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2009 Conversations

Sara Groves

Keith and Kristyn Getty

Jesse Miranda

Heather Bland

Cathleen Lewis

Robert Leathers

Ravi Zacharias

Scotty Gibbons

George O. Wood

George O. Wood

G. Robert Cook Jr.

Michelle LaRowe Conover

Janet Boynes

Kirk Cameron

Laura Wilkinson

Melody Rossi

Randy Travis

Maylo Upton-Aames

Chuck Norris

Francis Xavier 'Chip' Flaherty Jr.

Ben Carson

Robert H. Spence

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser

R. Albert Mohler Jr.

James K. Bridges

Manny Mill

Brock Gill

Robert Burt

Gerry Hindy

J.I. Packer

Stanley Horton

Linda Mintle

Joanna Weaver

Buck Taylor

Debra Risner

Bill Glass

Edward Gilbreath

Rob Seagears and Andy Casper

2007 Conversations

2006 Conversations

Conversation: Heather Bland

The will to live

At age 4, Heather Bland fell out of her mother’s car and was run over. Her chances of survival were minimal. But 36 years and nearly 200 operations later, Bland not only survived but walks, is married to her husband, DeWayne, and has a 13-year-old daughter, Mackenzie. This year she documented her life’s story in God Said Yes.

Bland has also endured the pain of childhood sexual abuse. She gave birth to a stillborn son during her first marriage. The last three years Bland has battled a rare form of staph infection and was recently diagnosed with MS. Finding joy in the midst of it all, Bland spoke to Assistant Editor Jennifer McClure about her will to live.

tpe: You say that “from hip to hip, pelvis to sternum” you’re held together with wire mesh. How were you able to carry a pregnancy and give birth to your daughter, Mackenzie?

BLAND: I was on bed rest in the hospital for 14 weeks until she was born at 28 weeks by emergency C-section. She was born 5 pounds, 2 ounces, but within the first two weeks she went down to 1 pound, 11 ounces. She had so many things against her, but she’s 13 years old and perfectly healthy now. Either surgically or with medication they have corrected everything. She’s a great kid and is a big reason why I wake up every day.

tpe: What went wrong when Christopher was stillborn?

BLAND: I was told I would never get pregnant, but at the end of 1991 after marrying my high school sweetheart in June of 1990, I found out I was pregnant. I went into labor several weeks premature. During delivery Christopher suffocated in fluid.

So up until five minutes before he was born, he still had a heartbeat. He was perfect. He had a full head of coal black hair like me, and green eyes. Perfect weight, perfect everything, but he had ingested too much of the fluid and there was nothing they could do.

If there was ever a time in my life when I was angry with God, it was when my son died, more so than any surgery or the accident or even the sexual abuse. I had convinced myself my son was God’s thank you gift for all my suffering.

tpe: And this is when you became bulimic?

BLAND: Yes. I didn’t drink or smoke, but I could control food. I binged and purged almost every day for about a year and a half. It took about 18 months and some good Christian counseling for me to finally realize just like children get leukemia or people have miscarriages, bad things happen to good people just like bad things happen to bad people. God doesn’t reward us with a child any more than He would punish us with our child having leukemia.

tpe: How old were you when you were sexually abused, and how have you dealt with that?

BLAND: It went on from the ages of 9 to 11. A man who lived six doors down would pay kids to hand him tools while he was working on cars. Little by little, he began sexually abusing me and at least three other kids in the neighborhood. I was 12 before it all went to court. He went to jail and got 5 years of probation after he got out.

Back then you didn’t talk about sexual abuse. You didn’t go to counseling. You just pretended it didn’t happen. It wasn’t until the death of my son that I began to deal with my sexual abuse. Honestly, I’m still working on forgiving what I went through. But every time I speak, somebody walks up and tells me they’ve been abused.

tpe: When living is so painful, how have you maintained the will to keep going?

BLAND: My faith and my family and a few select good friends. You keep your faith as strong as you can. You remember your blessings every day. It’s a choice if your pain outweighs your life or if your joy outweighs your life. I choose for my joy to outweigh my life.

I can get aggravated and tired of being sick, but to pull the sheet over my head and not get up is not an option. I’ve still got to be a mom and a wife, and I’ve still got to get up and fight the fight and speak as often as I can. And I’m not scared of heaven. I’m not scared of where I’m going. I would just love to raise my daughter, love my husband and live my life out.

tpe: How do you find the good in life?

BLAND: I have been able to see miracles and blessings where so many other people have not been able to see them. There’s no other way you can explain why I’m still here or walking or functioning or still going every day. Everyone says I should be in a wheelchair or in a bed, but that’s just not me.

Honestly, meeting others in pain and crisis has made my faith stronger. Writing the book and starting to speak, I’m really learning how to be more of a vessel for my Savior. It’s a blessing to see that everything I have been through gives others encouragement.

There’s a lot of pain, but there’s a lot more joy. I’m very blessed. My life, in spite of everything, is good.

tpe: Do you find yourself reflecting on the biblical character Job?

BLAND: Absolutely. I’ve probably read the Book of Job 30 times. I can relate to his story,
especially lately with MS and watching my mom go through MS the last 15 years. I’m finally getting close to the end of this staph infection, and there’s already another big bump in the road.

But for whatever reason, it’s just the next step, and I have to be positive. I don’t think God’s punishing me. Whether I’m here one more day or I’m here 20 more years, what I’ve been through is for a reason. If that reason is to show people the joy over the pain, then that’s what I want to do.

tpe: Who encouraged you to write the book?

BLAND: My husband, De-Wayne. He really is the one who gave me the courage to share everything. DeWayne let me know God has kept me here for a reason. Between God and DeWayne, I realized that.

DeWayne truly is an angel. After my divorce, I was single for eight years. I didn’t know if a man could love me the way I was — with all my scars and everything that came with me. But DeWayne loves me in spite of all of those things. Our faith is what keeps us together and what ties us the closest. He’s my best friend. And he’s just as great to Mackenzie as he is to me.

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