Keep Persevering , Honorable Mention, 20th Annual Essay Contest

by Audrey Cantwell

I am 16 years old, and in November of 2021, I was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure. It came out of nowhere, and there was no way we could have predicted it. It’s been a long journey, and we don’t know when I will get a transplant, but I’ve found some ways to cope with the situation. 

Everyone always tells me how brave I’m being and how strong I am, but just being strong isn’t enough. If someone reading this is going through something similar, I want to say you are allowed to be upset, you are allowed to cry but not wallow in it. Being upset is normal, but if you don’t take time to come to terms with your situation, you’ll get trapped in a loop and start feeling like it’s hopeless. So, cry when you need to, but don’t let it trap you in a loop. 

Another thing I’ve learned is that you can’t let what’s happening control your life. With your diet, it might seem like you have limited options for food, but as long as you are careful, you can eat a lot of things you love. Also don’t forget phosphorus binders! They make so many more foods available to you! If you don’t already know, TUMS can be used as phosphorus binders, and they probably taste better. And with bathing, if you need to cover your catheter, I recommend Shower Shield, it works very well for me. If you’re like me, you probably love swimming, but you’re not allowed to get the catheter wet. I have a few solutions. My dad got me an inflatable kiddie pool that I fill up and chill in. It’s very good for summer days, and it’s also easy to use. My family also has a house on a lake that we swim in, so to accommodate me, we got a float that keeps my upper half dry and my lower half submerged. It’s very convenient and allows me to hang out with my family. 

My family also has a “go” bag. We put all the essentials in it, so that when we get a call from the hospital, we can grab the bag and go. We also haven’t gone on our usual trip to Texas because we need to stay close to home. So instead of going to visit our relatives, they’ve been coming to us. Another thing to do is to make sure you are comfortable. The most important thing in this whole situation is to know what your needs are and let everyone else know what they are as well. 

Finally, have a support system. And I don’t just mean a therapist or your parents, I mean friends, teachers, and anyone who you consider to be helping you. You don’t have to be alone in this, and if those in your life truly care, they won’t hesitate to listen if you need a shoulder. Reach out to people, tell teachers what your limits are, and most of all, help them understand. Some of my teachers thought that since I was getting dialysis, I was fine. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. Health isn’t either. So, help them understand, and set boundaries. That’s one of the most important pieces of advice I can give. 

In my opinion, kidney patients are some of the strongest people out there, and they deserve a good life. But sometimes getting that life is at the end of a long path. And although it may seem like there’s no light at the end, if you keep walking, and keep persevering, the tunnel might not seem so long anymore. 


Audrey Cantwell is 16 years old and in the 11th grade. She lives in Virginia with her parents, younger sister, dog, cat, and goldfish. She plays the flute in the school band and enjoys drawing. In her spare time, she is a professional hoarder of shiny objects. Audrey was diagnosed with End Stage Renal Disease nearly one year ago when her symptoms first became noticeable. Soon after writing this essay, she became a transplant recipient. She hopes to study psychology in college so that she can help children like her.


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