World Cancer Day and Black History Month 2023

Yesterday was World Cancer Day. I get emotional when I think about my cancer story and how doctors have consistently dismissed my pain and concerns. The thoughts running through my head about cancer and Black History month always make me want to scream in frustration.

We need providers, researchers, employers, friends, and family to

 SEE us

 HEAR us

 BELIEVE us

 RESPECT us

Going through cancer takes a HUGE toll on every aspect of our lives. Having to constantly push through barriers, deal with microaggressions from doctors, financial toxicity, career changes, infertility, and so much more is only part of MY story. I know I’m not alone in this.

Becoming an advocate was born out of my experiences and the urgent need to spotlight the issues of access to care and support. Whether you want to hear it or not, RACE, age, and how you sexually identify play an ugly role in trying to be heard and believed. I feel for the Black community, communities of color, the young adult community, and the LGBTQIA community.

Something else I want to spotlight is how I’ve become intolerant of cancer spaces where I am the ONLY Black person in attendance. I used to go to a weekly virtual happy hour that was born during the pandemic in the AYA community. It was something I looked forward to each week. There would be new people of color who joined once but then never came back. 

After the murders of Ahmad Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and the insurrection, I found it more challenging to be in spaces where I am the only Black person. I couldn’t continue going to virtual happy hours or journaling sessions and chitchatting about Disney characters, food, kids, etc. I felt like this country was on fire, and I had no community to honestly talk about the stress of being Black and how my nervous system was constantly in flight or fight mode, which exacerbated my pain from toxic cancer treatments.

I now understand why there are certain Black-only breast cancer groups. I have yet to find a general cancer Black-only group that’s a mix of men, women, and those whose pronouns are they/them. When I would bring this up in the other groups where I am the only Black person, inevitably, a white person felt the need to recommend “another strong Black person” to me. I shake my head because 1) I don’t need white people to suggest Black people to reach out to, and 2) The Black cancer space is extremely small, and we already know each other or of each other.

I’m tired of having to center whiteness.

I’m tired of not feeling safe to express myself fully.

I’m tired of being the only Black person in the room or on Zoom.

I’m tired of white people sending private messages saying I’m an inspiration but won’t state it publicly.

I always notice the Black people some white organizations ask to take part in specific panels, programs, or be guest speakers are the ones who don’t fully talk about how racism and microaggressions have shaped their cancer experiences. They often give diluted versions of their experiences. I’ve also noticed that I am rarely asked to participate in certain cancer activities when race is on the agenda because I refuse to make the white community comfortable anymore.

The more I learn about Black culture, the more I have begun to stop trying to filter the Black out of myself. I used to pride myself on being the ONLY one in the room. Now, it enrages me. As a Black woman, I don’t have the luxury of talking about trivial things when I see murders of Black people on TV or shot in grocery stores or killed for simply existing.

While I am thankful for the many genuine friends I have in cancerland, I am acutely aware that the majority are white. Being Black has shaped my access to care, access to pain management, and access to community support. It’s like what James Baldwin said in the quote I posted, the more I read, the more I understand.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie

Goodbye 2022…and HELLO 2023!

I’M BACK!!! I took a much-needed break in 2022 from blogging regularly, and I really missed it. Though I continued to journal and post some of Megsie’s Musings here and there, I missed this creative process. Thank you to those who took the time to read past posts. 

I can’t believe it is 2023! I’ve been pondering a lot about my life and all the last year’s ups and downs. I often thought I would spontaneously combust from the intense emotions, stress, fear, disappointments, grief, and anger I felt daily. Then out of nowhere, these little miracles, opportunities, and joyous moments would occur and push me back up to do what I needed to do. 

I saw a TikTok by @voiceboxesq last night that truly hit home and made me feel heard. 

  • As a Black woman, I AM TIRED.
  • As a breast cancer survivor, I AM TIRED.
  • As a caregiver, I AM TIRED.

  • As a single woman dealing with chronic pain, I AM TIRED.
  • As a professional working in way too many white spaces, I AM TIRED.
  • As an American citizen, I AM TIRED.

  • TIRED of being everyone’s strength.
  • TIRED of not having room to fully express myself.
  • TIRED of always having to center whiteness.

  • TIRED of the daily trauma for existing in my skin.
  • TIRED of mass shootings of innocent children, Black and LGBTQIA+.
  • TIRED of not feeling safe due to trigger-happy racist police and vigilantes.

I spent most of 2022 working daily on my mental and emotional health. My cutie therapist (my lovely nickname for him) challenged my automatic negative thoughts, which forced me (in a positive way) to determine if those reactive thoughts were rooted in fact or just emotion. He kept me above ground when I felt myself falling into a pit of despair. More importantly, I never had to filter my words. He always validated my feelings and then talked them through with me. 

Amid the stress, anger, and trauma, I incorporated some FUN. Though I wish it were more constant, I had to start somewhere. So, I began to date Atlanta and go to events, restaurants, and places I had always wanted to go to and new ones that some local friends introduced me to. I have no problem going to places by myself. I constantly remain aware of my surroundings. 

I posted a few fun videos with friends and myself on my social media, so go check them out. When I was putting these snapshots together, I realized I did way more than I thought, and my smiles were genuine. 

I FILLED MY CREATIVE CUP by doing the following:

  • I recorded my professional voiceover demo in a studio with my coach in my ear (she was in NY), and the sound engineer was with me. 
  • I took theatre classes at the Alliance Theatre and overcame my fear of chemo brain ruining my ability to memorize and perform scenes. 
  • I met some cancer friends in person at some conferences, and my hair accessories did not disappoint.
  • I was an Extra on a movie set that will be released next year around Christmas.
  • I had fantastic patient advocacy opportunities to be on multiple podcasts and panels.
  • I was featured in Cancer Today full article and CURE magazine’s full article.

It can feel strange and unsettling to have fun and be joyful when many things feel out of control. After all, our democracy is still in peril. There continue to be senseless deaths of people, especially Black people, LGBTQIA+ people, and innocent children, by assault weapons that have no business being legal; plus, the injustice and cruel GOP political stunts and lack of accountability by those in positions of power.

My top priorities for 2023 are the following:

  1. Continue practicing the coping skills I’ve learned through therapy to find joy in a cruel country. The essence of me is zany and joyful.
  2. Put forth an honest effort to NOT eat my stress and sad emotions away and begin taking care of this defective yet still going post-cancer and chronically pained body.
  3. Not allowing imposter syndrome and fear to paralyze me from pursuing dreams of performing, whether on stage, in front of a camera, or behind a microphone. 

Thank all of you for continuing to read my blog and watch my videos, for encouraging and compassionate words, and for amplifying my voice. I read every comment (positive or negative) and every social media post, and I see every retweet or repost.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie

It has been a littler over three weeks since I had the nerve ablation procedure in my lower back. The pain isn’t completely gone but there is tremendous back pain relief. Now the back pain has moved backstage and my fibromyalgia has taken center stage again. This continues to be unmanaged because my body is intolerant of the current medications to help treat fibromyalgia. The radiating burning through my body, especially in my arms and upper back, is terribly painful. The fatigue and headaches at least 3x a week is tough to muddle through as the pace of life doesn’t slow down.

It’s painful and discouraging living in a post-cancer body that continues to hit barrier after barrier due to medication changes, multiple surgeries, surgical menopause, and chronic pain. This week’s Megsie’s Musings is about being fat shamed and spiraling mentally.

My cutie therapist is trying to keep me from completely unraveling. I’ve had both white and Black people compare me to Stacey Abrams and Lizzo. Now, these women are BRILLIANT and TALENTED. That’s not what these people said. There comparison was a direct hit to my weight.

It was fat shaming.

It was hurtful.

It pushed me down a rabbit hole of negative thinking about my post-cancer body.

Take a listen to my musings and remember to be kind and stop fat shaming people.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie

Being Fat Shamed Hurts

My Back Pain Saga: Insurance Hoops, Advocacy & Victory

This video is longer than usual because I’m trying to cram in five years of what it has been like living with intolerable back pain and all the insanity that came with it — the insurance hoops and having my pain dismissed over and over and over again truly crushed my spirit.

So, to celebrate my victory, I’m wearing this fabulously HUGE fascinator that is a gift from a friend. Watch my video for the cliff note version of my back pain saga.

I’m pleased to say my pain level is at a steady three, which is a bloody miracle! I haven’t had pain level this low in 5 years! I got extremely emotional last weekend and earlier this week just thinking about ALL I have endured because sooo many specialists dismissed my pain and fat-shamed me. The amount of advocacy I had to do to get to this moment is unacceptable for anyone!

All I want to do is sleep. My body is trying to catch up on five years of horrific sleep. Painsomnia is real and squashes quality of life. I honestly don’t know how I’ve been able to maintain everything professionally and personally with severe sleep deprivation. This nightmare has definitely aged me internally and externally.

Aside from getting the nerve ablation, one of the best things to happen is sleeping deep enough to dream and wake up without crying. People have told me that I don’t look like I’m in pain. Well, that’s why it’s called an invisible illness. Now that I finally have real back pain relief that will hopefully last for at least a year, I can now focus on my fibromyalgia and neuropathy pain.

Living with chronic pain can turn one into a shell of themselves. Plus, I’m single and have to do many things alone, which adds to my pain and stress. I honestly don’t know where this natural resilience stems from, but it somehow keeps me pushing forward. The smile on my face today is genuine and feels AH-MAZING!

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie