Celebrate life

Valen at sunset the night before her 15th transplant anniversary

A couple weeks ago, on the evening of August 12, my husband Noah and I were sitting in beach chairs along the shore of Lake Tahoe. We were watching the sun set behind the Sierra Mountains with the soothing sound of water splashing against the shore, the refreshing evening breeze and magical surroundings filling our hearts with joy. We enjoyed music playing from a nearby wedding reception. The excitement was building for the following day: my 15-year kidney transplant anniversary.

As we soaked in the beauty surrounding us, we reflected on life and how amazing it is. I enjoyed texting my donor, Sally, pictures of me and Noah and Lake Tahoe. Even though we are thousands of miles apart, it was fun to share the excitement with her. Noah and I stayed on the beach until it was pitch dark. Serendipitously, the Perseid Meteor Shower took place that night. I saw more shooting stars that special anniversary-eve than I have in my entire lifetime. We saw a huge shooting star that left behind a long line of star dust, like I’ve never witnessed before or knew was possible. I didn’t know shooting stars could look so magical! That evening sure set the tone for an extraordinary kidney transplant anniversary celebration.

Noah and Valen preparing to parasail

I was so thankful to open my eyes the following morning on August 13! I did it! My and Sally’s (kidney) bean did it! I lived to see the day of being 15 years post-transplant. Noah and I ate breakfast at Heaven’s Little Café, which seemed appropriate for the occasion. We then kicked off the monumental day on a very high note, by soaring with the birds above Lake Tahoe. We have only parasailed one other time for my 9-year transplant anniversary. When we hopped on the boat, I was so giddy and filled with sheer joy. I could hardly wait to fly in the sky. The captain’s assistant hooked us up to the sail and the harnesses and next thing we knew, the captain hit the gas and we started our flight above the lake.

Parasailing starts off exhilarating and then it becomes very peaceful. Once the rope is fully extended, it is so quiet and the views are breathtaking. Noah and I held hands and tried our best to soak it all in. On our ride back to the boat, we felt another jolt of exhilaration as we dipped into the cold water before landing on the back of the boat. It was so fun! I’m not sure if I could have smiled any bigger. My heart was exploding with gratefulness.

Valen and Meghan with her anniversary henna

After such a tremendous morning, we spent the afternoon enjoying the pristine lake before heading to Truckee to meet our friend, Meghan. I recently met Meghan at the Wanderlust Festival in Squaw Valley where she had a booth to do henna artwork. Shortly after meeting her, I learned that she had donated a kidney to her son when he needed a transplant as a baby. I loved the henna that she did at Wanderlust and was moved by our organ donation connection, so I wanted her to be a part of my 15-year celebration. Meghan adorned me with a stunning piece of henna featuring roses, a symbol for 15-year anniversaries. Her talent amazes me. She also brought her son, Joaquin, to meet me. I was very touched by this and it meant so much to connect with a young transplant recipient and discuss our transplant journeys.

Valen and Sally celebrating their 14th transplant anniversary last year

Our celebration of my second chance at life was full of adventure, love, beauty, reflection and meaningful connections with others. It was perfect, and it was all possible because of my donor, Sally. Everything I have done, everything I do and will do is because of the decision Sally made to give me her kidney. It is a true miracle that I am alive. My gift of life has taught me that every day deserves to be celebrated. I encourage you to celebrate life in all of its challenges and all of its glory. It is precious. It is a gift like no other. It is ours to make the best of. Let’s celebrate life today and every day!

How do you celebrate life and how have you celebrated your transplant anniversaries?



  1. Phyllis Pray Jasin;

    In lieu of spending fruitless time accusing Charlie, Mom and me of “stealing” from you, you might try reflecting on God who gave you a second chance of a normal life. 40K people are waiting for the gift God gave you. They are, however, spending 3 out of 7 days hooked up to machines at a phenomenal cost. You can think any way you wish about me, but the comments you make because of your insane jealousy about anyone who might be succeeding, are psychotic. You are coming up on 18 years of life without an attachment to anything but life. Thank God, not me, for your fortunes. Also, look at the souls suffering in Houston, etc. who have lost everything and 80% have no flood insurance. Even they are grateful to be alive. I have not taken from you in any way. The diamond was a gift to Mom and she gifted it to me, her only daughter. What did you want with it–pierced in your ear. You did not even show respect to Mom to attend her funeral or internment. I coverers most of that cost with your $700 help. That did not even cover the flight to VA. Stop dwelling on what you do not have and what you do. If anything happens to Diane, who I love dearly, you would be a lost soul. Count your blessings and get in touch with your faith. The latter does wonders. Your sister.

  2. Phyllis Pray Jasin;

    The above comments are to my brother who has treated me so disrespectfully even though I gave up my employment to donate a kidney successfully to him in 1999. I am widowed and 73 years of age.

  3. Joan Lafayette

    Seriously Phyllis? I don’t know the details but I can assure you your words and anger are not apart of a relationship with God.
    Find some joy in your life.

    • Valen Keefer

      Thank you for expressing your sentiments, Joan.

  4. Lana

    A bit disheartening reading Phyllis’s comment, she is obviously very hurt and still struggling. Those words need to go to her brother rather than on Valen’s amazing post.

    Congratulations Valen on your 15th tranplantiversary!! As i have said many times before, you are truly an amazing person! And a big Thank You to Sally for donating life so you can continue on your amazing journey to spread the word on PKD and Donating Life!

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Lana,
      Great to hear from you. I share the same thoughts on the comment and I appreciate you voicing your opinion on it.
      Thank you very much for your sweet anniversary wishes and for thanking my donor. She has afforded me the opportunity to be here and do my best to help others. Such a miracle! I hope you and your family are doing great. Thank you for your continued support. It means a whole bunch! xo

  5. Joan Lafayette

    P.S. Yes, I totally agree Phyllis comments do not belong on Valens page. I was so upset when I first wrote that I by passed the obvious “CONGRATULATIONS “. Valen you are such an inspiration and give strength to so many of us in fear. Keep on trucking!

    • Valen Keefer

      Thank you for this follow-up comment, Joan! I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on the comment on my blog and for your very beautiful and thoughtful sentiments of support and anniversary congratulations. They mean a lot! Hugs!


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