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Karen Phipson - Dealing with dialysis

Karen Phipson is a 58-year old businesswoman from Hartenbos. She has devoted most of her career to the AKTV (Afrikaanse Taal- en Kultuurvereniging) resort in Hartenbos. She has faced many struggles in her life, including past relationships and health challenges. Her inspiring mindset has helped to overcome these issues and focus on the brighter side of life, like her family and professional success. 

“I’m the head of conferences and the business MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and events) division. I was the marketing manager for the AKTV. But then, due to illness, they moved me here so I don’t have to be on the road anymore. I’ve been working for AKTV in Hartenbos for 20 years. 

“I was born and bred here, then I got married and I moved to Johannesburg. That’s where I started my marketing career. I moved to Cape Town and came back here 20 years ago. I moved back for my kids’ sake, I was a single parent by then, I raised them here. It’s a safe environment.

“I’ve got kidney failure. I’m on dialysis three times a week. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for four hours. I’ve had three kidneys already. My brother was the first donor, my husband the second one, the third my son. They were all compatible, but there are so many tests. It takes a year to do all the tests. Then, if there’s anything wrong with that kidney, if there’s blood in the urine, then they don’t do the transplant. It’s very sensitive. Everything must match completely.

“You can live with it, if you’re active like I’ve been. It was something to adapt to, but now I’m actually feeling comfortable with it. I was upset at first, thinking, ‘Why me? Why did it happen to me?’ But eventually, you realise there’s a reason behind everything. You have to just let go.

karen phipson garden route 3
karen phipson garden route 2

"I get there at 4.30, I’m on the machine at 5.00, then I get off at 9.00, have a bath and come to work. It’s like going to the gym for two hours."

“It was a challenge to keep going. You sometimes feel sorry for yourself –  don’t think that I don’t ever feel sorry for myself. Why do I feel ill today? Why can’t I do that? Why can’t I go on an overseas holiday? Everywhere you go there must be a dialysis centre. That is, unfortunately, the routine you cannot skip. Some days I’ve got good days, some days I haven’t. It all depends on how you feel after dialysis, but you get used to it. I get there at 4.30, I’m on the machine at 5.00, then I get off at 9.00, have a bath and come to work. It’s like going to the gym for two hours. I think of my dialysis like a gym session. 

“My whole heart lies in this business. Work keeps me active, I’m up and down all the time. It keeps my brain busy. I can’t sit and feel sorry for myself. I look after myself. I feel comfortable. I dress nicely. I am now at that age where I just relax in my free time. I go to the movies when I want to, I go away when I want to, I sleep when I want to, I do nothing when I want to. Over weekends me and my friends go out, we go to the beach, we walk the dogs. My kids are grown, so it’s only myself and my partner at the moment. “

“I got divorced 20 years ago. I raised my boys all by myself. They both studied, one is a wine farmer and the other is a cheesemaker. I never remarried, but I’ve got a life partner. I will never re-marry. You don’t make that mistake twice! But I’m happy. I was happy by myself and I’m happy with my partner. I’ve been a happy person my whole life.

“Kidney failure phase 5 is not a joke. But I never lose hope and I never look back. Everything that happened in my past, I just put behind me. I sometimes think about it but I never regret whatever I did wrong. I’m just glad that I’m still alive and can go forward. I can still do things that I want to do.”

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