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

A True White Ally

I received You Are Your Best Thing: An Anthology edited by Tarana Burke and Brené Brown and card from my lovely, supportive, and compassionate friend Shannon earlier this week. The Black authors who contributed to this anthology are extraordinary and so raw in sharing their experiences of being Black in this society. It has taken almost the entire week before I had the right headspace to begin reading it.

I feel an avalanche of emotions topple over me after reading the introduction and the first four stories. My head is spinning, tears drying, and heart is still pounding.

I must thank Shannon for sending this to me because it is not something I would’ve bought on my own. To be honest, seeing Brené Brown’s name on it made me hesitant to even open it at first. Once I read the introduction, I appreciated that Brené acknowledged that some Black people would feel this way and she and Tarana addressed the reason for this collaboration and both explained the dynamics of their friendship.

The fact is, Shannon reads my blog, my social media posts, and takes time to check on me and really talk to me about racism and how she’s worked toward acknowledging her own white privilege. She’s heard the brokenness in my voice, has seen the pain and exhaustion on my face, and continues to reassure me that she IS a safe white ally and genuine friend.

She knew I needed a different kind of support and keenly aware that she should not be that person for obvious reasons. I’ve expressed countless times through conversations and through my writing that I don’t have many Black friends and have always struggled with accepting my own Blackness and experiences. It’s what prompted the blog piece I wrote called Mixed Fragility last year. Much of my existence has been where I am the only Black person in the room, in the company, at the table or on the stage.

2020 was a pivotal year for me because it’s the first time I truly began to be afraid to drive alone, live alone, go into the store alone. I also felt a newfound sense of rage and brokenness that differs from all my previous feelings and entered a period of wanting to rise up and express the hurt and confusion I continuously feel for being in this skin.  

I’m about to make another cup of chai tea and read a few more chapters because this is the first time I can honestly fully relate to parts of these Black experiences shared. These Black authors are exceptional, and I can feel a tender pull of togetherness and understanding from their words. I used to think I was the only one who felt such rage, self-hate, and shame.

Through action and from a place of respect, Shannon let me know that she stands firmly by my side as not only a white ally and anti-racist, but also as a genuine friend.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie

How Much of Me Can I Reveal?

My birthday is next Saturday, July 3rd. I’m hitting another pivotal age that will move me into a new age category when filling out registrations, applications, or patient paperwork – 45. Aside from noticing how much my face and body has aged the past five years post-cancer, I’ve noticed the mandatory toleration of bullshit and then racist bullshit barometer that has been forced upon me since the first time I was called a nigger in the 4th grade in order to survive is gone.

Will there ever a time where I can bring all of myself into a room? How much of me can I reveal without getting hurt? How do so many white people not see the protective cloak I wear to help fend off the inevitable insults, microaggressions, full on racists remarks, undermining of me, and them trying to “put me in my place?”

I remember turning 25 while living in LA. By that point, I had become

A little jaded.

More insecure.

Had experienced first heartbreak.

Unhappy with career.

Self-hate.

Diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

I couldn’t financially pursue acting the way I wanted because many unexpected and painful things happened while in LA that forced me to go the corporate route because I needed health insurance and somewhat steady income. I put my dreams on hold.

I remember turning 35 while living in Atlanta. By that point, I had experienced

Living through a terrible recession.

More heartbreak.

Lack of professional direction.

Being called stupid by my white female boss when I worked for an in-house agency.

Being told I’m brilliant by a white employer but unwilling to pay more for my expertise.

Letting go of pursuing acting.

More health issues and unexpected weight gain.

My hair on the left side started falling out.

More depression and anxiety.

Self-hate.

My white doctors dismissing my symptoms even though I knew something was seriously wrong.

More anger that was boiling into rage.

Now we fast forward to soon-to-be 45 while living in Atlanta. Now, I continue to have difficulty navigating through life because of

Supposedly “surviving” Stage IIA invasive lobular breast cancer.

Lack of quality of life thanks to permanent damage stemming from 16 rounds of chemo, 8 surgeries, and 33 radiation treatments.

Unmanaged chronic pain due to fibromyalgia and chemo induced peripheral neuropathy and medically induced menopause.

Being told by two white women when I was working at a huge ad agency that I had to keep my health and work separate when I began struggling from side effects from taking Arimidex to help prevent a recurrence. They said this in front of everyone.

Being called by the other black woman’s name 2x by an older white woman, who was/is a tRump supporter, after being there for two years at the job I had before the pandemic. There were only two black women in the marketing department. We have vastly different looks and personalities.

Having my ideas stolen by white women in the workplace throughout my entire career and them receiving the credit and not being able to call them out on it for fear of losing my job because I needed the money.

Realizing how oppressed and degraded I had become after consistently dealing with the white fragility of white women and every so often white men.

Dealing with white women in certain cancer groups who have actually said, “race doesn’t belong in the cancer space” and “not everything is about race.”

Being trolled and targeted on Twitter by racists because I began speaking up about it more and more.

Palpable cracks in my soul after seeing black men and women being murdered at the hands of white people over and over and over and over again with no accountability.

Discovering white people who I thought were friends and who I trusted let their racial bias and racists thoughts show, which has destroyed my trust in a lot of white people.

Watching an insurrection happen LIVE and seeing those racists being treated with dignity and able to just go home afterward.

Palpable pain, self-hate, unhappiness, and rage continues to runneth over.

I honestly didn’t want to write out the flood of thoughts that have been whirling in my head since the start of this year. Writing it down makes it real. I literally have tears in my eyes as I write this, and heart is pounding furiously because I am just so fucking tired of having to be ON all the time and never knowing who I can trust anymore. Now that the veil of oppression has been lifted from my face, how do I continue moving forward without hate seeping into all the cracks in my soul that have formed during my soon-to-be 45 years on this hateful planet?

Will I ever develop the ability to move past…

the darkness

the sadness

the hurt

and the rage.

Well, that remains to be determined.

What I can confidently say is I’m finally at a place professionally where my voice and ideas are encouraged, supported, and uplifted. I’ve never received that kind of respect before, and it feels strange yet deeply appreciated and comforting. I suppose miniscule steps forward are still steps to be acknowledged.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie