Lily Mathews, UofL junior.
Lily Mathews, a UofL junior, has been battling polycystic kidney disease since she was 14.

When Lily Mathews was 14 years old, she was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, PKD is an inherited disorder in which clusters of cysts develop primarily within the kidneys, causing them to lose function over time.

Mathews personally has experienced more than 20 kidney stones, four surgeries, countless tests and what she calls unbearable pain. At the moment, she has three to five cysts on each of her kidneys.

“As I get older, my kidneys will progressively get more cysts, causing them to shut down and resulting in kidney transplants or dialysis treatments,” she explained.

There is no cure.

Still, Mathews continues on while balancing a full schedule and maintaining a positive attitude.

The Louisville native is currently a junior at UofL majoring in Sport Administration and minoring in Communications. She also works full-time at The Clubhouse Apartments.

“If you know me, you know I live life to the fullest and don’t regret anything,” she said.

However, because of her PKD, there are plenty of challenges. Last month, for example, she experienced six kidney stones at once.

“Living with this disease has made it hard for me to enjoy certain luxuries of life. There have been multiple classes where I have exceeded the maximum amount of allowed absences and have had to make sure I would be able to even pass the class,” she said.

Mathews stays motivated, however, behind a goal of graduating next year and starting a career. She’s not quite sure what that career will be yet, but she plans to explore different opportunities through internships next year.

She also plans to continue to raise awareness about PKD and recently participated in the Louisville Kidney Walk, where her goal was to raise $5,000. She exceeded that amount by about $200.

“I am hoping to raise money to help find a cure because over 12 million people are affected by this disease,” she said.

Mathews said she has a sufficient support system at UofL, which is part of the reason she chose to stay home for school.

“UofL felt like home. I felt like I would fit in here,” she said. “I always feel like people don’t just feel sympathy for me, but they understand me as a person.”

Alicia Kelso
Alicia Kelso is the director of social media and digital content. She joined UofL in 2015 as director of communications at the Brandeis School of Law. She also serves as a senior contributor at, writing about the restaurant industry, which she has covered since 2010. Her work has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Bloomberg, The Seattle Times, Good Morning America and Franchise Asia Magazine.