I will never forget the day. I had taken a run in the morning and by the afternoon; I was in the hospital with blood cancer and end-stage renal disease. That day, my life changed. The cancer affected my body’s ability to produce red blood cells, and the ones it did produce were distorted.

Once I was well enough to go home, I was sent to an in-center dialysis clinic to begin treatment. I had no idea what dialysis was and didn’t know at all how it worked. I had been active all my life, running for over 30 years and even completing a full marathon. Now I was told I needed to be on a strict, three day per week dialysis schedule. I felt I had lost all control over my life. I had a wonderful team of doctors and nurses, but I had become completely dependent on another person.

After a short while, my doctors could tell that in-center dialysis wasn’t working for me. I was miserable, exhausted, and I wanted my life back. After being in-center for two years, I knew I couldn’t continue to live with that quality of life.

It wasn’t until I learned about more frequent home hemodialysis that I began to believe I didn’t have to live like this, and maybe I could regain that sense of control I’d lost.

An alternative with more freedom

I first learned about home hemodialysis when I was receiving in-center treatment while visiting family in North Carolina. A member of the center staff asked me if I had ever heard of the treatment because she thought I could be a good candidate. She gave me a little information and a DVD to watch.

After doing additional research and speaking with my regular nurse, I decided to give home hemodialysis a try. After training on the home hemodialysis machine for a month, I was anxious to bring it home for the first time. My husband, who is also my care partner, was also a little nervous, but with NxStage technical support available 24/7, I felt confident that we could do this.

How am I doing?

I have now been on a home hemodialysis routine for four years. My overall well being is better. Completing treatment five times weekly for a shorter amount of time is less taxing on me both mentally and physically. The treatment has allowed me to eat more normally and plan my days around my own schedule instead of someone else’s. I feel as well as I did before I began dialysis.

With the home hemodialysis machine, I am able to enjoy my retirement with my friends and family. In 2012, I was even able to successfully complete the Outer Banks Marathon in Kill Devil Hills, NC. I know the only reason I crossed that finish line was because of my more frequent home hemodialysis treatments. I recently decided to take up biking and have ridden in two 250-mile bike rides to raise awareness for kidney disease and support prevention and treatment programs.  I can’t possibly put into words how it feels to cross that finish line. It is powerful and liberating, like a nuclear force that washes over you. Knowing how far I have come since my first in-center treatment leaves me speechless.

More frequent home hemodialysis saved my life. I don’t think if I had stayed in-center that I could have ever accomplished all that I have. Being in-center wasn’t the life I wanted to live. My whole world was flipped upside-down when I was diagnosed and began dialysis, but I just keep moving forward and pushing forward. I refuse to be a victim of my illness. I will never let it define me or control me. I’m taking back my life and I don’t intend to ever give it up again.

Editor’s note: On Oct. 21, Jan received a successful transplant from a kidney donated by a family friend. “Home hemodialysis kept me healthy while on treatment and allowed my dream of a transplant to become a reality,” said Morrow.