Many artists and writers will often acknowledge specific individuals or instances as their muse or inspiration. I am no different. Although there are many moments during my days which inspire the topics for my columns, the true underlying inspiration behind my outlook on life and writing is my amazing mother Cheri Barton! She is the most determined, resilient, positive, inspiring person I know! She is always in the back of my mind when I am writing.
Twenty years ago, she was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease. This progressive genetic disease causes fluid filled cysts to grow in the kidneys. As the cysts grow, they can cause damage, often leading to kidney failure. For many, this diagnosis would be devastating news, especially since she mutated the gene, and therefore had no idea what the disease even was.
Determined to learn everything she could about PKD, my mom immediately searched the net to educate herself on her diagnosis. She quickly discovered an even more devastating realization; her three children have a 50/50 chance of being diagnosed with PKD as well.
My superhuman mother, did not let this information set her back. Others may have curled up in a ball, lost in a dark place, but her resilient positive outlook on life, drove her forward. She was determined that her diagnosis was not going affect our lives more than it needed to and that she was going to spread awareness and fundraise, hopeful a cure may someday be discovered. Eventually my sister, myself and then my brother were diagnosed as well. My mother has every right to be angry with the cards she has been dealt by the universe, but instead she chooses to remain positive and thankful that she has a life to live.
Throughout our childhood she drove us to all our sporting events, music lessons, 4H meetings, fairs etc. She was a director on the Vankleek Hill Fair board, she volunteered at endless events in the community, and organized many of her own, like the Walk to End PKD every September, for 10 years. Our wonderful community and loved ones have helped her raise over $200,000 for the PKD Foundation of Canada! As the years progress, her kidney and liver function continue to decrease, but not once in the last 20 years have I ever heard her complain. She continuously uses the energy she does have to work hard for her book keeping clients, spend time with her family and especially follow her two-year-old grandson around whenever she has the chance.
Over the last few years especially, she has faced a few major life changes, such as finally moving away from the farmhouse in Vankleek Hill to Perth, for the sake of my father’s health as well as her own. This move happened not long after my little munchkin was born. It was hard for me to adjust to the change from seeing Granny every other day to our visits being weekend getaways every chance we got. Then because adjusting to a new town away from family and friends wasn’t hard enough, the pandemic hit, cutting any quality weekend sleepovers down to day visits, outside, often having to deal with the cold, snow or rain. These events have led me to struggle with feelings of frustration and discouragement, but again I have never heard a single complaint come from my mother. She chooses to make the most out of every day, no matter what it throws at her. Her mental strength truly is inspirational.
Every time my tiny human makes me laugh, or reminds me of something that I did with my mommy as a child, I am more and more grateful to my inspiration for all the effort she put in to making sure we were properly educated on the effects PKD has on our lives. Because of her involvement with the PKD Foundation and research, we put our faith in the healthcare system so our tiny farmer will not have to ever worry about being diagnosed with PKD. She helped me reach my dream of becoming a mother. As a teenager I vowed I would never be like my mother when I became a mom, but now being a much wiser person, I hope that I can be at least half the mother and person she is today. She is the reason I choose to see the beauty in the world around me and to be thankful for all the support our wonderful family, friends and community have shown us over the last 20 years!
On September 26 we will be participating in the Virtual Walk to End PKD by walking through the streets of Vankleek Hill. Please feel free to give us a cheer, or to join us as we continue to raise awareness for Polycystic Kidney Disease.