| Dialysis | Kidney disease | Patient stories | Transplant

Yours Truly: A Heartwarming Romance Inspired by Best-Selling Author Abby Jimenez's Kidney Disease Diagnosis

July 27, 2023, 10:17am EDT

Abby Jimenez author photo

Photo Credit: Ryan LaPlante

The material found in this book does not constitute professional medical advice; the readers are advised to seek medical professional advice if they have questions about kidney disease.

New York Times bestselling author of Part of Your World and Food Network champion Abby Jimenez is back with another smash hit–Yours Truly. In this riveting romance, Dr. Briana Ortiz's life is quickly changing. She gets a divorce, her brother is in kidney failure, and the promotion she wants might go to a new doctor, Dr. Jacob Maddox. Just when she's decided to hate Dr. Maddox, he donates a kidney to her brother and changes the course of their relationship forever.

What was the inspiration for this book? Abby's own kidney disease diagnosis. 

Abby Jimenez's kidney disease diagnosis

Abby Jimenez in hospital bed with mask on

In 2020, Abby noticed that her hair was thinning but chalked it up to anemia.

"I had no swelling or anything else wrong with me. Even with the hair thinning, I gaslighted myself. Was it really getting thin? I'm forty so maybe it's hormonal? It was an election year, so whose hair isn't falling out?" said Abby. "My periods were so bad, so I thought I was anemic. I started taking iron supplements and told myself I'd go see a doctor in a few months."

When the iron supplement didn't help, Abby went to her doctor.

"My albumin levels were very low and I went down a rabbit hole to figure out why the levels were low," Abby said. "I did the 24-hour urine tests and noticed that I had foam in my urine. It makes sense because my proteinuria was very high. I thought it was just bubbles. It never occurred to me that anything was wrong."

Abby learned she had chronic kidney disease, but a biopsy revealed her kidneys were not too damaged yet. Learn more about kidney disease testing.

"I was confused – I thought that kidney disease happened to old people. I was surprised to discover kidney disease can happen to anyone. It's so silent, you can be in late-stage kidney disease before you even realize that something is wrong," said Abby. "I learned my kidney disease was caused by Sjögren's Syndrome. It's usually secondary to another autoimmune disease like Lupus, but I have primary Sjögren's with no obvious symptoms. Very occasionally I'd get a swollen salivary gland but it would go away after a day or two. Nothing indicated that I have this autoimmune disease that was attacking my kidneys."

According to The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, Sjögren's Syndrome is a chronic disorder that occurs if the autoimmune system attacks glands that make moisture in the body. It can also damage the kidneys.

Are you at risk of kidney disease? Take this one-minute quiz to find out.

Taking back control

@authorabbyjimenez #ckd #kidneytransplant #livingdonor #yourstruly #booktok ♬ original sound - AuthorAbbyJimenez

Abby's diagnosis came as a complete shock. 

"I was forty years old, staring down being sick and having a chronic illness for the rest of my life. I didn't know how bad it was going to be and the waitlist for a kidney transplant is seven years! I'm very resilient by nature and usually rebound quickly but this was the first time I didn't," said Abby. "I have school-age kids and I wasn't ready to sit on the sidelines or for life to become more difficult."

So, how did Abby cope?

"I treated my mental health like it was a job. Every day I told myself to get up, shower, and walk outside, even when I didn't want to. I forced myself to go on many walks to try and escape that feeling. It was hard, and I was very scared, said Abby. "I tried to distract myself and not let myself go down rabbit holes. I focused on my health and controlled the things I could. I could control my diet, so I cooked healthy, low-sodium foods. I exercised and saw friends. I did the things I could control to try and help with the things I couldn't."

One of the things Abby could control was her writing.

"Writing books is cathartic and distracting for me. When I write my books, it’s about real-life issues. For example, in Part of Your World, I touch on narcissistic emotional abuse, physical, and domestic violence," said Abby. "It was natural to raise awareness about kidney disease and kidney donation, specifically living donation since I have a really big platform.”

Are you struggling with your kidney disease diagnosis? Join NKF Peers to talk with a trained mentor who understands what you are going through.

Channeling emotion into art

@authorabbyjimenez #stuntmanmike #booktour #yourstruly #booktok #tesstok ♬ original sound - AuthorAbbyJimenez

Abby knew she wanted to write a love story for Brianna, the protagonist's best friend in her bestselling novel Part of Your World. But, she didn’t know where to start until the kidney disease diagnosis.

"I didn't know what her conflict or the book would be about. I wanted to write the hero I needed. Jacob had to do something that made Brianna feel so indebted to him that she would agree to fake date him–like donating a kidney to her brother," Abby said. "Jacob deals with clinical and social anxiety. He is an introverted but loyal, gentle, easy soul that draws her out of a dark time after her divorce. She's also perfect for him. Brianna understands his anxiety and knows how to put Jacob at ease."

With this new project, Abby channeled her fear and created a work of art to entertain and educate her readers. 

"Many people don't realize that you can donate a kidney and have a completely normal, healthy life afterward. Kidney donation changes somebody else's life," Abby said. "I had one person email about getting tested to be a kidney donor after reading my book. Reading about Benny's condition and seeing it through the eyes of our main character was moving for people. Then you get to the author's note and realize that the author could have been in Benny's position. It puts a face to kidney disease and kidney transplantation."

Kidney doctors have also written to thank Abby for raising awareness about kidney disease, transplantation, and home hemodialysis. 

Ask your congressperson to help expand access to home hemodialysis.

"Nephrologists from all over the country have emailed me, thanking me for bringing awareness to kidney donation and advocating for home dialysis. It's not common for people of color to do home dialysis, but Brianna and Benny are Salvadorian," Abby said. I've gotten messages from nephrologists thanking me for the representation, from people in end-stage kidney failure who need kidney transplants and people who have donated a kidney. This book touched people in the kidney universe through the representation and education it provides.”

Finding medications that worked took some trial and error, but Abby is now on the mend. 

"After six months, the medications started to work, and I went into full remission and have been in remission ever since. We caught everything very early so my kidney numbers, like proteinuria, are all fine. I had some low back pain and was afraid the autoimmune disease was coming back, but all my anti-inflammatory markers are nonexistent," said Abby. "My autoimmune disease is quiet. It can resurge at any time but my doctors believe my outcomes and prognosis are good."

Now Abby is working hard on her next book, but she'll always cherish these characters and the difference she made by writing their story.

“It's touching to know this story makes a difference. I think people who read the book will consider becoming a living donor the next time they see someone share their need for a kidney," Abby said. "Yours Truly was the number one-selling paperback in the nation the week it came out, so the message has reached many people. I'm so grateful that I'm in a place where I can help."

Are you interested in learning more about living kidney donation? Take “Becoming a Living Donor”, our free, online course that teaches you everything you need to know.

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