Renewed Hope

path of renewed hopeHope re-energizes us, gives us something to look forward to, something to cling onto, something to believe in. When living with a chronic issue, there can be days when we feel there is no end in sight, no light at the end of the tunnel. Reminds me of the day I stood at the crossroads of a dirt path in Kansas City. The flat land resembled the ocean, as it appeared to never end. This is one of the most vivid memories of our cross-country move from PA to CA. I stood in the middle of a four-way intersection. No cars or people in sight. Just me, my husband Noah, and our VW station wagon. My hair was blowing in the wind; I tilted my head towards the sky, closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. When I opened my eyes, I smiled and was reminded that no matter what direction we take in life, there is one element that we have control over: our positivity and hope.


I have been battling PKD since I was 10 and scoliosis since the age of 12, when two Harrington rods were placed on either side of my spine from T3 to L2. Since February 2013, I have been recovering from a L4/L5 disc herniation. Since January 2014, I have been recuperating from a discectomy operation and a spinal fluid leak surgery. It has been trying, to say the least! I did two years of pool and gym physical therapy. As with everything in life, I thought I would be better and fully recovered by now. I have come to terms that just like PKD, my back issues will be chronic.

I recently felt that my hPilates 1ealing routine was missing something. My surgeon said that strengthening my core is the best thing I can do to alleviate pain and help regain strength. My doctor’s recommendation was Pilates. I have completed eight private one-on-one Pilates sessions and love it. I went into this next rehabilitation phase knowing not one component of Pilates. It has been fascinating to learn and I adore my instructor. My activity has been extremely limited the past two years and it has been fun to try something new on my path towards recovery.

Pilates 2

I had a moment at Pilates a couple of weeks ago when I felt a wave of emotion come over me. I went from completely fine and focused on the exercise I was doing, to a split-second away from crying tears of optimism. I was standing upright with two-pound weights in each hand. I took a deep breath through my nose and filled my lungs with air. I proceeded to engage my core muscles and lift my arms slightly towards the sky. My instructor was standing behind me and watching my posture. She had her hand placed on my lower back and expressed her excitement to feel my back muscles engage and my body transform into a better posture as my core tightened. My Pilates teacher, Brooke, is amazing. She has such a positive spirit and sincere desire to help me regain my strength. Brooke’s enthusiasm when I do well in class fuels my desire to do the best I can and my optimism that I am on the right course towards a better quality of life. The emotion I had at that very moment was hope. It felt so good to not be in a hospital, or lying flat on the living room floor in pain like I did for so many months. It was encouraging to have someone cheering me on and to be upright and working the muscles that have become so weak. I have accepted that I may not get back to the same condition as I was prior to my disk herniation, but I feel I have turned onto a path of renewed hope.

how does hope lift you


I once asked a bird, “How is it that you fly in this gravity of darkness?” She responded, “Love lifts me.” – Hafiz

How does hope lift you?





  1. Julia Adams

    THIS is SO awesome!! I’m so excited you have found the perfect instructor and form of exercise that gives you hope and is just what your body needs!! I LOVE pilates, too and based on your experience Elizabeth will be starting Pilates soon in San Diego to help with her post transplant strengthening. I’m hopeful it’s just what she needs as well! Thank you Valen for always striving to find the silver lining and the thing you CAN do to live life fully and well. Love you sunbeam!!

    • Valen Keefer

      Dearest Julia,
      Your thoughts, support and love always makes me smile! You have a way with words that speak right to my heart. I love that you, Elizabeth and I will be doing Pilates. I hope she loves it as much as we do. My life is richer and brighter with you in it. Love you! XO

  2. carmen

    I needed this article! Thanks for sharing Valen! I just received a new diagnosis, 2 weeks ago- mild pancreatitis. I lost my gallbladder (had it removed) 6 months ago and learned after recovering from that, my liver was starting to shut down. Receiving this new diagnosis has made me numb- “3 organs in 9 months.” I’ve lost hope for just a kidney transplant. I don’t know if I will be needing more than organ transplanted. I’m taking the necessary steps to see the specialists with each organ and trying my darnest to keep nutrients in me. So far this week, I have thrown up 4 times….
    Side note- you must have been in WESTERN Kansas. Kansas City is a very spread out city that straddles both Kansas and Missouri.:) I’d love for you to come back and visit! I’d really love to meet you in person!:) Blessings to you!

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Carmen,
      I am so sorry to hear of the additional health hurdles that you are enduring. I had my gallbladder removed in 2010 due to sepsis. I have also had several episodes of pancreatitis. I was fed by a picc line for 6 months when I was 18 due to pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is tough. The only thing that can resolve it is to not eat or drink anything, so that the pancreas can calm down. I commend you for taking it one organ at a time and seeing the specialists that you need to. I hope you are feeling better every day.

    • Valen Keefer

      PS…please never lose hope for a kidney. <3


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