The Problem with Words

I decided to repost this piece that was originally published last year in August. I’ve been struggling as I continue to watch the Chauvin murder trial. It reminded me again about the problem with words as the defense attorney of that murderer tried to assassinate the character of George Floyd. Is there no bottom with people like that?

I think about the way I’ve been talked down to by nurses and doctors. How invalidating and condescending they can be until I open my mouth and set them straight. Why is everything dictated by the color of my skin? Why can’t I just been seen as a quirky human and talked to with respect?

Once again, my creative mind isn’t functioning well at this moment. My professional life is on FIRE in an amazing way. I have taken on the role as Partnership Director with GRYT Health and asked to be a contributing blogger for WebMD starting next month. I should be over the moon, right? Right?

Unfortunately, my personal life of existing in this body and in this skin color leaves me utterly depleted and unable to turn to the creative outlets that have brought comfort in the past. So, I might repost some of my previously written blogs over the next few weeks because I’m still going through some things. Plus, most of what I’ve previously written is what I am struggling with now. While I can still let racist and insulting words roll off my back, I am still human and still affected. After all, it’s okay to NOT be okay.

Original Post August 2, 2020

As I was seeing beautiful black and white pictures of women for the #challengeaccepted posts on Instagram, I decided to use it as an opportunity to post the ugly things I’ve been told over the years. I know it shocked some people because my picture was cute but the words below it were tough to see. I felt it was important to express how words can be so damaging to a person’s psyche.

I kept it short on Instagram but decided to expand on it to see how far I’ve come in my own healing and thinking. No one should be told these things. I don’t know why I had to be the person on the receiving end of such hate and ignorance. It’s unfair. It’s unjust. It’s painful. It’s a problem with words.

I’ve been called a nigger.
I’ve been called ugly.
I’ve been called fat by men.
I’ve been called stupid by a teacher.
I’ve been called stupid by an employer.

I’ve been told I will fail.
I’ve been told I don’t matter.
I’ve been told I don’t exist.
I’ve been told I don’t belong.
I’ve been told I’m a sellout.

I’ve been called too emotional.
I’ve been called weak.
I’ve been called an Oreo.
I’ve been called unfeeling.
I’ve been called a valley girl.

I’ve been told I act too white.
I’ve been told I dress too white.
I’ve been told I’m not loveable.
I’ve been told I speak so well.
I’ve been told I’m not black enough.

My psyche has been systematically torn to pieces for 20+ years by the ignorance and racism from whites and blacks that started in my hometown of Macon, GA and has followed me through the years as a young adult and in the professional world. I reread my journal this morning from senior year of high school in 1995 and still have a visceral reaction to my words.

The pain of not being accepted.

The pain of being bullied.

The pain of desperately wanting to leave the south.

I never felt I belonged anywhere until the college years, especially junior and senior years at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. That’s why I hold onto my college memories so fiercely because I found a group of friends so eclectic, smart, clever, and so accepting that I felt safe to be authentically me at that time. I’m glad I have scrapbooks and multiple photo albums that captured the fun times and great opportunities from that magical time in my life.

I honestly thought once I became a working adult that my work ethic and merit would get me ahead. As more years went by, the more oppressed and defeated I became. I would be told I’m an “expert,” yet companies could never find the money to give me a proper raise. They would be shocked when I turned in my resignation and then have the nerve to ask, “Is there anything we can do to keep you from leaving?”

I had been carrying all that negativity from racism, oppression, and feelings of inferiority on my back for so many years that I lost complete faith in my abilities and talent. I used to think it was a cruel joke that I received multiple awards in high school and college. I was constantly told I would be going places because of my talent. It turned out none of it counted in the “real world.”

My cancer experience redefined me. It helped to rediscover my voice that had been silenced for so long that I thought it was lost forever. I’ll never consider cancer a gift, but it was an opportunity to rediscover the things that once brought me true joy. Yet, I was still playing it too safe. I wasn’t fully taking back what control I had left over my life. I was remaining comfortable in the uncomfortable; still too paralyzed to make any serious moves.

It took a pandemic to force me to pause and pivot not just my career but also my mindset. Rereading that journal from my 17-18-year-old self this morning reminded me how much I’ve carried the hurt from people’s words that ultimately turned me into a shell of my former myself.

I’ve had a resurgence of my passions and confidence while rekindling old friendships and cultivating new and profound friendships. My mindset changed once I fully began to believe in myself and know my worth thanks to a lot of help from my friends. I’m blessed to have so many people continue to lift me up even when I’ve doubted myself all these years.

So, here’s what I repeat to myself now that I’ve shed that cloak of negativity that was suffocating me.

I AM intelligent.
I AM talented.
I AM worthy.
I AM inspirational.
I AM feminine.

I AM a writer.
I AM a performer.
I AM a Nut-Meg.
I AM a talker.
I AM a powerhouse.

I AM loving.
I AM sensitive.
I AM giving.
I AM kind.
I AM enough.

My newfound armor continues to grow thicker each day, so insulting or hateful words or rude comments no longer sting. They smoothly roll off my back.

I am different and always will be. And you know what? That is OKAY.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie

A Cancer Story: The 5-Year Mark

It was five years ago today that I had my breast cancer surgeries at Northside Hospital Women’s Center in Atlanta, GA. I have officially reached the five-year mark, which is apparently a big milestone. I’m flooded with memories on the days leading up to my surgery day.

I had a blood transfusion two weeks before to help boost my system for the surgeries. To this day, I am pleased as punch to know my blood type is B+ and not O. I thought it was hilarious and would yell out “I’m B+” in my cheerleader voice. In fact, I still do it. Maybe it was watching too much True Blood on repeat, but I felt special knowing my blood type wasn’t the common O. Of course, I nearly vomited when I got the blood transfusion – two bags of blood. Those suckers were huge! I had one bag of O and another bag of B+. It’s a strange and thick feeling having someone else’s blood infused into you. I had many thoughts whirling in my mind.

What somewhat brought me down from feeling like an actress on Grey’s Anatomy was thinking about whose blood I was getting? I hate to say that my first thought and fear was what if the donor was a racist? Then I paused again and thought what if the donor was a serial killer? After six hours of having two bags of blood slowly infused, I was shocked when I saw my reflection. Had I become Bella from Twilight? My face, neck, and chest were flushed red. What freaked me out for a minute was seeing my eyes red. I kept looking for Edward on my way home. My humor has always remained intact.

Now it was surgery day. It was outpatient with no overnight stay. I was only a little nervous because I had complete faith in my breast cancer surgeon and plastic surgeon. They worked exceptionally well together. I can honestly say I still have a total girl crush on them. My breast cancer surgeon has major personality and humor, plus brilliance! She really helped me push through the last three chemo treatments when I was ready to give up. My plastic surgeon is the gentlest doctor I’ve ever dealt with and has magic hands. I never felt uncomfortable with him. As he came in to draw on the areas on my chest, his voice was so calm and gentle. He talked me through everything he was doing and made sure I did not look in the mirror. Smart move.

As I was being prepped for the surgeries, I had another laugh because the nurse put this silver aluminum foil looking blanket and cap on me. I looked like a bloated baked potato!

The only thing I remember before the anesthesia knocked me out was asking if I could keep my favorite chemo hat on underneath the baked potato cap.

Lumpectomy of left breast

Sentinel lymph node dissection

Reduction of both breasts

Reconstruction of both breasts

I wish I could say I woke up feeling just groggy. Nope! I woke up in excruciating pain and terribly nauseous. Then, one of the tubes I was hooked up with came loose because I felt something wet on my back. When I turned…the sheets were covered in blood. I got hysterical and started screaming. It took three nurses to calm me the fuck down. So, I was moved to a different bed and the pain went to a high that I pray I will never experience again. After two hours, the nurses were still having trouble getting the pain managed. They almost had me admitted into the hospital, but I managed to talk myself down from the ledge. I just wanted my own bed and my cat Nathan Edgar (Baby Natey).

This cancerversary brings mixed feelings that I will get into another time. I will say it felt good to write again since I have been on a hiatus for a few months. I definitely feel a much needed therapeutic release.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie

Taking a Hiatus

Hello darlings. So much has happened in the first few weeks of 2021 that I can’t even write sufficiently about it. I feel so out of control, anxious, depressed, angry, and horrified by the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th. Seeing those white racists and traitors being treated with dignity by the police, taking selfies with the police, and allowed to leave caused me to lose my freaking mind. I became so enraged by the blatant hypocrisy that I lost my ability to speak for a few days.

Then I fell really hard on January 10th thanks to the severe and permanent neuropathy in my feet. I was walking with my awesome realtor Parker and BAM…went down hard. The crazy thing is I got right back up like nothing happened and even walked up stairs, and then ran two errands before I finally felt some pain in my right ankle. By that evening, I could not walk and was hysterically crying. I used my desk chair with wheels as a makeshift wheelchair to get around my apartment. My sweet cat Baby Natey kept trying to comfort me. Being single with an injury and not being able to walk upset me to no end.

Fortunately, I was able to get a 9am appointment with an orthopedic ankle specialist on January 11th. The issue then became how was I going to even get myself up the five steps that lead to the parking lot and to my car? My adrenaline and anger were pumping so hard that I used one of my canes and just forced myself up those blasted stairs, into my car, and to Emory St. Joseph’s for the appointment. The valet was not allowed to get me a wheelchair. The guy said I would have to up to the front desk and sign one out.

WTF.

I said forget it, and once again without help, I made it into the elevator and into the doctor’s office. The woman who took my temperature immediately saw the pain, tears, and frustration on my face and helped me hobble into the waiting area. She then went to the front desk, signed me in, and told them I need help. I started crying again because I finally was not alone and had some help.

My male nurse, who is so good looking even behind the mask, and my new ankle doctor took great care of me. I had tweeted how surprised I was to be treated with kindness and not talked down to by this white doctor and white male nurse. I am so used to not being heard and talked down to that once again I was crying because my pain was actually taken seriously.

Diagnosis: A Grade 3 sprain in my right ankle. I did not immediately feel pain when I initially fell because of the neuropathy. It masked the pain for a few hours. I felt so validated by the doctor because he agreed as well. Now I am in an air cast boot that goes all the way up to the knee for two weeks. I will go back on the 25th to be reevaluated and see if I need another week in it or will start physical therapy. At this point, I have no idea how much PT I will need, but assume 6-8 weeks to start. What I do know is I take a really long time to heal post-cancer.

My gosh! I freak out each time I look at a Grade 3 sprain.
Air cast boot and this lift thing for my left foot to help lift up that side so walking won’t be as awkward.

My body already deals with chronic pain from neuropathy, fibromyalgia, herniated disc in my lower left side of back, and now a severely sprained ankle. It is too much to process when all are flaring up. I know my Baby Natey would make dinner and bring me tea if he could. Instead, I just do what I do and take care of myself but more bitterness these days.

I’ve had to suspend my house hunting because PT will eat up a lot of my time. My lease is up in mid-March, so no way I can even look for a new place, pack or move. I just have to hope there won’t be any more explosions or fires in this complex. And yes, you read that right. There was an explosion in one of the buildings up the hill from mine right before Christmas. It was horrible, the air was thick with smoke, and no one could get in or out of the complex, and power was out for hours and hours on a really cold night.

So, I am going to take a hiatus from blogging until I get this blasted ankle back up to speed. It’s too much to deal with four separate and intense pains. I can handle three but not four at one time. I cannot think or process anything and plagued by fatigue. This air cast boot is heavy. Right now, I have named it asshole until I be friends with it. I can’t be creative when in this much pain.

Until then, I hope you will look at previous posts and check out the articles on my ‘About’ page.

Tootles,

Warrior Megsie

Embrace the Suck

I wanted to read the words below out loud so you can feel the full emotions in my words.

I think many can agree 2020 has been like an episode of The Twilight Zone played on a loop. It was like the lid on Pandora’s box was forced opened and nothing could stop the chain of events. The pure hatred, corruption, greed, rage, white privilege, and selfishness of people boiled over.

There were days where I could embrace the suck through challenging myself professionally and spiritually. I was able to rise up for myself with a new confidence. I felt bolder, inspired, empowered, and even thankful because I took the professional risks I had been wanting to take for years and years. Instead of shying away from risks, I finally had the ability to get off that hamster wheel and believe in my talents. How I wish I had had this forced pause and push back in my 20’s but better late than never, right?

I have also never felt more afraid, paranoid, heartbroken, horrified, and filled with a level 4 kind of rage than I have this year. I witnessed two of those “Karens” during the summer. I had more racist remarks directed toward me. The horrific images of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd being murdered by white men who smiled will haunt me forever. Police uniforms and red hats became the modern Ku Klux Klan attire. There was no need for them to cover their faces anymore. That racist tRump and the GOP gave a green light because they knew there would not be any consequences.

My soul cracked.

Instead of solely focusing my blog about cancer, I felt I had to start writing about racism and the difficulties I continue to face both inside and outside of cancerland. I stopped being nervous about possibly offending people. Blogging my point of view and experiences of the past and present was a way to keep from going insane.

I really wanted the white people I knew and those I did not know to see my face and that I am not immune to have racist comments spewed at me. This year truly let me know that it does not matter how educated, talented, and classy I am. At the end of the day, I will always, always be seen as a black woman first.

When I wrote the blog post “Mixed Fragility,” it was the first time I had truly uncomfortable conversations with myself about race, how I am perceived, and how I perceive others. I technically have two black female friends and one black male friend. They can relate to a lot of what I feel on a daily basis. It was the first time I have had that.

How does one ever heal from severe trauma when it is their existence causing all the pain and turmoil? Even though I am still not accepted in the black world – no invitations to the barbeque – something changed for me when thinking about all the white people I know. I began to pull away from the white friends in my inner circle. In fact, I would say I am still pulling away.

What I say next is not to anyone specifically. It would be rude to call out people by name. It is what I experienced heavily this year, so I’m speaking to the general white population.  

So here I go…

I get so sick of white people saying not everything is about race.

I get so sick of white people questioning me and not believing me when I share a racist experience.

I get so sick of white doctors dismissing my pain and talking down to me.

I get so sick of white people being unable to control their surprised facial expressions when they hear my voice.

I get so sick of white people feeling the need to tell me about black people and black organizations within the cancer community.

I get so sick of white people feeling the need to start any conversation about race by saying they will never know what it is like to be black and how that feels.

I get so sick of white people not believing there is racism within the medical community.

I cannot even be viewed as just a cancer survivor because groups and organizations make it noticeably clear they label me as a BLACK cancer survivor; therefore, I must be an expert on all black-related issues. I thought the days of being used as a black token were gone. It has never been more apparent how many white people view me.

As I write this, I can almost hear the thoughts of any white person reading this. I know you are thinking “what am I supposed to say” and “I’m not a racist” and “I don’t view you as black” and “I don’t see color” and “why are so many black people angry.”

While I am excelling professionally, I am a wreck personally. I no longer know who to trust. Some of the places and people I thought were safe showed their true colors. No one, including me, knows how to categorize me. I do not fit in any common mold. I am unapologetically ME.

So, while I had some amazing and one of kind opportunities come my way this year, I continue to grapple with depression, pain, loneliness, rage, hurt, and confusion. This James Baldwin quote is one I have used repeatedly this year. It is the first time I feel what he felt. I wonder if 2021 will be any different.

It is important for me to thank all of you for taking the time to read my blog this year. While the bulk of my posts took courage to write and share, I acknowledge it took courage for you to read it. I read every single comment, negative and positive, that I received. Life can shove many of us off the rails with unforeseen challenges, unexpected deaths of friends and family, and hard truths revealed. What I do know is I will continue to be bold, work through the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, and keep sharing my truth.

Thank you for coming on board the cancer train of vulnerability and mixed emotions.

Merry Christmas from Megsie and Baby Nathan Edgar

Until next year,

Warrior Megsie