Day to Day

I am a visual person who likes to see results. I have an unwavering desire to heal and willingness to work hard to achieve that goal. I’d prefer to push myself than follow the ‘easy-does-it’ recovery timeline. I recently read about an athlete who had a similar back surgery as me and it said he was partaking in “an aggressive physical therapy routine and will hopefully be back in the game this summer.” I’d be the first to raise my hand to partake in an “aggressive” physical therapy regimen, but I have to realize not one of us are alike in our bodies or our recoveries.

This week marks one year that I have been a patient and active participant in pool physical therapy. After many months in the pool last year, my health was not improving. My abilities hit a plateau and then declined. The inevitable presented itself: I needed back surgery. I had a couple months hiatus from therapy during the time of my two back surgeries and have now been back in pool therapy for six weeks.

Linear Picture

Each week continues to reveal lessons and healing pains. My positive expectation of recovery being a linear ride upwards is not happening. I continue to be presented with curve balls or I find myself taking a step to the side when I wish I could be running forward. I am quickly learning that my entire body has been affected and weakened during this battle, that I need to recondition my whole body, and that this will not happen overnight. I continue to remind myself that my body went through 11 months of pain and de-conditioning. Then place two back surgeries and a blood infection on top of that! My determined or rock-solid brain still asks, “Why I am not better after six weeks of physical therapy?” My body has been through so much in the past 15 months that I have to accept that recovery will take a long time.

Kindness quote

In the dressing room after a therapy appointment last week, an older woman entered the room and said, “Well it looks like you are improving. How are you doing?” While in therapy you can’t help but take notice of those around you. I saw this lady in the pool for a long time, but this is the first time we talked. My response started with, ”Well, yes and no.” I proceeded to fill her in on some of my recent “health hiccups.” She told me that she has had rheumatoid arthritis since her 20’s and had many surgeries. She said she noticed that I am doing better this year than I was last fall and she was really happy to see this. I couldn’t thank her enough for reaching out and sharing her positive thoughts. You can’t put a value on her act of kindness. Suddenly I realized that hearing this from a stranger, who was looking at the big picture and knew nothing else about me, was just the medicine I needed. It was reassuring to know that she visually saw improvement. Then it got me thinking that there are certain things that I can do in the pool that I could not do last fall. I learned two valuable lessons that day: Kindness goes a long way. As Ellen DeGeneres says, “Be kind to one another.” Also, we don’t always see our own progress from day to day, but that does not mean we are not improving.


  1. Momma Keefer

    Sometimes it does take someone not close to see the gradual improvements. How wonderful she acknowledged YOU and expressed her observations. I understand how just a few words could have meant so much to you!

    Your sunshine is peeking through!

    • Valen Keefer

      Mom-Pam, Pam-Mom 🙂
      Thank you! You have a way with words and you always make me smile. I just love this… “Your sunshine is peeking through!” I can’t wait to give you a hug soon! xoxo

  2. Marsha Byers Etnier

    Another beautiful story from one beautiful lady, inside and out. Thank you Valen for all the encouragement you continue to put out here for all of us. I have a picture on my wall that reade…”Gentle Heart….there is no greater Wisdom than Kindness” Sounds like you believe the same thing! 🙂 Hang in there and keep up the good positive attitude. I think I’ve caught it from you…they say a “posiitive attitue” is very contagious!! 🙂 I love you and send you a lots of love, prayers, blessingss and hugs!! xoxoxo <3

    • Valen Keefer

      Aw, I love that quote and I sure do believe the same thing! 🙂 I’m so thankful that you can feel my positive energy – keep passing it on! 🙂 Grateful for your support and words of encouragement. Sending love to you! xo

  3. Karen Fitzgerald

    Hi Valen,

    I’ve told myself on more than one occasion that I’m doing better than I think I am. I feel that by living in the present moment, it is easier for me to appreciate the kindness of strangers, and to forgive more easily some of the difficulties that have come about. I am learning to forgive myself as well for not always living up to my ideals, for being human. Given our circumstances, it seems like we’re doing the best we can, and it can only get better. I guess some days will require us to make more lemonade! Remember what Ellen (Dori) said in Finding Nemo- “Just keep swimming”.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Karen,
      Very wise thoughts and what a wonderful outlook. So true and just love that quote from Finding Nemo. Thank you for sharing! Keep that grounded and positive outlook.


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