Embrace the Suck

I wanted to read the words below out loud so you can feel the full emotions in my words.

I think many can agree 2020 has been like an episode of The Twilight Zone played on a loop. It was like the lid on Pandora’s box was forced opened and nothing could stop the chain of events. The pure hatred, corruption, greed, rage, white privilege, and selfishness of people boiled over.

There were days where I could embrace the suck through challenging myself professionally and spiritually. I was able to rise up for myself with a new confidence. I felt bolder, inspired, empowered, and even thankful because I took the professional risks I had been wanting to take for years and years. Instead of shying away from risks, I finally had the ability to get off that hamster wheel and believe in my talents. How I wish I had had this forced pause and push back in my 20’s but better late than never, right?

I have also never felt more afraid, paranoid, heartbroken, horrified, and filled with a level 4 kind of rage than I have this year. I witnessed two of those “Karens” during the summer. I had more racist remarks directed toward me. The horrific images of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd being murdered by white men who smiled will haunt me forever. Police uniforms and red hats became the modern Ku Klux Klan attire. There was no need for them to cover their faces anymore. That racist tRump and the GOP gave a green light because they knew there would not be any consequences.

My soul cracked.

Instead of solely focusing my blog about cancer, I felt I had to start writing about racism and the difficulties I continue to face both inside and outside of cancerland. I stopped being nervous about possibly offending people. Blogging my point of view and experiences of the past and present was a way to keep from going insane.

I really wanted the white people I knew and those I did not know to see my face and that I am not immune to have racist comments spewed at me. This year truly let me know that it does not matter how educated, talented, and classy I am. At the end of the day, I will always, always be seen as a black woman first.

When I wrote the blog post “Mixed Fragility,” it was the first time I had truly uncomfortable conversations with myself about race, how I am perceived, and how I perceive others. I technically have two black female friends and one black male friend. They can relate to a lot of what I feel on a daily basis. It was the first time I have had that.

How does one ever heal from severe trauma when it is their existence causing all the pain and turmoil? Even though I am still not accepted in the black world – no invitations to the barbeque – something changed for me when thinking about all the white people I know. I began to pull away from the white friends in my inner circle. In fact, I would say I am still pulling away.

What I say next is not to anyone specifically. It would be rude to call out people by name. It is what I experienced heavily this year, so I’m speaking to the general white population.  

So here I go…

I get so sick of white people saying not everything is about race.

I get so sick of white people questioning me and not believing me when I share a racist experience.

I get so sick of white doctors dismissing my pain and talking down to me.

I get so sick of white people being unable to control their surprised facial expressions when they hear my voice.

I get so sick of white people feeling the need to tell me about black people and black organizations within the cancer community.

I get so sick of white people feeling the need to start any conversation about race by saying they will never know what it is like to be black and how that feels.

I get so sick of white people not believing there is racism within the medical community.

I cannot even be viewed as just a cancer survivor because groups and organizations make it noticeably clear they label me as a BLACK cancer survivor; therefore, I must be an expert on all black-related issues. I thought the days of being used as a black token were gone. It has never been more apparent how many white people view me.

As I write this, I can almost hear the thoughts of any white person reading this. I know you are thinking “what am I supposed to say” and “I’m not a racist” and “I don’t view you as black” and “I don’t see color” and “why are so many black people angry.”

While I am excelling professionally, I am a wreck personally. I no longer know who to trust. Some of the places and people I thought were safe showed their true colors. No one, including me, knows how to categorize me. I do not fit in any common mold. I am unapologetically ME.

So, while I had some amazing and one of kind opportunities come my way this year, I continue to grapple with depression, pain, loneliness, rage, hurt, and confusion. This James Baldwin quote is one I have used repeatedly this year. It is the first time I feel what he felt. I wonder if 2021 will be any different.

It is important for me to thank all of you for taking the time to read my blog this year. While the bulk of my posts took courage to write and share, I acknowledge it took courage for you to read it. I read every single comment, negative and positive, that I received. Life can shove many of us off the rails with unforeseen challenges, unexpected deaths of friends and family, and hard truths revealed. What I do know is I will continue to be bold, work through the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, and keep sharing my truth.

Thank you for coming on board the cancer train of vulnerability and mixed emotions.

Merry Christmas from Megsie and Baby Nathan Edgar

Until next year,

Warrior Megsie

We All Bleed Red

My right hand is currently inflamed and burning, so typing is hard at the moment. I decided to take this opportunity to record a message for you instead. So, here is a short message from me on what I’m thinking about right at this moment.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie

It’s a troubling world

This world is troubling on so many levels. I can typically handle one thing at a time but not a total shitstorm within two days. I will go ahead and warn this piece will talk about race in relation to cancer.

Believe it or not, race plays a part in the cancer experience. I’ve dealt with many nurses, staff at cancer support communities and fellow warriors in online support groups who automatically assume since I’m black that I must have triple negative breast cancer. They have sometimes talked down to me.

No, this is not my imagination. This is not me being overly sensitive.

I blogged about this particular incident when I first started my blog in November 2017. It’s worth repeating. Some will innately get the insult and frustration. Others will not see why it was a big deal. All I can do is speak my truth.

It was almost a month after I started chemo in October 2015. I decided I needed help processing what was happening. I’ve always been a big supporter of therapy and support groups. I’m a talker and like to talk things out. At that time, I didn’t know any other 39-year old’s going through this. I needed support.

I went to the Cancer Support Community in Atlanta, GA. In order to join a group, there is an intake session with one of the staff members. I had spoken with her on the phone and was really looking forward to meeting her. I was already fatigued, nauseous and had worked a full day by the time I arrived. I was expecting to feel relaxed and heard.

The woman, who was white, gave me paperwork to fill out. Once done, I handed it to her, and she reviewed. This is where my frustration begins.

She asked, “Are you sure you’re not triple negative?” I was puzzled by the question. I knew what my diagnosis was, and it was stage IIA invasive lobular breast cancer. Maybe she couldn’t read my writing, even though my writing is very neat and specific.

She asked again, “I just want to double check. Are you sure you’re not triple negative?”

This time I was annoyed and responded back sharply, “No, I wrote my diagnosis. Why are you questioning my answer?”

She said, “Well, most African American women who get breast cancer are triple negative. It’s very prevalent in your ethnic group.”

Now, her questions would’ve have been appropriate if I didn’t know my diagnosis or specifically asked about what type (s) of cancers are prevalent in the black community.

Only, I specifically wrote my diagnosis and verbally told her what I had, yet she still questioned me like I didn’t have a clue of what I was talking about.

It was that moment I realized she didn’t see me as a cancer patient. She saw me as a BLACK cancer patient. Understand the distinction?

Every question from that point was about race. I was there to talk about cancer and not the black experience. I left shortly after that exchange.

Cancer does not discriminate, so why was she?

Let’s fast forward to today.

Many cancer patients, whether in active or post treatment, spend much of their time going to the pharmacy to pick up medication. This pharmacy doesn’t have a drive thru. I was at Target. I needed to pick up my refill of the arthritis medicine. Yes, I have arthritis in my knees and hands. That’s a story for another day.

Though I was only there to pick up my medication, I got a cart to lean on since my fibromyalgia pain is a 12 today. There was a line and no place to sit down.

There was a white mother and her young son in front of me acting up.

She said, “See this BLACK woman? If you don’t hush, she’s going to hit you with her cart.” The kid starts crying. I’m speechless. I saw first-hand how racism is taught. 

Now that little boy will associate black/brown women as harmful, cruel and punishing.

I was paralyzed and slowly backed away and went to another part of the store for a bit before circling back to get my meds. Keep in mind, there was a white woman behind me who witnessed this whole thing. She was conveniently looking down at her cart, not wanting to get involved.

I’ve experienced lots of racism but never in front of an impressionable child where a mother is saying because of my skin color that I would hurt her child.

I’ve even had the same thing said to me at a different pharmacy but that white woman said, “See THIS woman? If you don’t be quiet, she’s going to hit you with her cart.” That happened earlier this year.  

What is it about threatening kids with carts?

I did say something in that instance, and she did a double take when I said it was not okay to say that.

This time was different because this white woman specifically mentioned my skin color. That’s why I felt paralyzed.

I posted this incident on my social media this afternoon. I received many comments of my friends, many white, saying they would’ve stuck up for me and said something to that racist woman. If I were a white woman, I think I would’ve said something.

As a woman of color, I knew to keep my mouth shut and walk away. There is no reasoning with people who have that mindset of hate.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie