Understanding, what does that really mean? I actually looked it up just out of curiosity because everyone knows what it means to “understand” something or someone, right? Maybe not. Here is a definition from a dictionary: “the ability to understand something; comprehend”. Yup, that sounds right. However, when I looked at this my immediate thought was that there IS a difference between understanding and comprehending. In retrospect, when I was first diagnosed with kidney disease ( being at the hospital with a nephrologist who gave me the facts, after all, I was a RN and was capable of understanding), I took the new information in. Yes, I understood all about chronic kidney disease, I knew about the difficulties, the need for dialysis and/or transplantation, the need for monitoring, for special diets, fluid restrictions, etc. The big question was; did I comprehend it??? Thinking back, I would have to say no.

I am not sure to this day whether being a RN is a benefit or a burden. Knowing all the details, the pathophysiology, knowing about the need and complications with various treatments, etc is a two edged sword. As you can imagine, your cognition takes over your actual comprehension.  When I think about understanding vs comprehension, I think the understanding comes from the realm of pure cognition, the factual knowledge. Whereas, comprehension emanates from the heart and soul. I now understand and comprehend what it is to have chronic kidney disease, but that is only during this past week. You might ask why only now?? I was diagnosed in 1992.

I recently went to see a counsellor because of all the various emotions I was having regarding “living the life”: I was having difficulty trying to stay “normal”. My personality is one in which I am very driven and determined. Don’t tell me I can’t do something, because I will prove you wrong, not matter what the cost to me. Whenever I set out to learn something, I like to know it. The same with my new diagnosis back in 1992, a year after the birth of my beautiful daughter and only a few years after graduating from nursing. That is when my battle with staying normal and living the life began. I was 27 years old.

I was juggling new roles with motherhood and being a step mom to two boys, a fairly new RN while settling into a new community not so long ago. But one day I broke: I was feeling not so perky. Being a RN I was able to review my lab work with my Dr, not as a patient, but as a RN: analytically. I said to my Dr, I don’t understand why I feel so crappy: my potassium if normal, my creatinine was stable with a decent estimated glomerular filtration rate, my hemoglobin was decent???? He looked me in the eye (now this a Dr that I also worked with) and said to me: Loretta, you have chronic kidney disease, you can’t expect to control each thing and feel fine, it is more that that. Oh my God, the understanding and the comprehension just collided head on! This was the first time I cried.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

What I do know and appreciate about my journey is the understanding, the empathy, the appreciation and sensitivity I have gained through going through so many battles with my health, that it has made me a better nurse! I truly understand & comprehend what it is to live with a chronic disease. Be kind to each other.



  1. vcarr · February 28, 2016

    Wonderfully written Loretta. You hit the nail on the head. We can think and say ‘I know what you mean and understand what you are going through,.. even as a Nurse and the knowledge we have and experiences we share We cannot comprehend what it is that you yourself are actually experiencing.!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jazzaspirin · February 28, 2016

    wonderful blog. so many things i can relate to here. keep it up, let people know, help them understand and comprehend

    Liked by 1 person

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