A kidney transplant is a miracle, however it does not guarantee a full recovery or a return to your old way of life, something our 2014 Alive to Strive Race Ambassador knows from firsthand experience.
Hélène Lavoie has been fighting kidney disease for a long time.
When her kidney function showed signs of failure, “I blocked it out,” she said with a laugh. “It started slowly. Then I had stress with my job and that didn’t help.”
Close to two years ago, she received a kidney transplant from her long time friend, Marcel Duguay. The kidney transplant has given her a new start and the hope for a better life. While she is feeling much better now, she had a few second effects from the anti-rejection drugs and continues to face challenges with her health.
“Some people have the kidney transplant and the disease is gone. I’ve also been living with diabetes,” she explained. “For me, it’s a lot of things. I’m tired, not as bad as I was, but not solid enough to return to work.”
A lonely diagnosis – Alive to Strive provided support
Hélène admitted that she didn’t know a lot about kidney disease when she was diagnosed with kidney failure and that she didn’t have a lot of support at the start except for her daughter, Krystel, and a few friends.
“Alive to Strive helped me see that there were other people like me. It’s one thing to be sick — you get help from a medical doctor — but no one helps you emotionally. We seem to forget that there are psychological effects. Alive to Strive is a good group. You see that you’re not alone.”
Hélène is a past recipient of an Alive to Strive fitness grant, which are funded through revenues from the annual race.
“It helped me a lot,” she said, explaining that her illness forced her onto sick leave so she didn’t have a salary. “I wanted to train so I could be in the best shape I could be, in case I could have a transplant.”
She also explained that going to the gym provided a crucial social outlet and motivation.
Proud to give back and to help others
Hélène’s enthusiasm, positive outlook and energy influenced her selection as ambassador for last year’s race. It also affirmed her desire to give back to all those who had helped her. Accepting the role was her way of showing her appreciation.
“I wanted to build a big team and bring people to the race. It was a mission for me — to talk about kidney disease, the race, to help others and to promote it. I was very proud.”
Although her time as the official race ambassador is over, she continues to spread the word.
“I always want to give back. I put the race pamphlets everywhere. Wearing my t-shirt is also great. It’s a nice way to promote the race. People come up to me and ask me what it is.”
When asked how she would pitch the Alive to Strive Race to someone who has never heard of the event, Hélène doesn’t miss a beat.
“I start by explaining about Alive to Strive — its purpose to gather money to help more people through grants. I always make sure to say that the money goes directly to the people in need. I talk about kidney disease and try my best to develop peoples’ awareness.”
Hélène’s 5kg team (Hope) and her kidney donor will once again be at this year’s race. Like with many others, the event has become an annual tradition and source of pride in how far she’s come.
“It’s fun to get together. You feel good,” she said of the race. “I’m grateful I had the grant. I promote the race so that we can raise money and we can give it to others. That’s the purpose.”
The 2015 Alive to Strive Race is being held on Sunday, April 26, 2015, at Hog’s Back Park in Ottawa, Ont., Canada. Revenue from this race goes to support the Alive to Strive grant program. Register for this year’s race, donate or to find out more about the grant program.