My name is Michelle Leigh Watson, and I was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease at 33. My father died from PKD at the age of 47. His mother, two of his sisters, and three of my cousins have died from this disease. Two of my living siblings are also diagnosed. Some of my family had cadaver transplants that lasted five years each, while other family members never received a transplant and passed away on dialysis.

I want people to know that living kidney donation is one of the best ways to survive. Relying on cadaver lists and dialysis is excruciating and doesn’t work for most people. I also want people to know that cysts from PKD can spread to any organ. In my family, some of us have had cysts spread to the liver, lungs, ovaries, and intestines.

How PKD affects each person, even from the same family, is different and unpredictable. Every person’s experience is valid. You aren’t alone in the fight to keep going. Having this unusual disease with limited treatment options is very hard. Without awareness and research funding, progress can’t be made.