Battle Tested

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I was a completely healthy kid. I never had allergies or hospitalization of any kind. Then, on one seemingly innocuous Wednesday, I went to my pediatrician's office for my annual check-up. She noticed some distinct signs of anemia which prompted her to set up blood tests to check vitamin deficiencies along with a complete blood cell count.

She told me not to worry.

My pediatrician called us into her office two days later to review the results of my blood test. That night my parents and I sat in the UCSF emergency room, and suddenly I was the recipient of endless, terrifying tests. It felt like hundreds of doctors crammed into my room. They explained to me that my kidney function was immensely compromised. Each word they spoke pulsated in my ear.

I was scared like I had never been before; afraid of eating too much or too little, afraid of pills and needles and remedies and health and sickness and living. Suddenly, I had to think about every function of my body; suddenly I had to pray these would not give out.

Every day I find myself fighting a battle, whether it's with the doctor or the disease. My disease leaves me feeling tired, weak and in constant pain. But the medications the doctors supply me with wear me out beyond imagination. While I know the doctors are on my side, it still feels like an endless cycle of exhaustion and needles.


For the past year and a half, I have been called brave, been the "I-don't-know-how-she-does-it" girl, but how much can a person really change in that amount of time? I am perceived as fearless. When doctors and nurses consistently enter my hospital room asking me to give my pain a number, without hesitation I say it is at a one, though my limbs feel like they are constantly being contorted into knots and other vexatious positions.

Every now and then I do feel sorry for myself. I dwell on what my future would have looked like if I wasn't sick. But I have come to a realization that life isn't always how you plan it. Everyone could ask, why me?

I have been expected to learn a lot about myself throughout this experience. I have endured each bag of Eculizumab and Solumedrol and dozens of IV pokes. I know life's not perfect, but I have learned to embrace it.

With a Perspective, I'm Anna Bonkowski.

Anna Bonkowski is 14 years old and an 8th grader at Kent Middle School in Kentfield.