Dating, Relationships, and Family Planning Letters of Hope: Episode 9

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In the previous episode, Valen Keefer shared her medicine regimen and discussed the realities, side effects, and responsibilities of living immunosuppressed. In this episode, Valen dives into the world of dating, relationships, and family planning as a transplant patient. Dating while being on the transplant waitlist can be emotionally uplifting and eye-opening at the same time. Do you both have the same vision for the future? Does this person have the fortitude to be a crucial care partner?

"When you're starting to date someone or you're married and find out that you need a transplant, the sooner you can have open conversations, the better. It connects you in a special way to be able to do this as a partnership. Being so open and vulnerable can seem like something scary to do, but it can lead to something beautiful." -Valen Keefer"

Valen Keefer | Kidney & Liver Transplant Recipient

There are currently over 106,000 people on the national transplant waiting list. Every nine minutes another person will be added to that list. One donor can save up to 8 lives and enhance 75 more. Learn more about being a donor here:

This docuseries is hosted by our patient advocate, Valen Keefer, the series describes the ups and downs, the challenges, and the hope, that someone might experience before, during, and after receiving a transplant. For those considering donation, you can access several interviews with living donors who talk about the process and the positive impact it’s had on their lives.

Read Transcript

When you're starting to date someone or you're married and get diagnosed and find out that you need a transplant, the sooner you can have open conversations, the better. It connects you in a special way to be able to do this as a partnership. Being so open and vulnerable can seem like something scary to do, but it can lead to something beautiful. And even if it doesn't at that very moment, you're giving yourself the opportunity to hopefully get to that point of being with somebody that you're supposed to be with.

The way that Valen and I met was through a mutual friend that kind of took us along to a place where her and I first laid eyes on each other.

He asked me, "Can I get you a drink?” and I said, "No, thanks. I had a kidney transplant!” yelling it over the music. He was like, "Okay" because how do you respond to that? And when he first called me, he's like, "Hey" you know, naturally, like, "what are you up to?” And I was like, "Oh, I'm in Washington, D.C. I'm going to speak to the National Congressional Kidney Caucus tomorrow."

She told me, "Yeah, I'm not your average girl.” So if I hadn't known that already, I found that out really quickly on.

At the time, I was several years post kidney transplant and I was thriving. I was so healthy. I was working full time. I really found my passion of being a patient advocate. It wasn't even like you looked at me differently. It wasn't as if I had anything or any health issues. It's just something I shared with you about my life. And there was no hesitation about any of it. Six months after being together, he took me out here to California and we planned and saved for two years and decided that we wanted to move cross-country.

What she didn't know is that before we left for our cross-country trip, I had asked her dad's permission to marry her, and in asking that, he looked me squarely in the eye, made sure that I knew that Valen was kind of at the healthiest point that he had ever seen her in her life, and that there might be other dark days that come and really just making sure that this was the commitment that I wanted to make and that I was sure and steadfast in my conviction to do it. And I was.

You get diagnosed with something, you instantly think, "How do I tell somebody that I'm dating?" or "How do I tell somebody that I'm married to that I'm going to need a transplant? And am I going to have kids? Am I going to have a family?" These are the real life thoughts that we have when we find out that something is going to impact our lives like transplantation.

And to have those conversations and be honest about what this whole journey might look like is really needed. It's just open, honest conversation. Because it's going to be difficult. It's going to make the journey that much more sweet, but that much more difficult. I think there is only one doctor in this entire journey that sat us down, looked us both square in the eye and said, "Is having a child important to you? Because if it's important to you, we'll figure it out and we'll make it happen.”

There are a lot of people that just really want to be mothers. They're very passionate about that, and that's a really hard thing to go through to think that you might not be one or that you can't or it won't work out. And navigating those emotions are so challenging. If this is something that you really want, I believe that there is a way. No matter what we're going through, I think we should still strive to seek the life that we really want to lead. And I believe with our determination, our health care team, the support from the community, I think a lot is possible.

I think the nice thing with being upfront with somebody is that you can learn if they're good fit for you, if you're honest and you share what you're going through or what you're going to go through in the future, and you can see that it's just too much for them, then you know that that's not the right fit for you, and that's okay. As hard as that may be, you want to find that right person, you deserve that person, and that there are the right fit and people out there to care for you and share this journey with you.

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Valen Keefer
Multi-organ Transplant Recipient
Patient Advocate
Thermo Fisher Scientific

July 24, 2022

Series: Letters of Hope (video series)