The gift of giving


Valen and her brother, Brandon, as kids

Giving comes in all forms. This holiday season, I can’t help but reflect on how much my parents always gave to make Christmas so special. My parents went all out with decorating, presents and making sure it was a magical and memorable day. The best gift they ever gave me, though, and still do to this day, is love.

Sometimes we receive gifts or give ones that can’t be wrapped, but their impact is immense and forever lasting, like my kidney transplant. I’ve never seen the kidney that my donor Sally gave me, but I feel and see its influence every single day.


Valen and her kidney donor, Sally

My husband’s and my parent’s love and Sally’s gift of life inspire me to give. Not to buy things, wrap them up and physically hand them to people (although I do think that is fun) but to give my time and my story to hopefully have a positive impact on the lives of others.

Sometimes while driving on the highway or when I’m around large crowds, I think about how we are all headed to different places for varying reasons, and we are all on our own special paths. Each of us has different challenges, triumphs, hopes and dreams. I believe, however, that we are all searching for the same thing: contentment, in the form of love and happiness. We want to be loved and we want to be happy.

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Peace, love and joy are three words associated with the holidays. Giving my time and story to PKD and organ donation provides all three of these emotions for me. The fact that I have and continue to endure life-threatening struggles gives me inner peace because I am meant to endure them with strength and grace that might inspire others to overcome such hardships. The love that I have not only given but also received from the PKD community is overwhelming. We are a family and we are in this together. Please know that your support and belief in me fuels my passion to keep giving. So much joy has been brought into my life because of PKD. The biggest silver lining is the friendships I’ve made.


Valen and her friend, Julia Adams

I believe I survived all of my PKD struggles and my body continues to bounce back so that I can give to others. I’ll never stop giving and caring about people because that in turn fills me with peace, love and joy.

I will continue to give for the rest of my days – my story, my time, my smile and my support. I believe in the end that when we give, we receive far more than imagined.

Thank you for joining me on this PKD journey. I wish you peace, love and joy this holiday season and all year round.


“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart.”

What is a gift that you gave and/or received that has had an impact on your life? What does peace, love and joy mean to you?


  1. Victoria

    Hi Valen,

    I love reading your blog – keep it up! While I don’t have a PKD story, I do have a story related to donations of blood. When I was first diagnosed with leukemia – and when I eventually needed a bone marrow transplant – I used hundreds of blood components including red blood cells, platelets and plasma. What gifts those donors gave to me in that I have survived and thrived for so many years following that time. Most importantly, I got to see my daughters grow up which is the most precious gift anyone could have given me! Whether we volunteer to donate blood, join the marrow registry or organ registry, we give a priceless gift of hope. You share your hope through this blog and it’s appreciated! Thank you.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Vicki,
      Thank you very much for sharing your inspiring journey full of hope! I’m so grateful to all of those donors that saved your precious life. I’m thankful for your friendship. It warms my heart to know you love reading my blog and your support and encouragement means so much! I hope to see you soon. Enjoy your Christmas with your daughters and family! Merry Christmas!
      Big love and hugs!

  2. Karen

    Hi, I cannot thank you enough for sharing your story. I was diagnosed with PKD a week ago and have been trying to learn and understand what is happening to me without panicking. I love the quote so much and was wondering where you got it framed? Merry Christmas and God bless you!

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Karen,
      You are so welcome! It is an honor to share my story and I’m very grateful that you found my blog and introduced yourself. I am sorry that you were just diagnosed, but please know you are not alone and I’d be happy to help you however I can along your journey.
      The quote really spoke to me too. It is actually the front of a card a dear friend gave me and I framed it myself.
      If you are on Facebook, feel free to friend me at Valen Cover Keefer.
      Merry Christmas! Wishing you all the best and please know I’m here if you need a friend or any help as you navigate just being diagnosed with PKD.

    • Valen Keefer

      Thank you so much, Maureen! I appreciate your continued support. Merry Christmas!!! xo

  3. Wendy Hillenmayer

    That was beautiful! I love reading everything you post. Merry Christmas to you, your husband, and your parents. And, I have to say, every time I see a picture of you I see your Aunt Donna. You have her beautiful smile!

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Wendy,
      Thank you! I had no idea that you read my blog. I appreciate your support. Your comment about Aunt Donna made me smile, thank you for sharing that, it means a lot. Merry Christmas!

  4. Karin

    Dejar Valen,

    What beautiful pictures! Perfect to match your giving spirt and warm words!

    Thinking about gifting… Having had the opportunity to participate for 2 years in a PKD medical trial was a gift to me. It gave me the hope to, perhaps, find a cure or treatment through the effort, challenges, and sacrifices from each participant and the entire research team.

    The year 3 trial ended due to lack of funding. It abruptly ended. It left me a bit lost. However, I plan on pushing forward. After all, this is the season of miracles,isn’t it?

    Merry Christmas, Valen! And, congratulations on your new home!

    P.S. Email me when you can.

    • Valen Keefer

      Dear Karin,

      Great to hear from you! As always, I appreciate your support and sweet sentiments!

      I imagine being a part of a trial has to be really rewarding and full of many emotions. Thank you for participating in trials and playing an important role in helping to find a treatment and ultimately a cure for PKD! I’m so sorry that there was a lack of funding and your trial ended. Can your doctor help you participate in another one?

      I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! Our first Christmas in our first home was magical.

      Cheers to a healthy and wonderful 2017! Happy New Year! xoxo


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