Today, I have some hard news to share with you. After years of seeing doctors and chasing symptoms, I have finally found the answer to my continual health decline. It is not the answer that I wanted. I have tested positive and been diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease, along with TBRF (a co-infection of Lyme), EBV, and mold toxicity. These are the root causes of my symptoms, but the list of other ailments that have stemmed from them is long and often overwhelming.
Some of you have followed my health journey in recent years as I’ve battled chronic pain and fatigue, some of you have heard me talk about invisible disabilities from the stage, but most of what I’ve been battling, I’ve kept hidden from the public eye, not because I wanted to hide it, but because talking about something for which you don’t have a name is both difficult to describe and challenging for others to understand. So lately I’ve largely stayed silent as we continued to search for answers. And now we have them. And I am grateful that the searching is over. And yet, receiving this diagnosis comes with a mountain of difficult things to both process and learn.
“Most of what I’ve been battling, I’ve kept hidden from the public eye, not because I wanted to hide it, but because talking about something for which you don’t have a name is both difficult to describe and challenging for others to understand.”
Because life has taught me to be strong, I’ve been good at hiding the severity of my symptoms, often even from those closest to me: the low-grade fevers, the swollen glands and rib soreness, the amount of energy it takes to stay engaged in conversation, the extreme fatigue that no amount of sleep can cure, the pain, the muscle aches, the crash days, the ways even the smallest of tasks can feel completely overwhelming…the list goes on and on. This has become my daily reality. This is my life with Chronic Lyme Disease.
“This has become my daily reality. This is my life with Chronic Lyme Disease.”
We have a long road ahead of us. There is no known cure for Chronic Lyme Disease. Only when you catch Lyme in the first few weeks of exposure is a full cure with antibiotics really possible. In my case, it has been living in my body for years…possibly my whole life. Lyme is a lot like cancer in that you treat it the best you can, hoping for it to go into remission…but you’re never really “cured.” My goal is to find the best treatments I can, from the best doctors I can, that will provide the most healing possible, and the best quality of life moving forward. But it will be long and slow.
What about writing and speaking? Honestly, there’s a lot I still don’t know. With the impact of COVID-19 and my immune system being so severely compromised, I am currently unable to leave my house for anything other than essentials. I am accepting virtual speaking engagements to stay as engaged as possible and financially afloat. I am writing a monthly column for Baptist News Global. Beyond that, I don’t know what things will look like yet. So much is so uncertain for all of us right now. As I begin treatment, I will know more in time.
What about the book club? The book club will continue as planned. I actually received this diagnosis before the book club was launched. It’s just taken me a few weeks (okay, two months) to get my head and heart wrapped around it enough to be able to share this with you. However, the book club and all the plans behind it remain intact and it is a project I’m truly excited about. This is the last week for registration, and I hope you will join me.
How Can I Help? Your support and encouragement mean the world to me. I love snail mail. I appreciate your notes, gifts, and check-ins. Currently, I try to respond to every message that I get, but moving forward, please know that I read every one of them, even if I am unable to respond. The obvious burden besides the physical/emotional/mental toll this all takes, is the financial toll. Treatment is expensive and often not covered by insurance, traveling to speak right now is impossible, and concentrating on work is challenging. Things like joining Patreon and registering for the book club help keep me afloat. Of course, I always love hearing from you and knowing how my work has made an impact in your life always lifts my spirits, even on my hardest days.
Today I began treatment, the first step in a long journey. I may not feel strong, but I know that I have you behind me. And because of that, I will continue to be brave.
Know that I love and cherish each of you.
Keep Being Brave and Living Wildly Unashamed,
Good Morning Friends!
Today is the day! Registration for the LGBTQ Faith Book Club is NOW OPEN! Remember, space is limited, so if you (and a friend!) are wanting to join, don’t wait! You can visit the link below to get all the details or to register.
Learn More and Register Now Here!
I hope to see many of your beautiful faces in this group! This will be a great opportunity to read, learn, and build community together with other like-minded people. It’s going to be a great adventure!
So excited to do this with you,
Just a quick reminder that registration for our upcoming LGBTQ Faith Book Club launches this Thursday at 10am MST! Be watching for an email to arrive in your inbox on Thursday morning with the link. I would LOVE to have you join us!
You can view all the information about it HERE!
Remember, space is limited, so if you (and a friend!) are wanting to join, don’t wait!
I hope to see many of your beautiful faces in this group! This will be a great opportunity to read, learn, and build community together with other like-minded people. I can’t wait to have this adventure with you!
IT’S A GO! After putting some feelers out this week, it looks like we have enough interest to launch our very first LGBTQ Faith Book Club! Here’s how this will go down:
*People who showed initial interest will have the chance to register first! (If you have not yet expressed interest but want to be added, please reply to this email or comment on the book club social media post. Names will be added in the order I receive them.)
*Sign-ups will happen beginning July 23rd (with a min. of 20 people required to launch). Once registration is complete, the book club members will be added to a private Facebook group and provided a list of potential books to read. They will have the opportunity to vote for their favorites and that is how the book list will be formed. The book club will then officially launch in September.
*This book club is open to all people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and faiths. Allies, parents, pastors, family members, etc. of the LGBTQ+ community are also welcome to join. All you need is a desire to learn and grow.
*Each month, weekly discussion questions will be provided in the within the private Facebook group for members to engage. At the end of each month we will host a virtual gathering (via Zoom or some other platform) and dialogue about the book…ideally with the author! (Note: While the author’s presence is the hope of each book chosen, it is not guaranteed as authors will not be approached until membership has reached its 20 person min. and book list has been selected).
*There will be a $25/month membership fee with a 6 or 12 month commitment. (Those wanting to pay month to month will have a higher fee.) Patreon members will receive a 10% discount.
*Maximum group size will be limited to 50 to allow for deep dialogue and engagement.
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED, MARK YOUR CALENDARS! Registration will begin July 23rd and will only be open to the first 50 people who sign-up!
I can’t wait to have this adventure with you!!!
I’m currently thinking about launching a book club this fall that focuses on LGBTQ faith related books. I’d love to know if this is something you or someone you know would be interested in. Here are a few of the details to get you started:
-Read one book a month
-$25/month membership fee (with 6 or 12 month commitment, discount available for Patreon members)
-Access to Facebook discussion group
-Virtual meeting at end of month to discuss and dialogue, ideally with the author of the book (Note: Authors will not be approached for this project until I have sufficient interest)
-Open to first 25-30 people who signup
-Launching in September
Some of the books that are being considered are:
-Changing Our Mind, David Gushee
-Modern Kinship, Dave and Tino Kalaf
-Walking the Bridgeless Canyon,Kathy Baldock
-Transforming, Austen Hartke
-A Survival Guide for Heretics, Aaron Van Voorhis
Unashamed, Amber Cantorna
-Beyond Shame, Matthias Roberts
-Practicing, Kathy Escobar
-Unclobber, Colby Martin …and more!!!
Nothing has been finalized yet, right now I am simply gauging interest to see if I have enough people wanting to join. So if you or someone you know might be interested and you would like to see this project launch this fall, please give me your input by replying to this email or commenting on my social media post!
Be safe and stay healthy!
NO ONE SHOULD HAVE TO FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHT TO BREATHE.
I cannot begin to express the anger, sadness, and outrage I feel over the injustice, racism, discrimination, and violence that Black people continue to face on a daily basis living in America. No one should have to fight for their right to breathe.
We live in a nation that was founded on racism and oppression, yet almost 200 years later we have BARELY moved the needle away from a culture that thrived on the blood, sweat, and tears of Black lives that were forced to work as slaves so that white people could live comfortably. Why has nothing changed? BECAUSE WHITE PEOPLE REFUSE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE FACT THAT SOMETHING IS DEEPLY WRONG. Unaffected, we continue to live comfortably in our white privilege and a social system that works and fights for our rights, while completely ignoring and remaining complacent (and therefore complicit) regarding the injustice around us.
Black people have every right to be outraged. America is NOT a nation that believes “all men are created equal.” When Black people live in daily fear for their lives, we are FAR from a country that believes in equality. From this nation’s founding, Black people have been the subject of racism and violence for no reason other than the color of their skin. IF THIS DOES NOT CAUSE YOU TO BE OUTRAGED, THEN YOU HAVE A LOT OF INTERNAL WORK TO DO. These are PEOPLE, with families, and jobs, and dreams, and goals, and aspirations. BLACK LIVES MATTER.
Change will only come by ALL of us raising our voices and demanding a more just world for people of color. My platform has been built on fighting for equality, but fighting for equality doesn’t mean just fighting for the equality of one marginalized group, it means fighting for the equality of EVERY marginalized group. And today, Black people all over America are angry and afraid. They are waiting for us to stand up, to speak up, to raise up, and to stand with them in this fight.
To my white friends, I ask you to rise up. To stand in the gap. To use your voice to condemn racism, hatred, and bigotry. If you don’t know where to start, join me in educating ourselves on how to be an anti-racist by reading one of these books:
To my Black friends, I want you to know that I see you. I stand with you. I mourn with you. I may not always say or do the right thing, but I promise to be open to learning and doing better. I vow to read and educate myself on how to be more anti-racist, to stand with and for you in this fight, and to use my platform in whatever way I can to raise awareness.
You matter to me. Black lives matter. I will fight for equality ALWAYS, because NO ONE SHOULD HAVE TO FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHT TO BREATHE.
This was an emotional project for me, but it is such an honor to share it. I am so grateful for all the Mama Bears who are making this world a better, safer, and more loving place for LGBTQ people to live and thrive. This is my Mother’s Day tribute to you.
If you saw the Facebook campaign that went up on Friday, you saw just a snippet of the letter that I wrote. This video is the letter in its entirety and I’ve poured everything I had into recording and producing this gift for you this week.
Whether you are a Mama Bear, an LGBTQ ally, a surrogate mom, or you know someone who is, I hope you will watch and share this far and wide on this Mother’s Day that is especially hard and challenging for so many people this year.
Happy Mother’s Day Mama Bears! I love each of you!
These are unprecedented times, no doubt. And now more than ever we need to be supporting one another. Artists especially face hard times with book tours being cancelled, speaking engagements on hold, and much of what we do relying on the public’s support to get us through.
I can’t find it in me to ask for financial gifts during this #GivingTuesdayNow campaign…especially while there are so many others who are struggling just to put food on the table and pay their rent. But if my work has mattered at all to you or to someone you love, here are seven easy ways that you can support what I do during this pandemic:
1. Follow me on social media.
If you’re not following me across all social media channels, please do that right now! It helps me grow my audience and you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also subscribe to my YouTube channel as I’ll be doing more there in the coming weeks. So go ahead and click these links to “Like” and “Follow” these channels now!
2. Subscribe to my blog.
If you haven’t yet, subscribe to my blog! I only send out emails one or two times a month, so I promise not to flood your inbox. It’s a great way to keep you up-to-date with what I’m doing and you’ll always be first to receive new blogs that I write.
3. Write an Amazon review.
Writing a review of my books on Amazon is so helpful, not only for me but for other LGBTQ people of faith who are searching for resources. The more reviews a book receives, the higher it generates in the search engine. The goal is to make sure that people always find affirming resources FIRST, rather than non-affirming ones and a short review from you can help make that happen.
You can review Unashamed here.
And you can review Refocusing My Family here.
4. Join Patreon.
While we have made some progress this past year, the work that I do is still not sustainable, which means I still have to work a second job to make ends meet. That’s really hard to do on top of having an autoimmune condition. So if you would like to support my work financially, you can do so by becoming a monthly supporter on Patreon (just like you would support anything else you’re passionate about on a monthly basis). You also get perks in return!
Or you can give a one time donation here.
5. Share my work with others.
Sharing my work with others, whether that means sharing a blog that I write, sharing my posts on your own social media feed, or recommending my books to groups that you are part of, are all helpful ways of spreading the work that I do and broadening the sphere of influence that I have. I’m so grateful to each and every person that does this. Some people donate a book to their local PFLAG, LGBTQ center, or church library. Others make copies available at their local psychiatric facility. Be creative! Each of these acts of kindness create an opportunity to save a life or help a family avoid catastrophic outcomes of bad theology. I am so grateful every time I hear about this happening.
6. Book me to speak at your next event.
Obviously we can’t gather together in person right now. But I am opening my schedule up for virtual speaking events! So if you need some one to speak to your church, your support group, your staff, or other group virtually during this time of social distancing, you can reach out to book me here.
You can also keep me in mind for in-person speaking events when this all passes and we begin to safely meet in person again. If you are scheduling a future event and are interested in booking me to speak, you can reach out here.
7. Share this post.
Finally, share this post…share it on social media or share it via email, but share it with others so that the word spreads. Each simple act makes a difference in keeping each other going during this time, and you can be a part of keeping my work in motion.
Whatever ways you are able to engage in support during this time, I am grateful. I will continue to write, to create live virtual events, and to come up with creative ways to support you during this time for as long as it lasts.
As we continue to support one another and lean on one another for strength, may we find peace, hope, and abounding love in the weeks to come.
Be Brave, Be Safe, Be Well and Live Unashamed,
“Blessed is planet earth in the midst of a pandemic,
Positioned in the milky way galaxy and continuing to orbit,
As people all over the globe fight for their very lives.
Blessed is each and every country,
Who are doing the best with the resources they have,
And navigating an unprecedented situation with limited equipment, funds, and support.
Blessed are the Chinese, the Asians, and the Asian-Americans
Who are experiencing discrimination and racist violence
For something that they are equally scared of and equally powerless to control.
Blessed is Italy and New York.
Blessed are the healthcare workers pulling long and dangerous shifts without proper equipment, to save the lives of people they’ve never even met.
Blessed are their family members.
Blessed, blessed, blessed, are the nurses who hold the hand of victims as they pass from this life, because their family can’t.
Blessed are the grocery workers, the sanitation crews, the farmers, the pilots, the truck drivers, the postal workers, the food deliverers and grocery shoppers-they are the people who are keeping this world in motion.
Blessed are those that are having to make the impossible decision between going to work in unsafe conditions and not earning a paycheck.
Blessed are the teachers. Dear God, bless the teachers.
Blessed are the government officials making difficult decisions against popular opinion to protect the health and safety of their people.
Blessed are those who are doing it well.
Blessed is Dr. Fauci, and Governor Cuomo for keeping us informed and sane during insane times.
Blessed is the World Health Organization and the United Nations for doing their best to unite us across countries, religions, cultures, and socio-economic status.
Blessed are the celebrities who are donating and raising money for a cure and a vaccine when the government won’t.
Blessed are the scientists who are searching for answers.
Blessed are those who grieve for closure they will never receive, for loved ones lost to utterly unfair deaths, and an isolation that for them, will never come to an end.
Blessed are the traumatized, the fearful, and the anxious;
Those who can’t work during the day or who can’t sleep at night,
Those who stay busy to combat fear, those who binge watch/eat/drink to numb their fear, and those who simply don’t know how to handle their fear and feel like they’re losing it.
Blessed are the single people facing this alone and truly self-isolating for an inhumane amount of time.
Blessed is technology and the people who run it for keeping us connected while physically apart.
Blessed are those who are doing their part by staying home, by wearing masks, by washing their hands, and by sharing what they have with others.
Blessed are the mask-makers, the breweries making hand sanitizer, the people leaving surprise deliveries on people’s doorstep, and the kids coloring rainbows and making chalk art on their driveways.
Blessed are the counselors, the therapists, and the faith leaders who are carrying people with an incredible amount of weight through an incredibly dark and difficult time.
Blessed are the parents doing their best to homeschool and teach invaluable lessons to kids that just want to play with their friends, and don’t understand why they can’t return to school.
Blessed are the faithful, the faithless, the hopeful, the hopeless, the peaceful, the restless, the fearful, the calm, the healthy, the sick, the high-risk, the low-risk, the introverts, the extroverts, and the weary.
And blessed are YOU. Wherever you live, whatever country you are from, whatever state of stay-at-home order you are currently under or coming out of, whatever your experience with all this has been, and whatever you are going through…may you be blessed, each and every day, until we can all be present and hug one another again.
Written by Amber Cantorna, Copyright, April 2020
A video of me reading this blessing to you can be viewed here.