Happy Birthday! You are 61! Wow! The first word that comes to mind is ‘hallelujah!’ With living cross-country from each other—from California to Pennsylvania—for seven years now, I am so grateful to be in Pennsylvania with you today to celebrate this monumental occasion. You are the oldest to live in our immediate family with PKD. You are breaking records and I am so proud of you and happy for you and our family. With the special bond that we share, I can’t fathom how hard it was for you to lose your mom when you were in your early 20s. She was 53 and tirelessly battled PKD until it unfortunately won. I regret that I didn’t get to meet the woman who created you. I sometimes imagine the three of us together. I know I would have loved her.
Although your overall PKD health is doing well and you haven’t had to undergo a transplant or dialysis yet, you have seen and endured so much of PKD from an emotional perspective. You lost many loved ones and watched them suffer from this disease. You gave birth to me knowing there was a 50 percent chance I would inherit this devastating disease that took all of your family members away from you. Then, you received the gut-wrenching news when I was 10 years old that I indeed inherited PKD. I was too young to grasp the significance of this, but I remember you crying on the car ride home from my diagnosis. I can’t comprehend what it must have been like to raise a sick daughter like myself.
Only you, Dad and I fully understand the depths of how awful those days were in the hospital. Even though I may seem frustrated that you get worried when I call at an unusual time or don’t immediately respond to your text messages, I get why you still can’t shake worrying about me. I know that all of what your sweet eyes and huge heart had to see and feel as a parent can’t be erased. I just wish you wouldn’t put so much stress on yourself. I hope the pain lessens with time and that many more good memories arise to one-by-one replace the hardships that you have had to deal with.
I sometimes feel that it is easier to be the patient than the caregiver. I say this because I’ve seen the look in your eyes when I’m sick and I can tell that you are going through just as much as me, if not more. I wish I could take some of the weight off your shoulders. I want you to know that whatever happens to me, it will be ok and that I’m grateful for the life that you have given me. Please know that I have never felt one ounce of bitterness or anger that you passed on PKD, but rather I’m so thankful that you brought me into this world. You have shown me love like no other. Now, as a 34-year-old woman, I am able to step back and appreciate what you have dealt with and all you have done as a PKD mom raising a child with PKD and multiple other health issues.
In honor of your birthday and Mother’s Day, I want to thank you for the extraordinary life you’ve given me. For always believing in me and doing everything you could to make me happy. For making my world feel normal through all of the health chaos. Like when you decorated my hospital room for Christmas and when you wheeled me out of my hospital room to the Hershey Medical Center parking lot and we sat in your car blaring Aerosmith music to escape the reality of what was going on. Our PKD journeys have been unique, challenging and emotional—but our love is precious, our bond is irreplaceable and our laughter, love of life and appreciation of the little things can never be taken from us.
To all moms who are sick or have raised a sick child and battle with the emotions of feeling helpless, please know that your sheer presence is all we need. What keeps us fighting is knowing that you are there in case anything goes wrong, to look into your eyes for strength and to hold your hand. Always knowing I was loved and that I had something to fight for helped keep me alive and that remains true today. Thank you, Mom, for giving all of this to me. Most importantly, thank you for loving me fiercely. Happy early Mother’s Day to all of the brave moms out there who are fighting the good fight with their children and loving them with all of their heart.
I love you bunches and bunches Mom. Happy 61st birthday!
Your grateful daughter Valen