The week after my speech at the Indiana State House in support of reproductive rights at the end of July, I landed in the emergency room with symptoms of severe abdominal pain. The ER doctor referred me to my gynecologist, who then referred me to a specialist for advanced imaging, who then referred me to an oncology gynecologist.
Summer break just ended. My son was now a teenager starting seventh grade. As I waved goodbye to my son on the first day of school, I was 45 years old and about to face a possible diagnosis of Ovarian cancer. My heart held all of the feelings that first day of school for what might come in the days ahead: pride, joy, hope, fear, dread, and anxiety.
Over the years, as I’ve navigated life with mental health challenges for myself and loved ones, one of my favorite coping mechanisms is to focus on what is within my power to control. As I waited for my appointment with the oncology gynecologist, I wondered what difference has my life made. What would be my legacy?
I looked at the brown cardboard shipping boxes sitting on my home office floor, filled with my life’s work: four books written over the last decade. It made me sad to see the books sitting there, they seemed lonely, never touch by a hungry reader’s hands. Not autographed by the author who just poured her heart out to a small but mighty group of people hoping for a good word, a bit of encouragement, a reminder that they are not alone, and they are loved.
I purchased the books in bulk to sell during my speaking engagements, most of which were canceled because of the pandemic. The thought of dying an early death from cancer with boxes of my unread books gathering dust depressed me. There’d be more dust gathering on those books then in my box of cremains when I died.
So I did what I knew I could do. I set the books free from their chamber of sadness and this made me very happy. Within minutes of posting on social media that I wanted to gift these books because they needed a good home in church libraries, I was flooded with joy. Words of gratitude for these resources, messages of hope that now ministries of mental health could begin, promises of sharing the stories of mental illness in order to end the stigma and break the silence.
As I packaged and labeled each book bundle, I prayed for the churches across North America that would be carrying on this legacy. And I felt happy again, knowing with each book that I was not alone. My life was blessed after all, no matter what happened next.
It took me several trips to the post office to mail all of the book bundles. I loved the woman who helped me with the postage because she was so patient with me. I was feeling the pain of my condition. I didn’t have much energy, but I knew I could do this and that it would make a difference. The second trip to the post office one of the workers smiled and laughed, saying, “business must be good!” I smiled and agreed. Yes, business was very good.
This business of breaking the silence and ending the shame that keeps us isolated and alone is a good one. I wasn’t making any money doing business this way. I knew I was being foolish. But it was the treasure in heaven I was after. A life that mattered. A blessed life.
Dear reader, know that as of now as I write this, all is well and all manner of things shall be well. But this is my testimony of something terrible and blessed that happened to me in my blessed life.