Silver lining to my PKD

I love this time of year as we are surrounded with friends, family and fun festivities. Throughout the holidays, there is a special feeling of love and friendship in the air. Decorations, twinkling lights and loved ones fill our homes with beauty, warmth and positivity.

After spending many holidays sick in the hospital due to PKD, I have a heightened appreciation for good health and being close to loved ones this time of year. While PKD may have taken away some things in my life, I believe it has also given me amazing opportunities and introduced me to incredible individuals. Today I want to focus on one friendship of mine that reflects a positive of having PKD.

Chicago Convention 1A special friend, Sandee Walling, walked into my life and forever in my heart at the 2009 PKD National Convention in Chicago. My biographer Dennis McCloskey and I hosted a booth at the Convention for my biography, “My Favorite American.” Sandee purchased a signed copy of the book. Little did I know, meeting her would turn into a treasured, life-long friendship.

Sandee is a witty, fashionable, extraordinary 70-year-old woman whom I consider family. I have the utmost respect and admiration for how she courageously endures her multiple sclerosis (MS), while giving so much of her time, heart and energy enriching the lives of others through the many organizations and people she helps, including the PKD Foundation. Sandee’s best friend’s daughter, Danielle, has PKD. When Danielle’s mother Maggie passed from cancer, she asked Sandee to take over as Danielle’s mother. That connection is what led Sandee to volunteer for PKD and to become the Denver Chapter Coordinator for several years.

After the special day our kindred spirits met, Sandee read my biography, reached out to me and the rest is history. My husband and I visited her in her hometown of Denver on our cross-country trip during our move from Pennsylvania to California in 2010. We saw one another again at the 2010 PKD National Convention in San Diego, I had the honor of sharing my story at a PKD Foundation Chapter event Sandee coordinated in Denver, and I visited her when I spoke at the kick-off of the Denver Walk for PKD in 2012.

Our friendship continues to blossom and there is rarely a week that goes by that we do not connect via email. Her support, love and encouragement means so much to me. I believe our friendship is a testament to the positivity that can come from living with PKD. I’ve been fortunate to meet special people and families throughout my PKD journey, who have become my closest friends and have helped me learn and grow.

Be JollyAlthough life may seem really busy this month, the holidays are a wonderful time to slow down and express our appreciation to the ones we love. For instance, you could write a special note to a close friend, hug your loved ones extra tight and make sure to tell those you love just how much you love them. We all face challenges in life, but it is healthy for us to find the silver lining amongst the grey clouds. Friendships have been a silver lining to my PKD.

Wishing you a beautiful and healthy holiday season with the ones you love.

What has been a silver lining to your PKD?


  1. Noelia

    I am very grateful to have met some amazing people because of PKD, this year for instance i met an increadible group of people at Wellbound dialysis center, my nurses, social worker, and nutritionist 🙂 Happy holidays Valen! Enjoy this beautiful time of the year 🙂

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Noelia,
      So happy you are surrounded by an amazing team at Wellbound dialysis center. The people along our journey sure can make it a lot brighter! 🙂 Happy Holidays Noelia! I hope you and your family have a beautiful, happy and healthy holiday and New Year! Hugs!

  2. dominique

    this is a beautiful story i agree friends family are so important… thats the best gift anyone can ask for thats whats dear to me .. my family pets and friends and luckly i have a great team at dialysis who take good care of me and have respected my wishes to know that i do manage my own body thru the process.. meaning since i dont get liquids on i dont get any off leaving me feeling not too wiped out as i would otherwise.. now i can go with it all more than in previous months but still would like a healthy kidney in return. .. knowing how to take care of yourself the best way you can is a gift too to educate and learn … thanks for sharing this wonerful story Valen.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Dominique!
      Thank you for sharing. You do a great job taking care of yourself and are setting a wonderful example for others. I hope you receive a healthy kidney real soon! You are doing the best you can and should be proud of yourself. I hope you and your family have a beautiful holiday season!

  3. Maureen Gardner

    I would have to say meeting so many amazing strong people facing all the challenges of pkd,
    So many new friends. Being a walk coordinator. The reality that my daughter is not alone.
    Merry Christmas Valen and always love reading your stories!

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Maureen!
      Thank you for sharing your wonderful silver linings! 🙂 I really appreciate your support and am grateful to know that you love reading my blogs! Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  4. Morgan

    I would love to say that I met so many amazing people because of PKD but the truth is, I’ve had to learn the brutal lesson of who actually cares for me and who doesn’t instead.

    People don’t understand why I am sick all the time- they don’t even know what PKD is until I explain it to them. More often than not, I usually just get a pat on the back and something along the lines of “good thing you only need one kidney” or “my grandma had that and she died peacefully.”

    The silver lining for me has been confidence and strength. I never thought I could be strong enough to lose a kidney and keep going with life with a positive attitude. I never thought that my diet would change so dramatically but I would still have a deep love for food. I never thought that I could work a full day of work and not once show the amount of pain or discomfort I am in. I’m strong and able and nothing is going to hold me back.

    I wonder what I would have been like if I didn’t have PKD to teach me that?

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Morgan!
      Thank you very much for sharing! Your silver lining is awesome and admirable! I can definitely relate to you. Enduring PKD from the age of 10, it was hard to connect with people my age and I learned who really cared and who were my real friends. Also, that it is hard for people to really get what we go through. That is why it is nice to connect with PKD patients who can completely understand and appreciate what our days are like. I too question what I would be like if I did not have PKD. I like to think that I am the same person at my core regardless of my PKD. Meaning that the confidence and strength that you possess is who you are at your core and not just because of PKD. 🙂 If you are on Facebook, please feel free to friend me at Valen Cover Keefer. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and strength with all of us. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season! Hugs!

  5. Wendy

    My silver lining; I would say for me is that you really have a new meaning for life. It’s… more passionate and joyful.
    Not without bumps as we say in our house.
    I have have extended family because of PKD and I love them dearly. I have made awesome friends and became very knowledgeable about PKD. I love to help other people understand the disease.
    Through it all I had the please of meeting Valen.
    Wonderful young lady and a beautiful person.
    Merry Christmas!

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Wendy!
      I love your silver linings! Beautifully said and I completely agree! 🙂 Thank you so much for your sweet sentiments. I’m very grateful to have you as a friend and will never forget the special day we met at Johns Hopkins! Merry Christmas to you and your family! xo


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