I’m Leaving my Church

I was in shock at first when I opened my mail.

Then?

I got angry.

Apparently, on my daughters seventeenth birthday, the elders of my church decided to send me a letter.

A letter claiming not only that I am a sinner, but am a danger to the congregation. That they have been patient due to pity for my situation but decided that NOW is the time to take action against me.

Then for fun, they added that I am no longer welcome to receive communion.

To anyone else, this would be devastating.

Let’s throw on the stage four cancer diagnosis for added measure, shall we?

I could either cry and wail and gnash my teeth and go back and beg for forgiveness.

Or I could expose this group for what they are…

Bullies with bibles.

You see, two and a half years ago, the pastor kept texting me and telling me he wanted to speak to me. So, on an especially weak day, when I went to him and told him how I was afraid and scared… he decided to take the opportunity to tell me I was walking a slippery slope with the different things I was doing as i struggled with a terminal diagnosis. I remember feeling dirty, angry, sick to my stomach, and then suddenly God was whispering to me to get up and get out. I walked out of our meeting crying while he yelled bible verses at me as I went to my car.

But still, I tried.

Madison was in the middle of a two year confirmation class, and I didnt want to mess that up. So eventually, I went back to church. I also have a woman who I love dearly, named Marguerite. We sit with her and I feel like I’m near my nanny.

I kept going back to church, and continued to go on my pathway of healing. I could have kept everything I do quiet, but the Lord has led me to be open. If I can help anyone with something I do, then it’s worth it.

That has not been easy.

I’ve since received letters and messages from people in the congregation telling me the same thing the pastor did. People who have laid hands on me and prayed over me telling me that others who are not in the church that have laid hands on me and prayed over me are causing me to go to hell.

Irony.

I’ve been harassed by one family in particular. The wife and daughter in law sent me sick and twisted messages. My friend Paula was with me when I got one and she was sick to her stomach. I’ve had to block them, and then see them in church and avoid them while trying to forgive.

The pastor recently ramped up contacting me and texted me again and again asking for a meeting. I continued to say no thank you.

During this time, Morgan has started to go to confirmation classes.

I’m just trying to live my life while going through continuous chemo and keep it all together and live and love while working full time.

Last month, on the day I came home from the emergency room, the day we thought I was dying, I received yet another email from the pastor. It stated that I am not allowing him to fulfill his obligation to minister to me.

Talk about ego.

I’m sorry my struggle with cancer makes you feel inadequate, but maybe you should look inside your own heart. He also sent me screenshots of someone else’s Facebook posts and said the congregation feels I am not only going astray, but leading others astray as well.

I responded yet again, told him he is now harassing me, and enough. He finally gave me a promise to never contact me again about this. Apparently he has decided to have others harass me. Which isn’t breaking his promise I guess. Well played.

I tried to go to church soon after but could not even look at him as I left.

So we decided rob would take Morgan, and I would stay home until my feelings of anger passed.

Which is ironic and shows what a good man Rob is, because at almost every bible study their are digs at Catholics. My poor husband has had to sit through years of hearing how his religion is inferior and wrong, and Lutherans are the best.

It’s been quiet… and then?

I got the letter yesterday.

Written on my daughters birthday.

Sent unsigned…

By the elders of the congregation.

They didn’t even have the courage to sign their names.

Men who call themselves the “watchmen”.

Three men.

Men supposedly of faith who decided to send a woman going through the hardest possible chemo that she is no longer welcome to receive communion until she becomes a good little girl and sits with the pastor and the men and be told how she is wrong by trying to find peace through a terminal diagnosis and has been going to help and bringing others along with her.

The sad part is that this church felt like home when I first went. I actually taught there for two years. My original pastors were awesome and we had a thriving youth group. But then?

We got a new pastor.

People started leaving.

It seemed as if every few years another prominent family would leave. There would be a big blow up. They became more rigid. Rules had to be followed.

Now?

There are very few people left.

Mostly elderly.

I love some of those people. Deeply. It’s going to break my heart to not worship with some of them anymore.

But we made a swift decision last night.

We are never walking into that place again.

Ever.

I showed my mom and dad the letter. My dad wants to have a word or two with pastor and the elders.

My mom got a fire in her eyes and said, “Keri, you were born with the grace and mercy of Jesus in your heart. You don’t need any of them to tell you different.”

My husband is a pretty even guy. Last night he sat at the table and read the letter and couldn’t believe it. He said he has been doing his best to keep the three kids together, me together, his business, his house… and he has a pastor and church pissed off and sending his wife letters and emails? Isn’t church supposed to be a place of comfort?

The fact that they wrote I am no longer welcome to receive communion was the kicker.

What would Jesus do?

Jesus even gave communion to Judas, who He knew was going to betray him.

Only perfect people can get communion?

Are they sending letters to people who were divorced? On birth control? Who took His name in vain that week?

Or just stage four cancer patients?

And churches wonder why they are dying.

How dare they deny communion… especially to a stage four cancer patient.

Sick and twisted power play.

But is where God came through.

On the day I received this letter, I also received a box.

A box of books.

Books written by sister Joan Chittester that I ordered on Sunday.

He knew there would be a letter in my mailbox that would try to rock my faith, so he sent me books by a woman who would keep me grounded.

Am I perfect?

No.

Which is why God sent Jesus to save me.

And no matter how many times I fall, He will always save me.

Do I do yoga? You bet your ass I do. Doctors have suggested it. It’s an exercise, you judgy Christians.

Science.

You should look it up someday.

Do I pray every day for Jesus to heal me? Yes.

Does that mean I shouldnt take any chemo? No.

What if my doctor doesn’t believe in Jesus? Does that mean I’m taking something that won’t work because the belief isn’t there?

No.

It’s what I believe that matters.

Have I gone to energy workers? Yes.

There is more and more scientific evidence about energy work. We are all stardust. Energy. Made by God.

Have I gone to Mediums? Yes. We are all mediums. Do you talk to loved ones who have died? Do you talk to Jesus? We are all capable of hearing the Holy Spirit. Jesus spoke to Moses and Elijah in front of three of His disciples. Elijah and Moses has been dead for years and years. They weren’t in cold storage waiting for the day their spirits were risen. Jesus told His disciples they could ask things of Him and He would continue to do them on the other side of life.

Look up 1 Corinthians 12. Spiritual gifts. God gives us gifts today as He did years ago. Everything is possible.

I’m tired of men ruining faith for people.

Weak men who are afraid of women.

Jesus was a man who welcomed women. They were a part of his band.

He was born of a woman.They walked and traveled with Him. He appeared to women first outside the tomb and told them to tell the disciples He had risen.

Men in church are afraid of women.

But not Jesus.

And I bet he never would tell a stage four cancer patient going through chemo she couldn’t partake in communion.

This feels disgusting and dirty. These men have become obsessed with my healing path. If there was a scarlet letter to place on my chest and a stake to tie me to and watch me burn?

I bet they would.

I considered contacting the highest level of the church and file a formal complaint.

I considered contacting the news.

But I’ve decided to simply write the truth.

Expose the bullies with bibles for what they are.

Many of my friends are disgusted who have already seen the letter. I’ve gotten multiple invites to churches in the past few hours.

This is hard on Morgan, as she is only a few months from confirmation. She has spent Saturdays memorizing bible verses and taking tests. Hours on sundays going to church and bible study.

Rob and I dont want our children anywhere near these men, so we are done.

No matter what is said, we will never set foot in that church again.

We will no longer be harassed.

We will not accept any contact by any male elder or pastor.

That church has been slowly dying for years. I will not be surprised to see it close.

As it should.

Ironically, it’s Halloween as I write this.

A day of witches.

A day before all saints day.

I’m sure the elders and men of the church will read this and say the demons have taken my soul.

Boogity boogity boo.

I know the truth.

Jesus has my heart and soul.

I’ll pray for you, men who condemn and pass judgement on women.

I’ll pray for the women in your lives as well.

I’ll pray for the poor people of the congregation who are held hostage to these men.

I’ll pray they see the light, that the Bible is not to be used as a weapon or to keep people in line with the “mans” thinking.

But the bible is to be used as a guide to show how to love.

We have one job.

Love one another.

It’s ironic that the church sent me a letter essentially saying I’m leading others down the path to hell, while I receive messages constantly of people saying how they have found faith again because of my sharing. People praying again.

People believing.

I’m including the letter for you all to see.

It needs to be seen.

Today I’ll throw a halloween party in my class with my “Wild Things”, speak to Jesus, go trick or treating with my kids and have peace in my heart that I am the daughter of a King, and child of God, and no man will shake my faith.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

The Human Race

I love the end of October in kindergarten.

We start to get our groove on. They know the routines, letters are clicking, and there is something beautiful about them watching the leaves and the world outside our windows. They really notice the changing colors on the trees and the beauty.

That’s why even though I was nauseus all day and exhausted, I didn’t mind working.

After work I went to Danielle at the peaceful scorpion. Being nauseus all day kept me tense, but she has magical hands and was able to work out all of my cricks and kinks. I found an article on the benefit of massage therapy for chemo and it’s all true. I am a study of one.

I had enough energy to load the dishwasher and fold the laundry when I came home. The things you take for granted when you’re healthy is boundless. Perhaps today I’ll be able to put it away.

I watched the riverhead local live event with the people running for town council. It was so refreshing to see a clean, respectful discussion. It was sad to see commenters who just want wanted to zing the people who are putting themselves out there to help our town. I actually wished we could elect every one of them. They all displayed passion for the town and its people. They tackled the hard discussion of our school overcrowding and population growth in a civil and kind way. Kudos to the candidates.

(and kudos to Tim Hubbard for coming right out and saying we need the bond for the school. I may have missed anyone else saying that, but he caught my ear when he stated it bluntly and clearly.)

It can’t be easy being a public figure and these people all did a fantastic job. Tonight is the supervisor discussion debate, and I hope it’s as civil and respectful as the council people.

Rob got home around 7:00 pm with the girls. Morgan had chamber orchestra and madison had her county championships for cross country. I’ve been so lucky with the programs the district has offered. The music program has been top notch. The last fine arts director just left, and I’m really hoping the district hands the baton to someone who has proven himself for years as beyond capable and should have been hired for the job years ago. It was a huge mistake not to hire him back then. When you hire from within, you show people you value their worth. Our district is in charge of NYSSMA this year, and I know what an undertaking that entails. We also have many musicians who will be eligible for music competitions and scholarships for college. We can’t let our music kids slip through the cracks. Our town tends to go Gaga over sports. As a parent of musical kids, we need to support these kids just as much.

When madison walked through the door, I asked her how she did and she said her time. I was shocked as it was about five minutes slower than usual. She then told me she was running down the big hill at sunken meadow and heard screaming and crying. She ran over and it was one of her teammates. The thing with cross country is the runners are by themselves in the course that winds through the woods. Maddie didn’t even think. She stopped running the race and ran to the girl. Then? She started to carry her teammate. Another one of her friends, Shannon, one of the kindest kids you’ll ever meet, stopped running as well. She said they carried her out together through the woods and rainy mist to where there was a section where there were spectators. Their coach saw them and came running over, took over and told them they could finish if they wanted.

So she went back into the race, knowing she had no chance of getting any sort of good time.

We’ve been speaking of trying to get scholarships and perhaps running in college. We had just been at college night and discussed track and cross country in college. And the next night?

She made the choice to be a better human than a faster runner.

She was shocked that more kids didn’t stop and help, but I wasn’t. Finding the helpers is a rare thing. Everyone is out for themselves these days, and if there is something happening, odds are people will use their hands to take out their phones and make a nasty or snide comment or videotape it.

Let’s work on raising a new generation of helpers . People who want to make the world better and help others. The people running for town council. The kids helping others when they see people fall.

Service to others can be life changing.

Today, may we all see how we can make someone else’s life better, easier, full of more beauty.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

Aha moment on Crash Day

For the first time in a long time, maybe a year…

I’m taking off the day to rest.

I’ve lucked out that the last two heavy chemo sessions fell during a three day weekend, and my next one will as well.

Yesterday was hard.

I was literally only on the couch all day long.

Just my little black beanie covering my head, under the blankets.

Which was hard on the kids and rob too. Seeing me like that can’t be easy. But they are troopers and kept me company, asking what I needed. Maddie even laid down on the couch next to me and did her reading assignment.

I watched some hallmark Christmas movies, and tried to stay out of the dark place of wondering if this will be my last Christmas. I think that’s why I want to start now, because morbidly if it’s my last, I want it to be longer.

Yup.

That’s how we think on crash days.

October has been a hard month in my support groups. Everyone hates the pink. The save the tatas, instead of save the lives. Some of our leaders have passed or are not doing well. The death bell keeps on ringing.

I emailed my hospital team and sent them a picture of my friend who ran the marathon wearing my shirt for my oncologist, as well as the news I received another donation. My oncologist simply said “Wow”. I said that October was action and awareness month, and November? I’ll celebrate my birthday and three year thrivership with gratitude, grace, giving, and hopefully good scans. We are going to try and set up a media photo for us to take a picture of how much we have raised in three weeks. My goal was $3,000. We’ve blown that away. I want people to realize they can do simple things and small things locally to make a big difference globally. How amazing will it be when her research helps not only me, but countless others now and in the future ?

I also watched an Oprah super soul Sunday and had an aha moment. She was interviewing Sister Joan Chittester, and everything this woman said resonated deep in my soul. I’ve struggled recently with religion. Being told one is better that others. She has a saying that “Beware the religion that turns you against another one. It’s unlikely that it’s really religion at all.”. She said all religions point to the same thing. God is light. God is love. She also said Jesus was a feminist. Let’s think about this.

God could have just sent Jesus down to earth, fully formed. But He chose Mary, a woman, to deliver Him to us. Jesus then had his group of disciples, but he also had women walk and travel with him. Who did He appear to first when he rose from the dead?

I’m sick and tired of religions making women inferior. Only men can be be priests. Only men in church are the elders. No wonder religions are so messed up and people are leaving religion in droves.

Women make up half the world. Who are the oppressed? Women and children. How are the men doing taking care of everyone? Most of the world leaders are men. How is the state of our world? Men are so easily intimated by women, they fall back on the easy hits of making fun of their looks. One man who started a local civic group recently did it by publicly making fun of the eyelashes of our superintendent. Way to get a point across. Go after women’s looks, and your message dies a swift death while you show your true heart. Then Kick out women with opposite opinions from your group and silence them.

That’s the way of world these days.

Show me the people who want to have conversations, listen on their tipptytoes to opposing viewpoint, can speak without being offensive and listen without being defensive, and want to solve problems instead of scream about how other humans are inferior.

Those are my people.

The ones who welcome everyone.

The ones who don’t know what to do, but want to “do something”. So they do.

Anyone is welcome at my table who wants to help others.

People get caught up and say they are good Christians. What does that even mean?

I think people need to look in their hearts and their words and their actions.

Then ask the question again.

Am I kind to myself and others?

Do I spread light and love to all, even to those who I disagree with?

Am I doing something to make this world better, not just for me but for all?

Sister Joan said, “Alone, I am what I am, but in community I have the chance to become everything I can be.”

She is amazing. I’ll share the video again on my wall.

Today I’m hoping for the comeback day. It’s Halloween week and I’ve got a huge class party to throw on Thursday. We are making our own costumes and Penny has been hard at work on the big item for each child. It’s going to be great.

Today, may the comeback be quick, and may we all “do something” as we point to the light.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

Happy 17th Trip Around the Sun, Maddie Girl!

Today… I am the mother of a seventeen year old.

Madison.

There are no words to describe how thankful I am to be alive to see this day. I cried and cried when I was told I was terminal three years ago and had only weeks or months left… a year or two if I was lucky.

Her sweet sixteen… teaching her to drive… her prom… college… wedding… becoming a mom…all milestones I was told I would not be here for.

I’m slowly checking them all off.

When Maddie was born, we had no idea what we were doing. Add on top of that, she was not an easy baby. She cried a lot, was a fussy eater, delayed walking and talking, sensory issues. Because of my educational background, I knew how to advocate and fight for our girl. I also knew to give her a gift of an extra year before starting school. I haven’t regretted that decision for a second.

She never quite fit in or had the typical best friend or friend group. She marched to the beat of her own drum. Many nights I wished she would try to fit in, care more about her hair or what she wore, but Maddie is Maddie. She is the epitome of being comfortable in her own skin.

Which is how she came to be the intelligent, kind, caring, welcoming girl she is today. Madison doesn’t care about being “popular”.

She cares about people.

Her dragon squad is a big mish mosh of kids who are outliers. She sees past labels and sees just their hearts. She has friends who are artsy, athletic, dramatic, and intelligent. Black, white, brown, English, Asian, Polish, Latino, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, atheist.

Everyone is welcome in her world.

Her accomplishments blow me away. Her track team won divisions.

She excels in all of her advanced classes and doesn’t even have a lunch. She received highest awards in NJROTC and is a leader.

She worked hard in the summer and didn’t spend a penny on anything. She is in orchestra AND chamber orchestra. She recently joined the theatre group and is doing the play a chorus line. She is taking drivers ed and facing her fear of driving. I dont know how she does it all.

Throw on top of that a mom with stage four cancer.

Some kids crumble… Maddie holds us together.

She sets the example to Morgan and Quinn, and they strive to be like Maddie, with their own special ways. They love her so much. It seems as if Maddie will be going away to college, and the other two will feel her void as much as rob and I . I have to push the dark thoughts away of me dying and Morgan and Quinn missing me AND Maddie.

God, I want to live so bad and see them all grow up.

So bad.

Please God let research catch up to this disease, or give me the miracle.

Please.

I wan to see her eighteenth birthday, her twenty first, her fortieth.

I never got to meet my dads mom, as she died when he was eleven. I dont want be the the grandma they only hear about. The grandma in a box, underground, with only Facebook memories to look at.

I feel greedy because my friend Leila won’t get to see her beloved Milos fifth birthday.

Lisa won’t see her two children’s birthday this year.

Alycia won’t get to see her three children’s birthday this year.

Meg won’t get to see her little boys birthday this year.

Dana won’t get to see her boys this year.

I don’t know why I’m so lucky I have been able to see Maddie’s, but I’ll take it.

She has gone all out with trying to learn movie makeup and wants to go downtown to see the coffin races in costume. It’s a little macabre for a stage four patient to see coffin races, but hopefully I’ll be up to it. Then we will come back for a small family birthday party. Gone are the days of when the whole family came to birthdays. It makes me sad, but Maddie won’t mind. She has a friend halloween party tonight as well. I offered a birthday party for her when I’m feeling up to it. So hopefully in a week she will celebrate with friends.

I have been so blessed with this firstborn child of mine. It’s been easy being her mom. She doesn’t drink, vape, smoke, do drugs. No social media at all. She works hard at school and helps around the house.

She has bloomed and blossomed into a confident young adult with great stories to tell.

We love our Maddie girl.

May I live to see many more birthdays.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

#TEAMSTOPECK

I’m up and in the detox bath… and just saw the text from my sister Jill that last night we raised a little over $5,000 for Dr Stopeck.

I also just got an email from my oncologist that we are headed in the right direction and “more Chinese soup on the way!”

It’s a good way to start the day.

Yesterday I got the cancer center and waiting for me at the front desk was a bag. The two women who check everyone in said someone left it for me and doesn’t want me to know who left it. It’s full of cards for me to open every day, a bracelet, an angel ornament and some other goodies.

Man, after all of the anger that’s been bubbling over from people, it was so nice to get that. I’m taking a break from school and town postings. I spent a week defending my school district, eyelashes, people trying to do their job with their hands tied behind their back, and realized people who don’t want to listen won’t. You can’t change people who love to “stir the pot.” I’ll focus on those who buy the ingredients and serve the soup.

I went up to the infusion center and my nurse Jean got me right into a chair to access my Port. It only took a little heavy breathing and the blood started to flow. She gave me a bracelet and I gave her one of the “Team Stopeck” shirts I had made. They were a big hit, and I wished I made more.

We went downstairs with my port tube sticking out of my chest. It’s so surreal every time to look at it. But “Portia” is making things so much easier. We went in and Dr Stopeck and her staff loved the shirts. She even asked to take pictures. I think her favorite hashtag on the back was “Researchisthereason”. And it’s true.

Without research, I would not have had these drugs to help prolong my life. Without Donnie Yance and the Mederi Center, I would not have the supplements and nutrition to back up the synergistic healing effects that keep me strong. Without research I wouldn’t have my chinese herbalist and his immense knowledge of herbs to help fight the cancer and keep me strong. Research matters. Which is why I’ve been such a supporter of Metavivor which gives 100% to stage four research, as well as an advocate of raising awareness against the Susan g Komen company as well as the other “Pinkwashing” groups that give only a fraction to research .

The appointment went really well, she had a hard time finding the lymph node, the breast tumors felt a teeny bit smaller, and my liver function is that of a perfectly normal human. It’s actually probably better than most people.

I won’t see my doctor for another month, as she will be in Korea addressing the South Korean Oncology association. Yup… she is that badass. My next appointment will also be in the main hospital in the new wing, and everyone is a little anxious about how the big move over will be. I’m sure there will be kinks, but to me, stony brook isn’t about the building I’m in, it’s about the people who work there and the hope I get.

I went back upstairs and we did the long process of pushing fluids, anti nausea meds, some steroids, then the slow push of the adriomycin followed by Cytoxin.

I got some soup they handed out and kept up with my fast. I’m so hungry. I did cheat a little and had three crackers and four soup crackers to help with nausea when it hit. I also took a teeny bite of the famous nick Coutts meatball. I’ll go back to eating tomorrow. I got a message from my Fairy godfather, Rick Shapiro, reminding me to stay strong and keep doing all the healthy things. Listen, if a man who wrote the book, “Hope Never Dies” and interviewed the top or the top in healers, as well as miracle stories, tells you to fast for three or four days during chemo…

You suck it up and fast.

The best part was when Maureen, Dr Stopeck’s assistant came up to the infusion floor to tell me the results of the tumor Markers. Jean closed the curtain and walked out because she said she was going to cry. Maureen handed me the paper and I looked. At first it took a minute, because the numbers are still high, but then rob went into his briefcase and took out the labs from two weeks ago to compare.

Then I cried.

Maureen said Dr Stopeck was very happy.

We are moving in the right direction.

I’ll get one more dose November 7th, then get an MRI of the liver to check the size. We are thinking of the next step, as I cant stay on this chemo because of the damage it causes To the heart. So maybe doxil or some other treatment. We will see.

We finished up and came home at 3:30 and slept.

Then off to the spaghetti dinner we went.

It was amazing.

First, I had no idea what Jeni’s Main Street bistro was. You should all follow her on Facebook.

Her pictures of her food and her menu is amazing. Add the fact that she does entire fundraisers for locals in need? That’s the business to go to. Forget going to the big box restaurant chains… eat local.

I met Jennifer, the owner, and Chris Meyer, who actually came up with the idea and contacted my sister. It’s amazing how supportive strangers can be. Between the three of them, and then my two friends Trish Poole and Lorraine Warren who gathered items for a chines auction, we raised a little over $5,000. I had told my doctor yesterday my goal was $1,000 and she was thrilled. Wait until I email her today!!! My goal was to hand her a check between $3,000 and $5,000. We blew that away in three weeks.

God, I love good humans.

I was surrounded by everyone who loved me and got so many hugs.

I saw friends who drove from far away.

Friends who live close but I’ve been too involved in cancerland to see.

I called my brother rob and FaceTimed him in from North Carolina and he saw my nieces and nephews quick.

I had my colleagues from school and sorority sisters.

Former students came.

My kids Sunday school teacher and her husband Nick Krupski.

I dragged my hair stylists/friends to the bathroom and showed them my bald head. By. Either scott was there and we did a bald head contest. (And apparently, if you put two bald heads together, it looks like a butt. Who knew?)

Paula and dori and Steve and Heidi from yoga and the giving room were there. I kept looking over at them and felt peace. Claudia from north fork table came and I said to myself when I feel better I’m going to go and have one of her james beard award winning pastries as a treat.

My Latin squad represented, as did my Bailey clan.

Penny came and got to see so many of our former students and families. The riverhead PBA was represented by my sister, brother, and two other officers who donated to my doctor.

My swim sister Melissa Jordan came and i cried because I miss my swim family every day. And a woman who has already put up her christmas tree is my soul sister.

I was surrounded by my heroes.

Nick Coutts and I finally met. He had been in a horrible motorcycle accident last spring. The didn’t think he would make it. The h didn’t know who his mom and sister were, and that Nick had a whole “Coutts corner” supporting him. He and I hugged several times and he eminates goodness, love and miracles. (And his mom Tess? One of the strongest and funniest people I’ve met.)

Darla Doorhy came from Kait’s Angels. Her daughter was killed when she was hit by a car a few years ago. She has turned her grief into action, and spreads hope and love everywhere she goes.

I saw Todd and Tanya Newman as well. Todd was my blunder when I bartended at claudios in my previous career before teaching. Their son was diagnosed with cancer and spent the last year and a half going through a grueling treatment. He is all good now, but people need to remember that it isn’t really over. Now the true healing begins, and support is needed more than ever.

My Witt family, which I’ve taught all three kids, and have been friends and supported to us through their own trials and walks through fire.

The Lodi family came and spoke about the dads healing from a bad motorcycle accident. I introduced him to Nick Coutts so he could see the healing that will be coming. I also told them about my friend Tammi, whose son was in a similar accident and is doing so well.

That’s why we need to tell our stories. So people can someday look for people who persevered and know anything is possible and miracles are real.

I tell my students I go superhero school at night.

Last night?

Class was in session.

I was surrounded by superheroes, people who came back against all odds. People who live ordinary lives and do extraordinary things. Even the people who just thought they came and ate some spaghetti.

Nope.

That plate of spaghetti could be one brings about the next breahthrough in cancer research.

Pass the meatballs, please!

We left at 9:30 as I was exhausted and really nauseous. I think it was more the hunger than the meds. I slept well, and am detoxing now.

I’ll head into school today, and crash tonight.

It was a good day.

It was a great day.

Thank you to everyone who sent love, came to eat some spaghetti, tried to win raffle baskets. Thank you to strangers who have become friends.

Thank you to family that has supported us every single day.

Today?

I’m the luckiest girl in the world.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

Chemo Day! Spaghetti Day!

Chemo day.

Today is round three of four.

I’ve started the fast, and man, it’s hard. But I keep thinking of the end goal and looking at my kids.

Yesterday was a great day, and we did a pumpkin hunt in our little magical courtyard. My friend Anthony Meras from Star Confectionary purchased mini pumpkins, enough for every kindergartner. I wrote their names on the bottom, they were hidden in the courtyard, and the kids were told they had to find the pumpkin with their name on it. This way, the pumpkin picking lasted longer. It was just the sweetest thing ever to see them all searching for their very own pumpkin. I’m telling you, kindergarten is just magical sometimes.

There was another article on our district and our issues. One of our schools is at 115% capacity. The state has left us high and dry. The town hasn’t kept up with code enforcement on illegal rentals and keeps adding more apartment buildings. The school is mandated to educate every child that comes to our door. We aren’t allowed to say, “The inn is full….”. We need solutions now as well as long term. Everyone is angry and you can feel the anger radiate on the comments on local articles . Some are just yelling and complaining, some are bringing up valid points but come across so antagonistic the message is lost, and some are working hard to try to find a solution. I actually discovered I’ve been banned, blocked, removed from a new local group. I don’t disagree with the issues they have been tackling, just the anger and tone, as the message gets lost behind the anger. I guess shutting out those who disagree is the new American way. (And yes, I’ve blocked people recently, but only those who are unstable or have personally attacked me, totally different.) It says a lot to me that I’ve been kicked out. I guess a kindergarten teacher with opinions isn’t welcome. It’s a shame, and I hope they learn how to work with others. I’ve got bigger issues to work on and will do so with people willing to have civil conversation. Lawsuits are now being threatened against the district. People keep piling on and we are just trying to educate children. Facts are still being distorted, and people are still saying the huge sports building is on the bond. Please go to meetings and find out the facts.

And maybe realize that our district has been left abandoned by our state, which piles on more mandates and rules while choking us. One of our BOE members said her emails and letters don’t even get answered anymore.

We need to work together and find solutions now. I don’t know how that will happen though.

We seem farther apart than ever some days.

There was an article on our town as well, on code enforcement, with one side saying they’ve been trying to clean up the mess the previous administration left behind, and hiring more code enforcement would add to the budget. The other side said it’s only just become a priority because it’s election year and it’s grandstanding and enough hasn’t been done and facts are being twisted.

I really wish people would find a way to tell the truth. Stop trying to put things out there to make people look bad and instead work together to make our town better.

Reading the local articles can really make you lose faith in humanity.

But then…

On the day of the third heavy chemo treatment…

Total strangers team up with friends and my sister to host a spaghetti dinner to benefit my oncologist. A former sorority sister and a former PTO president decide to add a Chinese auction. So today, after spending all day in the hospital getting chemo, I’ll head to Jeni’s Main Street Bistro in Southold, where they are hosting and spaghetti dinner fundraiser from 5-9. I’ll be exhausted and hungry, and being around people who are helping to raise money to help my oncologist and her research will be the perfect medicine for the end of the day.

I also received an email from the hospital that my former employer, Riverhead Building Supply, sent a check for $2,000 to their research foundation and Dr Stopeck. I worked there right after college and made friends that I still have today. It started as a small business and has continued to grow. As their business has grown, so has their hearts. You can always count on this business to come through. That’s why it’s important to shop local businesses. They are the heart of the town.

Rob and I are heading in to the hospital around 10-10:30, getting the port accessed, labs drawn, then walking downstairs to see my oncologist. It’s always a weird feeling to walk around with a tube sticking out of my chest. I’ll be examined and we will make sure my counts are good enough for me to get the chemo today. Rob and I have a surprise for my doctor, and hopefully it will make her laugh. We are hoping that in November we can give her a check with the donations and I’ll get good scans for the first time in almost two years. We are also praying the tumor markers begin to drop.

I’ve got one more heavy chemo treatment scheduled on November 7th. That night I’ll go play in a fundraiser the union is hosting, the Harlem Wizards. (There will be a new flyer coming home as we had a typo or two.). Its a great night for a great cause, and what better way to end this treatment than to be surrounded by wizards?

Today may the chemo kill every cancer cell that is left, may people learn how to listen with open hearts and work together to problem solve, and everyone enjoy some spaghetti for a good cause.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

Hold Hands and Let’s Go!

There’s two types of people in the world.

The helpers and the complainers.

I’ve surrounded myself, for the most part, with the helpers. The people who rush in to help when there is a problem. I was raised in a police officer family. My moms dad, poppa, was a NYC police officer. He also served in the war. My dad was a marine, as well as a Nassau county police officer. Every single one of my siblings became police officers, and I became a teacher.

We all went into public service, because we want to make the world better. We certainly didn’t go into our professions for the money. I could have made a lot more money in the private sector. But I chose to do what I love, which is make this world better by helping to raise children.

Taking care of others who are family is hard. Taking care of others who are strangers? That takes a special kind of person. Nurses are heroes in my book. Firefighters, police officers, EMS, nurses, teachers… the backbone of our society.

Then you have those who are angry. They hate unions. Love to yell and finger point. When there is a problem, instead of trying to find a way to fix it, they instead take every opportunity to point out the problem and how horrible everyone is and every mistake that’s ever been made. It’s like your friends list on Facebook. You can pour your heart out every day and they just sit back and watch, make no comments of support or love and encouragement. But say something they disagree with? They jump right in and show you how you are wrong a million different ways. Politics? Forget it. Your political views are wrong and you’re a racist. No civil discussion is possible because everyone comes from a place of anger, and you can’t have civil discussions.

I was told advice once… “Speak without being offensive and listen without being defensive.”

Everyone takes everything personally. Drop the ego, and think about the better good for all. Imagine if the “Gotcha!” game became the “hold my hand and lets fix this together” game.

Imagine that?

Yesterday was the RunIVMore. The girls and boys cross country team ran in honor of raising awareness for stage four research. I was overwhelmed when the coach came up and gave my family the shirts that the team wore.

Instead of blue and white, they made the team logo pink, teal and green. I brought my ribbons and bracelets and the kids all wore them.

The boys ran first, and we cheered them all on as they crossed the finish line. Then the girls ran, and the neat thing about Indian island is that you can see the runners before they round the bend to the finish line through the trees. We were watching, and all of a sudden we saw a large group of white through the trees.

Suddenly, the whole girls team emerged from the woods, running in. a pack and holding hands. Maddie was in front.

They ran as one team to the finish line and crossed it together. Holding hands, laughing and smiling, with Maddie leading the way. I can cry just thinking about it. Maddie has been running with these varsity girls since eighth grade. I was diagnosed soon after. This sports team has been her outlet. Her coach has been there every step of the way. Her teammates have supported her. It’s been an escape from cancerland. It’s been a blessing.

That’s what sports can be for so many kids. Kids who struggle acardemically, but love to play. Imagine having to go to school every day feeling stupid, but then getting to shine on a field? So you work even harder to make sure your grades stay up so you can play. That’s why I’m so passionate about not cutting sports from our budget. Everyone pays for the kids. It’s how it’s always been. We take care of our young… and our elderly.

“I don’t have kids in school anymore, why should I pay?” What if we take that same approach to the elderly? What if parents of school age children said, “I don’t have grandparents that are alive anymore. Why should I pay for old people? They are angry and always vote down budgets and don’t care about my kids. Screw social security. I’m not going to pay into it anymore. There won’t be any left for me when I get to retirement age anyway. It’s all going to be used up by them. I’m going to just take care of my kids and my own. They don’t want to help our schools even though they got help when they went? Then forget them. Good luck grandpa..”

What kind of society would that be?

One that I wouldn’t want to live in, that’s for sure.

Our children are our future and our elderly are our past. They all matter. The ones in the middle either are the problem solvers or the troublemakers. The ones yelling and screaming or the ones holding hands and saying, “Let’s solve these problems and cross this finish line together. Take my hand.”

I watched these kids yesterday hold hands and run across the finish line together and wished the whole damn town was there to learn from these kids.

We have so many problems. Instead of using your hand to finger point, use it to grab someone else’s hand and problem solve. We can be better than we’ve been.

Unfortunately it starts at the top and trickles down… on both sides. Republicans a Democrats both disgust me. The media fans the flames on both sides. Politicians get nastier and nastier as we get closer to voting. When leaders and nominees get nasty, and the people on both sides cheer it on, it becomes even worse. People go to debates not to learn the facts, which are often distorted anyway, but to see the bloodletting.

Some people love the fight, and probably would have gone to see men and women die in arenas with gladiators and lions all those centuries ago. Me? I would have probably tried to tame the lions and tell the gladiators to drop their weapons and sing instead of dying for sport.

Who are you?

Are you someone who reads Facebook to feel uplifted? Send love to those who need it? Cheer on and like and love people’s accomplishments? Or do you keep quiet and wait for something you disagree with and then pounce?

Do you listen on your tippy toes to other points of view? Or is your opinion the only fact that matters? Do you want to only state the problem, or help come up with solutions?

Would you run ahead of everyone through the woods and try to win, or hold hands with others and make sure everyone crosses the finish line?

I know who I am.

I know who I want around me.

So take my hand and let’s go.

We’ve got a lot of work to do.

May we all drop our weapons and ego and make this world a better place for everyone.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri