“Nothing Breaks Like A Heart…AKA, “[Don’t] Take Another Little Piece of My Heart Now Baby”

Waaaaaay back when I was born, my mother was told that I had a slight heart murmur that I would most likely grow out of. I did.

In college, too much stress + bad food choices + lack of sleep + tooooooo much caffeine = Cardiac Arrhythmia, which eventually resolved. Everything was juuuuuust fine….

Until it wasn’t.

In 2006, I became pregnant with my first child. As a first-time mom, my complaints of, “Hey, I really can’t breathe too well,” and “Um, Doc? I can’t get enough breath support to sing,” were written off as new-mom, “well, what do you expect? You have a human pressing on your diaphragm,” rhetoric and explained away (I’m just a woman, Mr. Doctor. What do I know?).

2 months before I was due, I started seeing double, having migraines, and throwing up. Basic science diagnosed me with severe preeclampsia, and do you know what the “cure” for preeclampsia is? Delivery. So, my daughter was delivered 6 weeks early, and I was “gonna be just fine, ma’am,” said Mr. Third-Generation-I-Know-Everything OB-GYN….

Until it wasn’t.

2 days after I delivered, I couldn’t breathe…coughing and choking on top of a C-section incision is no fun. My sister ran for help, my mother prayed in tongues at the top of her lungs, and the nurses (who were in the middle of changing shifts, as of course, I have fantastic timing) & doctors realized I was in severe congestive heart failure. Over 20 pounds of fluid were drained out of my heart and lungs in the next 24 hours, and I went in for the fight of-and-for my life….while also trying to be a new mom to a premature infant.

Peripartum cardiomyopathy with congestive heart failure and pulmonary hypertension became the noose of a diagnosis that hung around my neck for the next 6 years as I went from specialist-to-specialist, trying to find a cardiologist that would both “fix” me, and would work with me as I wanted to try to have another child.

Once the heart has been blown up in CHF (my left ventricle was three times the size of the rest of my heart. I like to call it, “Grinch Syndrome.”), it tends to sort of hang around like a balloon that’s been overstretched. It’s kinda gross, if you think about it. My heart was literally broken in every possible way….by my body, by grief, by everything.

Image result for grinch's small heart grew

So, I had a few years of echocardiograms, medications, etc., until I found a doctor at Missouri Baptist that ordered more tests and found that my heart issues, outside of blood pressure, had miraculously resolved. I didn’t have any of the long-term problems they expected me to have, and we went on to have Jericho with the help of infectious disease specialists, cardiologists, perinatologists, and a whoooooole lotta grace from God….but it wasn’t without consequences.

As expected, even with a strict regiment of really miserable medications, I went into heart failure towards the end of my pregnancy with Jericho, and was rewarded with a lengthy hospital stay. After delivery, and after promising to never try to have any other children, I have a continued medication regiment that I’ve stayed on, and will be on for the rest of my life. I have my son; I have ZERO regrets.

The meds work great! Most of them are the same ones I’ve been on since 2006, with very few side effects, and with positive results. My CHF numbers stay low (the key number is the ejection fraction for the left ventricle. I’ve been under 10% before. My current numbers are around 40-50%, which is almost normal). My weight has been a challenge (particularly in the post-thyroid world), but has stayed in the same general area since my first pregnancy (give or take 40#. I gain, I lose, I gain, etc.), and my blood pressure stays under control with medication…it’s all working, which is crucial.

SO, why am I telling this story? Why does it matter? It matters, because YOU matter. 1 in 3 women in America are dealing with some sort of heart disease–that’s more than all other cancers, combined: https://www.goredforwomen.org/en/about-heart-disease-in-women

Per the Go Red for Women campaign, “80 percent of cardiac and stroke events may be prevented with education and action.” That’s what we can do. That’s what I can do–I can share my story, and maybe help others to become aware of the resources, the signs and symptoms, and the protocols that can help them understand heart disease more clearly. Knowing is the first step of prevention, right?

Today, my heart is functioning pretty darn well. In fact, I really don’t think about it very often, which is awesome when you consider that at one point, it was ALL I thought about…I couldn’t go up the stairs in my own home without feeling like I was going to pass out! I don’t have any limitations from cardiac issues, and I don’t worry about it…but I AM very conscious of it, and of paying attention to it when something seems “off.” I had some episodes last year of almost passing out. I wanted to ignore them, but I know better, so I called my cardiologist. Turns out, my blood pressure medication needed a simple adjustment….it was nothing complicated, and a simple phone call, and listening to my body, made all of the difference.

Take care of your heart, people. It really is the engine that drives you…and we all know that if the engine is broken, you’re not going anywhere. Love your heart….Live Fierce…and Go Red for Women!!!

Annual Title IX Training, AKA, Where Bible College Failed

I work for a University. It’s not hard to figure out which one; I draw very little attention to where I work, because, DUH, public forum. I like where I work. It’s a very different world from where I grew up, and how I grew up; it’s a very different way of functioning from what I’m used to, and I’m very grateful that I have the opportunity to be here. It’s time for our Annual Title IX Training, and I have a few things to get out of my system…

I grew up in a small town (no stoplights!), and I graduated from a small, private school (in a class of 6 people, I was the valedictorian!). When I went to college, I went to my third- or fourth-string pick of a Bible college in Florissant, Missouri, not too far from where I’m currently employed.

I still don’t know why I wound up there. Honestly, it was down to the wire to make a college decision, and my choice of a school in Tennessee was firmly shot down, as was my choice of a school in Webster Groves, so here I was, in this tiny, little Bible college at 17, feeling out of place and completely on my own.

I grew up in a charismatic church, and was partially sold on my Bible college by a man who told me the school was “non-denominational.” This was, in fact, technically true…but not practically true. Sure, there wasn’t a governing body or a synod, but the Bible college was full of people from what’s called the Independent Christian Church, which I was unfamiliar with.  The basic theology was the same amongst 70-80% of my peers and professors, which was fine at first, but the longer I was there, the more it rankled me. Even as I went on to represent the school for over 3 years in various events and committees, the cracks in the foundation became wide-spread faults, and by the time my academic career ended with the school, I was in counseling as a devastated, spiritually-void trainwreck.

I was a shell of who I’d been just 4 years earlier.

As a freshman, I’d been excited to learn new things, and try out new clubs, meet new friends, and start a life outside of Franklin County. I sang, I taught Sunday School, I received decent grades, and even though I lost 1 scholarship my freshman year, I made up for it with 4 different scholarships over the next 3 years. I pushed myself harder than I should have; I got sick more often than I should have. I made terrible financial decisions, and I brought a lot–A LOT–of hard times upon myself…but not all them came by my own hand.

I loved (love) Jesus, and I wanted to serve Him. I wanted to reach out to people, to work with teenagers and junior-highers, and to eventually parlay that into a writing career. I didn’t really have a career trajectory, but I knew I wanted to work in the public speaking circuit. More than anything I knew I wanted to be a wife and a mother, which really played to the whole, “get your MRS. Degree” stereotype that every woman heard as she went through Bible college. None of us, of course, could ever hope to make it in ministry without a husband, didn’t you know that?

So, I got a boyfriend.

That was a mistake.

Between the emotional intensity of being 18-19, the lack of maturity, and the understanding that as a woman, I was automatically an inferior being, I was not prepared for the level of temptation that came with autonomous free time and a boyfriend at that age. I made some bad decisions. When I tried to rectify those decisions, my right to decide was taken away from me, and after that point, I knew God didn’t want me anymore.

I didn’t want me, either.

Wouldn’t you think that in a Bible college, a woman would have solace in knowing there would be someone she could identify with? Someone she could talk to, someone she could pray with? Doesn’t God have forgiveness and healing for all of us, not just for men? Nope.

I had no one, and I was nothing.

Although I never came forward with my story, I knew of 2 other girls that had similar situations happen with a guy. One actually had the bravery to come forward, and the shame she endured from leadership is TEXTBOOK for what NOT to do. Since my college years at that “fine” establishment, I know of a professor who was terminated because he dared to speak up about the inappropriateness and lack of proper reporting amongst students and faculty, and has basically been blacklisted because of his willingness to take on the topic. I know of at least 10 other people, men and women, who have endured sexual inappropriateness and harassment at this same institution, yet the school itself refuses to acknowledge any incorrect behaviors, responses, or situations that have repeatedly been reported to them, and has in fact taken great pains to silence them. Taking the time-tested path to “sweep things under the rug” seems to be their modus operandi; I’m assuming their Bible takes Luke 8:17 and chucks it right out the window.

There is something to be said for the simple acknowledgement that a wrong has occurred. There is something to be said for the basic acceptance that “bad things have happened,” and “we failed to respond, we failed to acknowledge, and we failed to provide a place of healing in an institution based on the very grace of a loving God.” 

The level of sexual harassment I endured on campus over the course of 4 years would not be tolerated today. I know this, because I’m current on my Annual Title IX Training (which, at last check, my alma mater does not require…but they sure do appreciate those government dollars for student loans and grants, don’t they?). It was common for women to be shamed for ANY kind of dress, thought or words deemed to be sexual, but for the guys? It was practically honored. The girls were actually subjected to an entire evening of “well, we’ve heard rumors of sexual activity,” that was nothing more than an attempt to get us to rat out our friends, and an overwhelming reminder that impure thoughts and behaviors meant that we were unlovable and terrible human beings. We were shamed for even THINKING about sex, and if we’d already had it?!? OMG, we may as well surrender any thoughts, hopes, or dreams we could ever have, because we were “Damaged Goods.” It was purity at the cost of hope, and more than a few of us lost both.

So much for being a “place of healing.”

I’ve been working on a series of blogs this summer about the “Pesky Umbrella Graphic” which firmly places women at the bottom of the totem pole of the Good Christian Family. My goal is to redefine this graphic, and place men and women in the roles God designed. I have one blog left to write, about the Role of a Woman in the Church, and it’s been simmering. I believe this blog had to come first–I had to get this out of my system, because for me, my role as a woman was never so undermined as it was over the course of 4 years in Bible college. It took 4 years to wreck who I was as a person, as a Christian, and as a woman; it took 13 years to heal, to hope, and to have a clearer understanding that as a woman, Jesus loves me, He understands me, and He sees me as relevant, with all of my hormones, emotions, and crazy detours that paint anything but the “perfect” Christian life.

My Annual Title IX Training is often referred to (by me) as our Annual “Don’t Be a Terrible Human Being” Training. I think we take it for granted that people understand that sexual inappropriateness of any kind is wrong, but we have people in national leadership and in Christian leadership that consistently prove us to be incorrect. People don’t understand inappropriate sexual behavior. Now, I could launch a diatribe on how the media takes a turn on this; how the rampant rise and access to pornography takes a turn on this, and how being scientifically reduced to molecular accidents takes a turn on this, but that’s an entirely other conversation. The reality is that EVERYONE needs annual training on abuse, discrimination, sexual inappropriateness and how to report it, how to respond to it, and how to understand that IT’S NOT OKAY.

It’s not okay for “no” to mean anything other than, “no.”

It’s not okay to make the “joke” or the inference.

It’s not okay to make women feel inferior. It’s not okay to discriminate against anyone, and it’s not okay to make someone feel differently or to be robbed of opportunities because of their gender, religion, skin color, race, or orientation.

Your (My) Christianity does not give you a “Get out of Jail Free” or a “Bypass” card. Your (MY) Christianity does not give you the right to play judge or jury to that person who comes to you, or to that person that is reporting an issue.

Your (MY) Christianity requires that you treat people with honor, integrity, and respect. ALLLLLL of these verses tell us how to treat people. NONE of these verses tell us to shame someone or to throw a blanket over bad things and act like they didn’t happen.

Above all, your (MY) Christianity tells us that our Father is close to the brokenhearted…that He is a strong tower, that He is a refuge, and that HE LOVES US.

For me, Bible college should have been a place of spiritual growth and encouragement. Instead, it became a place of private shame and hopelessness, and to be honest, I do not look back on a most of those years with fondness (although I’m grateful for the relationships with friends that I still maintain). Bible college was where I learned how to pretend that everything was fine, even as it was falling apart. It was where I learned to speak fluent “Christianese,” and where I learned that Jesus was not big enough to love me through my darkest days.

In the years that followed, I went through an intensive breaking process of learning to be very, very real in my relationship with God . It’s an ongoing process, and one I think I’ll always work on. I also went through a healing process that involved counseling (the first of several encounters with counseling that I’ve been through) with a pastor who was AMAZING. He restored my faith in church leadership and in the compassion of Jesus, and I’ll never forget him. I was directed to him by a professor at my Bible college, who was overseeing an internship that ended halfway through–it almost cost me my college degree, but that’s another story. Either way, between that professor and that pastor, they saved my life physically and spiritually, and they became the light at the end of the Bible college tunnel. They had the concept RIGHT–Biblical counsel and healing, and GRACE over shame–and they were a blessing. I’m still grateful. They showed me there could be good, kind men in Christian leadership, and I needed that hope restored. T

I know this is a lot; I know I’ve written a lot more than I intended, but the Annual Title IX Training has “bothered” me for the past 7 years that I’ve been required to take it. Where was this training when I was in college? Would it have saved me, or saved the 10 or more other people that I know of? Would it have saved our professor, who gave up his career in order to speak a truth that no one wanted to listen to? Would it have saved the others who never told their stories?

I don’t know.

I’m not upset that I “have” to take this training. I’m not upset that we’re creating a Culture of Compliance over a Climate of Fear or a Climate of Shame or a Culture of Arrogant Ignorance. The more Christians that stop thinking they’re above all of this stuff, and instead choose to engage the fact that we’re all sinners, we all struggle, and we all need grace, the less stories we’ll hear about places like Willow Creek, or the Catholic Church issues (which could be in ANY church), or whatever. The second we think we’re immune is the second we fall…it’s time that we all acknowledge our weaknesses, that we train to be aware of situations, and that we as Christians provide a place of healing and of hope, particularly in our areas of educational institutions for children and adults of all ages.

***Edit: I’ve had a few remarks on my Facebook post on this blog, and I just want to say that college was a long, long, LOOOOOONNNNNNG time ago. What I thought was the hardest time in my life was a cakewalk compared to losing my daughter, so I’m looking back at those experiences through completely different lenses. In fact, the breaking/building process I went through after college laid the grounds for a solid foundation for that very journey. It was an entirely different breaking/building process, but the foundation was tried and true. 🙂 My entire point in bringing up those years is to draw attention to the lack of care and the lack of change that’s been seen in places of so-called Christian education. NOTHING has changed–NOTHING. That’s wrong. Secular universities like the one I am employed by have moved farther and higher than religious institutions, and that boggles my mind. I’m not a broken or hurting college kid, anymore. I’m a grown woman, I know who I am in Christ, and I BELIEVE with all of my heart that the Church is failing in the areas of training their leadership to guard their sheep. I will definitely admit to being angry…Every time another story comes across my Facebook page where another person in ministry has hurt or abused someone, I’m reminded of how far we have to go in the journey to educate Church leadership, to educate those in places of Christian education, and to educate ourselves how to be wise and to be aware…I’m reminded that shame never helped a soul, and that the basis of our very faith is gentleness, respect, and love. We have a long, long way to go…and we are all–not just me, and not just you–responsible to make the necessary changes.

Limbo…

Two years ago, I posted a status update that I was basically cancer-free.

cancerfree
Before you read any further, please note that I’m not saying that I’m not cancer-free. THIS IS NOT A POST TO SAY THAT MY CANCER HAS RETURNED, so please don’t worry. 🙂
It’s actually a post to say that now they’re telling me it may have never really gone away.
Nobody seems to know the real answer to that question.
I’m posting this not as a means of being dramatic or whiny, but because it’s indicative of how confusing the medical industry can be…I’ve been working in healthcare for 18 years, and have had a complicated medical history, yet with all of that, the terminologies and explanations that healthcare providers give can be very misleading…
At this appointment, I was made to believe that I was done with this whole cancer thing…I even looked at my doctor and asked, “So, does this mean I’m done here?” He said, “Yes, but we’ll still need to see you every 6 months for ultrasounds. Cancer-wise, though, you’re in the clear.” I knew at that time that thyroid cancer, particularly when it’s as complicated as mine was, has a high chance of a recurrence, and that stays in the back of one’s mind.
So, here we are, 3 years after my initial diagnosis, and I’ve been a good girl; I’ve taken my meds, gone to Barnes every 6 months, and had my ultrasounds. I’ve dutifully supplied my blood tests on time, and I religiously maintain a spreadsheet of my results. My lymph nodes in my neck have finally started to shrink, and that’s a positive change since my biopsy in January of this year (when they actually suspected that I might have lymphoma, which was terrifying; turns out that I was still dealing with the after-effects of having mono the summer before). However, I continue to have something called, “residual activity” that shows up on my ultrasounds. It showed up on my PET scan in 2016, and it’s never actually resolved. So, how can I be told that I’m “cancer free,” when in fact. that’s not necessarily accurate? There should be NOTHING in my thyroid bed, yet there’s that stupid thing, boppin’ around on my ultrasound. I don’t have cancer, according to my labs…BUT my labs never said I had cancer in the first place–that’s the anomaly of my particular case of thyroid cancer. I never registered as having cancer, via labwork or biopsy, even though the cancer cells broke through the capsule and went into my lymph nodes. We didn’t know I actually had cancer until I was in the process of having my thyroid removed, when the surgeon biopsied me on the table. Now, however, according to my surgeon and the ultrasound (AKA, “anatomical scan”), I’m not totally clear, and I’ll need to see my oncologist again for follow-up scans (functionality scans, AKA, another PET scan).
I know everything is fine, but you mention the word, “oncologist” to me, and my anxiety skyrockets. I’m not sure why it freaks me out so much; I’d rather never see an oncologist again. Thyroid cancer is a SUPER-slow growing cancer, so even if my tests are positive or questionable, I really have nothing to worry about. It’s just a stupid mind-game, and I hate how it affects me (and everyone I care about).
When we lived in Kentucky, I had an accident with Holly, and wound up tearing a tendon in my wrist. I didn’t COMPLETELY tear the tendon, and as a result, instead of a simple surgery to repair the damage, I had 6 weeks in a cast, 6 weeks in a brace, and 12 weeks of physical therapy. Something relatively simple became extremely complicated; what sounds like the better version of the injury was actually worse than the reality (Partial tear vs. Complete tear). I feel like thyroid cancer is like that. It’s the “good” kind of cancer–it’s “easily” treated. You remove the thyroid, and we’re good, right? Not really…My dad had a kind of cancer where they removed it all with surgery, and everything was fine–no meds, no radiation, and no chemo. You’d think that thyroid cancer was like that, based on the whole, “just remove the mass and the thyroid” thing. No one talks about the chances of recurrence, the residual activity, and the extreme difficulty in balancing the medication that replaces your thyroid. No one tells you about all of things that are affected by your thyroid–the energy levels, the hormones, the immune system (in my case, because of lymphatic involvement). They don’t tell you that when you catch a basic cold, you’d better call your doctor, because it’s gonna mutate and turn into bronchitis or pneumonia or whatever, because your immune system’s compromised. I just started my 3rd or 4th round of antibiotics this year, and my 2nd round of steroids…over a dang COLD.
My nervousness/drama over the thought of additional testing/seeing the oncologist is admittedly stupid. I’m being WAY overly dramatic, especially when I think about all of the people I know who have dealt with “real” cancers…the ones that require multiple rounds of chemo and radiation, the ones that incapacitate people and take lives…Thyroid cancer is often treated by the medical community as the “good” kind of cancer, so the issues that we deal with are not treated with the seriousness or compassion that I believe they should entail.  Thyroid cancer is, by definition, “easy” to treat in comparison to every other kind of cancer, based on the previously stated premise that you just remove the organ, give the patient a replacement med, and send them on their merry way. It’s not like I’ve had a breast removed or lost a kidney…I’m not visibly scarred (unless you know where to look).  I didn’t lose my hair (well, I did, but no one really noticed, and it’s all grown back). My issues have all had to do with regulating the thyroid replacement medication, and that’s a process that will go on for the rest of my life. If I gain weight (huge struggle) or if I lose weight (ha!), the dosages have to be recalibrated. Right now, I’m actually medically slightly hyperthyroid, but the consequences of re-calibrating the medication are worse than dealing with the effects of being hyperthyroid (sleeplessness/heat intolerance/anxiety) so we leave it as is for now.
Ask anyone in my family, and they will tell you that my life after having the “good” kind of cancer is very different from my life before.
My son will never know the Mommy that existed prior to 2015, when I had issues, but I also had energy, and I could go outside in the summer and not feel like I was going to pass out (I thought I was heat-intolerant before this, because of my heart. This is another level). He tells my husband that he wants to “take Mommy home, so we can go to the park.” That hurts, I’m not going to lie.
But I’m being stupid. Aren’t just supposed to shut up and be grateful that I got the “good” kind of cancer?
REALLY?
I very rarely let my brain go down the rabbit hole of “why is this happening to me?” I’ve found that’s a very dangerous place to go, and I’ve learned to stifle that fire with a blanket of blind faith and self-control, per the whole, “blessed are they that have not seen, but have believed” verse in John 20:29. I could list the things David & I have been through that I just don’t get, but what point would it prove? We’ve been through hell? Yeah, but so has everyone to some extent. Everyone has their own definition of the worst thing they’ve been through, and my worst isn’t your worst, but that doesn’t mean one is worse than the other–who makes that judgement call? Life isn’t about comparing my life to yours, or your life to Kim Kardashian’s. Life is about doing all that we can to give glory to God in every situation. If the Apostle Paul can do it, so can we.
So, I try to avoid the “why, God, why?!?” Nancy Kerrigan-isms of my life. My life is GOOD!!!!  I love my life! And I’m not defined by this stupid cancer thing, but it does take up an inordinate amount of space in my psyche, particularly when I’m told that I have to go back to oncology and have additional scans in the next 6 months (they’re not in a hurry. That’s the perks of having the “good” kind of cancer. Nothing has to be rushed, which is cool, even though my brain says, “DO IT NOWWWW!!!!” I can wait until my FSA has renewed, LOL). I’ve been pretty whiny with God all week (when I’ve even spoken with Him–I’ve been so dang sick that I’ve barely prayed, which is embarrassing to admit). I did actually say to Him on Wednesday that “I just don’t understand why I get hit will all of this $hit (I’m not gonna fake Him out with some kind of churchy-fake lingo)!!!” And as soon as I said it, I’m like, “Eh, never mind.” I don’t really need to know the definition. Grace tells me it’s not a punishment. Grace tells me that we live in a fallen world full of crappy chemicals and emissions, of hormone-affecting toxins and atmospheric garbage that affects all of us in different ways.
Grace also tells me that regardless of the confusing definitions and my internal/external comparisons, that the bottom line is that it will all be okay. Grace tells me to stop being afraid of words like, “oncology,” and to start saying things like, “stop being a stupid worry-wart, and chill the heck out.” 🙂 (Okay, Grace doesn’t say that. Mom says that, LOL. I love her. Everyone needs someone in their life to cut through their crap, and that’s my mom. She’s like a younger Judge Judy with a penchant for wedding-based reality TV). Seriously, though, Grace says that this is one more bump/hill/mountain in the road, and regardless of what happens, I’ll get through the other side of it. It really, truly is not serious, and it’s only because of the “C” word that it seems so scary. My surgeon actually once said that thyroid cancer shouldn’t even really be termed as a cancer, because it’s such a slow-growing, minor thing to deal with, and that word is so complicated and fearful. I tend to agree with him, even though I know that trivializes something with major consequences.
Seeing an oncologist is actually just part of regular follow-up care for any kind of cancer. I probably should have seen her a year ago, but because things were so well-maintained at my visits with my surgeon and my endocrinologist, it wasn’t brought up. In fact, my endocrinologist isn’t particularly concerned at this point, and I don’t have to see him for a year (yay!). Oncology is routine, even though in MY brain, seeing an oncologist isn’t routine for ANYONE.
Like I said a few (okay, a LOT of) paragraphs earlier, this post is not to say that my cancer has returned…or that it ever reallllly went away. It’s just showing how confusing the medical industry can be (“you’re cancer-free! Oh, wait, you have activity—oh, wait, it’s not enough to worry about—oh, wait, go see the oncologist–but you’re fine!”), and the emotional roller-coaster that goes along with it. I am fine–believe me, I’m as fine as I get. My levels are well-maintained, and if you don’t count the bronchitis/respiratory garbage I keep getting every few months, my energy levels are good. I’m doing a heck of a lot better than a lot of people I read about on my “Life After Thyroidectomy” forum on Facebook!  Hoooo, those Facebook Groups!!!! “I stubbed my toe! It’s because I had a thyroidectomy!!!!! I hate my doctor!!!!” It gets DRAMATIC…and I’m not going to lie, it’s kind of entertaining. It helps me find out what I really need to be concerned about, and clears up a LOT of myths, particularly when I review some of the stuff with my endocrinologist.
Whether I do or don’t have a recurrence of this garbage, everything is fine, and it’s all going to be okay. Even though the thought of something as routine as a follow-up visit with an oncologist is scary to me, I know it’s a good thing to do. Ultrasounds can only tell doctors so much, and additional testing is a good thing. I just have to get over myself and the mental hang-up I have with that word. I don’t see myself as a “cancer survivor,” because of the type of cancer I have; however, I believe we probably all share a similar fear/anxiety of having to see an oncologist, and of the ensuing tests. It is part of the process we all deal with, regardless of the type of cancer. The mental aspects of the terminology are just as emotionally difficult as the physical processes, which is something I think healthcare would do well to address.
Any additional testing I have done will most likely not happen until next year (the perks of “non”-cancer cancers), so I’m probably not going to post anything else regarding my status until then. For me, just writing all of this out has been helpful; only so much can be said in phone calls and 10-minute conversations with spouses. Blogging is my way of having uninterrupted communication, so it’s completely selfish, and I’m not sorry. 🙂 If you’ve stuck with me this far, well, good on ya’, mate! 🙂
This is all just part of the process. And it’s okay. I’ve never been good at any kind of waiting, and I’ve wanted everything to be over and done with for the last 3 years. I’m not really getting that, and I’m not good at not getting what I want. I want closure. It’s not happening. It’s a bizarre kind of limbo.
I’ve never been particularly good at that game. 🙂

This message will self-destruct…but I won’t.

I’ve had something brewing in my heart for a few weeks now.

Something’s changing…something’s being restored and redefined…

I have to process these words before I post.

I feel like I’ve gone back to school,

And the learning curve is steep.

 

I’ve been studying what it means to be a Christian wife

And mother…

And how wounded women are left to pick up

A battlefield full of broken soldiers

That bite the hand that bandages the shattered….

How warrior women

Become contentious

And the difference between

Nice and “Nasty.”

 

Something new is coming…

I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to write this, but it’s percolating…

It’s time to redefine

And

It’s time to shatter the mold.

 

….To Be Continued…..

#MeToo verses #IAm…AKA, “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark…”

Luke 12:2-3 “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.”

Everything in darkness will be brought into the Light…isn’t that an Obvious Truth that we should all be familiar with by now? We get away with NOTHING in the end…or sometimes, in the middle.

When I was a kid, I swore that God had some kind of hotline to my mother. She KNEW, not from the look on my face, but by the tone of my voice, if I’d lied about something. It was the craziest thing, and now, as a parent, I get it. We know our kids better than they realize. Yesterday, I picked my 4-year old up from school, and he said in a little, panicky voice, “Have you talked to Miss Leslie?!?” I hadn’t, but I didn’t need to, did I? I knew from the look on his face and the tone of his voice that he’d behaved badly (it couldn’t have been too bad, because she would have messaged me). He told me exactly what he’d done, because he knew I’d figure it out, eventually.

Society needs to get that point: It ALL gets figured out, eventually.

Headlines were made recently when our governor was outed as having had an extramarital affair back in 2015. He had already dealt with it internally with his family, but now the media had a hold of it, so it’s being excavated all over again. Apparently, the husband of the woman he had the affair with, was getting pestered by the media to dish the dirt, so he came out with the story, and now the governor has to address it…as does his wife. Even when we’ve been forgiven, sometimes the consequences come back years later to haunt us….

But should they?

The internet is full of headlines about men behaving badly (and some women). The #MeToo movement has grown wings, and women everywhere are coming forward with their stories of sexual harassment. Many of these are just that—stories—and cannot be corroborated as anything more than he-said-she-said. In fact, once an accusation is made, a career is seemingly over. This strikes me as overkill, but before you eviscerate me, let me explain:

Find me a woman on this planet that has never, EVER, had a man make an inappropriate comment toward her.

I don’t know of a single one, based on how far-reaching I’ve seen some of these stories.

Being forced into a physical encounter is one thing. Having a guy catcall you as you walk down the street is another. Both things are being labeled as “sexual assault,” and without any further explanations, accusing someone of such can be easily misconstrued.

As a young woman (in Bible college, of all things), I was nicknamed “Hoots” by a member of the basketball team, who felt the need to comment at any given opportunity about the size of my breasts. This was demeaning, rude, and embarrassing. Should I name him? Should I name every other guy who felt the need to comment about my body? Should I talk about the shame I felt? Should I talk about the confusion I had, wondering why in the world this was “acceptable” behavior? I guess I could. I guess I could track him down, I could track down the others, and file suit. I could write articles naming them, and bring them embarrassment and shame like they brought me. Would it be justified? Maybe?

It’s been 20 years since I was in college. Those guys have families. I have a family. I’m sure those guys are all different men, and if they’re not, well, that’s on them. God can take care of them. I’m not going to be their judge and jury, and forgiveness has long been issued. However, I can take that experience, and use it to educate my son (when he’s of age) that you don’t treat a woman that way. It’s a learning experience that is not lost on me as a mother of a boy.

Over the course of the past 2 years, I’ve gone to several people affiliated with my alma mater and discussed their culture of sexual harassment. My alma mater has repeatedly hid their head in the sand about several stories of harassment and assault. Rather than acknowledge the past, they’ve simply remarked that they will try and improve in the future. This is not the best solution, and I don’t accept that it’s “better than nothing.” However, I do believe that per the verse I quoted in the beginning of this blog, truth will out, and our stories will be told. Patience, as they say, is a virtue.

My point in sharing my stories with my alma mater has not been to punish the men in the past who made poor choices. The goal in sharing #MeToo with my college is to teach women that they do NOT have to wait 20 years to speak up against sexual harassment. They can speak NOW, and they do not need permission to do so. Leadership cannot harbor the people who do these things, be they male or female, and ignoring a culture of harassment encourages MORE harassment. I don’t feel that names need to be named, in the stories of 20 years ago. However, if that story from 20 years ago helps the girl who was groped by a student in the back of the classroom YESTERDAY to go to leadership and have the offender punished, then YES, tell your #MeToo and shout it from the rooftops. Stop making people feel ashamed for what others have done to them. It’s time to make the current harassers feel ashamed. It’s time to make the people who cover it up, feel ashamed. It’s time to STOP CREATING A CULTURE THAT SHAMES VICTIMS. It’s time to encourage people to speak up when they have been victimized, instead of 10, 15, 20, years later.

That being said, I do not believe sexual harassment is a reason to end someone’s career. I don’t feel that telling the story needs to be in such a way that a crime from 20 years ago ends a life that’s been built today, unless there is corroborated proof. Anyone can say someone did something from 20 years ago that affected your life. Naming names without proof, however, is a dangerous thing, and I think it’s something that is going to have some serious backlash. I can say that Joe Snow attacked me in a parking lot 20 years ago; I can publicly out him, but there is absolutely no shred of proof. It brands him; it makes him guilty until proven innocent, and I think as a society we need to be extremely careful in doing that with any kind of criminal. Joe Snow (not a real person, of course) might be a jerk. He might be a reformed family man. He might be any kind of a person, but he doesn’t deserve to be punished for a crime he may or may not have committed based on unsubstantiated words. Michael Douglas came forward recently, stating that he had been contacted by a reporter that wanted his comments regarding an accusation of sexual misconduct (that can be SO broad-sweeping, right?!?). He decided that rather than comment, he would come out and directly make a statement prior to the running of the original story. He stated the accusation, denied the accusation, and made some really great points in explaining his side of the story. Do you think anyone will hear HIM? Or will they see, “Michael Douglas” + “Sexual Harassment,” and make their choice that he’s a miscreant? It’s thin ice for the accused, and we have to be careful.

Again, I believe in sharing the stories of 2, 10, 15, 20 years ago. I do not necessarily believe in sharing the names, unless you have absolute proof of something that has been done. It’s far too easy to create this movement that’s full of unsubstantiated claims, and then cut off your own feet because of hyperbole. It’s what the #MeToo movement is in danger of. It’s a trending topic that should be much more than a trend, but without substantiation, that’s as far as it will go. It’s time to make real change, which can only come from facts.

People need to live in a culture of understanding that things done in secret will be brought to light. The harassment of 20 years ago will come to light. The affair of 2 years ago will be brought to light, whether you’re an ordinary person, or a governor, or a President. We live in an age of technology where everything is archived. Everything is accessible, we have a footprint, and it’s aaaaaaalllllll out there. Nothing is secret, and in today’s world, that’s truer than ever. We have to be accountable for our actions, and because God is Who He is, we have to be accountable to Him above all. Even without the cyberworld, God is God.

Jeremiah 23:24  “Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?” declares the LORD “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the LORD.

He sees us. We have to live an exemplary life, so that when the past tries to haunt us, there’s nothing there to trip us up. If there is, there’s forgiveness…but that doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t consequences. Our dear Governor is seeing this truth today—he’s forgiven by his wife and by God, but the State of Missouri may not be so kind, and his reputation is tarnished.

He’s just like the rest of us. I don’t want my high school hijinks coming back to haunt me. I don’t want the inappropriate things I’ve said, to come back to haunt me. Could someone accuse me of inappropriate behavior? I don’t think so, but I guess in today’s world, anything is possible? We’re to live our lives in such a way that when such accusations come against us, they’re immediately disregarded, because of the standards by which we live. That’s a difficult thing to do, but in today’s world, it’s more necessary than ever. Daniel, in the Old Testament, lived a pretty great life as far as standards go: “Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.” Daniel 6:4

“No error or fault was found in him?!?!?!?!” No one could say he had any skeletons rattling around in his closet! That’s pretty amazing. That’s The Gold Standard. And that’s also where grace and mercy come in, for those of us that fall short.

There’s room for grace and mercy in the #MeToo movement. There’s room for awareness, for positive change, and for education. There’s room for FACTS in the #MeToo movement, and I encourage those that support the movement to reiterate the importance of such. My biggest hope for the movement is acknowledgement, education, and improvement….that boys and girls would be educated that they are valuable and worthy of respect…that we would learn the beauty of boundaries, and the sacredness of these bodies we live in. There’s more to the #MeToo movement than the media portrays, and it all starts with viewing ourselves as unique, amazing creations of a God Who values and loves us. Once you understand your worth, you understand that you are worthy of protection, and that those around you are worthy of honor…I want to see this restored in our young people. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit…we were created by a God Who loves us with all of His heart, who gave His only Son for us. We are individual reflections of Who He is.

I don’t want to be a #MeToo.  I want to be an #IAm:

I Am loved by God.

I Am His unique creation.

I Am His child.

I Am who He made me to be.

And to that, I would like to hear an entire generation of young men and young women echo back, #MeToo.