Survivor Story – Heather Von St. James

"Cloudbreak" (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

“Cloudbreak” (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014


It’s one word that conjures a myriad of emotions within me.

Grief and sadness for the dearly loved ones who I’ve said an incredibly early “Goodbye” to,

fresh tears for those I miss deeply,

and tears of gratefulness for the ones who

have survived and conquered Cancer.

I will never claim to understand death, suffering and pain.

I will instead joyously celebrate the stories of survival.

Please know that in some small way, I hope to honor the memories and the lives of those dear ones who are missed,

even as I proclaim the stories of Survivors.

***Please note that some of the links that I provide are sponsored by certain legal firms.  
Gracie K. Harold and her blog “Adjustments to Normal” as well as her book, 
“Across the Street From Normal” are in NO way, shape or form, endorsing ANY legal firm mentioned, implied, or otherwise noted.***

Heather Von St. James

Heather was a new mother when she received the news that she had Mesothelioma, a Cancer that is caused by asbestos exposure.

I cannot fathom what life was like in those moments when life tilted unpredictably for Heather and her husband Cameron, as well as their newborn daughter.

Cameron recently contacted me to request that I share Heather’s story today, on Mesothelioma Awareness Day.

Before agreeing, I did some research into Heather’s story and the cancer that she has overcome.

I am amazed at the brilliant skill shown by her surgeon, Dr. David Sugarbaker, as well as the persistent faith and courage that Heather, Cameron and even their young daughter continue to demonstrate.

The link to their story is here.

Thank you for taking time to read and to share so we can spread awareness as we honor those we miss as well as those who live on!




Remembrance 9/11

Remembrance (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Remembrance (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014


by Gracie K. Harold

I remember horror as the 2nd plane crashed.

I remember panic and fear.

I remember swelling pride for our fellow brothers and sisters; the unafraid, the unflinching, the unselfish.

Those who ran in…never to walk out.

I remember a sleepless vigil, waiting by a phone that refused to ring.

I remember falling to my knees at the sound of my brother’s voice,

collapsing into relieved sobs as my pregnant belly heaved with every breath.

He had been there, a mere hours before.

He had changed plans at the last moment.

It took him two years to expose his own grief and tell us

how his best friend had died on September 11.

Now, I carry the memories of the acrid reality that lingered over the city…

months after the attacks.

I carry the deep respect and loyalty for the brave men and women who

choose daily to run in…whether or not they will ever walk out.

Remembrance 2 (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Remembrance 2 (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

“I Will Not Cry”

“I never got to meet you,

I never saw your face.

I never heard you laugh

and never saw you cry.

We didn’t get to laugh,

we didn’t get to cry,

we didn’t get to play

or even get to fight.

All I have is a name

and now you’re gone.

Yet still I will not cry.

I will not cry yet.

I will not shed a tear.

For one day I will get to meet you.

Then I will cry

great tears of joy,

for on that day I will

get to meet my baby boy.”

Written about Samuel Nathan, for Gracie K. Harold by James Harold.

(c)Gracie K. Harold for James Harold 2014.

"I will not cry"(c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

“I will not cry”(c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

It’s been close to a year…we miss you Samuel.

From Ruby

Ruby's Letter

Ruby’s Letter (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Translation: “Dear Mom,

My reading program says to [write] and send a letter to my favorite author. (That’s you).

I love you. Your book is a good book (well, the parts I’ve read, that is).


Happy Tuesday!  This made my day!  🙂

The link to my book is here: “Across the Street From Normal”.

I have absolutely no regrets about leaving the abusive situation that we were in all those years ago.  Instead of seeing her mother as a victim, Ruby sees me as an author, an income earner, a society contributor, and a confident woman who is loved by God and her husband.  That’s all I ever wanted.

Today, I feel like I have what I wanted.

Love, faith, family, friends, and confidence.


Mrs. J.

Reminder - You are beloved! (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Reminder – You are beloved! (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Dear Mrs. J.,

Thank you.  I was best friends with your son all the way through High School and some of college.  One week, during Spring of my Freshman year in college, you kept getting “nudges” to pray for my reproductive organs. You told me later that it was “weird”, but you did it.

My ovarian cyst ruptured that week.  I lost a lot of blood, and when they went in for surgery, they fully expected to either do a hysterectomy, or remove an ovary, etc. They were rather surprised to see that they only needed to drain the blood.

Almost twenty years later, I am celebrating the three beautiful “bonus” children and the three beautiful children of my womb that I get to hold in my arms along with the two children who were held in my womb…even if they are only now held in my heart.

I don’t claim to know why your particular prayer was answered “yes”, when other ones for fertility have been “no” or “wait”.

I don’t understand why I still lost the two babies that I miss.

But I am so thankful for the extra time that I was given, for the stolen moments of a miraculous creation…five times.

Through it all, Mrs. J.,  I have learned that motherhood is not just physical.  It’s visceral, spiritual, emotional, and physical.

I am a mother.

I have a “Mother Heart” for all the children that I have ever loved; my own, my “bonus children”, my miscarried ones, the ones that I had hoped to adopt, the ones I had hoped to carry in my womb, the ones that I teach, the ones that I smile at in the store, the ones that I baby-sit, or bounce on my knee at church.

Your prayer may have gifted me with extra years for my womb to produce, but the time allowed my heart to produce more offspring than I ever dreamed of.

Thank you seems so small…so consider this my virtual “hug”.

And by the way, God?  Here.  You already have my heart.  Today, I offer you back the uterus that you loaned to me.  I really did try to take care of it, but I am sorry for all the years that I wasted not appreciating it for the gift that it is.  Thank you for allowing me to have a Mother Heart, and for enlarging it more than I ever dreamed it could be.



An Open Letter

TRIGGER WORD WARNING: Women’s health, uterus, pain, and a healthy dose of sarcasm.

Women (c)GracieKHarold 2014

Women (c)GracieKHarold 2014

Dear Uterus,

You are a pain right now.  I hurt because of you.  I am by no means a wuss.  I once had a cyst rupture, yet I continued my speech and drove myself to be examined; where it was determined that I had lost close to 2 liters of blood.  I don’t give in to your whining and sniveling easily.  I don’t have time to slow down, cradle a heating pad, and curl up in the fetal position.  I have blog posts to write, a book to promote, a husband to love, and 6 kids to raise, as well as some beloved girls to mentor.

For the last three weeks, I thought I had you properly ignored and pushed aside. I was wrong.  Believe me, I am sorry.

I apologize for the way that I ignored the nagging pain and discomfort. I was wrong to procrastinate making an appointment.  After the emergency room visit, two doctor appointments, three lab draws and debilitating pain; I humbly admit that I should have paid better attention to you.

This really hurts.  Hugely.  In a way that feels like a knife is scraping me as my entire insides are turned inside-out.

I am sorry that I let things digress to the place where I am currently on two different antibiotics, anti-hive medicine, antihistamine, pain killers, and anti-nausea medicine; not to mention the IV antibiotics that were given in the ER.

The irony is that I had just recently decided to become better friends with you.  The truth is, for years I was bitter at you.  I hated that you miscarried my two babies.  I hated that you adamantly held on to the stretch marks from all of my pregnancies…in a bright red, obvious declaration that 5 little lives had once resided within.

Recently, however, I was challenged to join in on an international project which transformed my thinking about you.  I am excited about the results (which will debut this Fall), yet I am also chagrined at how many years I have wasted in my hatred towards you.

Instead of honoring the gift of life that you held within me, I focused only on the negative qualities that you possess.  I failed to be thankful for what and who you had given me…three children to hold, and two children to hold in my heart until I can hold them in my arms.

Recently discovering that I have a genetic disorder which causes stretching of my tendons and ligaments helped me understand that it’s not your fault; it’s simply who I am.  James is quick to remind me that the red marks show visibly the depth of my love for each of our children.

A wise friend of mine once said, “As women, we compare our insides to other women’s outside appearance”.  How many years did I waste comparing you, my insecurities, and my bitterness to other women’s fashion choices, make up artistry, or hairdo instead of seeing them as my sister, in need of encouragement.

So, dear uterus, you’re “killing” me here with pain, and the doctor’s orders are that I need to rest more than I am active…but I wanted to thank you for slowing me down enough to appreciate the gifts that you’ve given me.

"Marks of Love" (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014. only cropping has been done, no touch-ups or filters were applied.

“Marks of Love” (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014. only cropping has been done, no touch-ups or filters were applied.




“The brightest flame casts the darkest shadow.”
― George R.R. MartinA Clash of Kings  

Lightplay 1. copyright Gracie K. Harold 2014

Lightplay 1. (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014


Shapes and shadows speak to me.  My artist heart is easily drawn in by unexpected beauty.  I enjoy discovering how the light plays in the shadows.

I was delighted by the images that I captured the other day while the kids were playing.

Lightplay 2 (c) Gracie K. Harold 2014

Lightplay 2 (c) Gracie K. Harold 2014

lightplay 3

Lightplay 3 (c) Gracie K. Harold 2014

lightplay 4

Lightplay 4 (c) Gracie K. Harold 2014

Lightplay 5 (c) Gracie K Harold 2014

Lightplay 5 (c) Gracie K Harold 2014

I’m beginning to see the deep truth in the quote above.  If I only gaze at the darkness and shadow, I miss the point.  Life isn’t about being intimidated by the dark.  Life is about dancing and playing in the light.  Beauty is found where light overshadows the darkness.

The following song “Beautiful Things” by Gungor was played at our wedding, and it captures our story so eloquently:

My hope, desire, and prayer this week is that the LIGHT plays in real ways for you, and your eyes are opened to see the darkness being overshadowed by love.

Stunning Lightplay (c) Gracie K. Harold 2014

Stunning Lightplay (c) Gracie K. Harold 2014

Matthew’s Joke


Our son Matthew had a hard time accepting humor at first.  He would laugh at funny things on television or in movies; but he did not understand how to process teasing.  This brought on some very tense moments which required an extra dose of compassion and patience on our part.  We are, by nature, a family that thrives on practical jokes…and gentle teasing is one of our love languages.

By gentle teasing, I mean the following example: Rex walked into the house yesterday after playing out in the dirt.  I smiled widely, winked obviously and said, “So, mister man; were you going to wash the backyard off your legs?” He giggled, shook his head and said, “Ummmm, nope! Uh-uh. I wanted to keep it on me to remember the yard!”.  We laughed together as he walked out to clean up.

This whole interchange was a completely foreign concept to Matthew until a few months ago.  I remember one of the first “humor breakthroughs”.  I was driving alone in the car with Matthew and Marissa.  Matthew made an outrageous statement about something, and without thinking, I teasingly said, “Ohhhh, I see, Mr. Spoofer.  You are telling a Tall Tale!” as I winked at him in the rear view mirror.  *Cue tears.*  I felt awful.  He said, “My name is Matthew, not Mr. Spoofer!”.

I explained that Daddy and I called each other silly names just to show that we love each other…not mean names, but silly ones, like “Little Miss Pees a lot” or “Mr. I had Onions tonight”.  I explained that if the names change, the person still stays the same in their heart.  With a sinking feeling of dread in my gut, I asked him if he was starting to understand.  “*Sniff* I think so…since I was pretending to cry, Mom! I knew you were kidding!”

He got me.

About a week later, the five youngest kiddos were heading upstairs to bed.  It was a chilly night, so I hollered up to ask who needed an extra blanket.  3 little voices answered that they did.  I went all the way to the far corner of the basement to retrieve the warm layers.  My arms were heavy laden when I tromped back up the two flights of stairs.  I handed out two of the blankets, and went from room to room asking who requested the third one.  Total silence.  James said, “Are you sure that you counted right?”  I replied, “Three of the kids answered me.”  We heard snickering behind us, and turned to see the cherubic face of Matthew, dissolving into giggles. “Ha! I got you, MOM!  I asked for the blanket but then acted like I didn’t. I.TEASED.YOU!”

James and I shook our heads as we smiled.  “You sure did get me, buddy!  Way to go!”

That boy.  What a Spoofer!

Emotional Atrophy


Emotional Atrophy @GracieKHarold 2014

Emotional Atrophy @GracieKHarold 2014

I divulged a ” whole lotta” truth about me in the last week.  I expected it to be unnerving, but I had no idea how weird it would feel.  I remember the times that I have spent in a cast or an immobilizer due to injuries.  Once the “brace” was removed, my limb would have the sensation of floating; and the stark reality of my muscles’ atrophy would be grossly apparent.  That’s a bit like this.  I feel lighter now that the truth is revealed, yet I am also simultaneously aware of how atrophied some of my emotions have become.

I spent so much energy protecting the kids and myself that it slowly became self-preservation.  I continually increased the strength of my independence and “guardedness” while my ability to trust and be vulnerable faded and grew weaker.  I craved friendships and relationships, and I would invest in others; but only to a certain point.  I would divulge part of my story in a detached, emotion free way…but I wouldn’t fully embrace my story and take ownership of it.

I became adeptly skilled at asking questions and keeping conversation moving around other topics in a desperate attempt to live in the “uninterrupted reality” that we had grown used to.

James married me, though.  I have a degree in Communications.  No matter how I tried, intentionally or not; I couldn’t hide from him.  I didn’t want to hide anymore.  My heart yearned to truly be known.  From the beginning of our friendship, I have been completely and utterly at ease.  I can’t help but be the best person that I am when I am with him.  He brings out the goofiest, most sarcastic, teasing part of me; yet somehow he manages to stir up an insatiable passion for more of Christ.

I understand that it’s all because James has his eyes fixed securely on Christ.  Somehow, as he focuses there, he loves me with a compassionate and fierce acceptance that points me to Christ as I draw closer to both of them.

It’s the most incomprehensible and beautiful way of alluring me out of my defense mechanisms.  I feel my faith and trust growing in strength daily as my once-atrophied muscles are exercised again.  I’m slowly leaving the emotional apathy behind as I become the emotionally exuberant one.


Emotional Exuberance @GracieKHarold 2014

Emotional Exuberance @GracieKHarold 2014

Thankful Thursday July 3

I am thankful for

#Freedom #Soldiers @GracieKHarold 2014

#ThankfulThursdays @GracieKHarold 2014



Love, plain and simple. @GracieKHarold 2014


Same Purpose, Different Appearance. @GracieKHarold 2014

Same Purpose, Different Appearance. @GracieKHarold 2014

If you are feeling thankful, share it!  #ThankfulThursday

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