Authorkaren marie mason

Reminiscing About My Ancestors

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I use to love to go visit the dubmaster, Augustus Pablo up in the hills of Jamaica. I needed frequent getaways from the hustle of my life as a music executive. On the surface, it made me feel rather special to spend time with one of the most amazing musicians to come out of Jamaica. (Google him) But beneath the surface were the living precepts of Rastafari. Augustus Pablo lived Rastafari.

I first met Augustus Pablo when I graduated from Syracuse University. It was one of those speechless moments when Trevor, my baby’s daddy and love of my life introduced us on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn. Having played his music as a college radio dj for the previous 4 years it was life coming full circle right in front of me. As Trevor’s good bredren, Pablo automatically became mine and even long after Trevor made his transition he continued to spiritually, mentally and even materially tend to my needs. When Busta Rhymes illegally used one of his samples…he called on me to remedy the situation. I was able to broker a deal that benefitted Pablo. He turned around and gave me a significant portion of his earnings. This was his WAY. The Rastafari way. Chalice everyday. Ital living. Music, deep reasonings and a disdain for all things Babylon…with me by his side. I loved our time together. I was the Queen of his bredren and he treated me like a Daughter. Visiting him in the hills on a regular brought me closer to the lifestyle that I had chosen as a child much more than Brooklyn ever could. He was my shining example of Rastafari.

There were studio sessions; sitting in at Rockers record shop which he owned; Tuff Gong meetings (where his records were pressed; to the ital bredren pon the corner with the good cornmeal porridge were the equivalent of heaven to me…my favorite part of the visits were when we went to see his herbalist, Dr. Bagga. I remember when we first pulled up at Bagga’s gates in Kingston…one of many many times that I would visit him. The veranda was full of people needing his care. Inside was full with another set of people. Old, young, Jamaican, Asian. You name it…they were there. Pablo, who never went anywhere empty handed would enter immediately and greet his bredren and present him with whatever gifts he brought. He would then sit down with us in the back yard which was also full of people (LOL) and reason for a few minutes before he would have to get back to his patients.

Dr. Bagga’s house was the healing house. Many who had been turned away by the local hospital were sent to Dr. Bagga, the roots doctor up the road. With patients everywhere. Dr. Bagga truly did everything in Jah time. He healed, he smiled, he loved and I was one of the thousands and thousands of recipients of his healing hand.

I learned last week that he was in the hospital. I made mental note to reach out to his daughter and send him whatever I could. Before I could do that…Dr. Bagga made his transition on the earth day of the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey (Monday, August 17th) at 11:40pm. It hit me particularly hard because he transitioned before I did what I said I would do. Bagga joins his bredrens Trevor and Augustus Pablo in the world of eternity. Meanwhile we here, the living, must rise from our sleep and slumber and manifest both the little and the big of what we KNOW and SAY we will do. Lesson Learned.

I am working everyday to get better at being me…a Rastafari child of the Most High. I continue to fall short at times but I am greatly encouraged by the all the angels that I have working on my behalf. I will not fail.

It’s Real This Time

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I wrote this July 2018.  It’s real this time. Oh and today is my birthday. January 21st.

I want to move forward but I want to leave all the baggage, the sickness, the dis-ease and the disappointment behind.  I have a friend who has been saying that as soon as she quits her job the saints will come marching in and she will be happy. That was 5 years ago and she is still at the same job.  So does that mean that she has been unhappy for 5 years?

I don’t know.  Just trying to make a point.

We all know that person that says “as soon as such and such happens…my life will change”. Well I am that person depending on what day you catch me.  “As soon as I am healed I’m gonna do such and such.”  What you gonna do then that you can’t do now Karen?

Yes. I am talking to myself in the midst of talking to you.

What I am realizing is that I must learn to live with, through and beside my health awakening.  Not referring to it as a challenge any more. Dis-ease just doesn’t go away one day and health appear the next.  They work in tandem. Doing a dance together and depending on the work you put in, one or the other will dominate.

Life is too short to be waiting for something to happen before you make something else happen. Next month I will announce the launch of my start up, HealingATL as I continue to push myself (with your help)…through the stages.

Let Me Take Care Of You

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Her exact words were “come home with me and let me take care of you”.

I was still laying in bed exhausted from doing so little. Bones still mending in my back from multiple fractures due to the cancer that had spread to my spine. I needed and wanted to lay there all day all night. I called my cousin in Florida. Or maybe she called me. Either way it was one of those destiny calls. She said “Karen you can’t be there by yourself”. I stumbled out a few words about having a team that was always available when I needed, a support system that continued to show up for me and how grateful I was for the love that seemed to reverberate in and from the community.

My cousin replied “that’s great Karen but you need someone round the clock with you”. This was September 2019. I hung up the phone and contemplated. It was hard to admit. But she was right.

The only person that came to mind lived in New Orleans, had a 10 year old son (who was delivered via water birth In my backyard when she lived with me…10 years ago) and was most likely about her business(es) but I called any way. I told her what my cousin told me. I was a bit too prideful to admit (first person) who much I had fallen. She understood my speaking in tongues and asked me how soon do you need me. Reality struck. “Right away” I said. “Ok” she said. I will be there as soon as I can.

Within a few days Kelly was at my door. Dependent on the walker she would later remind me how pitiful I looked when I opened the door, bent over. Sick. She stayed with me for 10 days. Preparing food, laughing with me, listening to some of her older tunes, massaging me. Loving me. Love and joy had returned to my heart. I had no idea how much I was grieving deep inside from the passing on my friend Chris, the cancer, the crisis which had now become my life.

On the 9th day she came in the den and said “come home with me and let me take care of you”.

I wanted to say no. I mumbled something about doctor’s appointments and meds and some other grumble mumble. None of it making too much sense but Kelly had a response for everything “I will see to it that you get to your doctor’s appointments, we can drive up from New Orleans”, “one of your friends can pick up your meds”. I had no excuse not to say yes. So I said yes.

She would later tell me that she was scared to ask. I would later tell her that I was scared to accept her offer.

So off we went. She cleared out a room for me, gave me comfort, gave me her arm to hold me steady, helped me as needed in the bathroom and organized my supplements which were many. I had started to follow Patrick Delve’s cancer protocol system and there was so much to keep track of. Kelly did all of that until I could do it myself.

She kept her word and took care of my every need until I was able to take better care of myself.

Sometimes we need a push. She was my push. Within 2 months I was off the walker, preparing my own supplements and cooking in the kitchen. I’m in a much better place and space mentally. She and ALL OF YOU are reviving me in ways that only time will reveal.

There are no words to describe this kind of love. None.

Thank you to my community. Thank you Kelly Love Jones.

I Can Be Petty.

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In 2018 I tried to avoid people as much as possible. In 2019 I was bed ridden and mostly out of it (and on opiods) so not seeing folk was the norm. I felt very insecure about how I looked and moved and for a good period of time (many months) I wasn’t sure if I was coming or going, I would forget conversations midstream and my body was in constant pain and everything else and everyone became a pain. So avoidance seemed the best remedy.

I remember when I was scheduled to moderate at A3C music festival in Atlanta. (photo attached) I sat in my car in the parking deck because I was nauseous and would periodically open the door and deposit everything I ate (or didn’t eat) on the concrete. While in mid stream I looked up and saw someone I knew. Damn. I thought to myself “I hope she didn’t see me.” I resumed my regurgitation.

I was not well trying to play well. I finished throwing up wiped up my face and became presentable for the moment. I got out the car and as I was walking I saw her again. Damn. .I was so embarrassed. I acted liked I didn’t see her again and she seemed to do the same. To this day I still feel a way about my behavior that day. Not the throw up part but me purposely avoiding contact with someone I knew because of how I felt. At that time (in my mind) it was actually easier for me to get on stage, moderate a panel in front of hundreds of people and then exit stage left than it was to face one on one people I knew who also knew that I wasn’t well. Kinda petty eh?

Learning to do better. 2020.

In Da Club – Throwback

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In Da Club w/ Babygurl

So I’m on the way to the club with my daughter. Well kinda. She is suppose to meet her friends there but they’re not coming until later so she asks me to come and make sure she gets in okay and then (presumably) leave. She is home from college for the holidays and her friends were raving about the “Broke and Boujee” parties at the Five Spot. In my mind I am thinking what daughter wants their mother in the club or even near the club with them.  So there’s is a long line at the door. The doorman says “I’m checking IDs, 18 to get in and 21 to drink”. “Okay” I say awkwardly looking for my ID and glancing around to see if anyone notices my grown ass self bout to go into this teenage club with a bunch of 18 to 21 year olds. Of course I can’t find my ID for a second. I’m holding up the line and feeling a bit paranoid. I’m thinking to myself…”I bet they all wondering who holding up the line”. I imagine one of the many teenagers who are in line saying to themselves, “somebody’s mama” and laughing to themselves.

So now we are literally one step from being in the club. And my daughter, after spotting a number of good looking eye candy says to me “oh u don’t need to come inside”. I laugh to myself and just imagine for as brief a moment as possible how horrified I would be if my Mama came up in the club with me. But at this point I am too damn curious. We right at the door and it looks like it’s on and popping up in this club. I look at her with eyes that communicate, “too late baby…I ain’t going no where but inside this club.”

So we get inside. I am thinking its 10 dollars. And the girl at the door says 1 dolla. I say “what” leaning closer to her ears making it oh so obvious that I don’t know the routine and she yells “one dollar”. Okay. So I must be really out of the loop. 1 dollar. OMG.

So I walk in. Feeling good that my daughter hasn’t abandoned me (at least not yet). You know how we would do back in the day…and act like….”Oh I’m not with them”while… standing a comfortable distance from Mama. Well maybe that was just me. But not my daughter Kenya. She trooping by my side. Got me feeling good that my baby girl, on the threshold of twenty is still trooping with Mama.

So we walk through the club headed for the right spot to claim as our own. And me desperate to make some contact with a few heads my age. I see a few. “Whew” I lament to myself. I knew it was some OGs up in this place. We grab a seat near the stage with full view of everything. The placed is packed with wall to wall of our future. I’m still a little paranoid. I see heads nodding at me; waving periodically; smiling. Got me wondering if they thinking…”that’s somebody mama, I better say hi.” I imagine it’s like seeing your teacher at the club. Maybe I’m just paranoid not sure why. Afterall, I am somebody’s Mama. Proud of it too!

As a marketer. I’m thinking. Damn. Who is promoting this event tonight. The club is packed wall to wall with the prime trendsetters and tastemakers of this generation. The latest clothes, baseball caps galore, fly sneakers all on display. Basically crunk. I’m thinking about these two new female rockers that I signed to my management company. What a perfect audience for them.

When we first came in the music was basically that retro sounding stuff that is suddenly popular. Go figure. Common, MJB, Kanye all at more beats per minute than I am use to.

Anyway, talk about young Black and Fabulous. There were quite a few caucasians in the house too. Fly brothers and sisters galore. When I tell u the place is crunk. I am feeling good flying beneath the radar. Then “Uh oh.” Here comes the roving photographer. I’m not sure if I’m more concerned about him taking a photo of me and someone seeing it and thinking that I hang out with teenagers at the club on weekends or if I was worried that he would pass me by embarrassed about taking a photo of someone who looked like his 11th grade language arts teacher. He stopped right in front of me. “Damn”, i utter underneath my breath. I quickly ask my daughter Kenya to come in the photo with me. At least folks will say, “she was there with her daughter.”

Then the music changes from retro pop to atlanta crunk. Most of the songs playing, I’ve worked on the videos in my other incarnation as one of top location scouts in Atlanta. Everyone from Dem Franchize Boyz, To Luda to Young Jeezy, to Lil Wayne (I know he not from Atlanta) to T.I.

It all kinda sounds the same…verbal noize with a nice beat. Just when I am thinking the worst of the artistic offering of this generation in the south specifically I remember a lecture the great historian Dr. Asa Hilliard did where he referred to a dissitation by a young writer and PHD candidate in which she compared crunk to spirituals both musically (the syncopation, the call and response) and spiritually (the chants, the praises, the letting go) So I sit up and take better notice; watching the crowd, listening more attentively, feeling the spirit. Its damn near holy ghost temperature and vibration in here. Wall to wall. A spiritual movement. One that us adults will completely miss with our judgemental- non-listening- pre occupied with life selves.

So my daughter is standing on the chair next to me. Observing. Bobbing her head, dancing. I’m feeling good that she feeling good and ain’t shy about completely expressing herself amongst her peers while I’m at the club WITH her. I’m spending my time typing these thoughts on the blackberry hoping to go unnoticed as someones mama trying to get crunk with the teenagers. So I decide to stand on the chair next to my daughter. I start bobbing and busting a little move and I am immediately stopped by her. “Mama” she says sounding and looking visibly annoyed, “U can’t do that”. “ Huh” I say. I mean we done made it this far. I’m in the club. She dancing and cutting up doing the booty dance right next to me. We dun crossed all the barriers. “So what is it now” my eyes respond minus the words. “you can stand on the chair but you can’t dance mama.”…”Please” she adds at the end of a momentary pause.

I’m okay with that. Again all I gotta do to put things in perspective is to imagine how horrified I would be if my mom were in the club with me MUCH LESS shaking her groove thing to the music that moved my generation. OMG. Just the thought. So I respect her wishes, conserve my bounce and just bob ever so slightly hoping that that will be okay.

Ok. So I’m on the chair. Typing away. The spirit is moving the crowd and that same spirit is moving my fingers to type this blog note to you’all. I type a few words and the next thing I know I look around and my daughter is gone. Poof. Like magic gone. So I’m like damn. “That must of been her plan all along”, “to get ghost”, “ Lose her mama in the club”. My rich paranoia at play again. My head is practically doing a 360 looking for her. But all I can see is the heads of literally hundreds of teens. Damn. Rather than go looking like a mad woman I stand there on the chair trying to adjust my eyes to survey headtops for any that might match my little Kenya’s. When I turn to look around again I sight her on stage getting the digits of one of the promoters. She probably thinking about throwing a party like this in DC at Howard University where she is a sophmore. And here I was thinking she ducking me. Our eyes meet and she looks at me with a knowing stare that says, “I’m taking care of some business mama…waving her iphone for further confirmation. Imagine me being worried that she was trying to dip. I feel a little silly. After all she ain’t me at that age. I forget that some times.

When she returns she says “Mama, I’m going outside for a minute its hot in here.” “I’ll come with you” I say without skipping one beat. “That’s okay Mama, I’ll be right back” I hear her utter faintly as I look at the back of her head. I’m wonder to myself how I’ve managed since she been off at college…With my paro self.

She returns. What a relief. I know she tired of me asking her. “Who’s that playing.” “what song is this”, “what song was that”. I just feel the need to know who these artists are that are making this wall to wall crowd of energy move uncontrollably in complete cooperation and obedience to the spirit. I know she getting tired of me asking. Before she went to college. I prided myself in at least being familiar with everything she listened to. I didn’t let anything slip by. I needed to know what she was thinking, what she listened to, what moved her and why. I must admit since she went off to school, I kinda fell off a little bit in terms of keeping up with all the music.

My “My President is Black” comes on. The whole room is one high school chorus. Couple fists in the air.

I continue to obey the rules. No dancing. I get away with slight head bobbing. I can’t help it. DJ in touch with the crowd and visa versa. They feeling each other. I’m feeling the whole experience…in da club. BROKE AND BOUJEE NOVEMBER 2008.

 

He Gave Me Care

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“There is no adequate description for the weight of grief of a loss so profound that words disappear” Adria R . Walker

I held his hand. I caressed his cheeks. I washed his body. He did the same for me only a couple weeks before when I could barely care for myself. He showed up at my hospital door January 10th and never left my side. Until.

I felt so honored to be able to sit with him and whisper in his ears as I waited for him to come back to this side. I imagined he was somewhere in between, wanting to laugh and joke with me while yearning for his own mother (who passed away the year before).

So I sat with him daily. I learned quickly how to fold my walker, get in an uber and roll down the hospital hall everyday to be by his side until he went to the other side. Up until this time, he did all of this for me. He drove and accompanied me to all my appointments, brought me food, sat by my side as I faded in and out, made sure I stayed on my supplements. He showed me what true love felt like.

He took one last effortless breath on May 7th, almost sounded and felt like a sigh of relief.

And just like that he transitioned. That was it.

I wiped and caressed his face one last time as they disconnected all the wires that kept him barely here with me.

Grateful he allowed me to witness his transition to eternity. The next day I saw two cardinals playfully flying in my back yard. I know it was Chris and his Mom.

Rest well. Took me forever to write this. Just couldn’t get the words together.

Chris Askew 7/9/67 – 5/7/19.

The Year Was 1988

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My Cycle Has Come Again!

Long before I became a location scout, big city record company marketer, artist manager, promoter, radio disc jockey, writer and the most important role of all MAMA, I was a little brown eye girl raised in Jamaica and East Flatbush eager to break into the music business. I had no conception of the word “no”. There was nothing that I didn’t feel like I couldn’t accomplish. Nothing. I moved around hardcore reggae circles with an enthusiasm and determination that made many a man adopt me as their little sister …reluctant…but still willing to show me the ropes. After all, I was a woman and this was their world. Or so they thought. I became both a student and practitioner all at once. Learning and doing while holding steadfast to my dream of becoming a powerbroker in the music business. I figured out how to get my own radio show and I got it. I researched who all the top radio dj’s were in the city and I got to know them ALL. I linked with all the key record distributers and kept my collection up to date with all the latest and whenever I could …I sat at the feet (or more so at the record counter) of the top record stores and listened and learned in what was to become my new classroom.

And then I released my first record. I arranged studio time. Worked out the track. Linked with the artist, Empress Akelia, and we went and recorded the first record that I produced. A track titled “Raggamuffin Girl” on Superpower/World Enterprise imprint, Live and Love.  The year was 1988.

Wow. I share this because life is a cycle. That was 20 years ago. And now 20 years later I am once again the student and practitioner all over again. Greater things are yet to come. Stay tuned.

Take A Listen. “Raggamuffin Girl” by Empress Akelia, (my Trini) firebrand produced and arranged by Karen Marie Mason. Another tune “Apartheid Is Wrong” written by my bredren
Victor Bloise.

Peter Tosh & Me

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I always had a zeal for this business of music. After graduating University where I majored in communication and minored in the Music Business, I jumped right in as a promotion assistant at Epic Record~and a short time later moving up to a product manager at Columbia Records (Sony) and eventually landing as head of the Black Music Marketing department at East/West Elektra Records under the guidance and tutelage of the only Black woman at that time to head a major record label, Sylvia Rhone. I was living my dream~working and developing the careers of artists once unknown ~ to superstar status. But I also had another parallel passion. And that was to take the music of my heritage, reggae, and position it in the international/mainstream arena. So my journey took me far and wide in the musical spectrum. For instance, I worked with a little known group from L.A. named Cypress Hill; two little boys who liked to wear their clothes backwards and the entire Ruffhouse label that later produced the Fugees and so many others. But I also worked with a DJ(that’s what we call MC’s in Jamaica) named SuperCat who we positioned to a mainstream audience without ever losing his foundation. I later went on to work with Ziggy Marley (this came some years after the encounter described in this blog), Terror Fabulous, Snow (don’t laugh), Nadine Sutherland and many others.

To say I was “ready” when I got “the call” from the wife of Peter Tosh…is an understatement. I can’t remember what his wife (Sister Marlene) was working on at the time. It could have been a foundation~or possibly a release of some catalog material~possibly even developing her own career. I don’t remember. All I remember was that I scheduled a meeting with the wife of legendary Wailer, Peter Tosh. I remember preparing a small portfolio of my work. I remember being in AWE of the possibility of meeting the “Stepping Razor” himself. Almost everything else is a dreamland fog. Prior to this, the closest I came to a Wailer was Madison Square Garden when Bob Marley opened for the Commodores. My brother and I sat on either side of my Mother and watched with binoculars a spectacular show while trying to enhale as much as we could. So the idea of actually coming close to Peter Tosh (via his wife) was all I needed to send me into a state of utter excitement. Now I must remind myself (as I get excited just writing and thinking about it), my appointment was NOT with Peter Tosh. I didn’t even know if he was in town or even in the country for that matter. My appointment was with the wife of a legend but my mind was firmly on him. My imagination was colorful and sent me deep into the abyss of …”what ifs”. And there I went ~”What if Peter was there”, “What if he wanted to talk about the music business and me managing him” I always dream big. What if, What if, What If.

So armed with a bag of “what if’s” I proceeded to his apartment on West 90 something street. It was one of those apartment buildings where you have to be announced by the doorman or clerk. The doorman called up stairs. I wanted to KNOW before I went upstairs if Peter answered. I wanted to know if he was home. But I didn’t want to be mistaken for some stalker of overzealous fan as I am sure this doorman has dealt with many a time. So I said nothing.

So the doorman said “its okay to go up”. I can’t remember the floor. But I remember how I felt. Great anticipation. By this time in my life I had met or worked with or interacted with or personally learned from some of the major cultural/historical icons of our times. But this is the closest that I had come to the Bob Marley and the Wailers legacy.

So there I was. I rang the doorbell and his wife Sister Marlene answered. We walked into the living room and sat. I looked around coyly for some sign of Peter. I listened for other footsteps and heard nothing. So we talked. I can’t even remember what about. Cause you KNOW where my mind was. Lord please forgive me for not being focused. I did my best. Then as if out of nowhere came this giant of a man. He had to be close to 7 feet. It seemed like he had to duck just to walk from room to room. Sister Marlene introduced me as a record company exec and radio personality/ With little expression but with a feeling of deep love he nodded and walked into the other room. He may have said something. I can’t remember. I was wide awake in a dream. He was the epitome of quiet fire. I would hear the fire side in a few minutes. So Sister Marlene and I continued our meeting and the doorbell rings. Peter answers the door. I hear a deliveryman uttering something about his TV. Within a matter of a few seconds I heard Peter talking about “bumbo clat TV, and how dem better have it fixed properly, etc, etc.” From where I was, I could neither see Peter or the deliveryman. I could only hear the conversation. If you would call it that. A few minutes later I heard what sounded like the running feet of the deliveryman racing to the elevator. It was obvious that Peter was not the one that you wanted to argue with.

Few minutes later peace returned and the smell of the good collie weed filled the air.

#Throwback

Still Here

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The last 9 months have been a blur. This fog phase started in Montego Bay Jamaica in December. Well no. It started months and months and years before that when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. But somewhere around the fall of 2018 my back started paining me. I thought maybe I pulled a muscle during my attempts at Yoga or spine twisted a little too much during Tai Chi.

I never thought for a moment that the cancer had metastasized and spread to my spine. My bones were brittle. Fractures everywhere.

Backstory. Every year my daughter and I spend Christmas together in Jamaica. And for a number of reasons I felt that December 2018 might be our last. For one, I thought** I might not make it much longer and secondly Kenya was headed to Africa and her work schedule would make it difficult for us to commune for our annual sojourn which we had already been doing for over a decade. So I packed up all my pain killers and we met in JA.

Somewhere between the rough roads of Jamaica and a cancer that I didn’t know at that time was spreading throughout my body I cut our annual vacation short and found myself back in America in Emory Hospital Emergency room. My palliative doctor spoke with the medical doctor at Falmouth hospital in Jamaica and advised him what drugs to give me so that I could get on the plane. The pain was unbearable. I arrived on a Wednesday in January and I was already on the books for spinal compression surgery on Friday. I had not consented and in fact refused the surgery despite the pain. I eventually gave in only after consultation with my ancestors, spirit guides and my closest circle of friends.

From that day until now my back has not been the same. I could barely walk and used a walker for the last 9 months while maintaining a heavy medicated state with help of morphine, fentanyl patches, hydrocodone, oxycodone and various cocktails and combination of opiods. Oh and yes, Cannabis.

In September I stopped taking opiods. They didn’t seem to help the pain and I knew after so many months I was probably hooked. So I stopped. I learned to bare the pain. My memory started to come back and I felt like I was rising from the dead.

**PS. I don’t think like that anymore. I choose life in all my thoughts and prayers

Photo Credit:  @TerrellClarkofficial

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Shrinking and Yet I Rise

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The main tumor (breast) is shrinking and so is my body. I am down to 103 lbs and I’ve lost close to 3 inches in height…from the spinal compression surgery. I was a little depressed at first but I’ve turned my thoughts into thoughts of victory. I have a Pet Scan in December to determine what is going on with the rest of my body.

I haven’t written in my “Through The Stages” ebook for a while. I am starting to write again.  Just a little. Been on my back for close to 9 months after spinal compression surgery after the cancer spread to my spine. Thank you for your continued support.

I am well. Really. I am. Signed. Shawty Karen.

PS. And while I may be in this space right now I can assure you I will NOT remain there. Change is inevitable and I am ushering and welcoming it in.

PSS.  Photo of me and babygurl in Jamaica a few years ago.