits.

While we can't solve these people's problems, we can do something. And they deserve it.