I decided to make a little video instead of writing today. I explain why and give you a life update. So, hang in there and watch the whole thing. I just winged it while on a muscle relaxer that started kicking in towards the end.
Make sure to check out my ‘About’ page for the latest published writing and podcast guest episodes.
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.
I’m strolling down memory lane remembering my very first audition for a musical in May 1990. It was Grease. Over two hundred kids auditioned and only 30 or so were chosen. I was one of the youngest ones in the cast and was a cheerleader. Kind of fitting, huh? I had one line that always got a laugh when I sat on Doody’s lap.
I was bullied a lot in the high school days and never truly fit in. I was “too different.” So why am I bringing this up? Well, it reminded me of a time where I felt a part of something big and special.
I felt accepted.
I felt liked.
I felt magical.
I felt seen.
That’s how I feel in cancerland. I’ve longed to find my place in the world. I never thought I would find this kind of acceptance for just being plain ‘ole ME. I’ve dealt with some in cancerland who are bullies and rude and who tried to bring me down and doubt myself. Fortunately, going through cancer has given me a thicker skin and made me intolerant of bullshit.
There was a time in my life pre-cancer where I didn’t feel like I had any friends. I had isolated myself which is completely against my nature. I wasn’t confident. I had become this anxiety ridden and insecure woman.
I can honestly say my cancer treatments not only killed the cancer, it also killed that insecurity and anxiety that had kept me stagnant from moving forward in life. It’s strange that it took something life-threating for me to realize that I been a walking zombie just going through the motions with no feeling other than despair.
Fast forward to present day, and I feel like the ME who once stepped on that stage in Grease. I’m fostering friendships both in and out of cancerland. I can honestly say I have friends locally to hang out with now, but I also have friends out of state and internationally who I can facetime or Skype with too. They are just as supportive and caring as the few who are here locally.
I feel confident.
I feel encouraged.
I feel loved.
I feel supported.
So, I leave you with the video of the finale in Greaseclick here because that’s how I feel about all the incredible people that keep coming into my life. There is a new pep in my step. My heart is doing cartwheels. Dare I say, I’m actually having some FUN.
It’s been a slightly difficult start to 2020. Toward the end of 2019, I spent hours on the phone with insurance, my primary, oncologist and doctor appointments fighting to get an MRI approved for my lower lumbar spine. Pleased as punch that I got my primary and oncologist working together as a team. It was a weight off my shoulders to have two exceptional doctors and a nurse advocating just as hard as I was to get it approved, especially during the holidays.
The good news is after being denied for the MRI twice by Cigna’s third party, my oncologist had a peer-to-peer discussion with them earlier this week. As of Thursday, January 2nd my MRI was approved. I was already organized and had rescheduled it two weeks ago for Tuesday, January 7th and will discuss the results and plan of action on Thursday, January 9th.
So, while I’m proud for advocating for myself along with my medical team, I’m still pretty pissed that I will be responsible for paying 80% toward my deductible since the MRI approval came on the 2nd. I truly do feel like Cigna did that on purpose so they wouldn’t have to pay because I had met my deductible and was $75 away from being covered 100% by the end of 2019.
It’s downright criminal that many of us must fight to receive the coverage and tests we deserve. Then we’re often stuck with huge bills that seem never ending.
A new year always brings added stress because of high insurance deductibles. Am I happy to have insurance through my employer? Of course, but it comes at a steep financial cost since I have to rotate between an MRI with contrast or an ultrasound every six months along with my diagnostic ultrasound + the cost of medications + copays to specialists. Me being me, I’m planning on fighting my portion of the MRI cost and file a complaint against the insurance. Sure, nothing will probably happen in my favor, but I must at least try for my piece of mind.
I do believe those pesky lesions on my spine are benign, but who knows what’s been growing there all this time since fighting with Cigna. Will they have to be burned off? Hell, if I know. Plus, will I have to get injections in the lower left side of my back to deal with this spondylitis? Will PT be part of the plan too?
All I see are dollar signs and scheduling conflicts as I move meetings at work to make it to appointments.
I’ve had people tell me to enjoy life, go on vacation and travel. I get so infuriated when I hear those suggestions. My insurance deductible through my employer is $6,500. How am I supposed to have fun and go anywhere or even save when that kind of cost looms over me? Getting critically ill is expensive and ongoing in the aftermath.
I want to go to different cancer conferences this year to meet more of the fabulous cancer warriors I’ve been talking to on social media but can’t take that kind of time off from work or have the extra funds since it all goes toward my high deductible. Yes, I know there are travel grants, but as I get older, I don’t qualify for some of those anymore. I’m at a weird age where I’m still “young” but not young enough to be eligible for some grants. Plus, I don’t have the energy to fill out applications once I get home from a very long day of working. I’m often mentally and physically spent.
As many look upon this new year as filled with possibilities, I’m already feeling the financial stress due to my health and the financial toxicity that is US healthcare.