Three Decades of Living and Learning


February 5th at 3:22am will mark three decades that these inquisitive big, brown eyes have explored the world. Time and distance are hard to grasp, but 30 years sure does seem like a long time.

I think back to when I was 18-years-old. I can picture that young, naïve girl wearing her baby blue Johns Hopkins hospital gown. She sat still in a dialysis chair, fighting for her life, fighting to see another day. No dreams or aspirations, only the hope to see tomorrow. Oh, my, how far that girl has come! That once feeble girl has blossomed into a strong, determined woman. I was not expected to see my 19th birthday, let alone my 30th. Each passing birthday is a privilege, because not everyone is afforded another year to live, to love, to learn.

Each new day is a gift of life, a gift to learn, a gift to give. In celebration of 30 years of living, I am inspired to reflect on all that I have learned as a PKD survivor. I thought it would be fun to share the first 30 lessons/thoughts that popped into my head when thinking of what all of my health hurdles have taught this fighter. In no particular order, here goes…

– Eyes provide immense strength and speak louder than words.
– We are our own best advocate, but it is great to have another sidekick to advocate for us.
– Unconditional love is a beautiful thing; thank you Mom and Dad.
– Thank you does not justify my appreciation for my kidney donor, so I shall do all I can to make her proud.
– It’s ok to accept help.
– I don’t have to get everything done in one day.
– Don’t underestimate what our bodies can endure.
– Positive thinking is the best medicine for physical and mental health.
– It’s ok to have off days; we are all human.
– Ask tons of questions and make sure you know what the doctor is doing and why.
– Don’t be afraid to get 2nd opinions.
– Get out of that hospital bed and walk, even if you don’t want to.
– Stop and smell the roses and do something for yourself every day, even if it is for a minute.
– Smile, laugh, be silly…it makes life a lot easier.
– Don’t stress about the small stuff and don’t get frustrated with those that do.
– Never go to bed angry.
– Don’t doubt that there are people out there that will love us completely for who we are and want to be with us in sickness and in health. Thank you, Noah.
– Listen to your body and know your limits.
– Stand tall and be proud of who you are.
– Scars rock! The scars from our past are the lifelines to our future.
– Medical check-ups and diligence is vital. Take your meds every day, do monthly blood work, go regularly to doctor appointments.
– As much as you don’t want to hear it, it could be worse…I was reminded of this as I would walk through Johns Hopkins hospital and see the suffering of others.
– Never lose hope.
– Embrace life.
– Everything is temporary.
– One can live a fulfilling life post-transplant and with an incurable disease, so never stop dreaming and follow those dreams.
– A routine, a sense of normalcy, keeping busy, keep moving, equals sanity for me.
– Turn your pain into something positive; it is the best therapy.
– Don’t settle for anything less than you desire.
– Don’t get too busy that you lose track of what is really important in life.


These thankful eyes have seen it all, from devastation to miracles and everything in between. Each snapshot has made me wiser, more thankful and now excited for the beautiful albums of life that will unfold over the many decades to come.



  1. Laura

    What a wonderful list. Happy Birthday coming up and hear’s to tons more. God Bless You and your courage, strenght, kindness, and beauty. Cheers

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Laura,
      Aww, thank you for this beautiful birthday wish full of love and support. I greatly appreciate it!!!

  2. Carl Pedersen

    Good job. Keep that positive attitude, it makes life easier. I am concluding that you received a transplant.(?) The one that made me think that is the one where you say to get out of the hospital bed, even if you don’t want to. I remember that vividly. Did they remove the infected ones? I was on dialysis for 5 years, and, well, I hated it. But to illustrate one of your points, I remember the very first day of dialysis back in 1995. I was sitting there, hooked up, feeling as sad as I have ever been in my life. My life was over. I could do nothing I liked, eat things I liked, travel, etc. I hated everything. After about 2 hours on the machine, the nurses walked by pushing a man who had both his legs amputated. Things could be worse has been my mantra ever since. I currently am on my 13th year with my new kidney, which was supposed to have a “shelf life of 3-5 years”, as I was told. Don’t forget your meds, best advice I could give. Thanks for sharing a positive outlook.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Carl,
      Thank you! Yes, I received a transplant on August 13, 2002! Yes, they took both of my kidneys out 8 months prior to my transplant. Wow, thank you so much for sharing that vividly powerful story! Congratulations on 13 years with your kidney. Gives great hope to all of us. Thank you very much for sharing and following my blog. Hope to hear from you again!

  3. Kathie

    Wise words. Happy Birthday Valen! You’re an incredible woman! All the best to you and many more happy and healthy years!

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Kathie,
      Thank you for the birthday wishes and words of encouragement. Here’s to many more happy and healthy years for all of us! 🙂

  4. Pam Cover

    Happy 30th Birthday Valen! Beautifully written heartfelt thoughts.
    Beyond proud of you, all ways, always. You are the wind beneath my wings.
    Love, mom

    • Valen Keefer

      My Dear, Sweet, Amazing, Loving, Best Mom in the ENTIRE UNIVERSE!
      Oh, how I treasure you more than anything! Just like that you can bring tears to my eyes. I wish I could give you a huge hug. I love you bunches and bunches…forever and ever…
      Did you ever know that you are my hero….

  5. Debbie Fagerland

    Valen, that was a beautiful list for me to read today. THANK YOU. Every now and then we need to be reminded of how lucky we all are. Today was one of those days for me. You are an insperation to many people. i always love reading the things you write. Beautiful, just beautiful!!! Happy Birthday. 🙂

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Debbie,
      Thank you for the birthday wishes and a special thanks for your support in my blog and for your sweet remarks. I’m greatly touched knowing that you always love reading my posts.

  6. Sharon

    Happy Birthday! I just got my Transplant date, March 1st, so fortunate that my husband is my donor. I feel very blessed!

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Sharon,
      Thank you for the birthday wishes, but more importantly, thank you for sharing your FABULOUS NEWS!!!! I am thrilled that you received your transplant date. SO excited for you and your husband rocks! 🙂 Please let us all know how you are doing post transplant. Good luck!!!!

  7. Wendy Crowder

    You are beautiful in all things! You have inspired me an gave me hope at my lowest. Know that what you do helps… Your Birthday will be just as amazing as you are!
    Hugs n Kisses

    • Valen Keefer

      Dearest Wendy,
      So touching…that means the world to me. Thank you for sharing! Sending big hugs your way!!!!

  8. Marnie

    Happy Birthday, you are a brave woman. My husband has PKD and is turning 31 the day after tomorrow. Both our sons have the same disease. We are learning to live with it and I am possitive I will live a long life with my three men….

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Marnie,
      Thank you very much for the birthday wishes! Your husband and I are very close in age. Please wish him a Happy Birthday for me! 🙂 Aww, I love your positive frame of mind…think it…believe it…and it will happen! Wishing the best for you and your three men!

  9. Pat

    Thanks for those wonderful and inspiring words.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Pat,
      You are very welcome! Thank you for following my blog! 🙂

  10. Stacy

    Happy 30th Valen,

    May the entrance into this new decade of life be marked with many dreams to come true, many goals to be met, and an abundance of health! Thank you for allowing me the privilege of being your nurse and for the great late night conversation. Cheers! Stacy

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Stacy,
      So wonderful to hear from you! Thank you for the sweet note in my hospital room and for this beautiful message and birthday wishes. Thank you for your support and for listening in my time of need. What a wonderful nurse you are for taking the time to listen and showing such compassion to your patient. Take good care!


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