Staying Strong: Home Dialysis During a Breast Cancer Battle

Valarie Gates Totten is as tough as they come. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, Valarie had already been on peritoneal dialysis (PD) for 2 years. She stayed committed to her PD treatment during 2 years of chemotherapy—and beat breast cancer while continuing to look after her kidney health. Sometimes it felt like twice the battle, though Valarie knew that her health was worth it. 

Valarie says, “Wanting to be there for my husband and my son is what helped me stay motivated.” Since her kidney failure diagnosis in 2008, she has focused on her faith and family to give her strength to stay on track. 

A kidney failure diagnosis after pregnancy

While pregnant with her son, Valarie experienced complications with high blood pressure, which began to impact her kidney function. Her blood pressure stayed elevated after delivery and, for the next several years, she tried to eat a kidney-friendly diet and bring her blood pressure down. However, her blood pressure continued to rise and, eventually, Valarie was diagnosed with kidney failure. 

At first, Valarie was in denial. After a second blood test, she started exploring her treatment options. She decided to do peritoneal dialysis to give her more scheduling flexibility for her busy lifestyle. After training with her nurse, she started doing PD at night while she slept, so she could keep working and caring for her family on a schedule that was right for her.

A breast cancer diagnosis and more decisions

When Valarie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, she was shocked. She was already living with kidney failure and now had to cope with a new diagnosis and treatment. Valarie kept her faith and worked with her care team to schedule chemotherapy and home dialysis—all while juggling her family and her career. 

Because chemo was so tiring, Valarie was grateful she was doing dialysis at home and didn’t have to travel back and forth to a dialysis center. Happily, Valarie beat breast cancer and is now in remission. Today, she visits cancer centers and dialysis centers to talk about the benefits of home dialysis and help others find a balance while looking after their health.

Embracing every moment

Valarie retired in 2012 and appreciates the special moments in life. She loves spending time with her family and encourages them to be healthy—just as they encourage her. Valarie stays on track with her treatment and takes advantage of her flexible PD treatment schedule to travel the country, visit family and friends and participate in an annual breast cancer walk. She's also passionate about sharing her story with people who are coping with both breast cancer and kidney failure, as well as people starting dialysis and considering home treatment. 


October 2019


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