The word "optimist" is written across P.O.S.'s fists when he puts them side-by-side. It's meant to symbolize a trait the rapper says he's always had, one that helped him cope with chronic kidney disease since he was diagnosed with it as a teenager. That same optimism also helped carry him through dialysis, challenges and a kidney transplant earlier this year.
"A lot of that optimism comes from knowing that I can't do anything about it," P.O.S. says in an interview with HipHopDX, speaking about his kidney issues. "I can't change the situation. There's some things you just gotta go through, gotta do it, gotta deal with it. There's nothing you can do about it. If I'm feeling like shit, I go to the doctor. The doctor says I've gotta do this, I've gotta do that. I get a second opinion, but like there's no sense in being depressed or sad or any of that stuff, really. You gotta handle it, you've gotta take care of your body, and you gotta go through it."
Despite this optimism, P.O.S. struggled with many aspects of his health debilitation. Between dialysis and kidney surgery, the Doomtree emcee was off from work for nearly two years. "It's brutal for a guy like me," P.O.S. says in retrospect. "I'm the kind of person that would much rather play 200 shows in a year, than not play more than 15."
This was particularly challenging when P.O.S.'s band, Marijuana Deathsquads, played what he calls their "first real serious big tour" with Polica, a run in the U.S. and overseas. P.O.S. was forced to miss both tours due to his waning health at the time.
"That was a bummer, but you know, aside from missing out on some cool shit like that, there's always good trade offs," he says, thinking about the positives during this challenging time. "I got to spend a lot more time home with my kids. Actually, I've spent more time home in this last year and a half, two years, than I have since 2004, when I first started touring. So there's always good trade-offs everywhere. Mostly, when I got upset or bummed out, it was pretty fleeting because there's other shit to think about. Again, you gotta do what you gotta do. I had to take care of my body."
P.O.S. Reveals Dialysis Challenges & Fan Support
In order to take care of his body, with a failing kidney that he says was just collecting "garbage," P.O.S. had to undergo dialysis treatment. There are two types of dialysis, hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Hemodialysis uses a machine and patients have to visit a special clinic for treatments several times a week. Peritoneal dialysis, which P.O.S. endured, uses a lining in a person's abdomen, the peritoneal membrane, to filter blood. As one might imagine, the process was grueling.
"I had a tube coming out of my belly that went into my abdomen and what I would do with that was, I would fill my abdomen," P.O.S. says, reflecting on the treatment. "I would fill my empty abdomen space with dialysis solution...and leave it in there for a few hours and then I would connect a bag up to the tube, dump all that solution with the new toxins in it, and then I'd fill it up again. So you put in clean solution, let it sit for a while, it pulls the toxins out of your blood somehow...and then you dump it out and start over again."
P.O.S. did this three or four times a day, every day, for a year and a half.
In the meantime, the Minnesota rapper had to raise money for his transplant in hopes of a new kidney and he went to his fans for support. When he was forced to cancel a tour due to health concerns, P.O.S. let fans know about the issues he was facing and fans responded with donations to a YouCaring initiative, raising $42,687, surpassing the $25,000 goal originally established by his label, Doomtree. "It was incredibly helpful," he says. "It paid for a lot of the medical problems I was having. It helped me cover rent in a pinch."
But it wasn't just the money that helped P.O.S. during those tough times. "The money is one thing," he says. "The money was spent before it got to me. I had bills I had to cover. But the stuff that stuck with me really was all the comments on that page of these people telling me they were with me and they'll wait around and catch me on the show next time. All the way up to the people who had transplants or their parents had transplants or anything like that and they were just trying to show me support like, 'Man it's gonna be okay.' It's almost like making me emotional talking about that right now...Somehow, through my music and through Doomtree, I've managed to connect with people to the point where they'd take money out of their pocket and give it to me for nothing. They're not getting a shirt in return. They're not getting a show in return. They're not getting a CD in return. They're just helping. That's moving."
Despite all of the help from fans, the financial burden brought on by his health complications continue. "Honestly, I'm still 60 grand in debt right now," P.O.S. says, before adding a sign of his optimist, "but I'm about to go conquer that."
P.O.S. Speaks On Kidney Donor Mark Potter
Beyond his quest for more money to help pay for medical expenses, P.O.S. was also in search of a new kidney, a journey that had several roadblocks. When he found out he needed a transplant, family members were checked for compatibility. There was no match. However, that changed when P.O.S.'s oldest son's mother was checked.
"She was a match, but we both thought it would be a bad idea to compromise both of our health," P.O.S. says. "Plus it was a little too small." His youngest son's mother also came up a match, but similar concerns kept them from going through with the transplant. After all of this, P.O.S. still had no donor.
As the rapper searched for help, a high school friend, Mark Potter, read about P.O.S.'s health issues in the media. Potter, who saw P.O.S. a couple of times a month at concerts around their hometown and during snowboarding trips they sometimes took together, found out he was a match thanks to a story in a local paper. Upon reading this, Potter sent a Twitter direct message to the rapper. "That's my blood type," Potter said in the DM. "Let me go get checked out. I'm down."
With that, P.O.S. was given a chance at a new kidney, something he'd been in search of and hoping for and struggling with. But despite this hardship and thanks to Potter, the transplant took place.
Now removed from surgery, P.O.S. continues to see how helpful Potter's been in his life. "Every doctor I’ve had is telling me that this kidney is amazing," P.O.S. says. "As long as I take my medicine when I’m supposed to take it and take care of myself, don’t eat shitty food and stay away from the stuff I’m supposed to stay away from, I’m gonna be good."
And when he thinks of Potter, gratitude appears in P.O.S.'s words.
"I owe that dude my life," he says.
How Illness Impacted P.O.S.'s Family & Friends
Potter wasn't the only around to help P.O.S. during such a tumultuous time. The emcee's mother also provided support despite being worried for her son's health.
"She was right by my side," he remembers. "She was there probably a little more than I wanted her to be there. Because she was a lot more worried than I was. Like I said, I'm the kind of person that just rolls with whatever's going on. I gotta be at the doctor's this day, I'm gonna be at the doctor's. Whatever I gotta do, I gotta go do it. But she was very much, 'Are you okay?' She's a mom.
"But she's like everybody close to me in my life," he adds. "She was really, really happy to see that I was able to deal with everything in such a reasonable way and be able to calm everybody else down because I'm not freaking out, there's no reason for anybody else around to freak out."
P.O.S.'s sons, Jake, around 14 at the time, and Lincoln, two-years-old at the time, were also impacted by their father's illness.
"[Jake's] at that age where he wants to be real tough, wants to be a man about it and wants to treat it like I'm treating it," P.O.S. says. "Again, we had our conversation when I was going in for my surgery and I was like, 'Hey, if you got serious things to do, if you got friends trying to take you out, you should do that. Don't come sit in thehospital. Nobody wants to be in a hospital. But if you want to come, you're welcome to come. If you don't want to come, don't feel like you have to.'"
Jake showed up with flowers for his father and coffee for his mom. "He made sure everyone was good and then he took off," P.O.S. adds. "It was good. He was good."
His youngest, Lincoln, named after the world's first stunt pilot, also shared a few words while P.O.S. was hospitalized. "He had just turned two and he came up to me and he was saying to his mom in the hospital, I could hear him over the anesthesia, saying, 'Daddy feels all better, right? Daddy feels a lot better?' His mom's like, 'Yeah, daddy feels way better.'"
All of this, his mother's care, Jake's flowers, Lincoln's wishes, all of it, was helpful to P.O.S. during such a difficult time. "It was good," he explains. "I love my family. I don't care about anything as much as I care about the people in my life, my family, my crew, my friends."
P.O.S. Remains Optimistic
P.O.S.'s family and friends were there for him when the rapper was in the hospital following the successful transplant and they got to see his optimism in its glory, even though he was still in that hospital bed.
"Pretty much as soon as I woke up from the surgery I felt mentally better," he says. "The way I've been putting it is, you don't know how much different you look you see yourself in the mirror every day. You know? But if you look at a picture of yourself from like three, four years ago, you can tell drastically how much different you look. And it was kinda the same thing with my health. I had been getting sicker and sicker and sicker and not even really realizing it until I woke up from the surgery. And pretty much immediately waking up from surgery, I felt amazing. I was still on pain drugs. I was still drowsy from having a serious surgery, but I could already tell that something was different and something was better. So pretty much as soon as I woke up from surgery, I felt way better. Mentally, I'm 100 percent right now, but my body still needs a few months before it will be at that level."
For now, P.O.S. says he's been instructed to "take it easy" and avoid lifting too many heavy things. Soon, however, he adds that he hopes to begin working on his cardio. Why?
"So I can whip up a show for an hour and a half," he says.
And while the recovery process may be a lengthy one, P.O.S. remains optimistic about recovery when he says "it won't be long."