“Pink is pretty. Pink is bright. I made a decision to live and fight.” – Breast cancer survivor slogan

On the PINK groupevening of February 4, 2010, I stood at the head of a long table in a room at the Elmwood Mansion in York PA, about to share my journey to the P.I.N.K. (Power In Knowledge) group. Surrounding the table were breast cancer warriors. Some of the women were in remission, while others were “in the trenches” battling cancer. Clothing did not reveal those who were in the midst of breast reconstructive surgeries. Most of the women had hair, while a few did not. From my viewpoint, I would have never known these women were battling anything. They exuded strength and happiness that was quite commendable.

In 2005, four breast cancer survivors founded the extraordinary group known as P.I.N.K., which “seeks to create an environment in which each individual can find avenues for facing the extreme lifelong challenges with which they have been presented.” Their mission is to provide “Power Information Networking and Knowledge.” Their vision is to offer a network of information and support for those facing the diagnosis of breast cancer.

As I stood before the group of incredible woman, I felt out of place sharing my story and thought, “Why would they want to hear about my life and PKD, as I have never endured something as severe as cancer?” I had spoken to more than 80 groups prior to this evening and most of the audiences had a connection with PKD or organ donation. Despite my nervousness, I proceeded to share my triumph over adversity with polycystic kidney disease, my kidney transplant and other health hurdles. As I spoke, the women listened to my journey with warm hearts full of compassion. I could feel their understanding and love.

Denise 2When I completed my presentation, the first person to approach me was Denise DelGrosso Gilliland. She spoke to me with such kindness and support for all that I have endured. Denise radiates life, love and energy. That evening gifted me with a life-long treasured friend, Denise, who has brought such happiness into my life.

“Experience is a hard teacher. She gives you the test before the lessons.” – Vernon Sanders Law

DeniseDenise and that special night taught me a valuable lesson. No matter if life has handed you cancer or PKD, we all have a strong connection and can gain so much from each other. Our fears, strengths and weaknesses are relatable. We are all warriors. Including health and living the best life we can, we are all fighting for something and that something matters.

Breast Cancer AwarenessOctober is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! All my love is sent to every breast cancer warrior and their families. If you are interested in learning more about the P.I.N.K. group located in York, PA, please visit

What are you fighting for and what lessons have you learned while fighting PKD, cancer and/or any other hurdle in life?


  1. Denise Gilliland

    I am truly honored that you chose to write about our group of PINK Warriors! I will never forget that night hearing your story for the first time and thinking, “This is the most inspiring young woman I have ever met!” Everyone in that room felt the same way about you! That night was the beginning of a lifelong friendship, one that I treasure each and every day even though we have many miles between us! When I look at these pictures it warms my heart and makes me smile thinking of the amazing memories we have created and experiences we have shared together. Thank you for sharing your story with PINK, for spreading awareness about breast cancer for our special month of October, and connecting people with our organization. Who knows, maybe someone will join our group because of this post! I wouldn’t be surprised! Keep on doing what you’re doing – you are one amazing young lady! You are a treasure to us al!

    • Valen Keefer

      Dearest Denise,

      It was an honor to speak to the amazing PINK warriors. I never imagined that evening would gift me with a treasure like you! Although we live on opposite sides of the US, we have seen each other more than I imagined. Always living life to the fullest together…like the day we shared in Napa. Thanks to you and John, you have given Noah and I the opportunity to experience things we would not have on our own. Your love, kindness and support through my health struggles means the world to me. Finding friends like you is a rarity and please know I am oh-so grateful for you. Please give my love to the PINK warriors and Tuesdays with Mary warriors! I would love to hear that someone new would join your group. Thank you for brightening my days I look forward to our next adventure! I love you Treasure!


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