Home sweet home


Valen and Noah closing their townhouse door for the last time.

“When one door closes, another opens.” This saying has felt very fitting for Noah and me recently. The door that closed was the townhouse that we rented for six-and-a-half years, and the one that opened was the beautiful door to our first home.

On Oct. 29, after moving all of our things out of our townhouse and making it squeaky clean, we reclined on the living room floor and reminisced about how wonderful it was living there and all of the beautiful memories that we will treasure. A lot happened there since we followed our dream of moving from Pennsylvania to California back in 2010, but it was exciting to know that we were moving on to a new adventure. Closing the door was more emotional than expected. I remember the sound of the last light switch Noah turned off; it sounded so loud in the empty space. We both put our hands on the door handle and shut it together with smiles on our faces and tears in our eyes. We were grateful for our time there and excited for what was to come.


Opening the door to our first purchased home came with a whole other set of emotions. We were so thrilled and still find it hard to believe that the beautiful home we now live in is ours. The day we got our keys and Noah carried me through the front entryway was incredible. Buying a home may not be as big a deal for some, but I was not expected to live past 19-years-of-age, so to be 33, alive, in love, and have our very own home exemplifies that the gift of life allows transplant recipients to experience monumental things. Thank you to my donor, Sally Robertson.

There is a lot of work involved with moving and settling into a new place. Along with all of the joy has come some frustration for me as a patient. I dealt with pain from my PKD kidneys until I had them removed at 18 and I’ve been dealing with chronic pain since 30 because of severe back issues. Those who deal with daily pain understand how taxing it can be, not only physically but also mentally.

All of our family lives on the east coast, so it has just been me and Noah through this whole process. My back surgeon said I shouldn’t lift more than five pounds, so Noah had to move pretty much everything. Also, on the weekend we were supposed to spend our first night in our new home, my health made a show of impeccable timing because I had sepsis and was in the hospital for a couple days. However, dear Noah, with the help of a friend, got the big things moved into our home and slept on a blow-up mattress in our townhouse until I was released so we could spend the first night together at home. He’s such a sweet man!


Valen and Noah’s new house.

I’m working on finding balance when it comes to asking for help and taking good care of myself. I want to be a good wife and help as much as I can, but when the pain is too bad or I’m physically unable to do something that I feel I should be able to do, it’s hard to accept. When you have the mental desire, creativity and drive to accomplish things, but your physical capability can’t live up to that, it is tough. I think this will always be a work in progress for me.

I am blessed beyond words to have a supportive husband. However, I think I will always wish that I could do more for him. He has taught me valuable lessons through all of this. If I set my mind on something, or have an idea, I usually like to accomplish it right away. Noah reminds me that “It can wait,” and “It doesn’t all have to be done in one day,” and “It is ok and necessary to relax; and taking care of your health is way more important than getting things done.”


A healthy woman in her early 30s usually works full time, does household chores, takes care of children, makes dinner, and accomplishes other tasks all in one day, effortlessly and with no pain. I wish I could say that I fall into that category, but I don’t anymore.

I’m working on coming to peace with that and continuing to do something I find extremely important: focusing on positives in life. Our new home has been an amazing positive for the past couple months. Our home has a sunroom and a lot of windows, filling the house with beautiful natural light, which is good for the soul and healing. It has a gigantic oak tree in the backyard that I love. We brought our sweet cat, Mister, with us, who was an outdoor cat at the townhouse and he loves being an indoor cat. I feel like this home is perfect for us to share our lives together and create precious memories in the future.


The oak tree in Valen and Noah’s backyard.

Yes, life is difficult when living with health issues, but I believe there is still beauty to find and experience. You need to be strong, proud of what you can accomplish and proud of yourself, even if it’s just taking a shower on some days. Let’s embrace the life we’ve been given, know when to ask for help, when to rest and recognize the importance of stepping back, and be grateful for what we have.

How do you find balance between asking for help and taking good care of yourself?


  1. Cathy trustdorf

    Congratulations on your new home! How exciting yes, and frustrating when you have so many things you have in mind to do, but your body is saying “nap time ” I’ve found that the morning is when I have the most energy— after lunch I just want to rest. I am still learning to be patient and not worry about the finish date on the things I want to do.
    Enjoy your home just as it is ….you are an amazing person who has been gifted despite, or because of , your many health problems. I love your blog!
    Happy Holidays to you & Noah

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Cathy!
      Thank you very much for your congratulations, sharing our similar frustrations and kind sentiments. I love our home so much and like you said am enjoying it just as it is 🙂 and realizing to pick at projects and not think I will get it/them done all in one day. The important thing is for us to enjoy our days and not be too hard on ourselves.
      Thank you for sharing that you love my blog, that means a lot and encourages me to keep writing. <3 Happy Holidays to you and your family!

  2. Liza Mason

    Your new home is beautiful! Thrilled for you! I loved this article, it brought perspective back to my life.

    You do have a full time job! You help and teach all of us and others how to deal with a malicious disease! Your dedication and effort to help us in such positive ways is a miracle. Valen, you are an Angel.

    Always sending Love and Light to you, Noah and your kitty cat!

    Liza Mason

    • Valen Keefer

      Dearest Liza,

      Thank you so very much! I am grateful for our home and this new chapter. I hope you know how much your support means to me. Your sweet sentiments of support and love brought tears to my eyes, especially saying that I do have a full time job. You said this article brought perspective back to your life, but it helped do the same for me, and I can’t thank you enough for that. In high school, I wanted to be a teacher. I didn’t expect to teach in this way, but I guess I am doing what I wanted to. This message was so heartwarming. Started with tears and ended with a smile with you including our sweet Mister. Thank you for your friendship and lifting me up on this difficult journey we are on together. Sending lots of love!

  3. Joan Deibler

    Congrats Valen & Noah on your first home! It is beautiful & the three of you will make so many good memories.

    We miss you back in PA but are so thrilled that you are following your dream.

    Wishing you only the best !

    Joan & Dave

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Joan,

      Wonderful to hear from you! Thank you for your congratulations! 🙂
      I miss all of you very much! You and your family will always hold a special place in my heart. I hope Dave is feeling well and you and everyone else are doing great. Hugs and lots of love!

  4. Dennis

    Congrats on your new house. Looks nice. Hope you continue to do well. Love to you and Noah.

    • Valen Keefer

      Thank you very much, Dennis! We are loving it! Hard to believe that August 2017 will be 15 years since my transplant. Feels like a lifetime ago. You were a big part of my journey back to health and will always appreciate all you did for me. Love to you! Hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season. Hugs!

  5. Karen Fitzgerald

    Hi Valen!

    How exciting to be in a new space! It is really special that you have a wonderful Oak in your yard. You must be kindred spirits, as you both share traits of strength, and endurance. I am sorry to know of your hospital incident. Three emergency room visits following my transplant in July have made me realize that in order to balance my life, I must rest as much as possible. This means that a lot of things I would like to do may or may not get done, but that is my new normal! ;-). Tomorrow I go for pre-testing before my surgery to remove my native kidneys. I have waited a long time to be well enough for this, and I am actually looking forward to it. Here’s to balance, and knowing when to listen to our bodies.

    Enjoy your beautiful home!



    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Karen!

      Thank you for your sweet sentiments about our oak tree. It is one of the things I will look to when needing strength. I’m sorry it took three hospital visits to learn about the importance of rest and balance. I’m still a work in progress when it comes to rest and balance. It’s tough when you have the desire to do so much, but your body is on a different page.

      So wonderful that you are well enough to have your native kidneys removed. I’m so happy mine are out and hope you’ll be saying the same too. Wishing you the best with this upcoming surgery and a smooth recovery. Please let me know how you are doing post-surgery.

      Thank you for your kind wishes in regards to our new home. I’m so thankful and loving it.

      Hope you have a beautiful holiday season!




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