My mother tells me I changed overnight, from a happy-go-lucky child to a rather intense individual. I don't remember this, though I vividly recall my overnight stay in hospital the day before I had the blood tests and scans that confirmed my diagnosis.
I tried to fit what had happened into my 10-year-old understanding of God. Was he punishing me? I couldn't think of anything I'd done to deserve it, but God would know better if I had. Perhaps God had chosen me to bear a special burden that would bring me closer to Him? I tried to feel thankful for my illness. These questions troubled me throughout my teens. I never got an answer, but didn't blame God for what was happening to me.
In fact, I expressed very little emotion about my illness. As I mentioned in my last post, my family was moving towards a more charismatic form of Christianity, which meant that the Christians around us believed in miraculous healing. So did my parents. So did I.
My family, my family's friends and others prayed for my kidneys to be healed miraculously. I attended a lively, "Spirit-filled" youth group (I use quotes not to be offensive but because I don't believe in the Holy Spirit) where my friends and the group leaders regularly laid hands on me and prayed with me. I would cry a lot. This was pretty much the only emotional release I allowed myself, and I can't say with any certainty that I was crying about my illness.
During this period, I went to hospital about twice a year. At each visit, they took blood to test the levels of urea and creatinine in my bloodstream. Creatinine is a waste product of muscle metabolism which is almost all excreted by healthy kidneys; it is the primary marker doctors use to measure kidney function.
Each time I went, I took the memories of the prayers with me, the people who had "prophesied" that I would be healed, the message from the Bible and individual Christians that you needed faith to be healed. I tried to believe. I wanted to have faith.
But each time, the results came back, I had worsened. Each time, it became more difficult to have faith - too painful to raise my hopes only to have them crushed.
Nevertheless, I kept believing. I was passionate about God and Jesus and believed that he was active in the world through the Holy Spirit. I wanted to be a part of that and sought to be his instrument in the world.
At 18, my renal function still declining, I went to university.