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.
Her exact words were “come home with me and let me take care of you”.
I was still laying in bed exhausted from doing so little. Bones still mending in my back from multiple fractures due to the cancer that had spread to my spine. I needed and wanted to lay there all day all night. I called my cousin in Florida. Or maybe she called me. Either way it was one of those destiny calls. She said “Karen you can’t be there by yourself”. I stumbled out a few words about having a team that was always available when I needed, a support system that continued to show up for me and how grateful I was for the love that seemed to reverberate in and from the community.
My cousin replied “that’s great Karen but you need someone round the clock with you”. This was September 2019. I hung up the phone and contemplated. It was hard to admit. But she was right.
The only person that came to mind lived in New Orleans, had a 10 year old son (who was delivered via water birth In my backyard when she lived with me…10 years ago) and was most likely about her business(es) but I called any way. I told her what my cousin told me. I was a bit too prideful to admit (first person) who much I had fallen. She understood my speaking in tongues and asked me how soon do you need me. Reality struck. “Right away” I said. “Ok” she said. I will be there as soon as I can.
Within a few days Kelly was at my door. Dependent on the walker she would later remind me how pitiful I looked when I opened the door, bent over. Sick. She stayed with me for 10 days. Preparing food, laughing with me, listening to some of her older tunes, massaging me. Loving me. Love and joy had returned to my heart. I had no idea how much I was grieving deep inside from the passing on my friend Chris, the cancer, the crisis which had now become my life.
On the 9th day she came in the den and said “come home with me and let me take care of you”.
I wanted to say no. I mumbled something about doctor’s appointments and meds and some other grumble mumble. None of it making too much sense but Kelly had a response for everything “I will see to it that you get to your doctor’s appointments, we can drive up from New Orleans”, “one of your friends can pick up your meds”. I had no excuse not to say yes. So I said yes.
She would later tell me that she was scared to ask. I would later tell her that I was scared to accept her offer.
So off we went. She cleared out a room for me, gave me comfort, gave me her arm to hold me steady, helped me as needed in the bathroom and organized my supplements which were many. I had started to follow Patrick Delve’s cancer protocol system and there was so much to keep track of. Kelly did all of that until I could do it myself.
She kept her word and took care of my every need until I was able to take better care of myself.
Sometimes we need a push. She was my push. Within 2 months I was off the walker, preparing my own supplements and cooking in the kitchen. I’m in a much better place and space mentally. She and ALL OF YOU are reviving me in ways that only time will reveal.
There are no words to describe this kind of love. None.
Thank you to my community. Thank you Kelly Love Jones.
In 2018 I tried to avoid people as much as possible. In 2019 I was bed ridden and mostly out of it (and on opiods) so not seeing folk was the norm. I felt very insecure about how I looked and moved and for a good period of time (many months) I wasn’t sure if I was coming or going, I would forget conversations midstream and my body was in constant pain and everything else and everyone became a pain. So avoidance seemed the best remedy.
I remember when I was scheduled to moderate at A3C music festival in Atlanta. (photo attached) I sat in my car in the parking deck because I was nauseous and would periodically open the door and deposit everything I ate (or didn’t eat) on the concrete. While in mid stream I looked up and saw someone I knew. Damn. I thought to myself “I hope she didn’t see me.” I resumed my regurgitation.
I was not well trying to play well. I finished throwing up wiped up my face and became presentable for the moment. I got out the car and as I was walking I saw her again. Damn. .I was so embarrassed. I acted liked I didn’t see her again and she seemed to do the same. To this day I still feel a way about my behavior that day. Not the throw up part but me purposely avoiding contact with someone I knew because of how I felt. At that time (in my mind) it was actually easier for me to get on stage, moderate a panel in front of hundreds of people and then exit stage left than it was to face one on one people I knew who also knew that I wasn’t well. Kinda petty eh?
“There is no adequate description for the weight of grief of a loss so profound that words disappear” Adria R . Walker
I held his hand. I caressed his cheeks. I washed his body. He did the same for me only a couple weeks before when I could barely care for myself. He showed up at my hospital door January 10th and never left my side. Until.
I felt so honored to be able to sit with him and whisper in his ears as I waited for him to come back to this side. I imagined he was somewhere in between, wanting to laugh and joke with me while yearning for his own mother (who passed away the year before).
So I sat with him daily. I learned quickly how to fold my walker, get in an uber and roll down the hospital hall everyday to be by his side until he went to the other side. Up until this time, he did all of this for me. He drove and accompanied me to all my appointments, brought me food, sat by my side as I faded in and out, made sure I stayed on my supplements. He showed me what true love felt like.
He took one last effortless breath on May 7th, almost sounded and felt like a sigh of relief.
And just like that he transitioned. That was it.
I wiped and caressed his face one last time as they disconnected all the wires that kept him barely here with me.
Grateful he allowed me to witness his transition to eternity. The next day I saw two cardinals playfully flying in my back yard. I know it was Chris and his Mom.
Rest well. Took me forever to write this. Just couldn’t get the words together.
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
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.
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’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.”