Give Yourself a Break


Nap-time - 1st paragraphIn preschool, we are given snacks and nap-time to refuel. In grade school, we have recess to burn off energy and help us focus. In high school, we are given breaks between class periods to talk, walk and clear our minds before the next class begins. With college comes semester breaks to rest and prepare for the next set of classes. In the corporate world, we earn vacation days and are allotted breaks throughout the day to clear our minds. There is a pattern in life that displays the vital need to take time for ourselves and let our body and mind rest and rejuvenate.


My parents have been visiting from Pennsylvania for the past week. It has been seven months since I last saw mom and dad. We are having a wonderful time and it has been a nice break from my normal routine. Spending time with them is like a vacation for me. It is rejuvenating and good for my soul. Our time together goes so swiftly. I find myself striving to soak in every moment and squeeze in as much as I can with them in the short amount of time we have together. I treasure our quality time and the simple pleasures of playing games and cooking dinner together. They leave tomorrow and before we know it, we will be talking on the phone and it will feel like it has been a long time since we have seen each other.

Family - playing games

With my husband, Noah, and I living in Northern California, my parents do not have the daily visual reminder of what my day-to-day life is like. Noah is here to see that I take my temperature and blood pressure every evening. To watch me swallow more than 20 pills throughout the day. How I have to use ice and heat on my back daily. That I am not at the same activity level that I was more than two years ago. When mom and dad visited in 2012, we took hikes in the canyon and long day trips. Unfortunately, my back condition means we can’t do that. They are aware of all of this, but I know it is hard for them to see this change, in person. It is hard on me for them to see this, too.

Dad - last photo

Juggling multiple health issues comes with a lot of work, patience and not feeling the best every day. At times I can be hard on myself. I believe this is a natural thing that can happen in life. I strive to be the best I can be in all aspects of my life. We have to accept we may not feel the best every day and are unable to accomplish everything that we had hoped to. There may be some days when we don’t have a handle on everything in life as much as we may like. This goes for anyone in life, whether facing health issues or not. My parents, Noah and I had a heart-to-heart about all that I endure physically and mentally in life. After our talk, dad gave me a big hug. We have this thing where we touch foreheads and say that we are “connecting.” Dad and I touched foreheads, and he told me, “You need to give yourself a break.” He meant it in the sense that I am too hard on myself at times. This was perfect advice, which I will hold close to my heart. Whether we are dealing with stress with our health or normal day-to-day life, let’s remember to take time for ourselves, let our body and mind rest and give ourselves a break. We deserve it!

How do you take breaks in your life to let your mind and body rest and rejuvenate?


  1. Donna Jo Davis

    You didn’t say if you’re on dialysis yet. I am and have been for eight years. Because of the effects of PKD, there are things I used to be able to do that I can’t anymore. Still, I enjoy life and try to focus on what I CAN do, rather than what I can’t. It’s swimming season here in Florida, so I’m enjoying that. Grandkids are coming for a visit next month. I’m making plans for that. They understand that their Nonna has some limitations, but we still have fun (and they love pushing me about in my wheelchair!).
    I had to give up my teaching job, but I’ve found other ways to use my skills. I have more time to read, which is wonderful!
    I used to be hard on myself on things like housework left undone, but I’ve decided to take a new approach. When my kids were at home, housework was left undone so I could focus on them and enjoy the time with them. Now, I feel the same way. Fatigue doesn’t always allow me to do the things I want to do AND do housework. So, I make the choice that makes me happiest. Usually that means forgetting housework and playing. Sometimes it means I choose to do some deep cleaning. PKD affects my body, but I will not let it affect my spirit.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Donna,

      I was diagnosed with PKD when I was 10. They removed both of my kidneys when I was 18 because my cysts would not stop bleeding. I was on dialysis for seven months and received a kidney transplant when I was 19. This August will be 13 years since my transplant.
      I greatly appreciate you sharing your insight and advice. The housework aspect spoke to me as I worry about that too much, when in the big picture of life that is the last thing I should worry about. Thank you for sharing your positive spirit with all of us. Hugs!

  2. Vickie Wass

    Valen, your Dad is so right. Always take time for you, whether it’s just curling up with a good book, or listening to your favorite music, but we all need time to “re-charge our batteries”. For me it’s a shopping trip with a childhood friend every year. We have lunch, we shop, we have a drink at Starbucks and talk about everything and anything. And sometimes just grabbing a new book and reading it until my eyelids get so heavy I can’t complete the next sentence. Every year on the anniversary of my breast cancer surgery, I have a glass of wine to celebrate my survival. Bottom line Valen, you have to take care of you by being a tad selfish once in a while and that’s OK. It’s how we survivors make it to another year.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Vickie,

      Thank you very much for sharing your kind sentiments, advice and what helps you on your warrior path. Big big hugs to beautiful you! xo

  3. Lana Stuhr

    You are such an advocate for PKD & donating life, I am so glad you remember to slow down a bit too! 🙂 You are such an inspiration to me and many others!
    I try to remember to relax & enjoy family gatherings, just everyone being together is such a joy. Sitting outside, listening to the birds, smelling the flowers, just grateful to be alive every day is a blessing! And talking with my donor is a good reminder how lucky I am to be alive for now and many years to come!

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Lana,

      I greatly appreciate your sweet words of support. Thank you for sharing what brings you joy. Wonderful that you too can soak in the simple pleasures of the outdoors. I find the quiet peace of nature so soothing. Awesome that you can talk to your donor. My donor is a friend of the family and speaking with her warms my heart like no other. Cheers to many more healthy years for our kidneys. Hugs!

  4. Max M. Zapata

    Valen You are an amazing person, and an encouragement to soooooo many! And your husband, wow, God Bless Him! Keep up the great work on everything you do!!!

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Max,

      Great to hear from you. Thank you very much for your kind words. They mean so much! I agree, Noah is amazing. Thank you for your encouragement. I’ll continue to live each day with positivity, passion and purpose in hopes to make my donor, my husband and parents proud. I hope you are doing well. Hugs!


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