“The Warrior” – 1st Place Winner, 17th Annual Essay Contest

By Mary Wu

You take me back
To a time and place
That I do not want to be
That I do not want to face
That is my worst enemy
Where I question me
Where I will stare
In the mirror
If the warrior
Is still there
To fight
For what is fair
For what is right

You take me back
To all my cracks
Fade to black
You know all about
My kryptonite
My shadows of doubts
Why is it always a fight?
Why is it never easy?
Making me feel small
Letting me fall
For me to
Prove to you
That I am tough enough
That I am good enough
For me to rise up
To defend and defy
To stay alive
As the survivor
As the warrior

I am wired
I am tired
I am the fire
I am the flame
Let’s play this game
You will know my name
You will no longer play me for the fool
You will know this to be true
Do not mistake
My kindness
For weakness
Do not think
My silence
Is acceptance
You can try to shake
You can try to break
You can try to take
My spirit
My soul
Does not shatter
I may be bruised
I may be battered
It is mind over matter
For I am the warrior
I pick my battles
To win the war


At the tiny tyke age of three years old and back in 1985 when kidney donation/transplantation was not as advanced as it is now, I was diagnosed with renal agenesis. Renal agenesis means that my kidneys never fully developed. I had one kidney shrinking and the other deformed. I was put on peritoneal dialysis immediately. No one in my family could donate a kidney to me, and so it was a scary reality that for me to live my life off of a dialysis machine, someone had to die. At age 5 and again at age 12 I received kidney transplants, both from deceased donors. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of both of my kidney donors and their loved ones.

For over 30 years, anything and everything related to “kidneys” has been ever-present in my life. In all those years, I have come to experience that dealing with a lifetime and lifelong chronic illness demands much from us day in and day out. We struggle with ongoing issues: control issues and a constant give and take; struggling to see the big picture when there are loads of little details to recall and execute (medications, doctor appointments, etc.); and, most of all, picking our battles.

I do not know about you, but I often feel that battles pick us. It always feels that it is a fight, and it is never easy or simple. Being a warrior means standing up rather than sitting down even when we are at our worst and most vulnerable. Yet, it also means not being scared to show our weaknesses, because, to be at our strongest, we have to embrace our weakness. Our worst and weakest points have made all of us even stronger.

Being a warrior is not being defined or controlled by what happens to us, but what we can make happen in the best of ways from the worst of ways and to ALWAYS look at the bigger picture and have hope—essentially, picking our battles from the battles that have picked us.

Every fight cannot be fought. Every battle cannot be won. We will lose. We will win. We learn as we lose, win, and go to live life to the fullest, for we do not know the gift of life until we are about to lose life.

I wrote this poem “Warrior” as reminder to all of us about the warrior within all of us that comes out brighter and fiercer when battles must be fought. We are all warriors. Kidney Warriors. Always wear your bean badge(s) proudly.

Listen to Mary reading her essay

“The Renal Support Network annual essay contest is an empowering and inspiring outlet for us to share our stories to unify and support each other on our ongoing kidney journey.   We are never alone.  There is always hope. 

I wrote this poem/essay as a reminder and reinforcement of the unstoppable and unbreakable warrior that is within all of us that comes shining through during our most challenging times.  We never know how strong we really are and the warrior within all of us to be released, until we are forced to be strong.”  –Mary Wu

As a two-time kidney transplant recipient with extensive personal and professional backgrounds in healthcare and social services, Mary H. Wu is a nationally-recognized advocate on behalf of the organ donation and transplantation community. She works individually and with various other organizations to increase education, awareness, and especially registration through public speaking, eclectic and published written articles, connections with political and celebrity figures, and mass and social media outreach. She was a Donate Life Float Rider at the 2012 Rose Bowl Parade. In her free time, Mary Wu enjoys swimming, writing, traveling, and anything that has to do with food and kitty cats and animal advocacy.  Please feel free to check out more about her book “Confessions of a Kidney Transplant Recipient” and her writings/work at “The Wu Way” at http://www.thewuway.com.

Web ID 5019