SAN ANTONIO – One woman suffering from end-stage kidney failure said it was thanks to her faith in God and a special friendship that has pushed her to continue fighting and raising awareness about this terminal illness.
Candice Allen, 30, was diagnosed three and a half years ago in 2015.
“I went to the doctor and thought, ‘Oh, it is nothing serious,’ and they did a biopsy and found out that I had end-stage kidney failure. The doctor came in and was like ‘Ms. Allen, you have about six months.’ I thought, ‘six months until what?’ I was young. I just did not know how this could happen.”
Thinking her life was over, Allen said she didn’t realize how much her life was just beginning. She met Elvira Lozano, who was 77 years old and suffering from end-stage renal failure and liver disease.
“There was a lady right next to me and I am already feeling sorry for myself with that whole depression,” Allen said. “She was next to me talking to a doctor and she was crying. I asked, ‘Are you OK? What’s wrong?’ She said ‘I am sick. I don’t want to live anymore. I don’t want to be here. I hate it here. So I told her, ‘If I come to treatment, you are going to come to treatment too.”
That was the start to a wonderful friendship-making her treatments, which were at least three times a week for four hours straight, bearable.
“It didn’t even seem like we were doing dialysis,” Allen said as she laughed. “It was like the most fun class ever. I am talking to her. She’s talking to me. We are like ‘Girl, what are we gonna eat today?’ She would say ‘Girl, I want a puffy taco.’ I would say ‘Yeah, with extra sour cream!’ The dietitian walking by would be like ‘You two can’t eat that.’ I would say, ‘My momma said we could have it so we are going to eat it.'”
Because Allen knew how much she meant to Lozano, she didn’t want to risk their lives being separated.
“In my mind, I am like ‘If you get on the list, you will get a kidney,’” Allen said. “It doesn’t work like that, but I didn’t want to leave her. So I felt like I had to stay with her."
For years, Allen did just that.
“She was literally my best friend,” Allen said. “She was so full of life. She would watch 'Madea.' She would read all the '50 Shades of Grey' books. She was something else."
Unfortunately, things started to change and Lozano’s health began to deteriorate.
“Last year, she got really sick,” Allen said. “I had just buried my grandfather and when I came back, she was sick. She was still smiling though and calling me her adopted daughter. I knew something was going on but I didn’t know how much of what was going on because she didn’t want me to worry.”
One day, Lozano didn’t come to treatment.
“I called her husband and he told me she was in the hospital,” Allen said. “Everything was going bad. Her liver and all. They started her in hospice.”
It was a tough time for Allen as she now had to go to treatment by herself for the first time since her diagnosis.
“I went through treatment and dialysis with her always next to me so it was hard for me to cope with it,” said Allen.
Lozano eventually died.
“Right before she passed, I was with her,” Allen said. “We laughed and we prayed and she said ‘Mi hija, I am scared. I know I am going home, but I am scared.’ I said ‘I know, you will be fine. You are going to be OK. I’ll help you get there. We will get there together.’ It is so easy for people to tell you to worry about yourself and that, they are old and that it is going to happen but I couldn’t just leave her.”
She said because of Lozano, she fought harder than she would have if she had never met her.
“If it wasn’t for her being there for me and me being there for her, I wouldn’t be here,” Allen said. “I would have felt like I didn’t have purpose. She gave me a purpose while on a machine.”
Though she is still going through this major loss, Allen said she made sure to fulfill Lozano’s final wish for her.
"She said ‘Mi hija, please get a transplant. Get on the list and live your life. You have been there with me and I love and appreciate you for that,’” Allen said.
Allen is now on a donors list waiting for an O positive kidney. She said until that comes, she wants her story to be inspiring to others.
“I want this story to encourage someone else out there who may be going through some hard times,” Allen said. “I want them to know that they are not alone. Somebody is going through the same thing as you. It is hard but God has got you.”
She said because of her faith and Lozano’s passion for family, she looks at her diagnosis differently now.
“I think to myself, ‘Girl, you are not doing this for you. Somebody is going to need your testimony,’" Allen said. “I am somebody’s testimony. At first I was like ‘Why me lord?’ Now, I’m like, ‘Why not you? You are strong enough to handle it.’”
Though the odds of finding an O positive kidney are low, Allen said she is fine with the wait. She said she just hopes her story can inspire others to always put family first and to never take anyone for granted.
“You never know who God will place in your life,” Allen said. “You never know why you are given the situation you are given. This is my purpose now. Me going through everything I have been through is for someone else. Not myself. I know on paper and in man’s word, it is a terminal illness, but in my heart I just feel like it is just another obstacle I can get over.”
She said she has one prayer that keeps her going every day.
“I pray lord give me the strength, for it is not my will but your will be done,” Allen said. “Help me to encourage and bless at least one person. If I can touch one person, I have done my job.”