I’ve spoken before in my blog about the impact and inspiration that Jonah Lomu had on my battle with kidney disease, dialysis and coming to terms with transplantation. Today is the 2nd anniversary of his passing and it would be wrong not to mark this occiasion without saying a few words about this giant of a player who had such a battle with his health.
I remember on the day of his passing I woke up in my normal haze and went downstairs to make breakfast. Switching on the TV while I ate my toast I was shocked to see the news breaking around the world that the All Black legend had passed away. Stunned. Gutted. Upset. A range of emotions quickly overcame me, not just hearing about his passing, but also in a very selfish way. I felt emotionally broken as he represented the very public face of my own battle with kidney disease. Without his presence I felt my own battle would be so much harder.
I’d had the chance to meet him in the UK whilst he conducted a speaking tour during the 2015 world cup, however with a young family I simply couldn’t afford the £200 dinner ticket, especially when we had just blown a lot of cash to see a host of matches at the Rugby World Cup in 2015. I therefore consolidated myself with trying to chat to him via Twitter whilst he was on his trip. Thankfully I got a reply.
I asked him via Twitter on a Heineken Q&A session, what’s the best advice in dealing with his kidney battle…and he came back with what I class as the perfct answer and sums up how many would of seen Lomu.
…and he was so right. “Prioritise whats important”…for me that would be my family. How often have I taken people for granted…too much I thought. Time to change that.
“Take what you need and leave the rest”…how often had I not been content and overstretched myself trying to acheive something bigger, better, faster. Did it ever make me any happier? Maybe for that instant moment of delight and acheivement, but it never brought long term satisfaction. It simply led me to the next mountain to climb.
Sadly inner peace kept alluding me and Jonah had nailed it…take what you need, and leave the rest.
Since I got that response, I’ve tried to shape my thoughts around that great advice. Never to fret over what could of been, worry over what I feel I want, but look at what I need and be content with that. Once I started to do that, I realised how lucky I was to have everything I did have and cherished it even more than before.
I could talk more about the man on the pitch, the demolition runs he conducted against England in South Africa, the speed down the line against Australia, but for me it that’s only half the man. He inspred me through his battle with kidney failure, his transplantation, building a life post-transplant and is kindness to others within the sport and fellow kidney patients.
He was a man who not only changed the world of rugby, but also changed the way many people saw kidney disease and he had a profound affect on me because of that. We both fell ill roughly at the same time, he had two boys like me and we had transplants within the same period. When he died, it was like my (kidney) wingman had gone. The person who I had pinned my hopes and fears on throughout my battle had been taken too soon and even now, with 2 years passed, the emotions of his passing are still very raw. I remember in some very dark days thinking that if Jonah made it through, then I need to find that strength also. When I heard the news he had gone, it was like someone had taken away my support system. I was flying solo with this battle.
2 years have passed and now I look at his passing still with great sadnness, but I take great courage from the fact that he wouldn’t want anyone to buckle against the battle of kidney disease and to carry on the fight without him.
So if you are reading this listen to what Joanh advised me and think how you can take that on board in your own life. Remember that Jonah not only changed world rugby, he also had a profound effect on kidney patients around the world and maybe that legacy should stand just as long and as strong as the feats he achieved on the field.
Rest in peace Jonah.