Moving Forward after Loss
- John Ivanowski was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, a kidney disease that occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin A (IgA) builds up in your kidneys. This results in local inflammation that, over time, can hamper your kidneys’ ability to filter waste from your blood, according to the Mayo Clinic.
- John needed a kidney donation to improve his quality of life, but he refused to let his daughter give him one of hers after losing his son to cancer nearly 16 years prior. Thankfully, she didn’t listen.
- John will be on anti-rejection medication for the rest of his life, but he no longer needs dialysis (a treatment that helps filter waste and excess fluid from the blood).
- Losing his son to cancer clearly shook John Ivanowski to his core, and that’s more than understandable. Everyone’s journey of grief looks different, but therapy and support groups can also be wonderful options to explore.
John was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy two years ago. IgA nephropathy, also called Berger’s disease, is a kidney disease that occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin A (IgA) builds up in your kidneys. This results in local inflammation that, over time, can hamper your kidneys’ ability to filter waste from your blood, according to the Mayo Clinic.Read More
The selfless 25-year-old nurse offered to be her father’s kidney donor, but he immediately said no.
“I told her, I’m not taking your kidney,'” John said. “I told her that flat out.”
John, in part, didn’t want to put his daughter’s health at risk, as he had already lost his son, Delayne’s brother, to neuroblastoma nearly 16 years ago, ABC News reported.
RELATED: Mother of Late Journalist Deborah James Says She’ll ‘Celebrate’ Her Daughter This Christmas — Even as She Grieves the Incredible Loss
Neuroblastoma is a type of cancer “that starts in certain very early forms of nerve cells, most often found in an embryo or fetus,” according to the American Cancer Society. It most often forms in and around the adrenal glands, which sit atop the kidneys and make hormones, but it can also form elsewhere in the abdomen, chest, neck or near the spine, according to the Mayo Clinic.
In fact, neuroblastoma is “by far the most common cancer in infants (younger than 1 year old)” with about 700 to 800 new cases each year in the United States.
“I thought, I lost my boy and if anything happened to Delayne, I don’t know what I would do,” John explained. “It was a big concern.”
A Life-Changing Kidney Donation
Delayne ultimately defied her father’s wishes knowing it could’ve been years before her dad found a donor if it wasn’t for her.
“I was like, ‘I’m going to do it. I don’t care how mad he is at me. I don’t care if he kicks me out of the house or hates me or doesn’t say a word to me for the rest of my life,'” she said. “At least he’ll be living a good life and not hooked up to a machine.”
“We spend a tremendous amount of energy and resources and effort to work on every person that comes forward as a living donor,” Dr. Jason Wellen, kidney and pancreas transplant surgical director at the Washington University & Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center, told ABC News. “To the point that we feel extremely comfortable knowing that if we approve for them donation, that they’ll have no higher risk for the rest of their life of renal failure or any other medical issues.”
UCLA Health backs that up, saying, “Studies do not indicate a significant long-term risk to the donor. ”
Delayne hid the months-long approval process from her father, and doctors at John’s hospital took special precautions to make sure he would not see his daughter prior to the operation. The father and daughter were in side-by-side operating rooms during the successful transplant surgery, and the two recovered just a short walk away from each other on the same floor.
@delayne_i watch my dad find out that I was his anonymous kidney donor after keeping it a secret for 8 months grab a tissue! ##fyp##kidneydonor ♬ original sound – Delayne
In a now-viral TikTok, you can watch Delayne reveal she was her father’s anonymous donor by walking into his room in a hospital gown the day after the surgery.
“I knew right away,” John said. “I was upset. I was just in shock. I looked at my wife and was like, ‘Are you kidding me?'”
John will be on anti-rejection medication for the rest of his life, but he no longer needs dialysis. And despite his initial shock, he’s now forever grateful for the priceless gift from his daughter.
“I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said. “I feel so much better.”
Now, Delayne hopes her story can raise much-needed awareness for organ donation.
“If anything, I’ve saved one life and hopefully I can, with awareness and other things, save other lives by encouraging people to become donors or to take that next step and go get the testing done to become a match,” Delayne said. “It hurts, but all the pain is worth it in the end, I think.”
Losing a Loved One to Cancer
Losing his son to cancer clearly shook John Ivanowski to his core. And that’s more than understandable.
Grief is an inevitable — and essential — part of the healing process after losing a loved one to cancer. And there’s definitely no one way to cope, but Doug Wendt shared his thoughts on grief in a previous interview with SurvivorNet after losing his wife Alice to ovarian cancer.
“I Don’t Want to Move On; I Do Want To Move Forward”: Doug Wendt On Being A Caregiver and Tragically Losing His Wife to Ovarian Cancer
“We’re never gonna move on, I don’t even think I want to move on, but I do want to move forward,” Wendt said. “That’s an important distinction, and I encourage anybody who goes through this journey as a caregiver and then has to face loss, to think very carefully about how to move forward.”
Everyone’s journey of grief looks different, but therapy and support groups can also be wonderful options to explore. It’s also important to keep in mind that time does not heal everything, but it certainly helps.
In an earlier interview with SurvivorNet, Camila Legaspi shared her own advice on grief after her mother died of breast cancer. For her, therapy made all the difference.
“Therapy Saved My Life”: After Losing A Loved One, Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
“Therapy saved my life,” Legaspi said. “I was dealing with some really intense anxiety and depression at that point. It just changed my life, because I was so drained by all the negativity that was going on. Going to a therapist helped me realize that there was still so much out there for me, that I still had my family, that I still had my siblings.”
Legaspi also wanted to remind people that even though it can be an incredibly difficult experience to process, things will get better.
“When you lose someone, it’s really, really, really hard,” Legaspi said. “I’m so happy that I talked to my therapist. Keep your chin up, and it’s going to be OK. No matter what happens, it’s going to be OK.”
Learn more about SurvivorNet's rigorous medical review process.