Family at Heart

Nothing is coincidence. I believe we cross paths with people at just the right time in life and for the right reasons. A silver lining of having PKD are the amazing friendships that blossom from battling this disease. Sharing my journey has been the key that has allowed me to discover individuals I never knew existed, who have become my ‘PKD family.’

McCloskeysIn early May, I had the joy of visiting dear friends in Toronto, Canada, on my way to a speaking engagement in Montreal. I spent a couple of days with my biographer and his wife, Dennis and Kris McCloskey. You know you have a special friendship when you can go years without seeing one another, and pick up right where you left off. Dennis and I autographed 120 copies of my biography for my keynote speech in Montreal. I greatly appreciated their generosity of opening up their home and their continued love and support. I treasured our quality time together.

I also had the delight of visiting with Jeff Robertson, Executive Director of the PKD Foundation of Canada, and his family. I have been friends with the Robertsons for many years and enjoyed our time together. I met his lovely wife, Brandy, and went to their baby shower. I saw Jeff’s grandmother who is a 92-year-old PKD survivor and doing well with her original kidneys. Spent time with Jeff’s dear mother, Jan, who has had two liver transplants due to PKD and may need a kidney transplant in the near future. I am so thankful that neither Jeff nor his sister have PKD, which means this disease has ended in their family with his mother, Jan, as the final PKD warrior. I look to the McCloskey and Robertson families as my family at heart.

Jan       Jeff

When we connect with other PKD patients and families it is easier to share and discuss how we feel, and the issues that we endure. It is also comforting to know that we are not alone. I find it effortless to be myself around others who can relate. Jeff Robertson is like a brother to me. We traveled together to Montreal and his caring nature meant a lot. He kept encouraging me to drink lots of water and making sure that I was not over-extending myself. I returned home from Canada with an overwhelming amount of gratitude. Thanks to PKD, I have an amazing Canadian PKD family. There is always a silver lining.

Signing books
Thank you to all my supportive and loving friends whom I have met along my journey who have, in turn, become my ‘family.’ I am forever grateful to have you a part of my life.

What friends would you like to thank for being your family at heart?


  1. Maureen Gardner

    Hey Valen
    I have very fond memories of meeting Dennis and his wife and you at the PKD convention in Chicago almost 6 years ago now! And yes your book is still my favorite!!
    I also am so amazed and encouraged by all the connections that have come our way, Thanks for the great story and pics. always!
    Maureen Gardner

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Maureen,
      I can’t believe it has been that long already! Thank you SO much! I’m delighted that my book is still your favorite. I greatly appreciate your kind sentiments. I hope you are doing great! Hugs!

  2. Jan

    We had a wonderful visit with you as well and love when you come to visit us Hope fully there will be a reason for you to be back again soon :):):) We feel you are our family too and I wish we were much closer, so you and I could also do our PKD and OD awareness events together , we would make a dynamic duo I always mention you in my presentations, when I’m at the point of talking about living with PKD with positivity and explain what those initials mean to you I too have met the best of friends the last 35 years and feel blessed that PKD and OD brought them into my life. I feel my life has turned out exactly as it was meant to and I’m a much better , stronger person having gone on this journey with the amazing people that are on it with me. Lots of love

    • Valen Keefer

      Beautifully said Jan! We are indeed kindred spirits. Love you lots! xo

  3. Denice

    I’ve been searching the Internet trying to find out where I can get free testing to see if I have inherited PKD. I have a strong family history PKD. My mother,grandma,aunt and cousin all have or had it. Please if anyone can help me I’d greatly appreciate it. I live in Florida Thank you

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Denice,

      I reached out to the PKD Foundation to see if they could provide any insight in regards to your question. They said that the US Department of Health and Human Services have health centers that will care for patients that do not have health insurance however, they are not sure that they would offer screening for PKD. The website says that they provide:
      -checkups when you’re well
      -treatment when you’re sick
      -complete care when you’re pregnant
      -immunizations and checkups for your children
      -dental care and prescription drugs for your family
      -mental health and substance abuse care if you need it

      Here is the website, so you can search for a clinic that is near you:

      Please let me know if this helps, or if I can be of further assistance. Also, you can contact the PKD Foundation at if you have any more questions.

      Hope this helps. Good luck!


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