It is enlightening and quite powerful to learn things about yourself from the viewpoint and observations of others. Below is one of my favorite testimonials from my biography, “My Favorite American” by Dennis McCloskey. The published remarks were made by my friend, Sam Bashore, of Harrisburg, PA:
“Valen has an incredible ability to persevere through physical roadblocks in her life but I know she would much rather have spent a year in college than in the hospital! I see an incredibly strong young lady who refused to give up in her personal struggle. Her infectious smile covers a lot of her emotional scars. There was a time after her transplant when Valen was in the emergency room of the hospital with a high fever, which could be tantamount to a major illness for a person without a fully functioning immune system. I asked if she had called her parents and she said: ‘No, they must not know!’ She reminded me that her parents had been through enough with her PKD. For me it was a defining moment in her character: The child was making decisions for her parents! And that is where her inner strength comes from: her parents. Every quality you see in Valen exists within her parents.
“If you had never met Valen and talked to her without seeing her you would be hard pressed to determine if she was twenty-four or eighty-four. I say this because she has an above-average intellect mixed with a voice of directness developed from her traumatic experiences. She reminds one of a wise, older woman who can teach us many of life’s hard lessons, but then you realize you are talking to a young, and in many ways, innocent lady.
“I believe the reason she has affected so many people in her community is due to the way she has decided to live the rest of her life. I have watched her consume every little experience of life with passion and excitement! It’s as if she were blind her whole life, and now she can see!”
The first time I decided to handle my health challenges on my own was when my cysts started to bleed in college. I went to the school nurse to be examined. I called my nephrologist and kept my health issues from my parents. As things became worse, I went to Hershey Medical Center and did not tell my parents until after I had arrived and realized the prognosis was grim. To this day, I find myself handling things in the same manner. When the initial shock of a new health issue arises, I take action and do not reach out to my parents until I have answers and know what is wrong. I do not want to worry and stress them out until I have information to give them.
My desire is to be strong for my loved ones and handle things on my own. My intentions and heart are in the right place as I am trying to protect them. Being sick and dealing with health issues has been a big part of my life since the age of five. I am used to hospital visits and feel as though it is easier to go through it alone than put someone else through it with me. It is difficult for me to ask for help and even more difficult to accept the fact that I need it!
I have changed my tune a little since meeting Noah. He has taught me that instead of always being strong for my loved ones that we need to save some of that strength for ourselves. It is important to have an outlet or person to lean on; that it is healthy to be honest about our emotions and accept help. How it is ok to cry and find healthy ways to let those emotions out and then get your game face back on and start fighting again. Noah’s compassion, understanding and encouragement help me greatly with my health struggles. I have realized how nice it is to not always handle everything on my own. I am sure being a caregiver can feel helpless at times as they can’t physically fix us. However, emotional well-being is very important when dealing with chronic health issues and our caregivers can help us greatly with this. Our loved ones want to help us and I feel lucky to be surrounded by so much love.
I am a work-in-progress as I still find it a struggle to accept help and still have the urge to handle my health issues on my own, but Noah keeps me grounded and moving in the right direction. I know Noah and my parents hide some concern and I hide some pain, but I guess that is just true love.