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

The One Cancer Side Effect I Love

Going through cancer is like being on a never-ending rollercoaster in the dark. You never know what drop or curve is coming next. I’ve often written and spoken about how devastating the physical changes are and how destructive the mental changes are. Yet, I realized something a few days ago that is a surprisingly positive side effect – my attitude changed.

There isn’t a day that goes by without missing my pre-cancer body. Every morning I wake up, I immediately curse it because I can no longer count on it to be healthy or strong.

Painsomnia is my nightly companion.

My cortisol belly and non-estrogen-producing body horrify me by their immense size.

The physical strength I used to possess is gone.

Nails break, eyebrows are filled in with brow gel on the daily, and lashes are no longer thick.

Fibromyalgia and chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy are the exes who won’t leave me alone.

Lower back pain did temporarily go away after two facet injections last year but now I need a third one.

This body of mine continues to bankrupt me financially and mentally. There is so much out of my control, except my assertive mind. I will no longer tolerate bullshit or being disrespected – personally or professionally. I’ve mentioned this before but there’s a difference now. I’ve been actively living in my truth and values (yay therapy).

I’ve dealt with racism and microaggressions my entire life and career but never had the confidence to truly do something about it. The first time I actually said, “I will not be the Black token” and “I do not feel safe” was 15 months ago at my previous employment. I was so scared, that my voice shook, but I knew I had to stand up for myself. I was drowning mentally and emotionally but something shifted in my spirit the first time I said those words.

I believed in my talent and expertise so much that I just knew I would land on my feet. Did it hurt me financially to leave a job back then without a backup plan? Yes, it did, but I spoke MY truth. Now that I’ve done it once I can’t go back to being silent.

Existing in this country and in this skin has cracked my soul in ways I can’t fully verbalize. While it’s exhausting, I am becoming careful about protecting access to my energy. Who knew maintaining healthy boundaries would be difficult yet freeing at the same time?!

Though I continue to struggle with accepting this post-cancer body both externally and internally, I feel more confident to be unapologetically ME and stand up for myself in situations where no one else has the courage to do so.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie

Aging Out on National Cancer Survivors Day

Here it is National Survivors Day and all I can think about is how I’m aging out.

I’m aging out of the AYA community.

I’m aging out of the dating game.

I’m aging out of this post-cancer body.

I’ve been in medically induced menopause since 2017. Going through breast cancer definitely aged my body but being medically induced into menopause shoved me all way into serious aging both internally and externally. The only part of my body that has never changed is the shape of my eyes. Everything else is no longer even close to what I used to know.

(Left to right)
Me 5 years ago on day of breast cancer surgeries; day after breast cancer surgeries; Me last week!

I posted a video on my Instagram earlier this week about my menopausal hair. I finally threw in the towel and got it severely chopped off after a year of trying to grow it out. I truly thought once the chia pet tight curls fell away, that I would look like myself again. Instead, my hair began to look stringy and thin. It literally stopped growing on the right side and in the back. I was beginning to look lopsided because the left side of my hair was going back beautifully. Getting this radical cut was an uncomfortable decision for me but needed to be done.

Me this week having too much fun with the app Easysnap!

There’s an illusion that we’re in control of our bodies. When going through cancer and having a chronic illness, it is plain to see I have little control over anything, especially my body. I had gotten back into exercising but suddenly stopped due to fibromyalgia pain in my back. It was so bad that I couldn’t sleep or move without wanting to cry. Now I’m back to trying to get motivated to workout. The belly fat is my nemesis. I don’t even want to take any full-length pictures because of my whale shaped body.

So, I’m aging out of many categories that used to feel somewhat natural and supportive. Instead of being one of the “young” ones in a group, I am often the oldest person in the group. Making friends as an adult is hard. Making friends as a single adult past a certain age feels impossible. I’ll be checking a new age box on my birthday which is July 3rd. This thought has thrown me into a complete panic and despair. The bulk of the people I know are married or living with someone and have kids. The few single people I do know already have a strong friend group. The wish to hang out with friends on a consistent basis is over. No one has time anymore.

Aside from having zero sex drive, I’ve become way to set in my ways to make room for a relationship. Heck, I had hard enough time when I had the hot body to find someone who didn’t look at me like an alien because I’m difficult to classify and don’t fit any typical categories. I continue to straddle between the black and white world without fully fitting into either.

I am five years no evidence of disease (NED). It just hit me this is the longest relationship I’ve ever been in. Will NED be with me forever? Do I want to live with NED with such a low quality of life? While my brain is sharper than it was five years ago, my body has yet to catch up. How much of this aging is natural? I think zero because I feel like a 544-year-old on a daily basis. I just don’t necessarily show it in selfies or on zooms because of acting. I win daily Oscars, Emmy, Golden Globe, and Tony awards.

Can anyone even tell when I’m faking and when I’m being real?

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie