Let’s Talk about the KUPA

Not this kind of Koopa

I have talked in the past about how I struggle with body image post transplant and how there are certain “things” that you wish had been discussed, or at least mentioned, so that you didn’t feel so alone in dealing with them. Well friends, there is a hot new topic with a catchy name that gives a word to the biggest thorn in my vanity side; The K.U.P.A. and we have Sarah Hyland to thank.

Sarah Hyland is a lovely and talented actress who you may recognize from Modern Family. At 28-years-old, she has had a public journey in dealing with her health situations including not just one… but TWO kidney transplants. I tip my non-existent hat to her for being as open as she is about her health in the public eye.

Earlier this week, she shared a photo of her performing with Dr. Phil’s son at the Teen Choice Awards where she noticeably didn’t wear spanx.

Quick anatomy lesson:

Your kidneys are located in your lower back sides, tucked up under your rib-cage for protection.

Photo Credit: EMedical Updates

When you get a kidney transplant, they don’t take out the non-functioning ones (unless they are cancerous, infected, or just too big due to PKD). They stick the new ones on your front side nestled in your pelvic bone for protection.

Photo Credit: Mayo Clinic

If you are a possession of a uterus, you are squishing that up along with your intestines to create a nice little POOCH that extends and makes you look vaguely pregnant at all times; more so if you spend an evening at your favorite Ramen place.

Back to the Commentary:

Let’s talk about the KUPA, or the Kidney Upper Pussy Area, and how delightful it is to see a young woman with two bonus organs shoved in her abdomen embrace the fact that her stomach isn’t flat. This is the most realistic post transplant content I’ve seen in a while. The KUPA is an unavoidable consequence of a transplant due to the placement of your new kidneys and the rest of the organs you already have leasing space. And there is no mention of it in all your pre-op appointments because:

A. The average age of a transplant patient is older and they (probably incorrectly) assume that old people don’t care about their vanity.
B. You’re gonna gain weight from the “Don’t Die” meds they put you on anyway, so they lump it in with that and just tell you you’re getting fat.

Related Post: Post Transplant Body Image Issues

Factoring in that I am not a Hollywood actress, I don’t have access to quite the same level of health care she does, and staying svelte isn’t an important part of my day job, I really relate to the metaphorical middle finger Sarah Hyland gave by letting her body act like… well.. a body. On more than one occasion I have gotten dressed up to look amazing only to look down at the extra lovely lady lump on my abdomen. It’s a buzzkill when the Kroger checkout clerk asks when you’re due when you have a cart full of White Claw and are very much not.

Kudos to you Sarah Hyland, for giving young kidney transplant recipients a hashtaggable phrase to reclaim ownership of our slightly lopsided bodies.

Post Transplant Body Image Issues

Y’all… it’s been busy af over here lately. From moving, to getting ready for Wild, to getting ready for new full time job… it’s been a lot and super fun and creative blog posts haven’t been at the tip top of my mind.

What has been at the tip top of my mind lately is how I’m going to Vegas with my friends, and how lately I utterly hate how I look in photos that I don’t get to take of myself.

Take this as an example:

I know this is a good picture. It was done by an amazing photographer, the lighting is good, and I actually put on some makeup. But all I see is weight I’ve gained from the transplant meds, the thinning patches of hair, and how I’m holding my breath from sucking it in. All through the pictures from this beautiful photoshoot, I just see a short stubby potato that happens to be in this beautifully shot image.

To be very clear, I’m not looking for anyone to jump in to my comments or DMs telling me I’m beautiful or any shit like that. I’ll probably just think you’re being creepy. So, don’t be creepy, K?

When I was going through the whole Kidney Failure, Dialysis, Transplant process there was a lot of information thrown at me. All these things I had to do now to make sure I stayed alive, things that I had to worry about in the future, things that I needed to be aware of medically so that I could take care of myself. There was not a whole lot of talking about once you’re “healthy” by their standards and you’re back in the real world trying to pick up where you left off.

I don’t talk much about the body image shit I struggle with after going through the whole shebang. There was a lot of fuss made over the potential scars I was going to get (and a few WTF comments about how a certain procedure appeared to be stitched up with extra care because I was still young). I have no shame about the scars; I pull my shirt up and show you the 6 inch bastard on my stomach if you ask. The things I struggle with, and the things I wish had been discussed a little more, are the things like losing your hair and the moonface you get.

See Also: My Kidney Failure Story

There is also the cognitive dissonance I have with being body positive for others but not myself, which just pisses me off about myself. If it’s fine for other people to do it, it should be fine for me too… but apparently the brain is still trying to work that one out for itself.

I could also write a whole novel about the bullshit that is “weight management” and the BMI… because according to those figures, I was “healthier” when I was at death’s door with Kidney Failure than I am now with functioning organs and not passing out in grocery stores. If that doesn’t mess with ones’ sense of self image, I don’t know what will.

In hindsight, I wish I had asked more questions about stuff like this. Not that it would have changed anything that I chose to take care of my health, but to maybe soften the blow of looking like a Jules Verne/Georges Méliès celestial body.

Me, on a good day
Credit: BFI/Le Voyage Dans la Lun 

There’s no real take away with this post, except to acknowledge what I think is a deeply buried secret among transplants. We are grateful to be alive and know that these are more than fair trades to still be here, but we’re also vain and live in a society where physical appearances still do matter so much. The big major trauma is celebrated but the little ugly things are still judged, even if it’s in our own head.