Another Day In June
I often don’t know who to tell. Or even who to talk to. I have a few close friends that I speak with often. But I don’t necessarily TELL them everything. And then I allow my mind to do its own thing with my thoughts…”should I post an update to social media? Nah”. Too much going on in the world. “What do I tell them when they ask me how I am doing?”
The truth. Nah. I don’t lie either. I usually land somewhere in the middle.
I just don’t tell. Everything.
Afterall we all have our own burdens right? And then there is the added heaviness of Covid and the welcomed unrest stirring in the souls of our people. It’s alot. It’s just alot.
But even before recent times. Before international viruses and before our youth took the streets I was quiet. Just didn’t have much to say. Didn’t feel like writing. Didn’t feel like talking. Didn’t really feel. I’ve been quarantined for over a year and half maybe more.. The first half I couldn’t do for myself and depended on others to do just about everything. And the rest was on me to glean from the strength that others so freely gave to begin to stand up on my own two feet.
I’ve become accustomed to and often delight in just being left alone at home.
Time to think. Time to daydream. Time to get to know my body and create a better relationship with my physical, spiritual and mental selves. Time to discover what self love really is.
And then sometimes I am just miserable.
So I wasn’t completely caught off guard when I received the results of my Pet Scan last week. I just didn’t know who to tell. My scan showed some spots on my liver and my bones. My cancer markers went up after a few months of gradually coming down.
Damn. I was doing so well.
So many have prayed, loved on me, given their energy towards my healing that I almost felt like I was disappointing everyone. So I just remained silent.
I don’t really feel like that anymore. I know it is what is it and I just need to keep doing the work, staying on my supplements and following my regiment.
But I look at this as a little knock on the door to tighten up. This was the reminder I needed that this thing is not playing with me.
I’m good though. Going hard and I will not let up this time.
I just needed to tell someone. Thanks for listening.
One Day In June 2020
I just finished watching The Photograph a tear jerking love story starring Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield. I fell asleep during the second part and was alert during the first half so that I could piece together the story and the parts I missed in the final third. I cried throughout the whole 3rd part. So much pain. So much love. I feel like in order to have one you must have the other. I think. But that’s not why I am writing or maybe it is.
If I am honest with myself I want to be in love. I want to give love and receive it in all its’ forms. I want to be held and to hold. I want to be caressed and to offer the same. If I am honest with myself I have felt that love from the community, from friends, from strangers in the forms of prayers, libations, rituals, food and immeasurable offerings. But i want some of that other love too.
If I am honest with myself I know that all these loves are the same love. They are not any different except in my head. I have received overwhelming love from the community as a result of what I have given. I have received and encountered that other kind of love too. I especially would like some of that kind of love right now.
But I know why this love has missed me. And the answer is rather simple. It has evaded me because of my lack of love for myself. I am not saying I don’t love myself. But I am saying that I haven’t loved myself completely, wholesomely, whole heartedly. Self Love is really all I need.
His last text to me was “Sis”.
That was it. Nothing before or after. Just “Sis”.
I loved when he called me that. I loved when he would say I was the sister he never had. Warmed my heart.
That was May 2nd 2019.
He was found unconscious on May 3rd and made his transition to eternity on May 7th, 2019.
He loved me. He showed me what unconditional love looked and felt like.
He sat at my bedside daily when even sitting up was a challenge and nourished my soul. He gave me all of him when I had little to give in return.
His very existence was love.
LET ME TAKE CARE OF YOU
Her exact words were “come home with me and let me take care of you”.
I was laying in bed exhausted from doing so little. My back bones still mending from multiple fractures caused by 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). I called any way. I told her what my cousin told me. I was a bit too prideful to admit (first person) how much I had fallen. How much I was in nee. She understood my speaking in tongues and asked me how soon did I need her. 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 I struggled to get to the door. 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 and supplements”. 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. She opened her entire heart to me. 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.
December 9, 2019
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
Shrinking and Yet I Rise
December 3, 2019
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.
Breathe. Again. And Again. Deeply.
November 22, 2019
In every breath is the
In every breath is
everything that happened
Everything. Honor it.
Inspired by my Yogi Octavia Raheem of Sacred Chill West
November 18, 2019
Go ahead and feel what it feels like to feel.
Sometimes we get distant from our own feelings.
Get in close. Lean all the way in.
There is magic there.
November 1, 2018
I am not as organized as you might think. Sometimes I write things that I think sound awesome as fuck. I save them. At least I think I saved them. Then on another day or week I go to find that awesomeness and I can’t find it anywhere. Like WTF happened to that good shit. So then I say to myself “it couldn’t have been that awesome because you (meaning me) can’t even find it.” “If it was that awesome then it would want to be found so I can share it with you.”
A little piece of the story of my life and this writing process. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve made it a little tougher than it needs to be.
I might have erased it by accident. All that goodness in words. At least that’s what happened tonight. And the other night. And the other night too. I have to do better. I seem to take care of everybody else’s stuff much better and much more professional than my own. This will change.
In this chapter I was wanting to dig deeper into the relationship I have with my mother and in so doing take an even deeper dive into the relationship that I have with myself. In the book “It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle” by Mark Wolynn the author recalls a mysterious sickness that took over his body. The doctors didn’t know wtf. His ailment was not in their medical book. After traditional medicine failed him he eventually sought out the best gurus the world had to offer. And spared no expense in getting an audience with these world reknown healers. After waiting in line with his all whites to hear the wisdom of the ages and what he needed to do to heal (on two different occasions, in two different countries) both gurus told him the same thing “go home to your mother.” He wanted to cuss them out. He spent major ducats to sit face to face and hear the reason why he was sick. And the response was “go home.” He would not be healed of all his trauma and physical ailment until he sat at his mother’s feet and began the process of repairing the relationship.
I see how this can be true. We originate from mother. If that relationship is broken, tarnished, filled with untruths, how can anything else be completely whole? Tell me.
Of late I have been feeling like I haven’t been very good to myself, to my body, to my soul. I am often lethargic and will grasp on to any fleeting excuse to deviate from my diet and workout regime. Borderline depression. I was wanting to (through my words) be honest and not cover up my feelings of abandonment and shame. I am past the stage where I was (not too long ago) taking the lead on the blame game. Now. I just want to talk about it in all its uncomfortableness. I was wanting to in a loving way address the many lies that existed between us. I wanted to tell my mother how I felt in the most loving way and with the most loving words that I could find how she has helped and hurt me. But I also wanted to hear from her how I may of hurt her over the years. How just being a Black woman in corporate America may have caused her pain. And me too. We never swapped war stories. Ever.
I would do this in a letter that would also be a chapter and use that chapter to open up the conversation. At least that was what I thought.
The reality is I spent most of my life being afraid of my mother. Spare the rod and spoil the child was her motto. The leather belt was her tool. Beating times she became someone else. Someone who I didn’t know.
She worked hard to raise two children as a “single” parent and I grew up reminding her everyday of my someone she would rather forget. My father. I was his spitting image. I imagined even as a child that every time she saw me, she saw him and it was a site that she would rather not see.
So I was planning on finding an easy way to have some very difficult dialog with Mama. I was gonna start with my pen.
I started some of this process about a month ago when I found out that I was born under trauma. My Mama and Daddy had been fighting. She told him to leave. But he came back raging, trying to break the door down. It was then that her water broke. I never knew this story. I never knew my father either. Not really. Thought he was dead most of my life. That’s what I was told. Until I met him in the flesh some years later after he rose again.
So this story of my birth got me thinking about how that trauma may have shaped my relationship with men and with my mother and with myself and maybe even lead to some breakthrough in my life.
But that didn’t happen because I received the latest results of my labs and the results took me for an unexpected turn. Every month I see an Oconlogist and I get blood work done. My blood work is my roadmap. It tells me what’s working and what isn’t. It guides me through my red and white blood cells, hints at the condition of my liver other vital organs.
One of these test is generally known as the Cancer Marker 27 – 29. Google describes it as “This test measures how much CA 27-29 is in your blood. Breast cancer is the cancer most likely to release CA 27-29. The FDA has approved the CA 27-29 blood test as a way for healthcare providers to monitor people with breast cancer. Antigens like CA 27-29 that give information about cancer are called tumor markers.”
But for me the numbers meant everything and for the past few months my markers have been coming down going from the high hundreds down the low hundreds. However, my labs last week showed an increase. This news devastated me for a second or two. I had been doing so well. WTF. I reached out to one of my friends who said “you been here before you can reverse this”. He was right. I have been at my worst and came back. These simple words brought me back to myself. I was out there on a plank. Momentary devastation. I have found that it is the men in my life that have been able to get me off the cliff or pull me away from the edge but it is the women in my life that keep me off (metaphorically speaking).
My lab results were an unwanted reminder that I had to review everything. What I was eating, thinking, doing and to take another look at my list of supplements and all I was ingesting.
So instead of working through my Mama issues I am sharing what my regiment has consisted of. I will also be reviewing to see where I may have slacked. Cause obviously I slacked somewhere. I will be going over this list over the next few days. Need to get this right and back on track.
I trust this list will help you or someone you know out here. It has kept me alive. And I plan on staying alive so that I can have some honest conversations with my Mother. Those conversations will be laced with healing.
Karen’s Supplements and Their Benefits
SERRAPEPTASE HIGH POTENCY
Dose: 120,000 SPU
Use: Digestive Benefits
Proteolytic (Protein destroyer) enzyme from bacteria native to the digestive system of silkworms. It is the enzyme responsible for dissolving a silkworm’s cocoon. Traditionally, serrapeptase has been used for its anti-inflammatory properties. Today, it is marked as a joint health supplement. Other benefits because this proteolytic enzyme breaks down proteins and tissues, there is great interest in using it for dissolving fibroids.
Use: Digestive Benefits
One of the finest natural absorbent agents. Each particle contains many small chambers and cavities that capture or bind-up unwanted materials and gas which are safely carried out of the digestive system.
FULL SPECTRUM DIGESTIVE SUPPORT
Use: Digestive Supplement
Betaine, Pepsin, and Pancreatin. Normalizes the stomachs acidity and relieves indigestion, bloating, and gas. Supporter of healthy digestion.
Use: Liver Supplement
Supports healthy liver function. Reduces the growth of cancer cells in breast, lung, colon, prostate, cervical, and renal cancers. Another benefit is improvement of blood glucose levels.
COMPLETE MULTI LIVER DETOX SUPPORT
Use: Detoxes the Liver
This supplement supports the immune system, discourages liver stones, weight loss, supports whole body detox, boosts energy, and increases vitality. The goal in cleansing your liver, is to rid your liver of toxins and leave it healthy and fully functional.
BLOODROOT CAPSULES with GRAVIOLA, CHAPARRAL, and GALANGAL
Use: Attacks Tumors in the Digestive tract.
Native American Indians used the main ingredient for tumors, for digestive tract disease, mouth and gum problems, respiratory issues and treatment for skin problems. Other benefits, anti-viral, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory benefits.
This supplement is a prevention of heart diseases. It acts as an antioxidant and helps in getting rid of the free radicals. It is used to treat hypertension, improve cardiac function and prevent congestive heart failure. It is believed to help in quick recovery after chemo therapy used to increase the white blood cell count and treat anemia. Although not proven, the root of this herb is believed to aid in prevention of kidney diseases and cancer to some extent.
BURDOCK (ORGANIC GOBO ROOT)
Use: Blood Purifier
Burdock is believed to clear the bloodstream of toxins, lymphatic system strengthener, natural diuretic, skin healer, defend against diabetes, combat cancer tumors. Many herbalists today say Burdock Root can stop cancer cells from metastasizing making it a potential natural cancer treatment.
CHLOROXYGEN CHLOROPHYL CONCENTRATE
Use: Builds Red Blood Cells
Building red blood cells, increasing oxygen. It supports the production of RBC’s and tis blood-oxygen carrying capacity. Other benefits, are to boost energy levels.
Aromat 8-PN delivers a unique, proprietary blend of 8-Prenylnaringenin from hops and plant-lignan extract at clinically relevant levels. Research suggests Lignans and 8-PN can support the body’s natural process of healthy aromatase activity and exert phytoestrogen and antioxidant activity.
CURCUMASORB (PURE ENCAPSULATIONS)
Curcumin-Phosphatioylcholine is used for enhanced absorption and bioavailability. The remarkable breadth of applications of curcumin stem from its multifocal mechanisms involving diverse intracellular signaling pathways and the regulation of hundreds of genes involved in cytokine balance, detoxification and cellular health. C-reactive protein levels provided significant benefit in joint comfort, mobility, and quality of life.
The benefits of Amino is that it regulates almost all of the metabolic processes in the human body, and they are essential for a healthy body. Basic building blocks of the body. They are also sources of energy, like fats and carbohydrates.
MAITAKE D FRACTION
Use: Anti-cancer, Anti-tumor supplement
The supplement is highly promoted as a potent anti-cancer and anti-tumor remedy. They are also known to help relieve the effects of chemotherapy. Reversal or prevention of tumor growth are other benefits to be gained by consuming the mushroom.
Category Blood Type Diets Supplements
Live Cell (Blood Type O)
Sprouted food supplement optimized for Blood Type O.
Benefits: Sprouted foods health benefits include high levels of dietary fiber, B complex vitamins and protein.
Phytocal Multi-Mineral (Blood Type O)
Benefits: This unique ingredient in phytocal O is maerl-based sea calcium which is the only natural source of calcium with a broad enough buffering range to work effectively with the different digestive capabilities of each blood type. The rare seaweed contains trace amounts of essential nutrients such as magnesium, boron and zinc.
APRICOT POWER B17 AMYGDALIN
Use: Primarily used to help support a healthy immune system.
Apricot is a naturally occurring molecule found in over 1,200 different foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and seeds.
BITTER APRICOT SEED
The apricot pits (seed) is sold as a therapeutic food. Some proponents of alternative medicine state that the apricot kernels can be used as a preventive or even a cure for cancer.
OCEANS ALIVE 2.0 MARINE PHYTOPLANKTON
Marine Phytoplankton is known for their health and detoxification benefits. Marine phytoplankton is the most important plant in the world, providing almost all of the earths oxygen and serving as a vital food supply for marine life and humans.
Brand: KATE FARMS
- Komplete: contains 290 calories
No soy, dairy, gluten, and is allergen free.
- Core essentials with peptides: Contains 500 calories
A ready to use enzymatically hydrolyzed, peptide- based formula for complete nutritional needs.
Sorrel is a fascinating perennial herb that is used all around the world and is cultivated for a wide variety of uses. Although it is primarily grown for use in food, due to its sharp, tangy taste, it also has a vast array of health benefits.
Prevents cancer, aids in digestion, regulates blood pressure, improves eyesight, aids in circulation and energy.
Ginger contains Gingerol, a substance with powerful medicinal properties. There are several benefits to drinking ginger tea.
Ginger can treat many forms of nausea, especially morning sickness. Loss of appetite, motion sickness, and pain. The root or underground stem (rhizome) of the ginger plant can be consumed fresh, powdered, dried as a spice, in oil form, or as a juice.
Soursop tea boats an impressive list of health benefits including its ability to prevent the development and spreading of cancer, lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, protect the skin, aid in weight loss, improve digestion, and soothe inflammation.
Soursop is a Vitamin C super fruit that may help fight Cancer. These vitamins and minerals are why soursop benefits include potentially helping reduce eye disease, and treat infections.
DANDELION ROOT TEA:
Dandelion root tea may aid and soothe digestive ailments. Dandelion tea can have many positive effects on your digestive system, although much of the evidence is anecdotal. It has historically been used to improve appetite, sooth minor digestive ailments, and possibly relieve constipation. Dandelion tea has been known to ease the congestion of the liver, help purify the bladder and kidney, and reduces the risk of urinary tract infections.
Use: Colon Relief
Swiss Kriss is a natural herbal laxative which gently allows relief of constipation.
Life Extension Supplements:
A flavonoid (Plant Pigment) commonly found in fruits and vegetables. Quercetin possess potent antioxidants, which fight against free radicals. Chemically reactive compounds that damage cell membranes and DNA and also cause cell death.
Helps promote healthy dopamine levels to help support and maintain youthful cognitive health supports concentration and brain function may be of benefit in those wishing to stop smoking.
Enhances cognitive function the gastrodin acts as a “brain shield” calming brain cells and helping to protect against oxidant, inflammatory, and excitatory damage. Gastrodin’s multiple modes of action work together to improve circulation and shield the brain from age-related insults. The brain of free radicals from normal metabolism. Cognitex contains and number of phytonutrient based antioxidants that work best in lipid fat rich environment like the brain.
CALCIUM CITRATE WITH VITAMIN D:
Health benefits; mineral calcium is well known for its key role in bone health, heart rhythm, muscle functions and more.
SUPER SELENIUM COMPLEX:
Selenium is a mineral added to a healthy diet to prevent or treat low selenium levels. Selenium protects cells from oxidative stress and helping the thyroid produce hormones. Selenium works as a powerful antioxidant in the body.
Studies have observed a trend in which lower concentrations of Selenium correlated with an increased risk of certain types of Cancer.
Pyrroloquinoline quinone benefits overall improvement in energy levels, improve cognitive function and memory.
I Am Not My Hair
October 1, 2018<
“I’ve watched my daughter go from precocious child to confident teenager. I’ve watched her take near perfect direction and instruction, and give the same to others. I’ve watched her listen keenly to my advice and adhere to it. And now, she gives me advice. Good advice. Our relationship has blossomed from mother-daughter, to best friends, back to mother-daughter, and along each step, we’ve always been each other’s protector. She’s listened carefully to my thoughts about the boys in her life, and I shake my head and laugh when she warns the men I date that I’m her mother and you better bring her home at a reasonable time. Last night’s date responded with an, “Oh, she’ll come to like me. I laughed to myself. Wrong. None of them know my daughter Kenya. She has never liked any of my choices in men (friends or otherwise) and I’ve never agreed with hers either. For sure, at any time, our roles reverse. Completely.
And yet I often forget that she will turn 20 in July. My little baby has blossomed into a beautiful flower come into her own. And now she makes her own choices regarding what to wear, what to eat, where to go and, most difficult for me, how to wear her hair.
Kenya has worn her hair natural from birth. Or should I say, I have kept her hair natural from birth. At first, I kept it covered with turbans and the like. At that time, I adhered to the more strict interpretation of Rastafari: modest dress, head covered, etc. Then later, I platted it, chiney bumped it, pony tailed it, and my favorite, let her wear it in two afro puffs. Though I have worn locks on and off for the last 20 years and would have loved for her to do the same, I didn’t force it on her. She decided on her own to grow her natty, and grow they did.
Even when I no longer had locks, Kenya Jordana’s hair flourished. I was proud. She took care of her locks and had it conditioned regularly. So imagine my dismay when she hesitantly asked me one holiday she spent home from school if she could trim them. Lord have mercy, I screamed on the inside. But out loud, what could I say? She was 19 years old. They were her locks. Not mine. So I choked out, If that’s what u want to do
I thought it would end there. But no. From there she went on to perm it, and now she’s got extensions. Each time she changed it up, I acted as if she were changing up my hair. I showed great dismay and spoke with even more disappointment. I complained without end about the perm not agreeing with her. And I made disparaging remarks whenever I could squeeze them in under the false guise of advice.
So immature. Who’s the mother here anyway?
And yet, being the mother that she is to me, she would hide her disappointment and keep on plodding. She would try not to freeze-frame my negativity and hold strong to the decisions she’d made for herself. Just today she told me, “Mama, I’ve been natural all my life. Let me see what else is out there. I’m not you. Let me be me.” She added: You are more attached to my hair than I am.
You know, she was right. She and I both know that a perm may not have been the best thing for her hair. But she accepts her decisions and stands firm. No hiding. Head erect. Damn. That’s my girl.
I love her independence. I love the way she meets her challenges head on. She doesn’t run from adversity but embraces it and turns it into increased confidence and a greater sense of self. She has manifested everything I hoped for her to be.
So what the hell am I upset about? It’s not my hair. In fact, I’ve worn my hair just as nappy and unkept (though clean) as a sista could the very antithesis of how Kenya likes her hair. And she’s never asked me to change it, cover it over, or even uttered, I don’t like it like all things I’ve said to her. She let me be me.
It is this I keep in mind as I learn to let up a little you know, release from my spirit the things I can’t control (like my daughter’s hair) and allow my baby’s spirit to grow, just as I’ve allowed mine to. After all, as India.Arie says, “I am not my hair.”
Relax, Karen Mason. Breathe and give thanks for the flower that continues to bloom before your very eyes.”
Cancer Saved My Life
September 24, 2018
I don’t remember what age I was when I lost my virginity. When it was taken. Without permission. I know it was during the time that my mind stayed on double dutch, skelly and hop skotch. We would play Red light, green light one two three in our carless driveway on East 54th in the heart of East Flatbush. There was dodge ball in the park at PS 268 and spin the bottle wherever we could find a place where the grown ups were not. I was about 9 or 10. Could have been younger but it is taking me forever just to write this so trying to figure out the exact age that he took something that belonged to me might drag these few words out even more. And all I want to do right now is get them out. The words that is. Words that I have never spoken or even told anyone. Ever. Cancer provided an opening. I had to lose the weight that I created. I had to shed the layers of who I was and was not. Cancer saved my life.
Everything seemed normal. Mom worked everyday and sometimes on Saturday. My brother and I were provided for. Mom bought her first piece of real estate in East Flatbush 3 bedroom/2 bath brick house with small front and large backyard. Aunties all lived in a close radius and monthly parties at Aunt Babs or Aunt Daisy’s house where rocksteady and reggae ruled the turntable and curry goat, manish water, cow foot was our norm. I found my own version of happiness in the little world I created. Recently my Mom told me that as a immigrant she had heard stories of things that happen to children in America and that authorities would take children from homes if they found them alone…so her friends who happen to be male would help out and keep an eye on my brother and I. But they mostly had their eyes on me. I was 4 or 5 when it started. It became as regular as going to school everyday. It was a part of my life growing up. One that I never talked about.
I imagined that all little girls had “Uncles” who liked to sit them on their laps, play touchy feely games with them and put their lips on and in places that had not yet matured. Then said uncle would give you/me some change and a few dollars so I could go out and play with my friends and buy candy. I imagined that all my friends had money and change because they got them the same way I did. Only we never spoke about it. It would be our little secret but I imagined that all little girls were going through this and were told not to tell anyone else the secret . That’s why none of us ever talked about it. Cause it wouldn’t be a secret anymore.
“So for a good little while I stopped touching my breast. My bredren would come over 3 to 4 times a week (faithfully) and massage them but I wouldn’t touch the one with the tumor. I avoided it as much as I could. It was hard as a rock.I felt like I was carrying a bowling ball on my chest. It hurt in multiple ways.
A burden. I considered it (my breast) NOT part of me but something that was attached to me. I did not want to interact with it. It scared me. Reminded me how sick I was everyday.
I didn’t realize that THIS was one of the greatest forms of NOT LOVING YOURSELF.”
In Da Club
“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).I mean what daughter wants their mother in the club with them. Right? So there’s is a long line at the door. The doorman says “I’m checking IDs only, 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. LOL. Of course I can’t find my ID for a second. I’m holding up the line and feeling a little paro. 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 like they the only ones that know what they saying.
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 inside. 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” titling 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”. You know… 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. LOL 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. Wondering 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. Fly brothers and sisters galore. When I tell u the place is crunk. I’m 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… 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 dissertation 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 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. I’m getting lost in the service.
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 Kenya. 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”. That’s 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 I PHONE for further confirmation.
Imagine me being worried that she was trying to dip. I feel a little silly. Afterall 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 wonder to myself how I’ve managed since she been off at college…With my paro self. A few minutes later 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 the school. I kinda fell off 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.
September 1, 2018
written by @Shantiom
I remember that night … that day well. I was on my way back from Mobile, AL, about an hour and thirty minutes from Atlanta when I got the call. It was Karen. When I asked her how she was doing, although she responded with her characteristic chuckle, I could hear in her voice all was not well. She exclaimed that she was in pain, and from the sound of her voice it was the panic inducing kind. She was afraid to go to the E.R. because of her breast. The worry was that the medical personnel would take one look at her breast, and her medical history and begin an interrogation. I told her that I could help, if she could just hold on.
I’d never intervened in a healing crisis that was quite so extreme but I gathered my wit and my tool bag and headed her way as soon as I touched home. When I arrived, she was doing her best to keep it together, but was wrestling with the kind of pain (all of it localized in her right breast) that makes a person alternate deliriously between pacing, rocking and any position that will provide comfort in between. In this moment, I struggle to remember all that I had grabbed in a hurry to take with me … my blood pressure cuff definitely … some frankincense oil … olive oil … magnesium oil … some other stuff again I don’t remember. She had a couple of different pain killers around that she was afraid to take but I knew they were necessary. Somehow I knew that this kind of pain crisis could take somebody out. We had to be strategic though. I took her blood pressure to make sure that it was stable before she took anything. She had one pain med that was prescribed routinely, and another as needed. We started off with the routine dose, and used the “as needed” medication for the breakthrough pain. I had her lie back in her recliner, and tried to make her as comfortable as possible. We put on some meditative music and I began to do foot reflexology on her, using the magnesium oil to relax her, frankincense for the pain and to address the cancer, coupled with olive oil as the carrier. That terrifying moment in time gave visual meaning to the verse “weeping may endure for a night … “.
While what she was going through reminded me of labor, it was worse than anything that I had ever seen at any birth that I had attended. All I could think of was getting her through the night. There were a few moments when fear tried to take hold of me. What if it was too much for me to handle? What if we ended up having to go to the emergency room anyway? I was watching a woman who I had never seen in any other way than dignified and with her shit together, writhe and cry in crippling agony. We continued with the medication regimen and the Reflexology throughout the night. Karen drifted between moans, in and out of consciousness, until she finally became still enough for me to release her feet without her noticing. I actually hovered over her for a minute to make sure she was breathing, and when convinced that she was, backed away slowly sinking into the lounge across from her.
I was tired but I dared not indulge in any rest other than a deep relaxation. There would be no sleep for me until this night was over. Karen awoke with the sunrise, grateful but extremely bewildered. She kept asking with tears in her eyes, “what happened to me?”; distraught from being unable to remember the details of the treacherous night before. I tried my best to explain what I had witnessed but what mattered most was that we had crossed over. We both wrestled with death that night, and lived to tell about it.”
I learned what a dickie was from him. It looked like a turtle neck but when he took off his jacket it was just the neck part and what looked like a baby bib. I found it odd. No sleeves. No nothing. Like something you would put on your Barbie or Ken doll. Not something a man would actually wear. But he did. He was well dressed and always smelled like how I imagined the men in suits on soap operas would smell. Or maybe the Old Spice commercial. But it was always strong. Real strong. I wanted to hold my nose sometimes when he got close. But I didn’t.
I sat in the same chair the only chair in the room. My mother’s room. The only other place to sit was the bed. It is from this chair that he would undress me. Slowly. First he took off my blouse. I lifted my hands like most children do when someone is assisting them with their blouse or dress. Then he unbuttomed and unzipped my pants. I didn’t stand up though. He knelt on the floor and slowly took off my pants with what seemed like care. He wiggled and slid them off. Such precision. He never checked the time. He knew what time Mama would be home. He was her boyfriend though I never remember him being introduced to me by that title. (And we never called him “Uncle” like the others. Just Andy. ) And he had already send my brother out to play so time was ll he seemed to have. Except that one time my brother came back earlier than expected. That’s for another story.
In the meantime my mind was elsewhere. I wanted to play hop skotch with my friends up the block,jump double dutch with the extra clothes line that my friend had. (we used clothes line for rope). I stayed in my world of happiness and hop skotch as I sat there and waited for this now regular ritual to be over so I could go play. I found a comfortable space in my mind to wonder in. He would always let me go out and play afterwards.
Last was my panties. I sat there totally naked. He then sat me on the bed. Sometimes he would carry me or just gently lead me to the middle of the bed where I sat. He moved slow and well paced. Never rushing. Clearly he had a well designed plan in his mind. He would such the tiny little nipples I had. Then he would part my legs. I would automatically resist. He would softly Ask me to open up and say he would never hurt me. He would rub his middle finger around my vagina after dipping it Vaseline. Sometimes he would kneel and peak in as he rubbed. He seemed satisfied. He would begin the ritual of removing his clothes. First his leather belt then his creased pin stripe pants. He would lay them delicately on the ironing board. He wore bikini type underwear. Then he would remove his button up shirt. That’s when I saw the dickie. It seemed weird. He removed the dickie and folded up the way I see the Chinese people fold their clothes at the chinese laundry.”
New Installment – Through The Stages
July 27, 2018
Sometimes you just need a reminder. A reminder of where you were and where you are. A reminder of what you have been through to remind you of how far you have actually come. Reminders often tell truths that we have long since forgotten. Sometimes we (me, I) just need a little reminder.
I’ve been looking and in need of reminders of late. Memories without judgement. Just needing to remember. My last two monthly labs (blood tests) have showed an increase in my cancer markers. My subsequent PET Scan reflected same. So yeah. I need some reminders. I looked back in my writing notes to find the thoughts that I most needed to be reminded of. Like you, I have a lot on my plate and I got tired of waiting to be cured before I embark on any new chapter.
Nope. Not doing that. Doing all I can now. I got all kinds of reminders of what I came through and what I can do. I share some of them here. This first peace was not written by me but my friend Shanti Moore. She saved my life one night just a few months ago. I asked her to write it because I couldn’t remember what exactly happened that night. I needed to remember.
Aswan, Abu Simble, Cairo, Egypt
July 3, 2018
I ended up in Egypt because my Course in Miracles Study group has study and initiation/ascension journeys to Egypt up to 3X/year. I said yes way before I knew if I could really go because I know that saying yes to anything begins the process of making it a reality.
I have gained so much in a few short days but let me say that all my travels, all my healing journeys, all my prayers, all the work of my ancestors have led me to this place today on the eve of the full moon with the full realization that I have everything I need within to move through this lifetime full, complete and healthy.
I believe that with every fiber of my body.
All week while in Egypt “Man In The Mirror” has been ringing in my head and I finally came to the realization that I have been looking outside of myself for what has been inside of me all of the time. I could not get here however unless and until I had gone through the previous journeys. There are no skipping steps in this journey of life. None. You can’t truly know health unless you have truly known sickness. You can’t truly be well unless you know what an unhealthy lifestyle and body looks and feels like. And now that I am clear on that I am even more confident than ever in the work that I will do on and for myself.
I am not saying that I won’t ever go to the doctor or that I won’t go to my pet scan next month. What I AM saying is that this journey is full and completely my own and I am in charge. I make all the decision. These decisions will no longer be made out of fear, scarcity or the horrible feeling that death is at my door.
Truth be told I was actually a little fearful to come to Egypt. I told very few people I was coming. Something kept whispering lightly and gently that you “may not come back”. “You may get sick over there.”…you know the read. And so I got a reading from my God Mother who practices Ifa, arrested those fears and made an initiation trek to Africa with no daily itinerary, no hotel information. Basically nothing. Just faith. I was not disappointed.
I am no longer going to be writing about cancer. That is not my story. This will be the last chapter where cancer is the focus. I promised 7 chapters and have delivered them but I will continue to write monthly as the thoughts and ideas come to me.
I am not longer afraid. What I am I created. If I want to change it. I change it. The lump in my breast is just that…a lump in my breast. I will not give it any more power over my life.
I am winning.
It’s a well known fact (I think) that what we talk and think about expands. I will talk less and less about cancer as I grow, engage with and immerse myself in the things I really want to talk about and do because what we think about we manifest. The life we are living now is a manifestation of our thoughts over time. This is a fact. Have you ever found that when you think of someone all of a sudden they call or something happens to remind you that their spirit is near. Or for instance you may be thinking about getting a new car and the next day you see this car everywhere. While these may not be the best examples you get my drift.
I am not interested in my life being framed and surrounded by discussions around cancer. Yes I must deal with the reality of things but I am no longer approaching this welcomed challenge from a vantage point of fear and lack and hopelessness and death. Done with that. And yes I did use the word welcomed. Finding out recently that the tumor is growing secured my renewed way of thinking and approach to this dis-ease. Woke me TF up as I was and still AM in a space of getting better and healing no matter what the “reports” say.
I am not living in a fantasy world here but what I am doing is learning to believe in myself, my intuition and my power. Yes we all possess this intuition and this power. The question is do we use it? Do we tap into to it or do we give it away simply by not making use of it.
What happens to this power and if don’t use it. Does it dissipate. Does it morph into powerlessness? Does it make us weak in the sight of others who possess and use their power? Do we begin to blow in the wind grabbing on to any branch or leaf that gives us some semblance of security? Fake security.
I know I went off the deep end a little trying to make a point that I am not even sure has been made.
The bottom line is I certainly feel better. So there is that. And I’m still scared. Lonely in this journey and unsure where it will lead but I am also confident in my power. We can have both.
Now back to the thing that I don’t want to talk about here is an overview. I was initially diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in 2014 at Grady hospital. I remember that day clearly. It was the culmination of week after week of mammograms, biopsies, appointments, etc. I had gotten to know the oncology nurses pretty well. I had become a regular in the Grady oncology waiting room that was always packed (wall to wall packed) with patients mostly women, mostly black mostly 30 – 50 years old.
On the day I was scheduled to get my results the nurse took by vitals and then I was left in the room for what seemed like 2 hours. It was actually about 1.5 hours. WTH right. The doctor came in and barely looked at me. I already knew anyway. Somehow we know.
She sat at the computer in the room and inputed some info and turned halfway towards me and said that I had breast cancer. The world stopped a little.
In my subsequent appointments with the Oncology department I found out that my specific kind of breast cancer was triple positive which meant that it was estrogen receptor positive. I had several meetings with the oncologist who advised that I begin chemo immediately to reduce the size of the tumor, then schedule a mastectomy. I declined. I debated quietly and alone for a couple months. I told a handful of people but I knew but this decision would be mine and mine alone.
After contemplation and inner resistance I scheduled a mastectomy for January 2018. I went to Jamaica for my annual pilgrimage for Christmas and when I returned I completed my pre –opt, layed out my pre opt materials next to my bed and on the morning of my scheduled mastectomy…something told me NOT to go. I questioned this and had long conversational thoughts in my head and the end of the conversation resulted in the same premonition: don’t go. I listened. I didn’t go. I never showed up for my mastectomy. What happened after that is still a little unbelievable but also a confirmation that I made the right decision. No one from Grady, not a nurse, doctor, social worker…anybody from then until now ever called me to find out why I did not show up for my mastectomy. No one.
At the time I didn’t know what to think but now I know that I made the best decision. The other piece of information I received that helped to cement my decision not to show was a clear message from spirit “that I would surely die”. I listened.
I didn’t know what to do next. Spirit led me to begin researching, joined online groups, bought books and began to tackle this little problem on my own. I found out about B17 and bloodroot tonic and strains and dosages of THC and CBD and began creating my own approach and protocol.What I didn’t realize is that the cancer was spreading and even with my best efforts I eventually arrived at Stage IV in the fall of 2018. I was in Jamaica for the Jamaica Music Conference. While I had learned to tolerate high levels of pain over the months since January…the pain was getting increasingly worse. And nearly unbearable. So I cut my trip short in Jamaica and immediately went to Emory where I was admitted to Palliative Care. Everything I had known and heard about palliative care up until this time was that was the section that dealth with death and dying. For instance hospice is under palliative care. I could see by the look on the doctors and nurse’s face that things were dire.
To my benefit the head of palliative care a soft spoken, gentle Black doctor counseled me on my options. I had not been to the doctor since January and chemo and radiation was not longer an option. That was my decision. She took one look at my breast did some preliminary test and advised that my daughter come home immediately. She did everything to make sure I was comfortable. I guess this is what they do when they think you are out of here. I appreciate her for this.
She also helped me to get any and all services that I needed immediately including pain killers, all kinds of meds, etc. Her goal was to get me out of pain and provide comfort.
It was from her that I also found out that in their observation there is no cure for Stage IV breast cancer. The goal is make you comfortable as you transition. I guess.
It was at this time that I was assigned a new oncologist who having read my records knew that I was opposed to chemo and radiation. She assigned me a nutritionist, monitored by labs, liver, blood cells etc and proposed hormone therapy pills which would reduce the estrogen in my body as this particular kind of cancer feeds on estrogen.
I increased my use of natural supplements (I discuss them in an earlier installment) sometimes changing and increasing or decreasing based on my intuition. I also worked hard on my faith which was enriched and fortified by the community who surrounded me. I was at my worst walking around with a tumor the size of a grapefruit, pains all over my body, inability to keep down food, house a mess, life a mess, taking Oxycodone and other hard drugs…but I never gave up on myself.
A major turning point in my health journey came on March 16th. Fahamu Pecou a longtime friend and client along with award winning poet Jon Goode surprised me with Flowers, a community outpouring of love and healing. I thought I was going to have dinner with Fahamu and instead walked into the venue with a procession of people lined up facing each other each with a flower and as I walked down the aisle I was able to receive a flower and feel and give the love at the same time. THIS was a changing point in my health journey. It gave me enough feet to stand on. It fueled my insides, renewed my spirit and filled me and the room wth love as artists, poets, speakers shared the love that night.
Not long thereafter coupled with some ritual work from my God Mother in Ifa my tumor began to shrink. I think I took some things for granted and was not as strict with my diet, exercise, supplemental regime, etc.
In June the tumor began to grow again.
Rather than get depressed I saw this an opportunity to become even more disciplined, do some introspection and insure that I was doing only thing things that I loved. No matter what. It was also a reminder to use the power of IFA in my day to day.
When Does June End
July 3, 2018
I have been silently watching and waiting for the month of June to end. Be over. I had no idea how I would feel once it was over. Would I feel victorious or would I feel like I have failed. Would I be disappointed or would the only disappointment be that I shared too much of my intentions on social media for this month and ended up not achieving them. It would be one of my busiest months ever. I would test my resolve, my stamina and my health in every way.
Now that it is July. And June is history. I feel a little numb. Probably because I slept for two days. Straight.
First was the Cancer | STD Hackathon. I ‘ve never participated in a Hackathon. But I always wanted to. I knew I wanted to build something that might over time make a difference in some way. “A hackathon is a design sprint-like event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers, project managers, and others, often including subject matter experts, collaborate intensively on software projects.” Wikipedia.
The goal of a hackathon is to create usable software, website or app. We entered. We worked around the clock from Friday to Sunday with a few hours sleep in between and came in second place with the “My Breast Cancer Story” website. Check.
The following week I participated in my second Breathwork workshop with Dr. Ma’at Lewis. Spirit Centered Transpersonal Breathwork. It is a practice under skilled facilitation that combines breathing and rhythmic music to inspire expanded states of consciousness that promote the development of self-knowledge, natural inner healing, and integration of spiritual consciousness. Participants receive introduction to breath practices from African-centered and transpersonal perspectives and engage in experiential breath meditation to support their spiritual transformation. The first time I participated it was revealed to me during this process what my next steps would have to be if I intended to be healed. My dance with fear also came up during this process and I was able to actually pinpoint where and how fear enters my body. This second session was not as intense in its revelation but it allowed me to clearly see how breathwork works and why it was necessary for my healing.
At the end of the month (with a whole lot of client work in between..daily in fact) was the commitment I made to run my first 5K. Not sure what was on my mind when I told my trainer friend I would do it but yes seemed like the right answer when she asked me. My only job in preparation was to jog at least 30 minutes per day. And if my RA was acting up then walk. I failed hugely in this regard and began to get some anxiety before the run. Why did I commit to this. How in the hell was me with my RA going to run a 5K. IMG_0042
Well now THAT is history. I did it. I ran the entire time. Wasn’t quite sure if I would do the walk/run thing. And then I slept for 2 days. And I planning and preparing for my next 5K coming up soon.
While all this life was happening I also found out that my cancer marker numbers have increased. This is after months of watching it come down from the high hundred to the low hundreds. Was a little devastated for a minute. But I am back on my routine. Focused on staying a live. You can read more about all of this in my most recent chapter of Through The Stages. You can get it here: www.throughthestages.com.
July 3, 2018
Greetings: 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 and other challenges. 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.This month I challenged myself. I entered a Hack Cancer / STD Hackathon and our team was the runner up. I will share more on this soon. I run my first 5K on Saturday and life has been continuing to happen in both awesome and challenging ways everyday. Sometimes I hurt. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I am super productive. Sometimes I can barely do anything.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 record label, HealingATL as I continue to push myself…through the stages.Karen
Ho Chi Ming City, Vietnam
June 28, 2018
Next came Vietnam where my daughter lived at the time. I had heard about all kinds of medicine from scorpion juice to snake venom. I went with an open mind but I was not going to try any kind of miracle cure. I found a naturopathic doctor who was actually Chinese but living in Vietnam. She introduced me Apricot Seeds and B17. You can reach more (here) about this banned substance and Big Pharma’s mission to destroy its usage because it works. It has been a staple ever since in my cancer treatment. She also created about six months of an herbal treatment for me to use when I returned to the States. Unlike Vietnam I was expected to pay up front. The magic here was the information the gathering of it and becoming less fearful of my circumstances.
While there I visited the temples almost daily. I made incense offerings wherever I went and somewhere in my travels I heard about the cupping lady. Having already experienced cupping in Madagascar I was determined to find her wherever she was in Vietnam. Below is my facebook post about that experience. I was determined to find her. No one knew her name or exactly where she was located. Much like my mission in South Africa but not nearly as intense I went searching. I ended up finding her in an alleyway behind a market on the other side of town from where my daughter lived.
I heard about her. She is legend. She is a cupping master…passed down for generations. She sits like this all day. Found her in an alleyway in Saigon, Vietnam. Couldn’t get an address so I wandered around until I found her. Heaven.
Costs 1 US dollar. Gave her everything I had. This too is love.
For Him That Moves Me In More Ways Than I Have Words For
June 17, 2018
Sometimes flawed. Sometimes not.
——-Thank you Kiese.
To Kenya On Father’s Day
June 17, 2018
Your daddy gave me the most precious most beautiful most delicate most ambitious gift in the world. You.
Your daddy was kind and patient and loving and like the rest of us he was flawed.
Flawed in a way that gave him courage
Flawed in the way that drove his ambition and desire to do better by all his children.
His flaws were his fuel.
He didn’t hide them (like your Mommy) in fact he had a way of stuttering through them when we would talk. He owned them.
And by owning them he’s teaching me from the ancestral world to own mine and to stand with my imperfectness always with a desire to do better and to be better.
Your daddy loved you.
You were born on July 23. You were born on His Imperial Majesty’s birthday and and as a Nyah Binghi Rastaman your Daddy held his shoulders extra high. Proud.
I often wonder what goes through your mind on Father’s Day.
Just know that daddy is holding you on this day and every day as you show the world the greatness that lies within you.
So don’t feel lonely on this day.
Don’t feel alone.
Your life is the fulfillment of all he ever desired.
May 31, 2018
I spent my first couple days in Madagascar alone. My daughter had to take a last minute trip to Kenya so she made arrangements for one of her Madagasy friends to take me to see a couple local healers. The first was a little petite lady whose appearance was elderly but her body moved with the precision of her younger days. Her house was one room: bedroom, kitchen, living room, den and the doctors office. The waiting area was outside and reminded me of an old time awning covered school house with long benches and not much else. She had about 10 people of assorted conditions in this area, most seem to have broken bones. I watch one man walk in and five minutes later I hear a loud scream that shook me inside. A few minutes later he walks out — no limp. I saw patient after patient come in one way and leave another. I walk in with my daughters friend to translate. Inside there is no medicine. No gauze. No special anything. Just a bottle of oil and apparently very strong hands to break the bones in order to knit them back together the correct way. I am a little scared and want it to be made clear to her that I have no broken bones. At this moment tho my ankles ache from R.A. and my breast lump is causing discomfort but I am grateful that I haven’t broken anything.
She applied her oil, massaged my legs and ankles and sent me on my way. While my ankle felt better I didn’t see any groundbreaking results but that was simply for one reason. My mind and my belief and my ego wouldn’t let me. But this was still a necessary stop on my journey.
My next stop was an herbalist about 30 minutes outside of town. This man was known to treat cancer and many other serious diseases. I heard testimonies from patients as I awaited for his return on the veranda of a cozy little country side home office. He was one of the first to introduce me to healing magnets and the science of cupping of which I would continue with in the dark alleyways of Vietnam. He spoke a little English but did some work on me using magnets and also fire cupping. He then gathered about 6 months worth of herbs and a special created he created to rub on my breast and ankles.
He served me for at least two hours. I became curious as to what my bill would be especially with the herbs and cream. He seemed puzzled. His response was “you pay me when you are healed.” Through the translator he said “why would you pay a doctor if you are not healed from the ailment you went to him for.”
I will just leave this right here. I do plan on making good on my promise
May 30, 2018
I stopped in South Africa on my way to Madagascar to meet my daughter who was working as a diplomat in training. I told a few friends about the trip and one in particular suggested that I see Zulu Songoma Credo Mutwa. I had no idea who he was or where he was or where I could find him. All I was told by my trusted friend was that it would be good for me to sit with him.. South Africa is pretty big. I wanted to find him not simply to sit at his feet but also because the possibility of sitting at his feet was near impossible. These are the type of challenges that I live for.
The more I researched him the more it became evident that I should do everything to be in his company. Here is what one prominent South African leader had to say about him:
His name is Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa, loosely translated meaning, “Awaken you, Truth of the Little Bushman”.
Baba Credo is a traditional healer. No! He was the highest level of traditional healer. He is a Sanusi. Recognised by his peers across Africa as a Prophet. He is a Doctor. Medicine man. Diviner. Scientist. Storyteller. Psychologist. Clairvoyant. Artist. Sculptor. He is a Baobab.
Credo Mutwa is a national treasure. He should be celebrated. He is Shakespearean in his command of the language and African mythology. He is a philosopher and a prophesier. He carries the secret knowledge of our continent. His cosmology is a lodestar to us regaining our balance and harmony in Africa and as the human race. Would his knowledge and wisdom be studied in schools and universities, we would have doctors of Life. People who know what it means to be human. And be kind. Humankind needs to study “baobabism”. It’s a way of life, not a religion.
The first few lines of Wikipedia describe him in this way:
“Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa /ˈkreɪdoʊ ˈmʊtwə/ (born 21 July 1921) is a Zulu sangoma (traditional healer) from South Africa. He is known as an author of books on stories mixing traditional Zulu folklore, extraterrestrial encounters and his own personal encounters. His most recent work is a graphic novel called the Tree of Life Trilogy based on his writings of his most famous book, Indaba my Children[
Credo calls himself a sanusi (common spelling isanuse) which is a type of Zulu diviner or sangoma. The term stems from a more historic time and is not widely used today, even in a traditional setting.
I felt like I was in one of those movies where the hero is given an impossible task and sent on their way. So I got to South Africa. Johannesburg specifically. Phase 1 accomplished. I was a little disoriented because it was winter and I wasn’t ready. For winter in Africa that is. There was also a bitterness in the air not necessarily related to the weather.
I began asking a few key folks in America (via text) and in Johannesburg about where I might be able to find this mystery man. Dr. Charles Finch (was on my call list) former head of Morehouse School of Medicine who confirmed that Credo would be a good person for me to sit with in order to get my mind right had lost track of Credo over the years but offered information that made my future meeting with Credo an absolute necessity on my journey. I was determined.
Locally I was greeted with an array of emotions when I mentioned Credo’s name. First there was astonishment. How did I know his name people wanted to know. I got the impression he was a folk hero that South Africans would rather keep to themselves. Folks immediately wanted to know who I was to be asking about HIM. Others had only read or heard about him on the news. Most said that he had been out of the public eye for years and they weren’t sure if he was even alive. If he was it was probably near impossible that I would be in his company.
I did more research online and found tons of videos but nothing recent. It seemed as if the man had fallen off the face of the earth. Some said he was very sick. Others believed he had died a few years ago. But (for real) nobody really new where he was.
Again my determination increased. One call led to another which led to another and before I knew it I was on the phone speaking to his wife Virginia. I checked flights first because I had no means of ground transportation. Credo lived over 7 hours outside of Johannesburg. There was nothing available. So the only other option would be to hire a driver. One was recommended by a friend. I also asked a friend of a friend to accompany me on the trod and there I was with two perfect strangers on a 7 hour trek of the country side to sit at the feet of Credo Muthwa.
The drive was both beautiful and disturbing. I am loving the scenery but I’m feeling away about the fact that Germany though not there is there. Every town, street sign, and even most business names were in German. It felt like such an offense. Where is black Africa and why wasn’t this negotiated in the post apartheid arrangements? The great historian Dr. John Henrik Clarke would always say that the beginning of freedom is calling things by their proper names and here we were driving through towns whose name that nobody I knew could even pronounce.
We think that we are lost many times over as the drive was long and often barren and night had fallen so we stop and ask along the way and the people are only too gracious to offer advice which is usually something like “you are going the right way,” with a finger point. That’s it. I’m feeling the weight of this drive and the experience in general because this man holds so much history and mystery. My legs are also cramped and my body is also feeling it. As I feel us getting closer I could feel a certain peace and quiet come over me. We are sure and yet not so sure where we are going but it feels right so we keep trodding. I could feel a certain patience and quietness come over me.
I begin to rehearse in my mind what I will say to him. As a Sangoma I will want him to reach into his crystal ball and help make me right. My driver and friend that accompanied me understood what this journey meant to me however they could not contain their excitement as we approached the town where Credo calls home. I decide that I will ask them to come in with me to meet him and then ask them to give me some time alone with him. Well that didn’t go as planned.
So I’m thinking that I’ll have some quiet time with Credo but that’s not how it’s goes down. As soon as we park everyone gets out the car I knew at that point that private time was l looking distant and scarcer. This was a historic moment and a nobody had time to be sitting in the car so we all get out and were greeted by his wife who sits and talks to us for a while. A long while. Meanwhile I’m hearing movement in the back of the house. I’m hearing what sounds like chains clanging. I’m feeling a little bit of a way about not being able to speak with him directly about my health challenges present company but I’m so grateful to have arrived at this very moment and I don’t want to miss it with my ignorance and ego.
I had no idea what to expect but here comes this man in traditional Zulu attire with big ceremonial chains that look like they weigh way more than he can carry. He walks in and sits with us for hours.
I’m never quite sure where he’s looking because his eyes are a little crossed so I try to move periodically to make sure I’m in his eye view. I mean I need some healing. That’s why I am here. And I don’t want to miss my healing because he can’t see me. We talk for hours about the world we talk about politics we talk about life. We never talk about cancer. We talk about the collective and I’m feeling real real good for our journey back home. Healing comes in many forms.
I was still (low key) looking for the magic touch and words like” you are healed”. I eventually realized that this was not that kind of journey. This was the beginning of a journey to self healing. It was the beginning of a journey to self realization. It was in the beginning of a journey to find and locate my higher self.
My next stop was Madagascar
The Healing Power of Family
May 23, 2018
My niece asked me last weekend at my nephews graduation from Colgate University why I haven’t been to Detroit to visit. I didn’t have an answer. At least not a good one. Feeling ashamed, broken, pained just didn’t seem like a good enough answer to tell my beautiful and brilliant rising senior at University of Michigan who genuinely wanted to know why. I didn’t have an answer. At least not a good one. Some how I had forgotten the healing powers of family. The healing power of making amends. The healing power of saying “I’m sorry.” The healing power of just being in close proximity to those that share the same lineage.
I was reminded in the last two weekends when I attended My cousin’s marriage and later my nephews graduation. Grateful I put aside stories I created in my mind and decided to live and full joy the moment.
May 15, 2018
Karen Marie Mason came into my life because of what she recognized in others that was actually a part of her own self. I came into her life because of what I recognized in others that was actually apart of myself. We did not know this then, but this is how spirit works, always showing up in ways that remind us that everything we need is in our community. Even when we do not know what we really need and who we really are; Spirit knows. So that as long as we are asking ‘why’ along the way….it will guide us to our truth.
Her tenacity, her wit, her beauty and courage has been passed down through her ancestors. This book is the public declaration of this fact and this book bears witness to the power of truth. There is a theologian named Crossan who once wrote that disease is an imbalance, a dis-order that occurs in one’s body. If we accept this definition, then we can understand how returning to a balance state eliminates the disease/dis-order. So, we are taught by wholistic health practitioners on how to return our bodies to a balanced state. I believe in this because I believe in a power in the universe that created us with the ability to bring balance back to our organs. This same writer goes on to share that illness is a communal thing. Illness is the result of the community’s response to that disease, that imbalance, that dis-order. In essence, this theologian posits that the silencing, isolation, stigma and disdain that a community shows towards the “dis-ease” interrupts the body’s ability to return to a state of balance. Not a state of more or a state of less; not a state of lack or absence but a state of sufficiency and a state of presence-this is balance, this is order. The community’s response can make us ill. You know how that goes, you have headache or a cough and everyone begins to treat you differently and from a distance. Now, you are ill. And, when oppressive materialistic social systems feed on your illness and validates a community’s response of isolation by creating policies and institutions that further ostracize and, in some instances, condemn those with the dis-ease…we have sickness. Some of us then live in our sickness because there is no community response of faith in our getting well.
Without studying theology…Karen knew this. She knew that the community’s response to whatever form of imbalance Black people possessed was an important factor to us getting well, being whole again. So, she took to the most powerful venue at her disposal to give us an alternative response to our “dis-ease”. She used her gifting with the media and made it her life’s work. Her radio shows, raising her daughter, her work with other artists, and the community events she organized continue to give us a different way to respond to the dis-ease of internalized self-hate, the lack of opportunity and voice, and our mis-trust of one another. She created ways to shift our collective response to the dis-ease we experienced as people of African descent. She told us that we had indeed some severe dis-orders. Yes, her commentaries still check us, her life experiences required her to check us! Yet, she also understands that there are systemic forces designed to reinforce our notion of being a “sick” people. She brings people, music and the arts into our lives to shift our community response to the dis-order. Her plentiful wells of love and strength give us the will to resist being sick, to resist being labelled as ill. When we think about those who shoulders we stand upon and believe in; isn’t this exactly what they did? Jesus told the women with the issue, “by your faith you are healed’, Garvey to us “up you mighty race”; Baba Asa told us “to be Afrikan and live” and Sobonfu told us “not to hide ourselves from one another”.
So, in my heart and in my mind, this book is her authentic story of living through stages for us to bear witness to and glean from one person’s journey and more. It is for me the journey, the authentic story of benefit to an entire people—my people. Karen and I have been truly blessed to know one another on this journey. My spiritual daughter is one of those spoken about in Armah’s book “The Healers”. This gift of healing we are reading about now in her book has always been hers. It was her decision to use it to inspire rather than to manipulate, and for this decision her ancestors and our ancestors who have journeyed with her, are pleased and I, I am in awe of who she is becoming!
Mama & Dr. Itihari Toure
telling the truth you could not face
struck instead of tended.
— put the fire out (unburn) Nayyirah Waheed
I went bra-less today. I never go bra-less. Maybe not never but damn close to never.. It’s new to me. It’s not something I am accustomed to. You talking to a girl who wouldn’t wear sleeveless anything no matter the temperature. So letting it all hang out was major. But I liked it. At least I like it so far. I feel a sense of freedom…coming ‘cause I am not all that free with it yet. It’s coming. It’s new. I also feel a little awkward. You know that trying something new for the first time kinda awkward. You know like you sure but you not 100. But there I was outside of my house. Hanging. Out and about with my boobs treating them like a new relationship that you testing out. .I may have gotten some stares. I’m not sure. I didn’t look to see. Too busy being fascinated, concerned and observant of my new behavior. You see, I’m not that confident yet. But soon. It’s part of my healing. Through The Stages. Chapter .1
Up until recently I would rarely go without the support that I felt my breasts required to hold me up. I know now that it was really not about the support at all. I lived and slept with a bra on as a way to create distance and further separation from myself. I never had much of a relationship with them to begin with. Before I was old enough to understand their nurturing purpose and power (and according to Dr. Jewel Pookrum 5 major energy points terminate in the breast) they had already become accustomed to grown men’s lips whose sensations I grew to like. In my pre adolescent mind that must be what they are for. No one told me differently.
They had already begun sagging before I began breastfeeding my daughter. Years before. They often felt heavy to me. Weighty. Gravity was pulling them down. I often slept in my bra. I wanted them firm and pointy like I assumed my friends and the folks on TV had. So I didn’t touch them much. Outside of washing them they got very attention except from men. I actually preferred it to intercourse. I now know that my whole body warrants special attention. But back then when I was growing up I didn’t like them. I didn’t like me. I didn’t like my feet either. Both areas of my body (breast and feet) would be the source of great pain and dis-ease in my later years. Like right now.
But today, Karen Marie Mason left her house, got in her car and went to the Asian market and to Aldi without a bra. Today was the first day. I have never been bra-less outside of my house. Ever. The right tit firm as a (literal) rock and the left one is on a race to see how soon it can reach my navel. So many physical and mental conflicts going on in my life. My breast are just one of them. I had a cute dress on tho. And so I went.
I saw my Mom last week at my nephews graduation from Colgate. It was one of the first times in YEARS that me, my brother, mother, and his children were together. The isolation i put on myself was real. But I also felt I had good reason to be isolated. At least that was the story that I told. Myself.
After we all reached our respective homes she called to tell me “what happens in the house stays in the house. I don’t understand you children always talking your business”. She was referring to my brother and her belief that he shared certain family information with his wife. In defense of my brother but at the same time riding on that middle fence with my 85 year old mother I told her that he can tell his wife whatever he wants.
But in the back of my head I was thinking about this book, the photo I revealed of my breast (which thank GOD she has not seen) and the story I was about to tell. I don’t want to embarrass my family. I now believe in honoring thy mother and father. As a child not so much. If I were younger she would whip me from one corner of her bedroom to the other if she found out we were discussing anything that happens in the house with anyone outside of the house. That information stays in the house. Plus if f I told someone, anyone then there would be another beating.
It was my brother’s belts that were used. He was the only man in the house. I always wondered why when my mother said “Clarke bring me that belt” that he showed up in record timing like he was Usain or something. What the hell was the hurry. Conversely, If Mommy asked me to get the belt for him which was rare cause he didnt’ get beatings like me, I would take my sweet time and mumble something about “I’m trying to find it Mommy.” I was the reluctant belt getter.
So we learned very young to keep our pain to ourselves. I learned to keep my pain to myself. Even if it might one day kill me. Our house was filled with pride and pain. The kind of pride that would have you lying about all kinds of stuff but mostly the kind of pride that would have you lying to yourself.
So I left my house bra-less. One breast defying gravity in one direction and the other moving rapidly downwards. And me in between the two learning, re-discovering and working on not giving a —–. This is probably not a big deal for most but for someone who has been hiding behind every kind of mask that she could find for most of her life THIS was a big deal. I made life so heavy for myself.
And now that I have decided that I will finally unburden myself I am immediately concerned and have created a bit of anxiety about what my mother will think if she knew I was writing these things. My truth goes against everything that she stands for. My mother’s generation (first generation immigrants to America from Jamaica) have lived and many of them died (literally taking untold stories and illnesses to the grave with them) never revealing any information that may help us understand who we are and why we are the way that we are.
I get it. Well actually no I don’t get it. But my desire to understand and work through this no matter how uncomfortable it is for me and for others is driving this desire to know. Because simply knowing is a game changer that will help me to be whole, to be honest and to find the me in me.
I know my Mama loves me. I know she does. Every parent loves their child right? I mean even if they show it in a funny kind of way. I know it’s there. It’s got to be there. I mean no woman grows up hating that part of him or her that was made from him or her right? So this is the case with Mama and me. I know she loves me. Mamas love their children. All of them. I don’t know if they love all of them the same. Mostly cause I only have one. So I have nothing to compare it to.
For the longest time I thought my Mommy didn’t love me. The story I created was that I reminded her of my father in look, mannerisms and attitude and this reminder made her not want to love me. So I got the beatings, I got the punishments, I was deprived of the love of my mother.
The stories we create as children become real. At least mine did. Over the years my life started to unravel and an auto-immune disease and cancer became part of my daily vocabulary and life.
What I didn’t account for was the truth. Much of it was kept from me. Parents will do that to protect themselves and their children and themselves. I get it better now than I did as a rebellious teen, an ambitious young adult, wanting to be the perfect mother and even now as someone living with cancer.
But I need to get it all the way. Epigenetics is a real thing and I don’t want to pass on any trauma, any unresolved issues to my daughter. This needs to stop here.
I’ve been hard on myself, hard on my daughter and extremely hard on my mother. She may not have always known this. But I was hard in silence. I was distant and absent. I internalized everything to keep the mask in place and made myself sick. Nearly died.
My Mom was single, worked everyday and was climbing the corporate ladder to provide for her children. I don’t know of the daily troubles and drama she faced. She never talked about it. I still don’t know. I don’t know how race and #metoo played a part in her day to day. I know now that they existed. She sought the help of Uncle Cleve and Andy (not sure why he never got the label Uncle) to help us and to help herself. On the surface they were nice men. One a teacher and the other I am not so sure what he did but I use to love when he would take my brother and I fishing. And most importantly they were a tremendous help to my mother. One would fix things around the house and help with household errands. She needed the help. She had 2 children, worked full-time was terrified of what she heard about social services in America and them taking children away. So I get it. She needed help. And our Daddy wasn’t around. I actually thought he was dead. So they provided the necessary strength that she needed and a little a loving too.
But they also preyed on me. For years.
Just last month Mama and I talked about it for the first time. She asked me what happened. I gave her specific and graphic details. She fell silent and then said “ I don’t how or why they would have done that to you knowing that they could be put in jail…it just doesn’t seem….” I interpreted this as denial. She still didn’t believe me.
And even though I am decades removed from the physical molestation her response still hurt. Today. And yet I have learned to give her the space to feel just how she feels. And love her still.
But I also give space to all the little girls who were touched by hardened hands; caressed before they knew what it was suppose to feel like, sucked on like the lollipops he would give them; entered by those who were not invited. May your healing be complete.
I can still smell the odd sent of broken skin. This is not how I imagined that this would happen. I didn’t even imagine. At least not about that. I was 12 . Or 11. I don’t really know. I have selective memory.
….soon come. June-ish.
May 12, 2018
I am not writing this from a place of brokenness or despair. I am writing from a position of hope and optimism. Well, not so much hope. I don’t really believe in hope. I believe in will. As in the will, drive, desire in my case to live. I want to tell my story with regard to my own thoughts and feelings for a change. I want to figure out and examine what those thoughts and feelings are and how I arrived at them. And then I want to change them if they no longer serve me. So many of them were born in pain and shame and have become a part or a piece of the layers of the masks that I have worn. Still wearing. I want to learn to be selfish if even for a short moment so I can re-introduce myself to myself. So that I can find the me in me. This is why I am writing “Through The Stages.” I am telling my story because I believe that like everything else I have (and have not) been doing sharing in this way is contributing to my quality of life. Saving my life actually. So many of our voices are mute. There are so many untold stories from those who never had or took the opportunity to tell there story. Nobody hears us. Very few are even listening. But our voices are being enveloped and caressed and magnified by the Universe anyway. That’s that magic.
Shame is a disease in our community. It spreads secretly, quietly but you can feel it even if your eyes can’t quite make it out. It spreads itself through doubt, lack of confidence and poor decision making. It causes you to hang your head and shoulders at an unatural angle. It causes you to lie, make shit up just so others don’t know how you really feel because you yourself don’t really know.
I know it well. Cancer and my auto-immune disease added to my shame. A shame whose seed was planted when I could barely walk by men whose grey had already settled in and whose big hands loved to touch on little girls, the younger the better.
With shame comes sorrow. I believe they work in tandem. But to be quite honest they are two words that I rarefly ever used in my vocabulary even though they have been a staple in my life for years I am just now realizing.
The writing of “Through The Stages” is yet another modality I am using on my healing journey of many, many modalities and treatments. This book is just my little piece of my contribution to my wholeness. I am out here finding my own path , giving myslef permisson to shed what no longer works, getting unstuck and learning how to live again. Maybe it just might inspire you to do the same.
If we are honest we are all going through some shit. If we are gentle with ourselves and focused with our intent we can change that shit.
This book is dedicated to my mother who raised me and my daddy who did not.
Mama told me you were dead. She told me this way before you actually died.When I started feeling my oats, around the age of 16, something miraculous happened. Mama remembered you had not died. In fact, you were alive. Next thing I knew, I was talking to you on the phone. Soon after, I was on a plane to see you. I’m not mad at Mama anymore for doing that. Mamas have all kinds of reasons for lying about the men in their lives. Maybe she did it to protect me. You did walk out on her. Maybe she felt you would do the same to me. Again, this is what she’s telling me.
I’m old enough to know there are two sides to every story. And then there’s the truth. Too often, people lie first to themselves, and then, to their children. And finally, they lie to everybody else. I just know that I would never do that.
Anyway, I wasn’t sure what to expect the first time I met you. No one gave me the blueprint. Mama didn’t know what to do with me. I think I was messing up her relationships with men. Don’t get me wrong: Mama didn’t have a lot of men. I had problems with the ones that she did have. So, there I was at your doorstep. Unsure. Frightened. Awkward. I could tell that you felt the same way too.
When we met, you seemed so confused. You were unsure whether to treat me like a little child or a young adult. You let me do what I wanted, even smoke. At 16, I thought that was so cool. I guess that was your way of making up for being absent my whole life. We both tried hard to forge a relationship out of nothing. No history. Only DNA. It was tough.
After I got back home, I wasn’t sure whether I was better for making your acquaintance. I was glad to, at least, be able to say I know my daddy. We wrote each other and occasionally talked. It was difficult, but I tried. We would skip a couple years and then connect. A few more years would pass us by before we communicate. This was not the way I thought it was supposed to be. But it was the way it was. The tears are pouring down my face as I write, daddy. I expected more. I guess I watched too much TV.
I tried harder. I called more often. I made promises to visit soon. Then, you got cancer on me. It was the kind that left a hole in your throat and hole in my heart making me feel like I was talking to a stranger. I was so mad at you. I couldn’t understand why you had to go and do that.
I think you knew that you were dying. I choose to believe this because you acted like you didn’t care about me. That’s how I felt. We grew apart. I thought death, or the threat of death, was supposed to bring people closer. I was wrong about that, too.
There was something I wanted to tell you while you were here with us, Daddy, and it is this: Every girl needs her daddy. By her side. I know things were difficult between you and mama.
So what? You should have made it work. You should have been there for me. You should have been at my first recital, at my graduations, at my suspensions, and at the birth of my daughter. Little girls want to look up, and see her daddy smiling. We don’t ask for much. You should have tried harder.
Maybe if you were around, I wouldn’t have been molested. Maybe I wouldn’t have stayed out late at night and partied a little too much. Maybe if you were here I would have made better decisions about relationships. Maybe if you were here, I would have been a straight-A student because I would have wanted to make you proud. Maybe if you were here, you would have sat your grandbaby on your lap and schooled her about life’s lessons.
Your grandbaby and I still made it, Daddy. You’d be proud. Your daughter only opened her legs when love was present. That love gave birth to your first grandbaby, Kenya Jordana James. I went on to graduate college, got a big job in the music industry and then left to be a mother and entrepreneur. I know you’re smiling right now. I know you would love that part because you always went against the grain. Hell, now that I think about it, that’s where I got it from.
I understand now. Life sometimes takes us on twists and turns that we don’t plan. Time flies and there are things that we’ve all wanted to do that never got done. I’m not mad anymore.
I am still here.
I’m working on making myself better. I’m releasing the thoughts that could cripple me, kill me or even give me cancer. I’m making a better place for your granddaughter whose father was killed when she was 3 years old. I want you to know that while Kenya no longer has her biological father physically with her, she has been fathered by many who have given her what you were not able to give me. I made sure of that.
As for me daddy, I have decided that I’m not gonna let cancer or these damn fibroids get the best of me. I’m gonna let go of the pain and the past. The bitterness, too. I’m gonna let you run free in the ancestral world so that you can be a daddy to me again.
As my angel. Love your daughter,
So for more years than I can count I stopped touching my breast. My bredren would come over and massage them weekly focusing on my right breast. I wouldn't touch it. It was hard as a rock. I felt like I was carrying a bowling ball on my chest. It hurt in multiple ways physically and mentally. A burden. I considered it NOT part of me but something that was attached to me. I did not want to interact with it. It scared me. Reminded me of how sick I was everyday. But this distance between me and me didn't start with breast cancer. It start long before when grown men found comfort sucking them for enjoyment.
I have no interest in history recalling my battle with cancer. I don’t want to be known as the girl who bared her cancerous breast on the internet. Original Through The Stages IG Post I refuse to be connected to the disease in that way. I’ve lived a full life before cancer and I plan on living an even fuller one now . I have no plans whatsoever of dying from this disease. Stage IV my ass.
So here I am . Shame kept me from writing honestly. Shame kept me from writing at all. I kept trying to find easier, more palatable, more gentle, more acceptable ways to say what has been pent up in me for years. I was trying to tell half truths creatively. Sweetly. Without the pepper. I kept wanting to keep the veil in place as if I was writing through some lens of judgement. Self judgement. I know I shouldn’t give a fuck and I am trying not to. But shit creeps in sometimes. A lot of times.
When the reality of writing this book finally struck me I froze. I became anxious and concerned with what people would think and how they would perceive me if they knew certain truth about me. It just seemed so much easier to just bury the truth somewhere in my subconscious and create yet another mask for myself. The one that I would show the public.
Cancer made that magic trick impossible arriving just in time to save me from myself and to teach me a shit load of lessons. In my life I am its only pupil. Me. It arrived in my life at a time when I thought all was well. I was an artist manager, location scout for film and television, produced a couple films, marketed some uber successful artist and all that shit. But apparently all was not well and something drastic needed to happen to get me to pay attention to myself. I was just too busy. Too busy doing shit to pay attention to the lump growing in my chest.
I know my daughter would have prefered I get a mastectomy. The idea of her mother living with cancer or even worse dying from it was overwhelming for her. I actually had one scheduled. It never happened. The reason why deserves its own chapter. It was not meant to happen. Spirit told me I would surely die the night before the scheduled operation. I listened.
And yet this is not my first go round attempt at book writing. I have notes and pages somewhere, everywhere on raising Kenya, my now 28 year old daughter. People have been telling me for years that I should write about that journey, one that took her from homeschooled precocious pre-teen, magazine editor and publisher at 12 to Oprah’s couch to full scholarships for undergrad and graduate. But the words never really came in a way that made me comfortable sharing. In “Through The Stages” I will talk about the mothering of my daughter and something very new to me: mothering of myself.
So I knew I HAD to write even though I am not a writer. Not like some of my faves Kiese Laymon and Yrsa Daley modern day word Gods. But I had to tell the truth. My truth. And even as I write these words I type hesitantly, hitting the keys reluctantly trying to find the right words to say and feeling insecure as fuck about the writing journey ahead. Scared.
I found the seat of fear. Startled me. Scared me. But just a little. I was more fascinated that i found it. The exact spot where fear enters my body and its not where you think.
For a while cancer stopped my life. The tumor in my breast had grown so big that it started to affect my breathing, my heartbeat became irregular and I struggled to complete a full breath of good quality. It paralyzed me in away and somehow I knew the key to begin again was to share my story. I had to get it out of my system. I needed to put my pen to paper and be bold, unabashed, and unashamed. It also meant being vulnerable and honest.
Cancer saved my life.
It forced me to take a long, hard look at myself. I’m still looking. Discovering new shit everyday. I am slowly removing all the masks I have created. I’m pulling back the layers. This book chronicles my journey to healing.
You’ll read about the moment I knew I HAD to change my life in order to live. The highs and lows. I’m also sharing my regimen, including all the supplements I take. What works and what doesn’t work for me and my body. This will not a traditional memoir. It will be expressed in poetry, compositions, essays, and when appropriate, a simple word.
This is about my survival. This is about me thriving. Again.
So far on the journey I have discovered some incorruptible truths I’ve discovered:
1. No disease can thrive in a healthy body AND mind. It’s simple. If I was healthy, then the disease would not have found a home in my body.
2. Cancer came to teach me lessons and I accept this reality. I no longer battle cancer. I am working in cooperation with cancer. Oprah says it best.
3. When I stopped (or was forced to) doing what I thought I loved, I realized I didn’t miss it. I’ve worked in film and entertainment all my adult life it wasn’t until I gave up my main income that I realized how much I didn’t miss it.
4. I’ve had to make amends with my mother and so many others. This is an ongoing process. Let’s just say that I’ve been having many, many uncomfortable, yet, nurturing conversations initiated by me. I’m learning to use my voice to save my life. The silence was killing me.
5. It’s imperative that I design a new life for myself. The old life didn’t serve me. It made me sick, and almost killed me. It would be insane to continue to do the same things.
6. I’m facing my fears. I can’t shed them until I admit I am scared.
7. Breathwork is serious. During a transpersonal breathwork workshop many buried patterns and thought processes came up.
8. Spirituality is the center of being. I was not spiritually fulfilled. I periodically popped up at church. I’d go online and listen to the occasional sermon or meditation, but it wasn’t enough. I went seeking. I will share with you what I found.
9. Live a fulfilling life. My definitions for success and fulfillment are changing. I’m still learning what this means for me.
10. Slow down. I’m not sure what race I signed up for, but I was trying to win a gold medal for it. Since I wouldn’t slow down, I was forced to. My life was brought to a complete halt.
11. Restorative Yoga is changing my life.
12. Healing can’t take place unless I use all healing modalities. I have tried everything for autoimmune disease and cancer, including urine therapy, hydrogen peroxide, grounding, hormone supplements, meditation, breathwork, and ganja. I have left myself open to all the possibilities.
13. I had to begin to speak truth to myself. I had to admit how much I disliked certain body parts. I hated my breast. They were saggy at the age of 16, and continued to race to my navel through the years. My sacredness was taken from me somewhere between 9 and 10 years old. The love of my body went with it. Having grown men suck on them and rub vaseline on my baby vagina would shape a lot of how I feel about myself, my body and sex.
This book is just my little piece of my contribution to the whole. I am finding my own path, giving myself permission to shed what no longer works, getting in touch with who I am and learning how to live again. Maybe it just might inspire someone to do the same.
None of this would be possible without my community. Yes. Our community. Dr. Itihari Toure said it best, “we are all we need.”
- Dear Daddy first appeared in Denene’s www.mybrownbaby.com
Love Or Fear
May 4, 2018
Many of our decisions are guided by two thought processes: love or fear. For instance let’s say you are not feeling well and don’t want to go to work. The love response would be to call in sick. The fear response would be to go to work sick. This fear could be motivated by money, threat of losing your job or whatever. It doesn’t really matter the motivation. What matters is the choice you made over the option to love and take (self) care of yourself.
Choose love you’all. These thoughts came to me while I was walking my neighborhood. It’s not something that I use to do often but so much of what I use to do is no longer relevant to what I am doing now.
Somehow I forgot how beautiful my neighborhood was. It’s possible I may not have remembered in the first place since I have been so consumed with all things Karen.
Learning to remember again through love.
April 30, 2018
My story is not breast cancer. At least not anymore. My story if and when it will be told may not even mention breast cancer except for maybe a footnote, not because I don’t or didn’t have it but because it is my belief that all diseases have a metaphysical component. Even more so no disease can live in a healthy mind and spirit. None. There is often talk of the alkaline body. There is more. Your body can be alkaline and you can still be sick. Your mind body and spirit must be alkalined. Not just your body. When you carry the consciousness of something it multiplies. If you carry the consciousness of pain. It multiplies. When you carry the consciousness of sickness then it multiplies. I will no longer carry the consciousness of cancer or any other ailment in my body. I am done with that way of thinking. It’s outdated and no longer in alignment with who I am becoming.
Almost six (6) years ago I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. I was told my bones were brittle, that my joints would always be inflamed and that there was no cure. My ankles began to age rapidly which led to me walking with a cane, ( I had too much pride to ever let you see me in this way) used wheelchairs at airports and limped terribly… I had to focus on every step. So on top of everything else I would often look down basically afraid that I might fall or trip. This disease directly and indirectly occupied my mind on a daily basis. Fast Forward. I later went on to run my first 5K a couple months ago.
Eventually, I took myself off of the meds, learned to bear the pain (meaning I no longer made it my focus) and stopped being so afraid of falling that I always looked at my feet. I slowly began to walk with my head erect no longer afraid of falling. I made no space for pain in my mind and the pain (though not completely disappearing) subsided.
I am learning that everything I think about including pain…magnifies – this is part of universal law, and there are many more laws at work and play in our lives. These laws are irrefutable and absolute hence the reason I almost didn’t type these few words, because I don’t want to talk about breast cancer except in the context of all diseases being our own creation. What we dwell on magnifies.
I am now more focused on living by these laws and magnifying them in my life in a positive way. I am confident that if I live by those laws the cancer will become irrelevant in my body. I no longer want to continue to talk about and frame my life around something that once consumed me and made me afraid. I have since shed that fear. So much has changed.
There was a time when I would have considered chemo or radiation but now that is no longer even a remote possibility. Grateful I did not succumb to the fear as this type of treatment was not for me. There was a time when I would have considered a mastectomy. In fact I did have one scheduled and as fate would have it that never happened. I did my pre-opt, went through the whole ordeal that is required before an operation and on the day of (spirit) said to me “don’t go.” I listened. To this day I have not heard from the doctor, surgeon nurse, social worker or receptionist at the well known Atlanta hospital where I was treated.
There was a time when I would have willingly represented or even led an organization for breast cancer patients and survivors that interest has left me.
I am convinced that my issue is not cancer but deeper. Cancer is but a symptom. So rather than treat the cancer I am treating the deeper issues.
I am releasing myself from the “cancer victim story”, whilst I begin to create a new story. I hope these few words I share here today will help someone.
This will be the last official chapter of my chapter by chapter story. There have been 7. I will continue to write if I feel like I have something to share that may be helpful. Thank you for coming with me down this road to self discovery.
My healing journey has taken me around the world. Everywhere I traveled in the last 5 years whether on business or pleasure I would seek out the healers, the medicine men and the bush doctors in hopes of finding some relief. There were times when I was so desperate for healing that I would do almost anything and go almost anywhere. Pain, despair, fear and the feeling of impending death will take over if you let it. I was willing to go down some pretty dark alleys and I did. I was willing to traverse the rural countryside with very little information except for some scarce info about a particular healer who lived somewhere in that area. And yes I went to see the community healer in the one room shack where she both lived and healed damn near the entire community. I looked in far away spaces looking to find what I would eventually discover was closer than I ever imagined. Inside of me.
Here is a small sampling of some of that journey. It does not include my domestic team which consisted of everyone from Dr. B in New York, to Dr Jewel Pookrum, Dr. Stephen Tate and the office of Dr. William Richardson in Atlanta.
There was also the consistent and constant advise from some of my heros like Attorney Alton Maddox and Dick Gregory. But maybe I will discuss these later.
Through The Stages
April 29, 2018
Photo Credit: Terrell Clark
Today I release the Preface of my “Through The Stages” e-book. It’s not perfect. It is imperfect and so am I. Grateful for all who are supporting this journey. You will receive a link in the email that you used when you ordered. The plan is to release a chapter a month. Seven in all.