Keep Smilin’ – Honorable Mention 15th Annual Essay Contest

By Mary Wu

positive attitude kidney disease chronic illness

Dear Positivity,

I have a confession to make to you Positivity: I want to be you.

People always said I was you, because I would flash a bright and infectious smile on my face even through the worst of times. No one really knows how hard it was and even is to be you, BUT it is not impossible.

Nothing is impossible.

Positivity, there were the rock bottom times. With the chronic kidney failure diagnosis when I was 3 years old. Sympathies to my parents who recalled all and could tell you tales of peritoneal dialysis, high fevers, needle pricks and IV poles, multiple surgical procedures to rewire my haywire bladder, hospital stays, medication maintenance, and language barriers because their mother countries were in Asia. They were caught completely off guard, sucked into the vortex of this kidney bean world that involved trying to balance all the functions that the kidney beans do, catheters, fistula, Prednisone, joint issues, kidney transplants and donation, steroids, weight gain, mood swings, and a never-ending journey after receiving my first kidney transplant. I remember when I was told that my first kidney transplant had failed, and waiting for a second kidney transplant, knowing and fully understanding that no one was a match to donate a second kidney transplant for me and someone had to die for me to live my life without dependency on a dialysis machine. The wait, followed by when I was suddenly and shockingly hit with a kidney rejection after receiving my second kidney transplant was when I hit my lowest. No one knows, understands, or can feel all your feelings, especially the fear that you may lose this gift of life that you waited and fought so hard for. All you want to do is honor the legacy of the hero who donated to you and live out your life. All you want to do is pay tribute to your donor family every single day. To this day and over 22 years and counting later since recovering from that kidney rejection and maintaining this second kidney transplant, I still feel trepidation that I will need another transplant.

I am sure you have a confession for me, Positivity: It is hard to be you. Yet, everyone wants to be you. Can I be you?

I asked this question and thought about the answer long and hard, and I finally came up with these two words: “Keep Smilin.’” ‘Keep smilin’” is not literally to ‘keep smilin’ with some fake and plastered on smile when you want to throw yourself a pity party and cry—because we are all allowed to our pity parties. ‘Keep smilin’ is the greatest and most positive decision I made and continue to make throughout over 30 years of my kidney journey, and it encompasses all the following:

  • Keep on going
  • Keep it moving
  • Keep the hope
  • Keep the faith
  • Keep learning
  • Keep growing
  • Keep informed
  • Keep advocating
  • Keep questioning
  • Keep on being my keeper
  • Keep on and on…

In this incredible journey, I ‘keep ‘smilin’.’

Guess what, Positivity? ‘Keep smilin’” are really you and me—turns out after all this time that I am you!

positive attitude kidney disease chronic illness - Coping with Arthritis - Mary Wu - health LibraryMary Wu is a two-time kidney transplant recipient and active advocate in the organ donation/transplant and kidney community.  She is also avid swimmer, writer, traveler, foodie, animal lover, and lover of life and living it to the fullest. To learn more about her, please go to “The Wu Way” at or her autobiography Confessions of a Kidney Transplant Recipient” available at Amazon.  


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