2019 has been the year of personal growth and change.
- I discovered how strong I am when faced with some unimaginable challenges.
- I’ve learned that it’s okay to walk away from people who bring me heartache.
- I have found new friends who have become family.
- I connected with a person who brought me closure to a very scary situation.
On September 24th 2018 I received several phone calls from people that I had grown up with. Text message after text message, voice mail after voice mail went something like this:
“Heather, did you see the Megyn Kelly show today?”
“Hey, did you see Lori Poland on the Megyn Kelly show? Call me back.”
I hadn’t seen the show since I was consumed with my husband’s battle with his terminal blood cancer. I was living and breathing all things chemo related and didn’t have time to watch television. Later that night when we got back from the hospital I found the episode online. My mom who was visiting us for the week was upstairs in her hotel room. (We were in the hotel for a year and she would frequently come into town to help us and to give me a break from the 24-7 care giving.) I sent her a text with the link and suggested she take a look and I was going to do the same.
I watched the episode and like a cork busting out of a champagne bottle, my eyes filled with tears and a lump the size of the large chicken nugget blocked my airway. The images and the story came flooding back. I went upstairs and knocked on her door. She hadn’t watched the story yet and was shocked to find me standing there sobbing while trying to catch my breath.
I sat on the couch attempting to regain my composure while she watched on her iPad. After the episode finished we both had a glass of wine (or three) and I explained that I didn’t need this shit right now. I was trying to gather every single ounce of positive energy to get through the possibility of losing my husband to his cancer. I wasn’t going to do anything about it and just ignore it… or so I thought.
The next day I talked about it with someone very close to me and they said, “This is personal and it’s nobody’s business.” I agreed. I completely agreed. It was no one’s business and as far as I was concerned, everyone could just F-right off. The only thing I was concerned about was saving my husband’s life. But something wasn’t right. This nagging feeling kept tugging at my soul. I was trying to ignore it and push it off but I just couldn’t shake it.
After sitting with it for a few days and talking it over with my husband and mom, I decided to pick up the phone and call Lori. I left a message and figured if it was meant to be she will get the message and if not, I would let it go.
I was driving when I received a call on my cell phone and on the other end of the line was this sweet sounding voice, the same voice I heard on the outgoing voicemail message. “Hi Heather, this is Lori Poland. I received your message and I wanted to call you back.”
The chicken nugget was back in my throat. I felt like I was on a first date, not knowing what to say or how to say it. In that moment I said, “For the past 35 years I have known who you were. There were many times I wanted to reach out but I didn’t know how. I received several calls after the Megyn Kelly show aired and I thought now that I am 40 years old, maybe this was the time.” Lori was quiet on the other end of the line. She would gently acknowledge what I was saying. Then I said, “I wanted to thank you for bringing me closure to an event that happened when I was 5 years old.” She said, “Okay. What event?” I continued on, “In 1983 I had an incident with your kidnapper before he took you. I was shown several photographs of men but I didn’t recognize him until I saw his face on the television after you identified him.” We both sat quietly. I didn’t know if she was going to hang up on me or think I was crazy. Her response was nothing but love and compassion. We talked about the incident in more detail and decided to connect later on in the week. We both needed a moment (or two) to process what I had just said.
In the following days, weeks, and months, it was if we had NEVER not known each other. We connected on so many levels it was a little freaky. I was honored to have been asked to join the board of her non-profit organization, EndCAN, short for The National Foundation to End Child Abuse and Neglect. However, due to Gary’s illness and the time I was spending at the hospital, I wasn’t able to dedicate the time she or the organization deserved.
As time went on we talked about how we could join forces to share her story and break the silence on child abuse and neglect. As a screenwriter and producer in the film industry, I wanted to volunteer to help share her story. We both thought that developing a screenplay would be a great idea. After securing the film rights to her soon-to-be published memoir through my production company, Feisty Fox Productions, Lori and I have been co-writing the script and we’re excited to move forward with this adventure in 2020.
Make no mistake, this isn’t about going into detail about what happened to me. This isn’t a “poor Lori” or “poor Heather” story. This is a story about how Lori Poland survived being abused and dropped into the pit of an outhouse where she survived for 3 1/2 days alone, 10 feet below the earth’s surface. This is a story about how a 3-year-old little girl identified her kidnapper and brought him to justice. This is a story about how Lori went on to become a thriving mother, daughter, sister, friend, therapist, motivational speaker, co-founder, author, and screenwriter.
This story is about surviving to thriving.
In 2020 we will be #LouderThanSilence