Love Your Body

Loving ourselves is all encompassing, both internally and externally. If 20 women were to stand side by side, each would have a different physique and characteristics, making them unique. Yet, we often strive to look like others versus embracing the attributes that make us special. We are our own worst critics. When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

As PKD patients, we may see different things than others see. Some of us have scars tracing our health journey. Others live with a “PKD belly” and may look as if they were pregnant because their kidneys or liver are so enlarged and polluted with cysts. Dialysis patients see a fistula, port or catheter. Transplant recipients see side effects from their medicine, such as weight gain or hair loss. Other patients may see weight gained or lost because of the trials they’ve endured.

Back scar
I have more than 50 inches of scars that outline what my body has battled and overcome. Prior to my bilateral nephrectomy, my surgeon said I looked 11 months pregnant and a nurse asked me, “When are you due?” When I was on dialysis, I had a catheter for 8 months. And I’ve seen the side effects from transplant meds. When we accept these characteristics as a part of us, they become less visible and more attractive. When I look in the mirror I don’t fixate on my scars – I have accepted them as a part of who I am.

Besides what we experience with PKD, it’s normal to still face the same body image thoughts as anyone else. Wishing we were thinner, curvier, taller, shorter, curly haired or straight haired, etc. I wonder why it is such a challenge to love ourselves just the way we are? I have a scar down my entire back and I’ll admit that when I see a flawless back, I admire it and wonder what it would feel like to not have a scar and wear a top that exposes the back. Silly, I know, but it does cross my mind.

quoteLet’s strive to not compare ourselves to those in magazines or on TV. Let’s remind ourselves of all we have fought through and continue to endure, and be kind to ourselves. If we don’t see the particular figure we desire, focus on how resilient our body is, because that’s what really matters. Most importantly, let’s concentrate on what we have versus what we don’t have. We tend to analyze our bodies and identify the flaws before the positive qualities. If there is something that you would like to improve, understand that it won’t happen overnight and celebrate small victories. We have the bodies of a warrior that fights through a lot on a daily basis, so we deserve to cut ourselves some slack. It is important for us to not only love ourselves internally, but also love our bodies, scars and all.

“She is a warrior of will,
A deity of defiance,
The battle did not break her it made her braver,
The wounds did not weaken her, they gave her wings,
Her scars did not suppress her, they gave her strength,
She embraced the journey she was given with the courage, the confidence and the capacity to conquer,
And in doing so, she has 
taught us all to dig a little deeper, love a little harder, try a little longer, and never ever surrender.”

– Written by Robin Krystantos for/about Valen

Next time you look in a mirror, I would love for you to share what you see.

This wraps up my series on love. In case you missed previous posts, February kicked off with Loving Life, then The Power of Love, and Love Yourself and concluded today with Loving Your Body.



  1. Jan

    Beautiful poem …..I love my scars….they represent victory

    • Valen Keefer

      Beautifully said and oh-so true!!!

  2. GioVannia

    That was wonderful, and honestly that’s the first time I ever heard anyone discuss it.
    Dr’s are very clinical and unsympathetic when it comes to women’s expressions about their looks. They look very puzzled, although I have only seen male Dr’s, maybe women are more compassionate.
    This is a tough one for me. After having a height and weight proportionate body on a fairly tall frame, I now struggle with this new odd shaped non symetrical body.
    I am in bad shape, but somehow looking good is all I have left.

    • Valen Keefer

      Thank you GioVannia! I appreciate you sharing your personal thoughts on this topic. As you said, we don’t hear this discussed very often on our PKD journey, however it is important for us to talk about.

  3. mary ziegler

    thank you for sharing your story, my sister and I have had transplants and feel blessed everyday. I understand how it is to live with PKD and have alot of siblings and family members who will walk on this journey as well, Just want to say thanks for sharing your strength, and helping us to remember that it is the gift of life that is the most important and not how everyone is going to judge us. I too have alot of scars, kinda like that man on Jaws, god bless and again thankyou

    • Valen Keefer

      You’re so welcome. Thank you for your sweet sentiments, Mary! Perfectly said, the gift of life is the most important thing for us to focus on. Whenever I have health hiccups or complications because of my transplant, my husband always says that it is the price to pay for being alive. We are so lucky for our second chance and gift of life. I hope you and your sister are doing wonderful. Cheers to many years of good health!

  4. Noelia

    Thank You Valen for writing about this very sensitive topic. Just yesterday I was looking for some tops at the store with my 13 year old daughter when I said “nothing really fits this deformed body” her loving response “don’t say that!, you are beautiful ” and I really just wanted to take what I said back! Its so hard for me to love my body with scars (c-sections, kidney surgery, liver resection, and PD catheter) and big PKD belly. I am always asked when are you due? My daughter’s comment reminded me that I am beautiful to her and that is super important but, also that I need to love my body as is so that she can also learn to love her body as is, which is very crucial at that age.

    • Valen Keefer

      Oh, Noelia, this brought tears to my eyes! Thank you so much for sharing this powerful story. It is hard to accept/deal with/manage how our body transforms because of PKD and health issues. I am so grateful that your daughter was there to remind you how beautiful you are and I wholeheartedly agree with her. I am proud of your strength to endure PKD, love yourself and your body and set a good example for your daughter to learn from. Can’t wait to see you tomorrow and give you a hug!

  5. Tracy Sandmann

    You took the words right out of my head. I’m sitting here looking pregnant, scarred, not yet on dialysis. Kidneys functioning at 10%. Feeling very sad and sick. I am also living with lupus and being priced out of my apt. with no where to go.

    • Valen Keefer

      Wow Tracy, I am so very sorry that you are enduring all of this. I hope you have a good nephrologist and that you are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. Also, hoping you have support from family and friends to help you on this roller coaster of a journey that us PKD patients experience. Hang in there! Hugs!

  6. Carol

    Awesome! How many challenges do we face and let them dictate who we are rather than who we really are? There will always be something, but what you have written about is Love. Love ourselves because we are made In Christ image, so unique because we are his. We all want to be accepted for who we are not based on our outward appearance that will always be changing over time. It is always the heart that matters

    • Valen Keefer

      Perfectly said, Carol. Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts for us all to learn from.

  7. Karin

    I truly think that physicians should be required to take a “Bedside Manners 101” course prior to graduation! I refused to go back to 2 different nephrologists due to their ill manners.

    The first one made it clear that my concern and unhappiness about the way my body was changing and looking when first diagnosed was all my fault. “If I hadn’t requested the labs and ultrasound to check out why my abdomen was enlarged (despite of exercising and good eating habits), I would not have found out I had PKD”!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The other one basically recommended, on my first visit as well, to “go on a 900 calories diet/day so that my abdomen would look smaller to improve my looks”!!!!!!!!! By the way, I am 5′ 9″ and weight about 155 lbs. (with my massive kidneys).

    Despite these horrible experiences that made me rush out of those offices in tears, I was able to find an amazing nephrologist that understands how important any patient’s concerns are to our well-being. When he asks me “how am I doing?”, he actually wants to know. He understands how important our mind is in helping us deal with our daily challenges.

    Every day I look in the mirror I see my c-section scar which is a reminder of the miracle of giving birth to our twins, a couple of other scars, some wrinkles, grey hairs here and there (reminding me it’s time to color), but most of all, I see the eyes of a fighter who refuses to give up.

    Thank you for a meaningful and important topic, Valen!

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Karin,

      Wow! Wow! Wow! I am so sorry you had to deal with two awful nephrologists, but grateful that they led you to your amazing doctor.
      I went to a back doctor once and he said to me, “Nobody ever died of pain.” I never went back to him again. Crazy, right?!
      Thank you for sharing! I love that you said that you see the eyes of a fighter who refuses to give up….so beautiful, so powerful and so true!

      • Karin

        I rest my case!!!! Anyone who makes such a remark hasn’t suffered severe pain in his/her entire life… the pain that weakens you to the point where you are about to faint.
        Big hugs:)


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