Failure is not an option.
That's the slogan for the Canadian Kidney Foundation, the organization that provides funding for research to help millions of Canadians affected by kidney failure and related disorders.
For Burnaby resident and BCIT marketing communications student Elyse Gawley, it's a mantra for her life.
Last December, the 22-year-old went to the doctor after experiencing high blood pressure and breathing problems.
She was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, which means she will need to go on dialysis or have an organ transplant within the next 10 years or so.
Her grandfather died of the disease after 20 years on dialysis, her younger cousin has also been diagnosed, and both her father and uncle have had transplants.
"My dad and my uncle both have three kidneys each; two that don't work, and one that keeps them alive," she said.
Despite this being a challenging year for Gawley - with a hospital stay in March and her uncle having his transplant operation just two months ago - she is determined to do her part to help others suffering from the disease.
In September, Gawley and her mother will walk 100 km over three days for the Trip to Triumph in Southern Alberta to raise money for the Canadian Kidney Foundation.
They must each raise a minimum of $2,200 to participate, and together, they plan to raise $4,700 for the cause.
To reach their goal, team Gawley will hold a fundraiser in early September at The Cellar nightclub on Granville St. in Vancouver. The event will include a free drink and a live show at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance, or $15 at the door.
Gawley said it means a lot to her whenever anyone makes a donation, both for herself and her family, as well as for everyone in the province on the transplant wait list.
"That's really important to me because being on dialysis is not a life," she said. "It keeps you alive, but it is your life. That's all you do."
Currently, there are more than 300 British Columbians waiting for a solid organ transplant.
Of those, about 72 per cent are waiting for a kidney, sometimes for up to 10 years.
Thousands of British Columbians are on kidney dialysis, and most will one day be on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, according to the B.C. Transplant Society.
Besides volunteering with the Kidney Foundation and the British Columbia Transplant Society, Gawley is also the director of MA Saves Lives, a student committee at BCIT that promotes organ donor awareness.
She wants to change the current statistic that suggests 85 per cent of British Columbians support organ donation, while only 17 per cent are registered to be donors.
"People just don't like talking about it," she said. "I guess people think it's a morbid talk to have with your family members, to let your mind go there."
One fact Gawley likes to point out is that the average British Columbian has a greater chance of needing a kidney at some point in his or her life than of becoming an eligible donor.
"So, if people think about it that way, they're probably much more likely to sign up," she said.
More than 2.5 million Canadians have, or are at risk of developing chronic kidney disease.
Though she cannot change her own diagnosis, Gawley said having kidney disease has, at least, given her a passion and a purpose to focus her energy towards helping others.
"I don't know what my future will hold because I have it, but it's more just led me to wanting to speak out about it and bringing awareness to kidney disease and transplant donation. It's kind of inspired me, I guess you could say."
The Kidney March will take place Sept. 7 to 9, starting in Millarville, AB and finishing in Calgary.
For more information about the Kidney March, or to donate, visit www. kidneymarch.ca.