Love is the Best Medicine – A Story of Dialysis and Dedication

When Candee Denzmore and Nathan Rice vowed “in sickness and in health,” neither one of them imagined that phrase would eventually translate to doing dialysis therapy side by side every night. Yet, while kidney disease has had an enormous impact on their lives and family, they can both attest it has also served to strengthen their commitment to each other.

Candee and Nathan started out as high school sweethearts. In their twenties, they started a family. And in 2007, they decided to officially “tie the knot,” a decision for which they both will always be grateful.

“We know God wanted us together,” says Candee. “Maybe it was so we could take this journey together and help each other out.”

Double Jeopardy

The journey Candee speaks of began just a year after their wedding, when Nathan was told by doctors that his kidneys had failed, and he should prepare to start dialysis. 

“I had just graduated from culinary school, and was working for a casino,” recalls Nathan. “I went to the doctor every year for a checkup, and there were no signs of my kidneys failing. I was healthy one day and suddenly sick the next day.”

With guidance from his nephrologist, Nathan chose to do peritoneal dialysis (PD), and on his birthday had surgery to receive a catheter. Later the same day, Candee began to feel ill and drove herself to the hospital. The news she received seemed impossible. She too had kidney failure and would also need to prepare for dialysis.

As unprepared as she was for her diagnosis, Candee had spent a lot of time learning about therapy options and knew what path she would take. She wanted to be home with her husband and family and opted for PD as well.

Family Focus

“Yes, our kids had two parents on dialysis, but we wanted to raise them like normal kids; to coach and teach and all the rest,” explains Candee. “When they would tell their friends about us having kidney disease they were like, ‘What are you talking about?’ We made it seem so normal that they didn’t realize we were so sick. We didn’t let them think their lives were different.”

From movies and plays to taking cruises and working full time, as much as they could, Nathan and Candee stayed true to their commitment of having a “normal” life. Candee says they couldn’t have done it without their care team at Fresenius Kidney Care. 

“We have a great team. Amanda (now a nurse manager at another center) was our nurse for almost 12 years. She is family,” says Candee. “I mean, she knew our boys when they were just babies. She’s always made sure we have everything we need and never have to worry about anything.” 

Candee says Amanda assisted and advocated for the couple many times throughout the years – from advising on therapies to helping Candee stay on the road to a future transplant, and just “being there” when she was most needed. And never did that support mean more than a couple of years ago, when Nathan suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed on one side. 

“When he had the stroke, that was the worst,” Candee remembers. “Not knowing what to do and not being able to help him.” 

Staying the Course Staying Together

As the Denzmore-Rice family struggled through their biggest challenge yet, their care team once again came through. After his hospital stay, Amanda helped get Nathan back on home therapy as safely and quickly as possible. Next, Amanda advocated for the couple to be one of the first to use a brand-new PD machine that would be easier for Nathan to use.

“Amanda had to train herself before she trained us, but she did it,” says Candee emphatically. 

Now, each evening before they turn off the lights, Candee and Nathan start their matching PD cyclers up and prepare for overnight therapy. Theirs is a story so unique that, for Valentine’s Day 2020, the two were invited on a radio show to share their experience. 

“It can be stressful sometimes, but it’s just another part of what we do to make things work,” says Candee good-naturedly. “And it’s not like I can make him sleep in the other room!”

With their sons now in their twenties, the couple is less focused on preserving an active lifestyle and more intent on staying healthy and positive so they can continue enjoying family for many years to come. Their most fundamental goal is to be around to watch their sons have families of their own so they can be doting grandparents. Candee says whenever Nathan gets down, she reminds him that this is their new mission.

“You’ve got to live life to the fullest, and make sure you let others know you care about them,” Candee says. “For me, the greatest gift is to wake up every morning next to someone who loves you.”

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“My future husband had just started peritoneal dialysis when we met.”

—Shannon, RN, wife and care partner
Watch Shannon’s Story