If you would have told me two years ago that the week of my 43rd birthday would find me sitting in a hotel in Dusseldorf, Germany about to give a speech in front of stockholders of one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, I would have said you have me confused with someone else. The Michelle Garcia I used to be didn't have the confidence to stand in front of ten people, let alone tens of thousands of people and say my name.
Yet, here I am, in Germany, and I will be saying a lot more than just my name. I will be giving a speech in a building that holds over 20,000 people to the Board of Directors of Bayer and their stockholders and the media who have take a strong interest in the story of the thousands of women like me. As I type this entry, I am sitting in the lobby of the Hotel Intercontinental looking at a tree line canal. Did I mention that I’m in GERMANY?
Many of you might be asking, how did I get here? By plane… Seriously, it all started with a bad birth control device and anger, lots of anger.
Anger used in the wrong way is truly bad, however, when you take anger and channel it to make a difference, there is nothing that can stop you, or in my case, nothing that can stop me. I am the first to admit that I carry lots of anger toward Bayer and the FDA and instead of sitting around moaning and groaning, I chose to do something about it. The ladies on our Facebook support group know me as the fearless one. I simply say that when it comes to our fight, I’m afraid of nothing. That fear was put to the test a few weeks ago when we learned that speeches at the Bayer Stockholders meeting must be given in German. We have no idea where that requirement came from? Quite a few thought we were done. One who didn't is Angela Lynch-Desa. We both learned of the German language requirement at the same time, and yes, we both said THAT word, the one that rhymes with ‘fit.’ Okay, that’s a lie, we said the one that rhymes with ‘duck.’ I remember Angela’s exact words to me – “what are you going to do?” and I said let me think about it and don’t say anything to anyone till I figure this out.
Our friends at the Coalition Against Bayer Dangers quickly offered up a translator to give the speech for us in German. That just didn't feel right to me. I am sitting in Germany because thousands of women trusted me to be their voice. They gave monetary donations, sent me cards, gave me words of encouragement and most important, put their faith and trust in me. And I’m going to stand on a stage next to someone who doesn't know of the suffering caused by Bayer and let her speak. It just didn't seem right. I had an amazing speech that I had already written and had worked with my friend Tammy, who is a master speech writer to make even more amazing. I had spent weeks preparing with a woman named Ana, who is a master, and I do mean MASTER, at public speaking. Ana did so much more than prepare me for saying the words. She and I discussed everything from wardrobe, to shoes to lipstick and even the earrings I’ll be wearing. There is nothing more I could have done to make myself ready to speak.
I found both of these ladies thanks to the love and support of my dearest, dearest friend, Claudia, who is closer to me than most of my family. I’m sure than I’m going to get hell one of tongue lashing one of these days for not telling her how sick I was for so long. I offer a “peep” as penance. Or wine? Or both?
Anyway, all this love and support, and I’m going to just stand there? In the words of my 15 year old daughter, Rebekah, Ummmm No. It was more than just a no; it was an OH HELL NO. There was just no way speak in another language was going to stop me. Who cares if it’s German? German? Wait a second? GERMAN?!?!? One of the most difficult languages in the world where a ‘w’ is a ‘v’, the ‘v’ is an ‘f’ and ‘ie’ is an ‘eeee’ and ‘ei’ is an ‘iiiiii’ and forget about the sound of the ‘ch – think of clearing your throat with a “k” sound… Yeap, German….
The same night we found out about the language requirement, I found someone to translate the speech into German. I then went to work on finding someone to help me learn the speech in German. I first went to Angie’s list and found no one. Then, of all places, Craig’s list; that is where I found Monica. I refer to her as my German coach and she grew to become another cheerleader for our cause. We met every evening for the next two weeks getting me ready and even Easter Sunday was spent working on the speech. She jokes “I paid a lot” and she is worth every penny. I went from being afraid of words to pronouncing them like I had years of training – in only TWO weeks. My 15 year old didn't once complain about the amount of time I spent working on my speech in German, which made my less available to her. I did take a night off in between and I took Becky to a basketball game - round one of the Miami Heat v. Bobcats playoff game. Go HEAT!!!! Becky earned something big for being so understanding and she truly deserves so much for being the most amazing daughter a mom could ask for.
Anyway, Angela’s words when she learned of the plan – ‘I knew it. I know you and they were not going to shut you down.” Yes, I can and will give the speech in English and German.
So, back to how I got here – lots of love, support, hard work, and what counts most – people believing in me.
Dear Bayer – remember that email I sent to you in April of 2013, the one where I said “I’m clearly not going anywhere.” I guess I was wrong. I didn't go anywhere. I went somewhere – right to your front door.....
I guess you can’t ignore me now.