Anel Aguirre was born with only one kidney. At the time of her birth, doctors told her parents she would eventually need a kidney transplant. Exactly one month after she started dialysis, she received a new kidney at the age of twelve.

Her life completely changed when her donor gave her the gift of a second chance at life. Anel’s experience with a chronic illness inspired her to create her podcast, The Brave In Her. Through this platform, she has conversations with women about being brave.

Here is her story of courage and bravery:

Can you tell us what inspired your podcast?

When I was younger, I didn’t want to share my story. I didn’t want people to feel bad for me or see me differently. I didn’t want my experience to define me, and I wanted to be normal like everyone else. I knew I had to share my story somehow, but honestly, a podcast was not my first thought.

In 2017, I was very ill. Often, I felt as if no one could understand what I was going through. Living with kidney disease can be very lonely. Going through that experience made me realize that I needed to share my story. Since I started opening up about my experience, you have no idea how many people have told me that hearing my story gives them hope.

Having people reach out to me reassures me that sharing my experience is important, and it’s what I’m meant to do and that there was a reason I went through all of this. I want to be that person that I needed when I was going through a hard time.

How did you decide that a podcast was the perfect medium to share your story?

The thought of putting myself out there was scary. I started being a cohost for a kidney disease podcast, and from there, I started thinking about it more. Initially, I wanted to share stories about people’s experiences with chronic illnesses, but I decided I didn’t want to limit it to one topic because we all go through our struggles, and you never know who else is going through the same thing.

I created the name “The Brave in Her” first, which gave me the idea for the podcast. Through the podcast, I want to give women the opportunity to share their journeys of hope and bravery.

What was most challenging about starting the podcast?

Getting out of my own way! The first episode, which was my first solo episode, was so hard to record. I struggled to listen to my voice, and I was too critical. I recorded it like a million times, or at least it felt like it. I’m getting used to hearing my voice now, but I think that was the most challenging part. I wanted my launch date to be on my kidney transplant anniversary as a tribute to my donor, so I had to do it.

Can you tell me about your deeply profound first episode?

Initially, the letter to my donor was supposed to be a separate episode, but I ended up including it in the first episode. It was important for me to tell him, wherever he is, that what he did was not done in vain and that I’m taking advantage of the opportunity he gave me to continue living and pursue my goals and my dreams. 

What do you want people to know about your podcast?

The mission of the podcast is to inspire and empower women who have been through a difficult time. There is always someone out there who is going through the same thing, and it’s important to me to let other women know that they are not alone. Whether it’s stories about infertility, heartbreak, or working in a toxic environment, it’s a way to let others know they are not alone and know that others are going through similar situations.

What is the best advice you can give to someone thinking about starting a podcast? 

Do it! Just go for it. If starting a podcast is in your heart, just do it. Someone somewhere needs to hear what you have to say. 

What types of stories are you looking to share?

Anything and everything! I’m looking for different kinds of stories of bravery. For instance, this week, I interviewed a woman who worked in a toxic environment, and she had the courage to say, “I’ve had enough.” Many of us are experiencing a similar situation, but we don’t have the guts to get up and leave. I also interviewed one of my friends about heartbreak and being in a toxic relationship. She changed her mindset and is now in a healthy relationship. 

How have you been able to remain so brave throughout your hardships?

Honestly, I feel like I didn’t have a choice. 2020 has been a bad year for many, but it has been a good year for me. My 2020 was in 2017 and 2018 when I was very ill. Those were the worst years of my life; they were horrible. Mind you, I’ve always had kidney disease, and I’m used to being in and out of the doctor’s office.

I felt so alone and was questioning why this was happening to me. I had this feeling that there was a reason I was going through such a hard time and that I needed to go through that experience to help others. My faith in God has also helped me be brave when I feel like I can’t go on any longer. Trusting God and his purpose for my life is what has helped me through every single hardship.

Special thanks to Anel for sharing her story of bravery with us. You can support her mission by listening to her podcast The Brave In Her on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. 

Photography: Lupe Juarez Photography /