Thankful for the Highs and Lows

This crazy ride we are on, known as life, is a bumpy one filled with highs and lows, ups and downs. The sooner we embrace the constant in our life, which is change, the easier this journey will be. Easier said than done. I had to remind myself of this last week.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving, Noah and I attended the 2012 Academy Awards Ambassador Appreciation event in Sacramento, CA hosted by Sierra Donor Services. It was a wonderful evening. Noah and I dressed “to the nines” and had a memorable night with kindred spirits. I was excited to introduce Noah to the amazing staff at Sierra Donor Services and for him to meet the many ambassadors and learn of their remarkable stories. The evening ended with a great surprise as I received the “2012 Outstanding Media Ambassador” award. This was in recognition of me being named by Donate Life as one of the “12 Most Inspiring Women” of their “20 Million in 2012” campaign and for all of the media events I did during April for Donate Life Month. I was so grateful for this recognition and the beautiful gift of life I have been given.

The following morning I awoke still on a high from the fun evening we shared. I started my day at work with an extra bounce in my step. Then in a few short seconds everything did a 180-degree turn! I had a petite seizure. I was walking to my desk when this “wave” came over me and I blanked out for a second. My body slowly swayed forward and back uncontrollably. I grabbed the side of the desk closest to me for fear that I might lose consciousness. I made my way back to my desk and sat down. I felt very foggy and unfocused. My thoughts were conflicted as I contemplated on whether I should call my neurologist or not. I knew if I called she would probably increase my meds and I didn’t want to deal with the side effects. I gave in, as I knew what I needed to do. I headed outside to call my doctor. I was placed on hold for a while and when the receptionist answered the phone, I knew what I wanted to say, but what came out of my mouth did not make sense. My words were all jumbled. I then knew I had made the right decision. My assumptions were correct as my doctor decided to increase my dosage of medication and also ordered for me to do a 24-hour EEG.

I was not myself the rest of day. Felt very unfocused and also discouraged by what had happened. I did not necessarily want to increase my meds and I’m not overly thrilled about having to do a 24-hour EEG. However, one constant with the lows in my life is that change seems to make everything clearer for me. It reassures me of how precious every healthy day is and how one day can change so much from the day before. When I got home that evening, I found myself hugging Noah extra tight.

After the difficult start to our Thanksgiving week, I was really looking forward to spending a long weekend with Noah. We started our Thanksgiving by enjoying the beauty that surrounds us. Noah went for a run on the trails by our house and I went for a hike.

As I started walking on the trail, I inhaled a huge, deep breath and instantly felt rejuvenated by the cool, crisp fall air. As I heard the leaves crunch below my feet, my mind was filled with everything that I am thankful for. The mild hiccup at the beginning of the week made me focus on all that I am fortunate to have. I have an amazingly supportive husband and parents, wonderful family and friends, great health thanks to my kidney donor and a priceless support system of doctors and friends that help me to live a successful and fulfilling life despite battling an incurable disease. I have a full-time job, roof over my head and live in a beautiful town, which is a vacation destination for many. The canopy of trees above me unfolded to the perfectly clear blue sky as I reflected on how thankful I am to be able to use my personal experiences to provide hope and inspiration to others. I felt powerful and strong as I hiked up and down the hills in the canyon and was reminded of how amazing our bodies are and how much they can overcome. When I reached the highest point of my hike, I stopped at the top of the hill to catch my breath. It was perfectly silent. I was alone in nature. I looked around the canyon and soaked in the beautiful fall colors. The sun was shining brilliantly above. As I raised my hand to block the sun, I looked upward and saw a single eagle flying above me. My eyes followed it as it soared freely through the sky. An overwhelming sense of peace came over me. I found myself smiling as my eyes continued to follow the eagle gliding above. I knew everything was going to be ok and that it was a beautiful day to be alive.

I hope all of you had a wonderful, healthy and Happy Thanksgiving and would love to hear what you were thankful for this Thanksgiving.

18 Comments

  1. Victoria

    Hi Valen,

    Sorry about the rough start but really envious of the eagle sighting! it’s true – each day brings what it will and our reaction to those issues is a testament to spirit and how we hope to live our lives. I understand it’s disappointing to up the meds but you will soar regardless. Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Victoria,
      Beautifully said and I couldn’t agree more! 🙂 Thank you for your positive encouragement! Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂

      Reply
  2. Arla Sullivan

    Thanks for sharing, you always make my day…..

    Reply
    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Arla,
      Aww, thank you so much! And you have just made my day! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Yvonne DiCarlo-Clemens

    Thank you Valen. Beautifully written.

    Reply
    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Yvonne,
      Thank you for your continued support and friendship! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Teresa Dixon

    What a beautifully strong woman yiu are…you are such an inspiration to me! Liver Tx. 11/23/09 and Kidney Tx 5/14/12.

    Reply
    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Teresa,
      Thank you SO much! You are an incredibly strong woman yourself, living positively with your liver and kidney transplant! 🙂

      Reply
  5. Amy

    Hi Valen

    Thanks for always sharing your thoughts. The good and the bad. Everything you say always leaves a positive feeling with me. I am glad you had a nice thanksgiving. I am also very thankful this thanksgiving with the prospect of having a kidney transplant early next year. Like I have said before my father had the disease and he was blessed to get a kidney from his twin brother. My sister is a five out of gene match and finishing all testing and I should be just as blessed to get a kidney from a sibling. Our father is no longer with us but I know he is looking down on us and smiling. The feeling I have is overwhelming!!! I know I still have a long road ahead but I am having all positive thoughts. Keep. Your posting and bringing smiles to our faces!!

    Reply
    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Amy,
      Through the good and the bad I try and find the positive and it makes me happy to hear that my blogs leave you with a positive feeling! 🙂 That is so wonderful to receive a transplant from a sibling. I am very excited for you! I think the same of my grandmother that I never met and my aunt who both passed from PKD. I know they are looking down on us, smiling and very proud! Your positive thoughts will keep you strong and a fighter. Never lose hope! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Vicki

    I know the feeling of being extra thankful this year. Two weeks before Thanksgiving I was hospitalized with pancreatitis along with several other ailments. To top it off my GFR took a huge dive (21). One day all seemed well the next we are talking a double nephrectomy, dialysis, and looking for kidney donors-WOW! All this really opened my eyes. Besides the kidneys I am doing much better now. I think I spend way more time hugging my children and husband. I have really stepped up this season with doing fun holiday things that the kids will always remember. I think I realize what is really important more than ever before! I love to read your stories and know how much can be accomplished even when struggling with health issues. I wish you the very best. Thank you so much for sharing! By the way I did find a new doctor in Utah and I really like him!

    Reply
    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Vicki,
      I am so sorry to hear you were battling pancreatitis. I had that for a long time and it is so painful! I am glad to hear that you are feeling better. Wonderful news that you found a new doctor in Utah that you like to help you through these challenging times. Things really become clearer during the low times and it is great to hear you are embracing life and making the most of healthy days by creating treasured memories. You rock! 🙂

      Reply
  7. awilda

    Thank you for sharing! I am having a down moment right now, and its wonderful to know the strength that we really do possess. Continued success to you always.

    Reply
    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Awilda,
      I have learned to never underestimate the power of positive thinking and what our bodies can overcome. I hope you are having a better day today. Big hugs from your PKD family and friends!

      Reply
  8. Jody Balaun

    Valen,

    I’m thankful for people like you who inspire people like me to take a deep breath & hug our families & friends tighter each day.

    You are a marvel….thank you for sharing & know we’re here for you.

    Love from your ‘Colorado’ family….

    Jody

    Reply
    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Jody,
      Thank you so much! We have a priceless family photo to prove we are family! 😉 What an amazing weekend that was in which I will always treasure. I look forward to when I can give you a big hug…hopefully soon! 🙂

      Reply
  9. Amy Tippins

    I so do not like hearing about this at all. You should look into a golden retriever or german shepherd. They are trained to help patients who have seizures…..puppies make everyone feel better!

    Reply
    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Amy,
      I appreciate your concern, but as you know, these things happen! 🙂 Ha! I do love dogs, but right now we live in a place where we can’t have animals. I do look forward to having a home some day and a puppy!!! 🙂

      Reply

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