The heart that gives, gathers…

My mother was a woman of humble and kind heart. She was a true warrior who never gave up, enduring many hardships through kidney disease and dialysis. She taught me to fight passionately for what is true and dear to my heart and to never give up. Her wise words to me: “Do not let the fear of the unknown enclose and/or paralyze you.” 

I lost my most beloved warrior, my mother, Faustina Longoria Saenz, three years ago in April. 
In my journey as caregiver and daughter, I have learned that the capacity to care is what gives life its deepest significance. I learned that advocacy is the tool we use to improve and empower, endorsing a belief in the interest of making a positive difference. I learned pretty quickly to fight for my mother’s quality of life, to advocate for her as she had done for herself. Integrating advocacy into my mom’s care routines was not simple.  The blended strategy of caregiver and patient advocate included ensuring that her doctors (and there were many) were well informed about her views and that we actively monitored her nonverbal cues (such as occasional sadness and lack of activity). We had to lead and facilitate improved communication among all involved: Mom, her doctors, and her caregivers (her children).

While we advocated for mom, she believed we also advocated for those who had no one to do so for them.
The grief of losing my mom overpowered me and I did not even realize it at the time.  A dear friend invited me to run a marathon with her in efforts to take control of our health and lose weight, which turned out to be the beginning of the greater me. I’d never run in my life, but I said yes, remembering my mother’s words: “Stay active so that your body doesn’t stiffen and get the best of you.” We assume our elders slow down and become less active, but my mother was the complete opposite. For her, being active helped her hold on to her endurance, strength, and most importantly, her independence.
Mom’s life’s teaching of taking “life by the horns” was my first step in a journey I never expected to take. Just when I thought I was “giving” my support to a friend, I was “gathering” the discovery of me. I started to truly mourn my mother’s loss and deal with the pain and sadness that were overtaking my life. My mother’s footprints embedded deep in my heart were waking me up after her departure.
Running has taught me how to succeed, how to fail, how to win, and how to lose. It has taught me discipline and devotion, how to strive for the things I want and that I’d better do the work if I want to be successful. It has taught me to be patient and that I don’t always get what I want. It reminds me of my mother: her strength and her courage; her love of life, her children and herself. Every step I take is guided by my mother’s footprints embedded in my heart. Everything I do, how I carry myself, is all influenced my mother’s perseverance. Running is when I find out who I truly am and how strong I truly am—I become anything or anyone I want to be. And what I want, more than anything, is to be at least a decent portion of the warrior my mother was and is in my heart. I want to advocate for kidney disease; I want to fundraise so that others battling kidney disease also have the opportunity of life just as my mom did; I want to make a positive difference for those who will battle kidney disease in the future.

I ran my first marathon as a challenge of my strength and perseverance. I ran in my mother’s memory to honor her caring and giving heart. I ran as part of AKF’s KIDNEYNATION to honor all those battling kidney disease. A marathon is a journey requiring much physical and mental endurance—just as my mother’s journey with kidney disease and dialysis did.

My mother was a recipient of others’ generosity through AKF's direct support. I chose to pay it forward to ensure that support is available to others battling this disease. Being able to give through my fundraising efforts restored my sense of worth in very dark times—I felt my mother’s presence and giving heart every step of the way. My mother faced many obstacles along her journey, yet always found a way to overcome those hurdles. Her strength and courage grew every day and each day I continue to admire her love for life and family.
I join efforts to advocate and fundraise so that others may have that same opportunity with their loved ones just as my family and I did with our mother. This is something I am positive my mother would have wanted us to do. I know that if she were still here today, she would be hands on deck charming people to support the cause.
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

Tina Longoria lives in Austin, Texas, and is a member of the American Kidney Fund’s Advocacy Network and the KINDEYNATION community of fundraisers who support AKF’s mission of helping people fight kidney disease and live healthier lives. Host a tailgate party, run a race, plan a card night, or host a percentage night at a restaurant.

Become a part of KIDNEYNATION and start fundraising your way today. The money you raise will help thousands of patients in the United States access the health care they need to battle kidney disease.

Posted: | Author: Tina Longoria

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