Instead of writing a post I decided to record one instead. Forgive the low lighting. My BP is quite low today and feeling rather out of sorts.
It has been an extraordinary time filled with opportunities I never dared to dream of. My confidence level continues to rise. I’ve lived more in that past few months than I’ve lived since moving back to Georgia from Los Angeles 17 years ago.
Even with these fabulous professional and advocacy wins, including a new full-time job that I’ll begin August 17th and multiple freelance gigs, there are still feelings of uncertainty. It’s not uncertainty about my abilities as a marketing and writing professional, it is an uncertainty of my body.
Chronic pain is not something I would ever wish on someone. It’s why my cancer journey takes so many gut-punching twists and turns over rocky terrain. I’m in the body of a mummy from the neck down.
There is never a moment where I am not in pain.
There is never a moment where I forget I’m in pain.
There is never a moment where I don’t curse this pain.
As much as I stress about a possible recurrence or metastatic cancer, I stress just as equally about how long I can keep pushing with pain levels that range from 6-20. I remember a telling moment at my 8th and final surgery related to my original breast cancer surgery that I had June 3, 2019 at Northside Cancer Center. While the nurse was prepping me with an IV, she asked what my pain level was at that moment. I told her it was an 8, and she just looked stunned. I was matter of fact and told her about my pain range and that an 8 was tolerable. She just started tearing up and said, “I’m so sorry you’re suffering so much.” It was honestly the first time any emotion had ever been shown by medical staff and I found it oddly comforting. For once, it wasn’t dismissed or even questioned.
My chronic pain is multi-faceted. I wish it were only from fibromyalgia. When you add severe neuropathy in my hands and feet, my senses become overloaded. Then add a herniated disc with a tear near the nerve where I desperately need another epidural steroid injection because the first one didn’t take, then I almost can’t think because the pain is beyond horrific.
It’s a disrupter of time.
It’s a disrupter of sleep.
It’s a disrupter of peace.
So, when others think my cancer story should be over, I simply say no. It never will be because I am reminded at every moment of every day what my cancer treatments and multiple surgeries did to my body. My body is gone. I don’t know this current body. We will always be strangers and never friends because it hurts me on too many levels. Others might be able to move past it, but I cannot.
Until next time,
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,
I was in serious danger of losing myself. I haven’t been true to myself in years, especially once I began working after college. I was literally shrinking myself to fit in these impossibly confined spaces that were never meant to hold a force like me.
I did what I was told.
I followed the rules.
I didn’t take any risks.
Anyone who knows me whether in person or online knows that I am definitely a tad extra, expressive, creative, and dramatic. My dream since I was a little girl was to be an actress. I’ve always felt at home on the stage. So, when I didn’t follow my heart and try to make it as an actress, the disappointment in myself eventually suffocated me.
Each time I walked through the office door of my corporate jobs over the years, tiny parts of me died until it became larger chunks, and then ultimately my entire spirit died. I had a huge collection of various musicals on cd. I had thrown all of them away except my three all-time favorites – Rent, Jekyll and Hyde, and Chicago. I thought my days to be creative and fuel my soul doing things that mattered to me permanently were gone.
Why did it take a pandemic to force me out of the coffin and restore life back into me? I thought going through breast cancer and all the ongoing complications from it would’ve pushed me to follow my dreams, but no. The fear of being without decent health insurance sucked the life out of me.
This forced pause by the world and not by my body is what breathed life into me again. I’ve been networking in a way I didn’t have the confidence to do prior to COVID-19. I no longer wanted to put myself in job situations where I would be utterly miserable but feel forced to accept it for a paycheck and insurance.
When would I finally rise up and be who I was meant to be?
That time has come. I didn’t realize the transformation from death to life had been taking place until this week. Others have believed me for years, but I didn’t believe in myself enough to do anything about it until now. Once I began asking others for help and suggestions, I couldn’t believe the sheer number of people who have been willing to take the time from their schedules to chat and brainstorm ideas with me.
Since this transformation, the following things have happened with more in the works:
I was in the NY Times.
I was in People magazine.
I landed my first part-time freelance job with a clinical trial company in Europe.
I landed my first paid speaking engagement for an upcoming panel about the lack of diversity in clinical trials.
I auditioned for my first ever voiceover job and got it.
I’m finally taking some risks in order to pursue what fuels my many passions and feel deeply empowered. It’s hard to describe the feeling. My smile has been exhausted but genuine in the past few weeks. I see a glow in my face. It’s like the light has been turned back on.
It was once so hard to breathe, but I now rise up in a way I never have before with new purpose, vision, determination, and belief in myself. I give myself permission to accept that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes but to continue to rise up. I’m finally being true to who I am.
These are the two songs and quotes that inspired today’s blog piece
Until next time,