Kill the Paps-Episode One, Update

We are exactly two weeks post-first infusion.  Second is scheduled for February 21st.  As I have said, I hope to use this little blog as a “look back” as I wind around this road, and I also hope to use it as a reference point for those who may be considering this journey for themselves.  With that said, this may be a little “matter of the fact” type entry, but I do hope to find some humor along the way.

First infusion began with labs.  They are looking at platelet count, WBC count, protein in urine, and the overall picture that the labs present of my current health.  High protein levels in the urine seems to be a fairly common issue while on Avastin, and it’s an issue I hope drinking the same volume of water as Lake Erie, daily, will prevent.  Growing gills as I type.  Once labs are drawn, it’s a waiting game for those results to come back.  Everything stops until then.  No meds are ordered, IV not started….zilch.  Lee and I used this downtime to trek over for a very early lunch outside the walls of the clinic-and clinic food.

Labs back, and due to it being my first infusion, no issues were expected, but nice to still know everything is in range.  Now, to the fun part.  (Fun being used very sarcastically, in my best “Sheldon” voice.)

FOUR sticks to get an IV. FOUR.  Did I mention FOUR?  24 gauge….so we are talking very small in the IV world.  Four different infusion nurses attempted to do the impossible…thread an IV into scarred veins.  Finally-it was in and flushing…and the angels sang.  (Get a port, everyone said….well..about that.  Avastin comes with a bleeding risk, and I would have had to choose to postpone the first infusion for 28 days post port…and at the time, that seemed like a silly idea…..I was questioning that decision with great thought as each attempt failed.)

Now, meds could be ordered.  Waiting…so much of the infusion day is spent waiting.  The guardrails in place to help prevent a medical mistake are unwavering.  A constant double-check of steps, a second set of eyes along the way…

Meds up…it’s go time.  At first, (10mg Avastin) we had a runtime of 30 minutes….almost instantly, the burning sensation from my hand to my shoulder become unbearable.  Once we slowed it to the rate of one hour, there was relief and the infusion continued.  Unlike my experience with Avelumab, there were no pre-meds.  No Benadryl!!  Seriously-Benadryl and I do not get along.  I become this agitated monster, so to hear no pre-med was music to my ears.  The next hour was spent watching nurses come and go, hearing various conversations around me….sipping my water..because Lake Erie and all….and then it was done.  Maybe a fifteen minute hold time afterwards, then IV was removed and I was free to go.  Compared to the Avelumab, so far, this was a walk in the park.  As I walked out, I realized so many were still there tied to infusion pump.  Hours of infusion time for so many of those undergoing treatment for various cancers.  I had a tinge of guilt as I walked out…that I somehow had cheapened the process by being done so quickly.  From lab to walkout-five hours.  (That includes the 45 minute IV drama.)

Back to the house…almost as soon as I was leaving, I began to experience the sore throat.  Not painful, but just a sensation that wasn’t there prior to the infusion.  I was prepared for the ocean of nausea that I had experienced on Avelumab, but for the first few hours….it didn’t come.  Later that night, some mild waves came to shore, but a single dose of Zofran took it back out to sea…or should I reference Lake Erie here too?  The next AM, that’s when Avastin showed me the love…the Avastin headache.  The Avastin headache was pretty much a forty-eight hour event.  Tylenol knocked it back down, but as someone who isn’t a fan of headaches….I was uncomfortable…but compared to the NIH experience…still… much easier. An afternoon of fatigue did come in the day after the infusion, but not debilitating. Twinges of nausea came in and out over the next three days, and then everything seemed back to normal.  Week two had a few moments, but again, a single Zofran and I was back on track.  I wasn’t looking around for the nearest trash can as I was while on the Avelumab.

Now, onward to the notes that I have kept during this.

  1.  Reduction in mucous plugs.
  2. Reduction in blood in sputum.
  3. Seeing some reduction in coughing.
  4. Occasional twinge in stomach.

Infusion two is just days away….what will this next post-infusion cycle bring?

To clarify/a disclaimer-this is a road using Avastin systemically.  This is not the same as injecting papilloma sites during the OR.  Side effects and outcomes/method are not the same.

Stay tuned!!!!

Kill The Paps-Episode One

This will be the first entry in the series that will follow my journey in the use of systemic Bevacizumab (Avastin).  I hope to mix the science with some humor and maybe even a dash or two of joy/hope.

RRP

While I breathe, I hope.

Episode One.

One of the first pharmaceutical treatment ideas that was discussed after my lack of response in the NIH trial was pursuing systemic use of Bevacizumab What is Avastin?  Now, you are likely aware of the hurdles and obstacles that walked out in front of my bus..primarily that of insurance approval, followed by the amount of work that I, as a patient, was having to invest into the idea.  Off-label, especially with no clinical trial data, is a hurdle most insurance carriers simply don’t want to be part of-evidence based medicine is the name of the insurance game.  With a few papers on limited use as the only “pay for this” ammunition, it’s been an uphill battle while also wearing a fifty pound backpack.  (Which basically is the same as a “sloth.”

Fast forward to this past week.  Background on most recent surgery-my tracheal disease is in high gear.

IMG_7063

December 2017 Tracheal Disease

I’ve wanted to go down this therapy road for months now, so to see the disease in such an aggressive phase, as well as the pulmonary involvement, I became even more determined to make this happen.  Emory has an outstanding RRP practice.  What I learned this week is that they also have an outstanding Head/Neck Oncologist.  Dr. Saba believes in this idea.  He agrees with this option for my case. I’ll be his second RRP patient on this protocol.  The ball started rolling and in warp speed….a schedule is set, pending a stable CT scan.  I’m more important than the insurance hoop….they will get me over that hoop-not my burden.  We have a plan.  The plan is in place and I have one job-show up.  No hours spent working for approval, no hours spent digging for every shred of evidence I can find in how this treatment has worked in several RRP patients….my only concern is making sure I am ready for infusion day and following my “to do” list.  (Well, and staying away from Dr. Google on side-effects, possible complications-little information is available on side-effects, complications in the use of Avastin as a stand alone treatment.)

There’s anxiety over what to expect, as we all react in such an individualized way to any medication, but especially those used in the oncology field.  Will I be as sensitive to this drug as I was to Avelumab?  Avastin is a VEGF VEGF How It Works, while Avelumab was an immunotherapy (PDL-1 inhibitor How Do PDL-1 Inhibitors Work).  There’s anxiety over my pitiful veins holding up, but a port is something we want to avoid due to increased infection risk.  (Ha, well, maybe the anxiety is over the IV in general….I loathe those little creatures.)  A prayer for urine proteins to stay normal, blood pressure to not spike, and for no bleeding issues to arise!  (We do know that my Benadryl push needs to be diluted and slow, so that’s one less issue to worry about on infusion days! Also, am I the only person on the planet that drug doesn’t render comatose?)

So, there you have it…..scan, three infusions, scan, if regression-repeat and then work into a maintenance routine.

While on Avastin, there will not be any OR procedures. Hopefully, this will allow a long period of maintenance, a much needed break from the OR, a break from this chronic cough, and will work to prevent anything from converting.  Will it kill the virus? No.  Will it hopefully give me some relief until science catches up to the mechanism of the virus-hopefully.

I’ve included links to the few papers we have available on systemic use of Bevacizumab (Avastin) for those with aggressive tracheal/pulmonary RRP that may be interested.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5551929/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4186578/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/28657692/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27996119

 

 

 

 

 

A Church Update in the “Peachy” state

Ok…..I’ve been fairly open over the past 24 months or so on my whole church journey, Jesus journey….so thought I would update via a blog post, rather than a mini-series of Facebook status updates…

I won’t rehash all of the ramblings that I have already posted…you can just scroll the blog to find that.  I’ll just start with right now, today.

Upon our move, we began visiting churches.  Andy Stanley’s Woodstock City is literally just down the road, so it made sense to visit there first……it’s a massive church and is well attended and has programs for programs for kiddos/youth.  It just wasn’t for us.  Coming from SBC life to Willow Creek life to now…it just wasn’t a fit.  We knew instantly.  We also made the trek into Passion City in Atlanta.  Gosh, it’s an incredible church.  Lou Giglio is an incredible teacher, and who wouldn’t jump up and down to the music of Passion Music.  Issue-about an hour drive and no community groups up this way.  I knew that being in a true local community was one of the things clearly shouted to me as we left Willow and made the move to Georgia.  We left incredible friends in a small group and I came to love the entire concept.  Did some online visiting of FBC Woodstock and I just can’t.  I can’t go back…for a litany of reasons.  So…insert some fairly deep research into various denominations.  Mission statements, doctrine, social statements….all of it.  This led us to visit a very small UMC church.  Super sweet church, but we both knew a good women’s ministry and a good men’s group were two things we didn’t feel led to cross off our “wish list.”  So, research some more…and we visited Hillside UMC.  We opted for the Contemporary service…well…love. The teaching, the music, the people…the size…love.  We have visited more since the first visit and this past week actually filled out the card to let the masses know we have been there.  Even visited a Sunday School.

Now….here’s some honest words for you.  I’m not sure where I got this in my head…but somewhere along the path of life, I began to believe only SBC folks were really saved-if you didn’t say “the” prayer and get dunked-one way ticket to hell for you.  Willow undid that for me….and again I say, I don’t know where that thought came from -if it was from teachings or just my messed up interpretation of all of it. I get it that Heaven will be a community of folks who chose to Follow Him…period.

If you followed me on this blog, you have followed me as I just tossed “Evangelical” into the fire pit….and you have followed my rambling, but deliberate process in all of that.  That hasn’t changed….that word has taken on meaning I just can’t process.  It’s become a political word, a weapon used against others….and I believe Jesus would flip tables all over….and I believe He is rising up leaders in the Christian faith to do just that for Him.

So, Kimmie is falling in love with a UMC.  I loved sitting and being part of “All Saints” Sunday.  I loved hearing the bell toll for each loved member who passed this year.  I loved hearing what “All Saints” Sunday meant…and I instantly had several faces come to mind who had been “Saints” in my life-pouring into me.  I’ve quickly come to appreciate the reverence of people doing the “sign of the Cross.”  I’ve come to appreciate a congregation that doesn’t expect that of every person there.  It’s not just a ritual.  I experienced my first UMC version of Communion this past weekend….I am falling quickly in love with the attitude of “for us, in us, through us.”

I’m excited to get to participate in an “Advent” series.  My Mother’s family has deep UMC roots, so it almost feels as if I am home with each of them in this journey.  So, that’s where my journey is right now.  Wanting so much more of “For us, In us, Through Us.”

 

Let’s Catch Up

Let’s catch up.  A lot has taken place since I last sat down to type out my little ramblings…..in case you didn’t know…..we moved.  Yep, we left Chicagoland and are now residents of Hotlanta metro area.  Why?  I’m so glad you asked…

Chicago.  I loved the city of Chicago.  I loved her diversity, her determination, her architecture, her food, her people…..just loved it.  I loved our church….Willow Creek is just awesome.  We loved our friends.  We had met some of the most incredible people that I certainly hope to stay in contact with over the years to come.  I was shown how to do Jesus in a way that just healed my soul.

“Sounds awesome, so why move?”  Glad you asked.

  1.  Winters, for me, were brutal.  To walk outside in January and my lungs just cry in pain…I just couldn’t do it.
  2. Lee had an awesome opportunity come up that allowed him to narrow his career focus into more of the things he just loves to do.  Also allowed him to lose the tether to the work phone on the weekends.  LOVE!!!
  3. No more travel for my medical care…Emory has a top notch team for my disease.
  4. Family….we are now just over three hours to his parents and my Dad and sister.
  5. Cost of living.  I think that one needs no further explanation.
  6. BEACH BEACH BEACH….four hours from Atlantic, five hours to Gulf Coast…..

Those are some of the reasons….but mostly because it was time to  move on.  This already feels like home…like the home you want to be at when that sun sets on a life well lived.

What am I loving so far about Hotlanta?  Gosh, southern food.  Southern weather.  Folks dressing up for dinner out on the weekend….I may have to dust off my heels again….and the ability to make a quick trip to see family and not need to mark off three or four days for that trip.  Hills and mountains….won’t lie…flat land and I just don’t get along.  I need to see those hills and mountains.  Oh, and Zombies….seriously…..I’m in Zombieland!

Now, to find a church…..funny….three years ago I would have just sat down in the closest FBC church and called it a day…but Chicago, Willow Creek changed me….God forced that change…and now I want that church that is diverse, refugee focused, non-political, socially aware, where every person is valued for where they are right now-not where folks want them to be.  If you can’t value a person for where they are today, why would they ever want to improve/polish who they are for the future?  A church where people are truly seen….that the outreach of the church is so intentional, you see the hands and feet of Jesus daily in the church…not just on event days.  So, all that to say….we haven’t found a church yet.  We LOVE Passion City, but it’s honestly too far to get involved with during the week.  Atlanta traffic is legit.  So, we keep searching….trusting we will know when we visit “Our Church.”

So, that’s life right now…..we moved.  🙂

28 days…A Post of “Favorite Things”

It’s official.  We finally have the “confirmed” dates for the movers to arrive and pack and load and deliver.  Twenty-eight days until a moving company pulls up armed with tape, boxes, paper, bubble wrap…..Lee heads down in a few days, but we aren’t closing up Chicago until the end of the month.  (PS-This also means it’s twenty days until our second year graduate student is here for five days until he heads back for that final push towards the pink hood!)

Yes, I’m starting to get excited about being so close to family, doctors, the beach, the mountains, lower COL,  and also being able to get Newks anytime I want it….but as I have said…it’s bittersweet.

So, today, a post of “Favorite Things” so that I will always be able to look back and recall the things I did fall in love with during our Chicagoland adventure.

  1.  Lake Michigan  It’s truly magnificent.  Chicago side is great, in that you have the center of what makes Chicago who she is, right there.  Yet, I have to say…the Michigan side, well, it’s breathtaking.  The sound that reminds you of the waves crashing ashore at any beach in America….the blue tint to the water….the wind coming off of the lake reminding you of the trade winds at a “ocean” beach….when I needed moments of refreshment, Lake Michigan often was what the doctor ordered.
  2. Chicago Mix Popcorn  Ok, y’all.  This is some good stuff.  Garrett’s is the name everyone knows, but I grew to love Kernel’s the most.  Caramel goodness mixed with cheese goodness…..yummy.  I learned Atlanta has a Garrett’s.  Sometimes, you just need popcorn.
  3. Willow Creek Community Church  I cannot even begin to put into words what this church, teachings under Bill Hybel and Steve Carter, the mission, the awe of the Care Center..well…what they have done for this messed up heart of mine.  I think in ten years I will look back at the time at WC and know that is likely the biggest reason God moved us here in the first place…it was never the reason we thought.  This church does Jesus well….actually….it does Jesus exceedingly well.  Things I will take with me from WC: Baptism Day, “Dear Me,” “Love Everyone, Always,” and a congregation that resembled the world around me.  I’m forever changed because of my time at Willow Creek.
  4. Going along with number three, it has to be the zany, mismatched-yet perfectly matched, group that we have as our small group.  I have seen Christianity and Jesus modeled in ways that have forever changed me.  I look back to my little self when they first took us in and wonder why in the world they invited me….but..I’m so glad they did.  Lee and I have grown to love this group and will miss being part of the gatherings…although, I have suggested we do Skype small groups.
  5. Chicago Summer  Summer in Chicago is short, but magical.  Everything around you is in full bloom, showing off daily.  I’ll never get over 85 degrees being “a scorcher of a day.”
  6. Downtown Naperville
  7. Downtown Geneva
  8. The way Chicago showed me the melting pot of America, working together.
  9. Mariano’s
  10. Finally, because I’m pulling a Letterman and stopping at a Top Ten….the people.  Chicagoland, you are an area full of some of the kindest people one could ever hope to meet.  You are a shining star in our Nation..even if it’s not always reported.  You do people well….to the people of Lee’s company here and the wives that reached out to me along the way….you are the best of the best.

So, there it is.  My ten favorite things about Chicagoland.  This is just a “see you later” as the paths will cross again….open doors remain all around me.

Thanks for letting this “Bless Her Heart” girl find her way….guiding her along her broken glass path…..you are forever loved.  (Even though you did welcome us week one with a blizzard.)

 

My Help

I’ve mentioned how much we have come to love Willow Creek. This church, and the friendships developed in our current town…have changed me…they have enhanced, strengthened and encouraged…along with those ties I have kept tightly tied in Arkansas.

This song was performed this past weekend. It sums up this season of health and all that it has brought, this season of change….it is a story of how I put one foot in front of the other when my feet feel cemented into the ground. It’s how this girl, who is as messed up and messy as they come…finds the courage to face tomorrow.

https://willowcreek.tv/sermons/south-barrington/2017/07/cultivate-patience/#holy-spirit-medley

Peaches, Pie, and Bittersweet Tea

Unknown

Well, it’s Facebook official, so I guess that means it’s really going to happen.  Lee and Kim are off to Atlanta-the land of peaches and pie and rolling hills and new adventures.

It comes with a big gulp of bittersweet tea…..we truly have had some incredible adventures here in Chicagoland….and the folks in our circle…well…they are some of the best of the best.  Our time at Willow Creek has been amazing. I will miss these two things the most-WC and the group that has surrounded us in this journey.  Who knows, I may even be typing a year from now that I miss Chicago winter…..nah….I won’t.  HA!

Right now, it’s the crazy stress that comes with any relocation.  Details, timing, scheduling, etc….so I may not look like I’m spilling over with joy about it all….but I know by November, when things are all settled, I will embrace the move….and the positives it will bring.

A. No more traveling for my healthcare.  Emory has a great group.

B. Lee will be closer to his parents than he has been in twenty-three years.

C. I’ll be a mere 3 1/2 hours away from my sister and my Dad.

D.  Savannah, GA is 3 1/2 hours away.

E.  30A is just over 5 hours away!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

F.  I can walk to pie.

G.  No more snow boots.

H.  Blue Bell Ice Cream

I.  Incredible hiking is just a short drive away….ok….so this is a positive for when Josh visits….y’all know I am not hiking…frogs, frogs, frogs.

J.  Dillards and Nordstroms in the same mall.

K.  Lee in what he calls “dream job.”

I think twenty years from now, the one thing I will want to remember most about our time in Chicago is this….the love for Jesus and for people that I have experienced by those living in Chicagoland has been eye-opening.  I will cherish these lessons forever.

So, onward.  Lee heads out in two weeks, while I stay here to close out this season of our journey.  I’ll be eating pie soon after Labor Day.

Sixteen More Days…

I’m a five year old. That’s my new age, and I am going to stick to it. This whole grown-up gig is just not what I imagined it would be all those years ago. Technically, with an airway of a five year old, it seems a very plausible argument. One is the age of their youngest anatomical feature. Fact check that…I’m certain it’s correct.

I’ve finally processed the whole “non-responder” official statement by the NIH. It still feels like salt in a wound, but I’m walking forward again and that’s progress. The good news is that there are trial participants that are responding, and I am able to cheer that just as loudly as I would have my own response…a response that was meant to be a yes, but it did not get the invitation in the mail apparently. Which, leads me to today’s posting…an update…for those of you who have followed this journey.

Sixteen days from today, I go back into the OR. My trachea, it seems, had a little conference with the RRP over the past few months, and they decided that I needed some miracle grow tossed into my daily life. A trip to Mayo, a couple of weeks ago, confirmed what my lack of activity tolerance had already told me….I was compromised-not by the Russians, but by papilloma-little creatures that remind me of what cauliflower probably tastes like-hint, I have never tried cauliflower-it remind me of white brain matter. In an effort to increase my level of care, we decided to bring a second surgeon on board with my team. So, matching up schedules, and my insistence that I be able to attend my niece’s graduation and welcome my Josh home for bit…May 31st is the date and we will be on an every six week rotation to the OR for the foreseeable future. This means….I’m lazy by necessity, I have far too much time to read up on health policy, governmental affairs, changes in religion, etc….I should consider taking up gossip magazines…far less stressful. Cleaning the house is a multi-day task…as when you have the airway of a five year old currently, it’s dust or sit and breathe. I’ve tried ignoring that innate desire to breathe….it wins…just so you know…your lungs + brain will override just about all that you desire to do. The news in pulmonary continues to be “concerning,” but we are going to attack it a different way after surgery….and I have every confidence that I have given my pulmonary enough lectures on how it’s really not fitting into my whole “empty nester” plans…that I can see it listening and doing what the next drug tells it to do.

Avelumab and I did not match….so the next drug on the horizon is systemic Avastin. If we see results after four doses, then we will work towards a maintenance dose cycle. First hurdle is getting off-label usage approved by insurance, and if that is denied, then approval by manufacturer for compassionate care. If Avastin doesn’t play well with the papilloma, then I will have to consider at least a wedge resection to take out the two that are not behaving.  hqdefault

So, there you have it…the health update. Such as it is, it’s my current sitting place. As a new five year old, it works well. I can color without any worries that I am engaging in an activity that doesn’t match my birth certificate age. I can choose to eat Fruit-Loops with my fingers if I desire, and flavor-blasted Goldfish are an acceptable food group now. Nap-times are considered mandatory, but given I cannot sleep in the daytime, I have chosen to just be a temperamental five year old in the afternoon….so far I have not injured anyone..but there are still sixteen days to go!

In what can only be considered “divine appointment” of timing, I have been in a Bible study of 2nd Timothy this past semester. I will blog on it more later, but this has stood out to me for weeks now-

“You have a provider that wants you to be more than a survivor.” Beth Moore

I’m still very uncertain as to what that sentence really means for me right now, but I know that sentence and the fact that God didn’t give me my miracle in Avelumab, that maybe He is choosing to make something about my life the miracle..well…it’s moved me forward.

Enjoy breathing….enjoy talking…for so many people near and dear to me, and myself, those are luxuries at times. Make those breaths and words count!

Peace out…and PS-Intelligentsia Coffee….you need some in your life.

Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis Foundation…Social Media Roll-Out

18033141_131584124050992_8362177247481251706_n

 

@RRPFORG, #RRPFORG, #RRP

https://www.facebook.com/RRPFORG/?view_public_for=129609430915128

It’s official.  The RRPF is rolling out on social media.  There has been a support group page on Facebook for a good while now, but an official social media presence was not widely available.  We now have a one stop page where you can donate to the RRPF, setup a fundraiser that is shareable on all of your social media platforms, and access the latest information from RRPF and a quick link to the RRPF website.  Unlike the support pages that are closed groups, the RRPF Facebook Organization Page is shareable!  That means we are counting on you to share it with your social media.  Awareness begins on the ground floor, and we, the members of the community are the ground floor!

In the coming days, look for a roll-out of “Get To Know ___” series.  We will highlight RRP community members, board members, active researchers, etc…

Another plus of the RRPF Organization Page is that we have privacy set so that those acting as administrators do have to approve posts before they go up.  Since it is a public page, we wanted to be certain we kept any potential issues off the page!

So, as you sit sipping your coffee today, won’t you join us and help broaden our following?  Share the @RRPFORG page, follow @RRPFORG on Twitter, follow @RRPFORG on Instagram….

Consider starting a fundraiser. RRPF is a research focused organization and the funds received are going directly back to the RRP community in research support.  There are no paid members within the RRPF, it’s 100% volunteer supported.

Another exciting development that is in the early stages of rolling out is a pulmonary exclusive arm of the RRPF.  A group charged with one purpose-pulmonary RRP.  We all are well aware of the  mortality associated with pulmonary RRP, and many believe the ultimate cure for RRP will come from pulmonary research!  This team will function under the RRPF.

It’s an exciting time for the RRPF and we are excited that you, the community, friends, family, now have a shareable platform to bring awareness, gather information, and help with the fundraising goals of the organization!

While We Breathe, We Hope!!!

Masks

This has been a season of sitting….and as I take two stops forward, three steps back on most days, the word “mask” keeps coming to my mind….

Webster’s Dictionary has this as a definition of “mask”: something that serves to conceal or disguise.

My time in the trial taught me lessons that I still don’t know how to put into words, but more importantly, my complete and utter disappointment in my outcome…well…it revealed my “mask.”  In some ways, the “mask” was already showing several cracks and thin spots, but it wasn’t until I was faced with something I could not process, that I was forced to take it off just to breathe.

Today’s ramblings, are about my mask…what it was hiding (some of which I haven’t even realized yet) and about the masks we all wear…for different reasons….bear with me, as I am confident we will go to Lucy’s house and back a few times….taking various detours.  Those “squirrel” moments.

I’ve been trying to remember when the mask went on…..did it go on for my disease, did it go on for things I experienced growing up, did it go on as a young Christian, did it go on as an older Christian…..were/are there multiple masks that I’ve used over the years?  Why does one feel it necessary to wear a mask?  Is authenticity something we all “say” we want one another to do, but in reality we don’t?  Are masks to protect ourselves, those around us, or to hide those human insecurities and imperfections that we worry will cause those around us to leave or think differently of us?  Maybe, they are all of the above.

The earliest I can remember possibly using a mask, had to be as a teenager.  I was awkward, acutely aware of what I perceived to be a status of “less than,” craving to belong, wanting to be normal, like my sister(s).  Like most teens, I learned to pretend…a lot.  That age where I would guess, most “first masks” are used. I became who I thought others wanted me to be…in the process losing who i was and missing out on the journey I was meant to be on….I used that mask to take a “forced road.” Like most actors, over time, the longer you play the part, the harder it is to remove the mask.  So, at some point, that mask was stuck on-stupid decisions allowed to be made by that mask I let control me.

I see my next mask mirrored in so many social media posts on Facebook.  The mask of the “perfect mom.”  Can we just get a national amendment passed to simply say, “Moms, your job is tough.  Some days, it will stink worse than a dead skunk.  Some days, you will want to run, as fast as a sprinter. to get away from all of it.  There will be nights you watch the clock tick minutes away…as you await bedtime.  There will be days  you wonder how much therapy your child will need as an adult due to the damage, you are certain, you are inflicting on them as you count your failures for the day.  But, Mom, take off the mask…be real.  There are no perfect birthday parties, no perfect methods, no perfect Sunday mornings as you shout for anyone to just be dressed..just one of you…and there are no trophies at the end of the day for the “Miss Mom Who Faked It The Best Today.”  The only trophy you will ever get is that kiss on the cheek…or that “I Love You” when you least expect it from the child you were certain was demon possessed just an hour ago.”

Can I get an “Amen” on that amendment.  I scroll down my feed and I see the masks.  I can even look back at my own during that season.  I was scared.  I was uncertain.  I was winging it most days.  I failed more times than I can count….and I’m certain God shook His head at me most days in that, “Hmm….maybe Kim wasn’t the best idea for this experiment.”  The mask hid all of that from the outside world….as far as anyone wanted to know….I was a pro.  (My kiddos will tell you loudly…I was not.)  One big hot mess.  Somehow, well, I know how…simply by God’s grace did I not drop one, oh wait…I did that…oops…sorry Meg….ok…somehow, by God’s grace that I did not forget to pick one up after school…oops, I did that too…sorry Josh…naps.  See…my mask to appear all together was hiding nothing more than a mom dancing on hot coals just trying to get to the other side most days.  Getting kiddos from birth to high school graduation….it’s hard.  I wish someone had pulled me aside during that season and ripped my mask off….but I think we were probably all wearing a mask of some sort….had social media been a thing back then..would Moms today have a record to look back on that was real, or would they see the same masks they try to wear today?  That mask that made you believe that if your kiddo wasn’t the smartest, or the nicest, or in a certain class…you were a failure-oh my goodness if they happen to bite a kiddo at school…..how could you be such a terrible parent? Satan loves to dance on Mom’s…..loves to make that mask feel like a weight on our shoulders.  I was a willing participant…I let him hold it on….and I type today wondering how many around me were doing the same thing.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Then came the mask of “College Mom.”  Who knew that such a thing even existed?  Let me say this, and hear me loudly…..letting your kiddos go off to college, even if just down the road, is the hardest thing for a Mom to do that relates to the raising of her kiddo.  You pray that seeds are planted…but at the end of the day, it’s mask on time…because you must appear to have it together in this season.  With announcement, you tell the world that your kiddo is off to college…social media is a thing now.  There is no “empty nester” support group….and there’s no time to even appear less than stoic.  Your mask must present the impression that you have prepared your child for this moment in time….they will be successful…they will make perfect choices…and you will wear their success like a well earned medal.  I’m here to tell you..this mask lies.  Kiddos aren’t perfect.  Sometimes, plans made by them and the family don’t go as expected.  This mask tells you that you failed.  You somehow did something wrong along the way that gave way to outcome A or B or C.  This is the mask that I have wanted to burn a thousand times over.  What good are any of the struggles as a Mom through this season, if we hide them from the other Moms who could so desperately use simply that sign of, “me too.”  The job of Mom doesn’t end the day they leave for college, and our mask shouldn’t be one that presents this perfect facade to the outside world.  Our pain in this season of the empty bedroom…it should be shared. When something goes not as planned, we shouldn’t have these masks on that prevent others Mom’s from realizing, “me too.”  Yet…we do..we wear those masks…and I wore mine proudly.  Like every mask before it, it was the lies Satan had me believing about myself…and about where I was in life.

As I journey, seeing that all along, there were two masks carried that never went away, never got put away.  The mask of my illness and what I showed to the world….and the mask of my faith and what that was to me-not the one I knew needed to be presented. As I open this jar, one common theme is in every single mask-the lies that Satan told me….the lies that I let myself believe as truth.  I wanted to get that out there before I talked about the two heaviest masks of all….

The mask I wore from age five….still wear in many ways today…the mask of an illness..the mask of a voice I didn’t ask for, surgeries that I have grown so weary from…the mask of regret and anger towards that illness…the mask of grief that this illness brings on so many days….the mask that wants to have me sit and doubt that I am prepared for this….that somehow, in a way that I will likely never understand…this illness will be used.  The mask that told me it wasn’t ok to be angry or question God about all of it.  That doing so, somehow made me not have faith. (Goodness, Christ called out to God on the cross!!!) That to just sit and let God know I was tired of all of it, was somehow a reflection on my Christianity.  Oh, this mask is heavy….and I like to think I’ve taken it off, but it’s still there….I’ve just decided to take some of its power away.  The mask of my illness has robbed me of plans that I had made for myself, but it hasn’t robbed me of who I am.  I’m taking that power away from my mask.  In some ways, this mask has become like Jim Carrey’s character in “The Mask.”   With the mask of my illness on, I can pretend the life behind it doesn’t exist.  I can be that person who seems to be handing it with grace.  The crushing defeat of this past month has made that pretending too great of a weight to carry…the mask of my illness has to become lighter if I am to move forward and not get stuck in my sitting. So, while I know the mask is still on, I am taking control of the power it has, but recognizing that times will come where I have to stop and sit in it. Those days, where in order to move forward, I will wear the mask…but now with a knowledge of what I’ve let it control…and my freedom in deciding if it gets that power on any given day, any given moment.

And that leads me to the mask that I am working to take off that reveals who I am as a Christian…what I believe….what I have found to be man-made….the mask that weighs so heavily somedays…that I wonder if I’ll ever have it fully removed.  I have exposed some of this mask prior to today via a few other blog posts….a mask that was/is so powerful, it shaped much of what I thought was true for so long…..truths I am working through at this season….breaking apart what is true, what isn’t true, what’s Biblical, what’s not.  Realizing how that mask, that mask that had me believing certain actions where required in order to be “a good Christian”…that I used that in decisions that caused hurt….to myself…to others around me.  And that, my friend, is authenticity.  I allowed my faith, the mask of it, to be so legalistic when it suited me…that it caused pain, hurt.  God ripped me from the pit of where this mask had taken me.  Today, I can say that mask is cracked…pieces of it missing….but the journey of trying to remove this mask has been hard.  It’s easier to just sit where you are, than to be plucked from the comfort of your little mask and forced to take a jackhammer to that mask to find what’s on the other side.

I don’t write this today for pity or any of those human desires….I write to share my masks…and where I am in the journey of the masks that I know about….so that maybe someone out there will maybe just be, “Me Too.”

There will be more on all of this….but just exposing this much has made my head feel lighter….bringing those masks out of the darkness into the light…..

Unknown