I’ve had the honor and privilege to meet many fierce women who advocate on behalf of those struck by Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. If you’re fortunate enough to not be in or around this wonderful world of cancer, you may not even know about what Stages or Grades mean.
When it comes to cancer, your tumor and thus, your diagnosis is defined by the Stage or Grade. Basically, it defines EVERYTHING: whether you have cancer, or it’s benign; how serious your case is; what treatment options are available or on the flip-side, what treatment options aren’t available; etc. Grade IV or Stage IV is the highest, and unfortunately the worst type. Personally, both my brain tumors were Grade III, so that ain’t so good either!
A Little Bit About Stage IV Breast Cancer
Before I get into the piece I shared here by a fellow writer “living with cancer”, I want to briefly discuss a few things. The first is breast cancer.
People tend to believe that breast cancer is “curable” (I have a serious issue with the words “cure”/“curable” and cancer, but that’s me). Well, Stage IV metastatic breast cancer, which both men and women can get, is NOT. In fact, it is considered terminal. There is literally only one organization in the U.S. that exclusively funds Stage IV metastatic breast cancer (MBC) research. That is METAvivor. www.metavivor.org.
I have several friends who advocate for METAvivor so I wanted to give a shoutout to this fantastic organization.
A Little Bit About Cancer Funding
I don’t like statistics. I believe I am a person and not a number. Yet, when it comes to Stage IV or Grade IV cancers, the numbers are unfortunately grim. We all know breast cancer is hugely funded, yet only 2-3% of that funding goes to Stage IV research!! Nevertheless, approximately 40,000 people pass from Stage IV breast cancer a year.
In much the same way, the survival rates for brain cancer are extremely grim. When you look at all cancer types, brain cancer is one of the most underfunded, if not THE MOST underfunded cancer type. Yet, approximately 70,000 people pass from brain cancer a year. It is also now the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in children. See more information at the National Brain Tumor Society: www.braintumor.org
So if you’re reading this and wondering, “Why isn’t there more funding for these cancers?” Good question. However, the answer is just as grim as the statistics.
It really all comes down to Big Pharma and profits.
The rarer the cancer type, the less people who are or will be affected by it
The higher the mortality rate, the higher the likelihood a person will die from that cancer type
So less people, who are more likely to die = less profits for the pharmaceutical companies
This is a very sensitive subject for me. I want to scream from the rooftops:
Fund rare cancer research because my life and every person’s life who suffers from a rare cancer matters! We are worth investing into research and better treatment options!
“Cancer: When Hope Is All You Have” by Doug Sparling
I cringe when I hear the word. I especially cringe when I’m asked, always in a high-pitched, much too enthusiastic tone,
“So are you in remission now?”
I know and understand why people ask. I also know that by asking in a gleeful way, it’s because they hope the answer will be a resounding “Yes!”
Personally, the question only forces me to immediately assess, right there on-the-spot how I’m going to answer every single person who asks. Do they want the truth? Are they simply asking because it’s what society has dictated we do when we see a young adult, who doesn’t look “sick”? Also, do I really want to go into the ugly details of it all? How much time do I/we have?
Some potential answers to the remission question include:
Yes! I am cancer free for just about 5 years now!”
Yes! I am cancer free for just about 5 years now… However, I’ve undergone a total of 7 brain surgeries in 6 years. I was initially diagnosed in 2014, but the cancer recurred in less than a year. So technically the last tumor was removed in 2015. Since then I’ve had: 5 additional surgeries; Umpteen hospitalizations; IV drug infusions; so much radiation that to this day, I’m still suffering the side effects; and, I have uncontrollable epilepsy.”
Yes! I am cancer free for just about 5 years now! However, I’ve undergone a total of 7 brain surgeries in 6 years. I was initially diagnosed in 2014, but the cancer recurred less than a year later. So technically the last tumor was removed in 2015. Since then I’ve: Had 5 additional surgeries; Umpteen hospitalizations; IV drug infusions; so much radiation that to this day, I’m still suffering the side effects; and, I have uncontrollable epilepsy…I cannot say I will ever truly be “cancer free” because the cancer combined with the treatment changed almost every single aspect of my life. I will never be the same after cancer. Not only do I have a multitude of scars to prove it, but I will never again be free to do the things I loved like swim in the ocean, scuba dive, hike, or even run, which frankly I never loved but having the ability to catch that subway just about to pull away or make it to the bus stop just in time to grab that last bus – nope, can’t do it.
So, while it’s confirmed there are no cancerous cells in my body, do I feel like I am “in remission”? Absolutely not!
I can’t even begin to list all the ways cancer remains with me, but ya name it, and cancer has affected it.
For example, just the most mundane, everyday things:
Getting up in the morning – for me requires immediately putting on sneakers with my AFO, or leg brace, for balance and stability to get out of bed and walk around. Not just that, due to the issues with my left hand, it takes at least 3 tries to even get my sneakers tied. (I tried elastic laces and they would not support my AFO properly)
Getting dressed in the morning – for me, it’s a chore! I have to pull a Macgyver move to get my bra on properly. I constantly put clothes on backwards. Anything with a zipper is a true challenge.
Already what would’ve taken a fully-able-bodied person to do in 5-10 minutes has taken me at least 20.
Looking in the mirror– I must mention that every time I look in a mirror, I’m reminded of cancer. I have a slight eye droop that isn’t even noticeable to others. I see it though! About 1/3 of my scalp is a graft from my stomach so I’m completely bald there.
During the last few surgeries: 1. A piece of skull was removed, so my skull has a noticeable divot. 2. The shunt that was implanted during my last surgery creates a noticeable bump towards the front of my head. Thank god I still have lots of hair and fantastic hair pieces!
Then, because I’m so thin, I can actually see the shunt catheter, which runs from my brain down near my heart and into my abdominal area. I have a massive scar from the skin graft running down my entire abdomen. Plus, now I’ve got two new scars from the laparoscopic surgery to insert that catheter into my stomach. Yay!Oh and my bellybutton is about 6 inches from where it should be.
Of course, all of this is hidden away underneath my clothes, but I have to look at it all EVERY SINGLE DAY and frankly, I hate it. I cannot embrace these scars, like so many survivors do. To me, they’re just constantly reminding me of the trauma.
Showering – I have to use a shower chair and utilize grab bars to get in and out of the bath or shower. I can’t get my left arm up high enough to use my left hand to wash my hair. So I have to use just one hand to scrub in the shampoo and conditioner. It’s also difficult to use that left hand to squeeze the bottles, apply shower gel, etc.
For whatever reason, hot water and steam make me extremely light-headed and dehydrated. So I always need a glass of water nearby, the door must be open to let the steam out and I can typically only shower at night because it makes me extremely tired and/or weak. Again, due to the problems with my left hand, I can never get the towel wrapped around me. So, I have to towel-off in the bathroom and put on a robe or my pjs.
This whole process takes at least 30 minutes, while an able-bodied person could be done in 5-10 minutes.
Now, those few examples are just a taste, a sprinkling of what cancer has done to me physically, mentally and emotionally.
I love that other survivors can embrace the remission word, and I recognize the power that comes with the ability to say, “I’m in remission.” That’s just not the case for me.
Further, I wish I could say, “Cancer doesn’t define me!” like so many other survivors. However, for me cancer is and will always be present despite the fact that my physical body is “cancer free”.
Cancer is and will always be a part of me. It is a crucial piece of who I am today and who I will be in the future.
Plus, cancer will forever lurk in the darkest corners of my mind. Unless there’s some magical potion we discover one day, I will forever have to acknowledge/be aware that a tumor could indeed return at any time. It’s not something I dwell on, but shall I say, “it’s the nature of the beast.” Cancer can and does come back. I’ve already experienced a recurrence. So, I’m literally living proof of this awful truth.
The quote pictured at the top of this Post from ANITA MOORJANI on remission speaks to how I’ve internalized cancer in my life. Although I’ll never be able to say, “I’m done with cancer” I have indeed turned it into my “mission”. Hence, why I began writing this Blog, am working towards publishing articles on my experience, and ultimately a book.
Cancer also led me to finally find my passion working with various nonprofits to raise awareness about cancer in general, but mostly awareness about brain cancer; to serve as a patient advocate with the National Brain Tumor Society; and, to constantly fundraise for more research, treatment options and Dear Lord please, ultimately a cure!
Yes, it took two bouts of brain cancer to find it, but I found my passion-my mission! While every single day is a new challenge, every single day is also an opportunity to work on myself.
So, I believe I’ve found a new perspective on “remission”. It’s my mission.
To Learn more about ANITA MOORJANI, go to her website at https://anitamoorjani.com/. She has a fascinating story. In short, after four years of battling cancer, she went into a coma. Her husband was told:
“There’s nothing we can do for your wife, Mr. Moorjani. Her organs have already shut down. Her tumors have grown to the size of lemons throughout her lymphatic system, from the base of her skull to below her abdomen. Her brain is filled with fluid, as are her lungs. And as you can see, her skin has developed lesions that are weeping with toxins. She won’t even make it through the night,” the doctor told my husband, Danny.
Anita, describes what occurred in the following hours, days and weeks. She had a Near Death Experience (NDE) and details how she chose to return to her body to spread her message-her mission! Obviously, she came out of the coma and left the hospital 5 weeks later with no evidence of cancer anywhere in her body!
To Learn more about the National Brain Tumor Society go to their website: www.braintumor.org
I hate repeating myself but this Blog was never intended to be political, address issues of race or racism, and I certainly never envisioned so many posts about the police and the “cancer” of police brutality.
This Blog was always intended to be focused on what I deem my “cancer chaos” and some lessons on life, love, hope, survival and whatnot.
However, a pandemic is happening right before my eyes, one in which the world has never seen before. And at this point we’re apparently seeing it as a positive that only about 600 people are now dying a day in the U.S. Yay! (If my sarcasm isn’t coming across, it is past 1:00 a.m. so cut me some slack)
Combine this with the uprising of a brand new civil rights movement, met with the same disdain such movements have elicited from law enforcement for decades now, well I simply cannot ignore these issues. I WISH the only thing I needed to tackle was my cancer journey! (Sigh) Sadly, It is not.
Who the f—-k ever said, by the way? Sorry. In real life I curse like a sailor. Thus, it sometimes comes out in my writing. 🤷🏻♀️ It’s just me, so please do not take offense.
Anyway, this linked article was written by a retired police officer, and addresses as she aptly puts it, the “cancer, insidiously infecting the squads.” This “cancer” is “rude, dismissive, aggressive, or abusive cops.” Specifically, she discusses the well-known problem, one of many I might add, with police-the “Code of Silence”.
As they say in Yonkers, NY and I’m sure many other areas, “SnitchesGet Stitches”. In other words, cops don’t rat out fellow officers.
In this Post, this retired officer hits the nail on the head:
We refuse to look at our racist past in the eye and deal with it and it is long past time for our police culture to stop pretending race isn’t still a significant issue. The people of color in our communities still feel the undertow of bias in many encounters. They are frustrated by our collective failure to do anything meaningful day to day. We need to drop our defensive shields and get real with our fellow citizens.
Please read this excellent piece by a talented, impressive young woman of color, who lived in Aurora, Colorado. See the world through her eyes, and as she writes this article, also see the world through her brother’s eyes.
The author Alexandra Robinson graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. She was one of two speechwriters for presidential candidate, Tom Steyer. She has a love of politics (God Bless you, girl. I did too at your age). She says that she wants to “continue on my journey of helping the American people.”
We need you, Alexandra Robinson! We really, really do!
Elijah McClain Could Have Been My Brother by Alexandra Robinson
I CouldNeverSpeak to a Personof Color’s Experience, Like No One Can Speak to a Cancer Patient’s Experience
I emphasized in my past Posts that I am not a person of color. So, I cannot speak from that perspective, or to their experiences. I relate it to the way no one can truly grasp having cancer without actually having gone through cancer.
Yes, others understand we’re sick. They understand that we’re tired. They understand that we’re battling for our lives, in most cases. Others can also empathize. Many of those close to someone with cancer also feel helpless wanting so badly to do something, anything to help. I cannot and am not diminishing the role of our caregivers/care partners. They go through so much as well!
However, as for those of us stricken with the disease, I guarantee every single cancer patient remembers distinctly the moment they were told the horrific words:
–“You have cancer”–
In my opinion, unless you’ve heard those words; unless you’ve immediately thought of death or decaying from rounds and rounds of surgeries, chemo, radiation, etc.; unless you know the feeling of not “just being tired” but instead the absolute, full-body fatigue that seemingly never goes away; unless you’ve sat in an oncologist’s clinic awaiting the results of your most recent scan, not knowing if your tumor has recurred or if you’ll get the “all clear”; unless you know the feeling and emotional turmoil that comes on when you realize you will never be the person you were the month, the week or day before hearing those 3 fateful words, “You have cancer”…
Then, you can never speak from our perspective, or to our experiences with cancer. Every cancer patient’s journey is unique and personal. Even if you’ve had brain cancer, your experience will still differ from mine. However, there is absolutely common ground and an immediate bond you feel meeting a fellow survivor. They just get it!
That is why I feel the need to premise my Posts by stating that since I am not a person of color, I cannot speak directly to their experiences. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to write about the Black Lives Matter Movement to ensure a dialogue continues.
There Was a Time in U.S. History When the Irish Were Treated As a Totally SeparateRace
Had any of my ancestors come to America in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s because of the “Great Famine” that plagued the country from 1845-1849, they would have seen signs such as these.
A Very Brief Synopsis of the “Great Famine”
When the Irish fled their homeland in the late 19th century, they were legitimate refugees.
They were not just escaping the “Great Famine”, those 4 successive years in which the potato crops were plagued by “blight” (a disease caused by water mold, rotting the plants and thus, making anything that grew inedible). It is a historical truth that the potato was, and still remains the staple of Ireland’s diet.
Light Anecdote: My husband and I were married in Ireland. Our best friends, who are brother & sister who we grew up with, came over with their parents. Their family toured around the West of Ireland after the wedding. They still joke that they could not understand why they’d get 3 different forms of potato at every meal! “Chips”, or French fries as they’re better known; Mashed or baked potato; and, soup that included chopped potatoes. And NO, corned beef is NOT a traditional Irish meal! It is Irish-American!
Yet, it was not simply that the potato crops failed, destroying the mainstay of an Irish peasant’s diet. The British, who ruled the entire country at the time, made a systematic decision NOT to aide the Irish people.
In March 1849, the London News stated, “Great Britain cannot continue to throw her hard-won millions into the bottomless pit of Celtic pauperism.” Yes, the Crown’s “hard-won millions” made off the backs of Irish peasants, and the others they colonized! Ugh. I. Just. Can’t.
Charles E. Trevelyan, the British civil servant in charge of the Famine’s alleged “relief efforts” even stated, “The judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson, that calamity must not be too much mitigated.” So, basically he believed the Famine was simply God’s bidding to punish the Irish people, further stating that the Famine was due to “Hibernian overpopulation”. Again, I. Just. Can’t.
British landlords purposely left the Irish sick and starved with truly nowhere to go. As the Famine plagued Ireland, the Irish were denied food they grew, harvested and prepared for the British. In fact, under armed guards convoys continued to export wheat, oats and barley to England. All the while, at least one million, Yes,one million Irish died of starvation, typhus, dysentery, tuberculosis, cholera and/or simply freezing to death in abandoned shacks or even along the roadside! Combining emigration and death, Ireland would ultimately lose just about 1/2 of its population because of the Famine.
“No Irish Need Apply” and Racism Against the Irish In America
During the Famine, it’s estimated that around 2 million Irish sought refuge in America. Interestingly, some of the ships the Irish took over to the States were converted cargo ships, previously used to transport slaves from Africa.
If they even survived the 3,000 mile cross-Atlantic voyage, upon arrival in the U.S. the Irish were not welcomed kindly! The “No Irish Need Apply” (known as NINA) ads in newspapers, signs posted in windows and bigoted cartoons in magazines were based upon racism and bias that the Irish were ALL:
“Baby makers” or worse “Breeders” who couldn’t support all the children they had
Violent – a group who did not abide by the alleged “Rule of Law” that existed in the States at the time
Illiterate and uneducated
Well, many were but that was due to the established British system that kept them that way; nothing was more threatening to a British landowner than an educated Irishman, who saw the systematic impoverishment of his fellow men & women, and tried to stand-up against it
If you were an Irishman (that includes men and women alike) who needed to yield “X” amount of crops for your British landlord, and/or pay rent for the land your family lived on, plus feed your own family on top of that, there was little to no time for schooling!
Well, again, many were very ill. They left their beautiful homeland of rolling, green hills and fresh air, which had be stricken by a devastating famine. They were starving and if they weren’t sick before, they likely became sick during the voyage to America! Known as “steerage passengers”, the Irish peasants were crammed into the lower decks or cargo areas of the ships crossing the Atlantic on a 4-week journey that provided little to no sanitation, fresh food, fresh air or the slightest bit of privacy. Thus, disease ran rampant amongst the passengers. (If this history interests you in any way, I highly suggest Joseph O’Connor’s Star of the Sea, which details the voyage of a ship in the winter of 1847 from Ireland to New York)
The only housing available to most Irish immigrants in America were in the port cities of New York and Boston, where again they crammed into immigrant tenements. They had to suffer through poor living conditions, a limited public health system and of course, rampant disease.
Lazy, or “cheap labor taking working-class Americans jobs”
Catholic, thus not in-line with the Protestant majority in the U.S. and “incompatible with basic American values”
The Irish were seen as less than human, and certainly not “white” by the Protestant establishment
The above depicts cartoons in prominent publications of the Irish in America. As the middle cartoon states “The Most Recently Discovered Wild Beast”, you get a very good idea of how the Irish were seen. The December 9, 1876 issue of Harper’s Weekly depicted an Irishman on a scale with a Black man, shown below. The idea was that “Blacks were a curse on the South” and equally, the “Irish were a curse on the North”.
Interestingly, the author who is of Irish descent, states in his Post:
At the age of 96 my Grandmother subscribed to Ebony magazine and strongly espoused the civil rights movement for African-Americans. When I asked her why, she said she remembered well the time when “No Irish need apply’.
Blog “MemoriesandMiscellany”, by Jack Sullivan
The Protestant establishment creates a Movement against the Irish
Naturally, as history has taught us, an entire movement joined together against the “scourge” of the Irish Catholics threatening “true American values”. A group known as the “Know Nothings”(accurately named) arose. Again, naturally, violence erupted between the groups.
Interestingly, the violence turned deadly in all places none other than Louisville, Kentucky in August 1855. It seems Louisville is quite a hotbed for racism and violence. Rest in Peace, Breonna Taylor.
Referred to as “Bloody Monday”, armed Know-Nothings guarded polling stations on election day. Street fights also broke out when German and Irish Catholics’ homes were ransacked and torched. More than 100 businesses, private homes and tenements were vandalized, looted and/or burned. While historians estimate the death toll at 19-22, the Catholic immigrants believe well over 100 were killed, including entire families consumed in the fires.
Not surprisingly, no one was prosecuted in connection with the violence and murders.
In summary, the experiences of the first Irish immigrants in the U.S. mirror many experiences of the Black community in this country. Obviously, there are major distinctions. Nonetheless, the photo above, which was posted outside a B&B speaks volumes: “No Irish. No Blacks. No Dogs.”
Why are Irish people now accepted as “white” while the Black community continues to suffer and remain so stigmatized? I simply don’t have the answer.
So, if you call yourself “Irish-American”, wave the Irish flag around and get disgustingly drunk “celebrating” St. Patrick’s Day, yet hold racist, bigoted views on Black people or any minority – open up a textbook and “learn yourself something”.
Even Though I Am White,I Am Part of the MarginalizedCommunity
While I cannot speak from the perspective of a person of color, I can speak from the perspective of a white person living in the U.S. who is female, disabledand animmigrant.
You may not see it at first glance, but I too am part of the marginalized community.
Did I grow up and currently live in a very affluent area? Yes. Did I receive an excellent education? Yes. Did I have opportunities and advantages many people are not afforded in this country? Yes.
However, have I been discriminated against? Yes. Have I been treated differently than the “average Joe”, whoever that may be, or whatever that person may look like these days? Yes. In fact, while I will not go into detail, I am currently awaiting a settlement in a disability discrimination case I brought against a certain entity, its owners and employees.
Yet, has my life ever been threatened because of the color of my skin? No. Have I ever been harassed, intimidated or assaulted because of the color of my skin? No. Have I ever been frightened walking down the street in a particular area, having to be cognizant of every move I make or else I’d be considered “suspicious” because of the color of my skin? No. If I had a child, would I have to sit he or she down to talk about how they’d have to engage with a police officer because of the color of our skin? No.
So, even though I am a woman who is disabled and an immigrant, I’m not perceived as a “threat”. Although, I DO have a cane and I’m ready to use it if anyone comes at me wrong! Don’t be fooled by my petite size. As my husband jokes, “If someone tried to assault you, once you unleashed that Irish temper they’d run for the hills.”
I am not seen as a minority even though I was not born in this country because the color of my skin wouldn’t make some crazed, white supremacist immediately scream, “Get out of my country! You don’t belong here!” while brandishing his big, bad machine gun. (Um, compensating for something, guy?)
However, where I was born in N. Ireland, there would DEFINITELY be areas I would NOT be welcome, still to this day.
As A White Person, Should I Be “Color Blind” to a Person’s Race?
As a white chick with a hyper-sensitive personality, I feel so helpless and so hurt by what I’ve read and can actually stomach watching in regards to people of color being treated as less than human at the hands of police. Admittedly, I have not and cannot bring myself to watch the George Floyd or Elijah McLain videos. I would honestly go into a seizure because they would cause me to cry so hard. I cry enough simply reading about what transpired.
It is eerily frightening because literally as I was writing this, my doorbell rang. No one comes to our door unannounced. Ever. Our front desk calls to permit any visitor into our building. I have a service dog, who is a rescue and extremely protective of me. I could only open the door slightly so she wouldn’t run out. Well, who was standing there, outside my door? A police officer! My heart dropped.
In the matter of a few seconds, all these thoughts flew through my head:
What did he want?
Why was he at my door?
Why didn’t the front desk call to say the police were coming to the door?
Is the government monitoring my social media and this blog (well, probably, but anyway…) and alerted the local police?
I’m not doing anything illegal, am I?
Of course I’m not doing anything illegal! So why is he here?
Admittedly, he was extremely polite and was simply trying to determine which apartment’s terrace had an umbrella that reportedly looked like it was going to fall into the street. Nevertheless, the immediate dread that coursed through my veins at seeing a policeman outside my door threw me into such a panic, I had a minor seizure 10 minutes later.
I believe I got just a hint of what a person of color goes through every time they encounter a police officer.
So, I thought to myself all day, can I do better? And if so, how?
It’s soooo cliche, I know I know, but I have dear friends of all creeds and colors. Yet, I can’t think of a time where I spoke in detail with any friends of color about their experience living in this country as a minority.
I have several Muslim friends, who I did speak with following 911 and other more recent incidents about the racism against Muslims. I have a friend who is Asian, but was adopted as a very young child by an Italian family. We’ve talked about what she jokingly terms being “Fasian” (Fake Asian). There’s a huge Latino population where I live. So, I have Cuban, Columbian, Ecuadorian, etc., friends. We’ve merely talked about how I apparently raise my voice when I try to speak Spanish. My black friends were just my friends. I never thought twice about their skin color. So, we never discussed it.
I don’t know if it’s because I’ve traveled so extensively and met people from so many varied cultures, or my upbringing, in which I learned to simply see an individual as a person and to only judge them by their character-not by their color or religion. So, I suppose I was “color blind”, or tried to be because that’s what I thought was proper.
I now understand that being “color blind” also makes me blind to a person of color’s experiences.
In law school one of my favorite professors was a Black man, Shavar Jeffries, Esq. He went to Duke undergrad and then Columbia University School of Law. Further, he was the recipient of multiple scholarships and the Managing Editor of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review. For those unfamiliar with the wondrous world of law school, being the Managing Editor of a Law Review is reserved for only the brightest, most distinguished students.
SIDE NOTE: I was not a very distinguished law school student… I excelled in the classes I enjoyed, but courses like Tax, Corporations and such-if I even showed up to class I never understood a thing. It may as well have been taught in Chinese, and TRUST-my grades reflected this loud and clear. If you looked at my transcript, you’d see immediately if I either A.) Liked the subject, or B.) Liked the Professor.
Back to the point: Professor Jeffries was so intimidatingly intelligent, I felt meek sitting there in his class. I grew up with a father who dropped his genius-level IQ into any conversation. He had me doing MENSA puzzles as a kid. Thus, I had not come across many teachers who I profoundly respected so much that I was hesitant to voice my opinions lest he/she think less of me.
Professor Jeffries, now this was a man on a level I really had never encountered. I was in the Honor’s Program throughout undergrad on essentially a full-ride scholarship. I also received a scholarship to law school. So of course, I had extremely bright professors, yet no one like Jeffries!
The class Professor Jeffries taught was an elective on civil rights. I had huge dreams of being a civil rights attorney, working for the ACLU, arguing Constitutional Law before esteemed justices. Yeah, didn’t happen! Anyway, I was so excited for this class.
Then we had our first class. If my jaw remained dropped the entire length of class I would not be surprised. I literally walked out with two friends, who were also very intelligent men, kind of shell-shocked. I said, “I don’t know if I should drop this class because that professor is waaay too smart. He’s going to fail me and my GPA is going to plummet!” Nevertheless, I remained enrolled.
THIS IS THE REAL POINT
As I was contemplating the idea of being “color blind” I suddenly flashed back to that civil rights class with Professor Jeffries. Frankly, I don’t recall what court case we were discussing, but I believe it related to Jim Crow laws.
Hopefully if you’re reading this lengthy Post, you know that Jim Crow laws mandated racial segregation in all public facilities in the South. In fact, in 1896 the United States Supreme Court upheld those laws in the infamous case of Plessy vs. Ferguson. That case established the “separate but equal” legal doctrine. Regardless of what actual case we were discussing, it had to do with racial inequality.
While I will never be able to express the idea as eloquently as my brilliant professor, he essentially argued that we cannot just be “color blind” and not see someone’s race, or the color of their skin.
I’ll adamantly admit – this notion went completely over my head. Again, because I respected him, but also because I was so intimidated by his intelligence I did not push him more to explain. I wish I had, looking back.
Only now, about 15 years later – I get it! My Eureka moment only took 15 years. 🤦♀️
While me, the white, flaming liberal who thought it was completely wrong to look at a person and see their race, by placing “virtual blinders” on I was ignoring or failing to acknowledge that person’s experiences and perspectives as a person of color!
The Conclusion, Finally!
In conclusion, finally, I know:
I know and always knew that I cannot speak from the perspective, or to the experience of a person of color living in America. It’s just like no one can truly speak from the perspective, or to the experience of a person with cancer unless they’ve been in the trenches and battled, or are battling the cancer beast.
Even though the Irish faced much of the same racism and bigotry people of color faced, and continue to face, it’s still not the same.
While I am a female, disabled, immigrant who has faced my own forms of discrimination, again – it’s still not the same.
Although with the best of intentions, I’ve lived my life “color blind”. However, I can no longer do that because in doing so, I blind myself to that person’s experiences and perspectives as a person of color.
Again, this Blog was never intended to address political issues. Rather, I created it to document my struggle through brain cancer. Yes, I always planned to include motivational pieces, essays on facing the “beast” that is cancer like struggling with fear and pain, and so forth.
I NEVER thought I’d be writing about a new civil rights movement, police brutality and death – not because of a physical disease, but because of the color of one’s skin.
I certainly NEVER thought I’d have to write about living through a worldwide pandemic that has now killed over 500,000 people and infected at least10 million people! 🤯🤯🤯 Um, it ain’t a hoax people and it ain’t going away!
If you’ve been following my series on the disaster we’re all living through, “WHAT CENTURY IS THIS?” in each Section, I’ve touched on a lot of hot-button issues.
In conjunction with my series, I truly felt compelled to write about a few more recent incidents. Sadly, I think they’ll just keep happening, or past murders will continue to come into the limelight. I pray this violence ends soon and that better days are a ‘comin. I also pray that the families of loved ones who were murdered by the police find peace, and are compensated for these wrongful deaths.
I HAVE TO ASK, IN THE INFAMOUS WORDS OF JOHN LENNON, WHY CANT WE ALL
“JUST GIVE PEACE A CHANCE”?
A Little Bit About My AntiestablishmentAttitude
Before I get into these most recent incidents, I’ll give you a lil background about my antiestablishment attitude and “inner hippie chick”.
I was raised Roman Catholic, Yes. I suffered through Catholic school literally my entire life! From grammar school, to high school then onto college and even law school-they were ALL Catholic. Yet, in high school I refused to be Confirmed because it is literally the sacrament where you are supposed to be confirming that you want to remain a devout Catholic. As a baby, you’re baptized but of course, it’s not your “choice”-it’s your parent’s choice. I mean, you’re a baby. All you do is cry, sleep, puke and poop. (Are you comforted that I’m not a mother? 😂)
By high school, I had already decided I did not believe in the institution of the Catholic Church. Thus, why would I get Confirmed? So I didn’t.
After that decision, my mother pretty much refused to speak to me until I graduated high school. Yet, my parents didn’t go to Church. To this day, I’m still scarred from my grammar school nuns. It probably also goes without saying, but I am truly sickened by the abuse both priests and nuns afflicted upon children (many nuns were abused by priests as well). The Church knew of this systemic abuse and did absolutely nothing except move these abusers to other parishes. Then, the abuse continued and they’d simply be placed into yet another parish.
Side note: If this history interests you, look into Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries, also known as Magdalene asylums. I warn you though. It’s beyond disturbing, as in you may not sleep afterwards. The “laundries” were run by the Catholic Church, but were also supported by the government and high-powered businesses all throughout Ireland. Specifically, the laundries in Galway and one run by Bon Secours nuns in Tuam have a horrid history. Again, be warned! The last “laundry” only closed in Dublin in the 1990s. These places were not only allowed to run, but were in fact supported by an institution that was considered ALL POWERFUL (i.e. the Church) controlled by the patriarchy that existed throughout the country. People knew of the atrocities committed within the laundries, but you could never speak ill of the Church, until very recently.
My high school was quite a prestigious, all-girls prep school run by nuns, although most teachers were thankfully NOT nuns. Nevertheless, we had to take umpteen religion classes, attend Church processions in our auditorium and be “good Catholic girls” who didn’t wear their skirts too short (P.S. 90% of us did anyway), sign “Honor Codes” that we would not drink and/or use drugs (P.S. 90% of us did anyway) and all the other hypocritical B.S. they made us do.
I absolutely believe in God, angels, spirituality, the power of prayer, and that God has a purpose for all of us. However, personally I am staunchly opposed to the Catholic institution and its power. Now that’s just me.
Overall, most religions’ basic principles are the same:
Be kind to your fellow man, or “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”
We are all one, all children of “God” (however you define that even if it’s just “Spirit”). Thus, we are all equal
Care for the poor, the sick, those in need, etc.
Unless you believe in some extreme, fundamental principle and claim it’s “religion”, we all know that we should not murder or harm our fellow man
So, when it comes to religion, I simply say I’m “spiritual. I also have an “inner hippie chick” side. I look back at movies and documentaries from the 60’s and still can’t grasp why hippies were so deeply frowned upon/hated. I listen to tons of classic rock music. I just returned from 2 weeks in Saugerties, NY where the actual Woodstock Festival took place. Although, I love the town of Woodstock as well. My idols include Stevie Nicks and Gloria Steinem, who I actually met at an event! (Swoon)
The true hippie stood for peace, love, and equality. They were involved in the civil rights movement, the women’s rights movement, and stood alongside the original Black Panthers. They protested against the Vietnam War. We know the atrocities committed during that War and those long haired, “groovy” kids were right! We should have never been involved in that War.
Crazy Side Note: My FIL is one of the best men I’ve ever known. He came over to the States from Ireland in the 60’s. His aunt, who put him up, forced him to register his name and address at the post office. Why? I have no idea. That man wasn’t even an American citizen, but got drafted and went to Vietnam!! Personally, I would have been on the next plane back to Ireland. Hell, I would have tried to swim back!! No. Instead he fought for a country that was not even his own, won a Purple Heart amongst many other medals of honor.
So, the hippies of the 60’s stood against the “establishment”, which doesn’t seem to have changed much since then!
Recent, Disturbing Incidents of Continued Violence
So basically looking back on the late 1960s and into the 70’s, people of color alongside white people protested in the streets over MANY OF THE SAME ISSUES AS THEY ARE TODAY!
After decades upon decades of protests, marches, sit-ins, Walk-outs, speeches, efforts to increase minority and women’s rights, efforts to increase the number of minorities and women in government, and on and on… people who stand-up for equality and peace are continuously degraded and out-right terrorized!
I simply cannot address all of the violence that’s been reported recently. I’d never leave my computer. However, I did want to highlight a few.
The Louisville Incident
Protesters, who have demanded the officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s death be charged, had created what looked like their own tent city in Jefferson Square Park in downtown Louisville.
Overall, things were peaceful in the area until around 9:00 pm Saturday, June 27th.
A fellow “protester” Steven Nelson Lopez is currently in police custody [at the time I’m writing this] because at around 9 that night, he began shooting a firearm into the large crowd at the park. Apparently, bystanders returned fire in self-defense.
Tyler Charles Gerth, (27) was shot and killed. He was a University of Kentucky graduate, and a “budding photographer”. He was also known and active in the protest movement. What a devastating loss to this Movement.
Lopez was shot in the leg during the incident, and has been charged with murder. He had been camping at Jefferson Square for some time, but reports indicate he’d been asked to leave earlier in the day by other protesters for his “disruptive behavior”. He was also arrested twice in the last two weeks.
So, what had been a peaceful place for protesters turned into mayhem that night.
Murder of Oluwatoyin Salau
Oluwatoyin Salau was a 19-year-old Black Lives Matter activist. She disappeared in June. She sent a series of Tweets describing a sexual assault. A desperate search for her began. Sadly, she was found dead in Tallahassee, FL. Uhh, Florida!
Aaron Glee Jr., apparently confessed and was charged with her murder and kidnapping, as well as another woman.
Police admit Ms. Salau contacted them to report the assault she described in her Tweets, but they do not believe there was a connection between the assault and her killing.
Right now, our lives matter, black lives matter. We are doing this for our brothers and our sisters who got shot but we are doing this for every black person. I am profiled whether I like it or not.
Organizers in Tallahassee spoke about “how powerful her words were, how motivated she was to be more involved in the movement and share that activism with those around her.” What another devastating loss to this Movement.
Murder of Elijah McClainand Violence At a Peaceful Vigil In His Honor
On June 27th, hundreds gathered in Aurora, Colorado, to protest the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old black man who was murdered by Aurora police back in 2019. To understand why his death is coming to light now, we must understand who this young man was to so many.
Mr. McClain was a massage therapist who loved animals. He taught himself to play the guitar and the violin. That is NO easy task! He would actually spend lunch breaks at shelters playing the violin for stray cats and dogs because he believed it helped soothe them. He liked to dance. He was a vegetarian. He was a son and a brother.
Some of his friends and teachers said, “Elijah was a shining star.” He was a person, “who would actually make humanity better.” Another friend said, “He was just welcoming and loving and kindness.”
He was 5 feet 6 inches and weighed 140 pounds at the time of his death.
Can you think of a more peaceful soul?
To understand why people are demanding justice, you unfortunately must understand how he was killed.
Elijah McClain’s Murder
All of these murders are vicious, unwarranted and the police who committed them should be held accountable! Elijah’s murder seems like a pure punch to the gut as I read more and more about it. So, as I’m writing this, I am shedding ugly, ugly tears, asking “Why, God? Why?”
Back to the point… Mr. McClain was walking home from a convenience store on August 24, 2019. Someone called 911, saying he “looked sketchy”, wearing a ski mask and waving his arms around. He was anemic so he would get cold easily. Hence, why he wore a ski mask in August.
When police arrived, they immediately tried to handcuff him. However, there was a struggle. Elijah stated that he did not need to stop walking home, when ordered by one officer. One officer responded that he had a right to stop Mr. McClain for looking suspicious, and grabbed him by the arms. Another officer approached and Mr. McClain said, “I am an introvert, please respect the boundaries that I am speaking. Leave me alone.” He was told to “stop resisting” when he put his arms up to his chest and to “stop tensing up.” The body cam footage shows Mr. McClain pleading with the officers to let go of him, and trying to get out of their grip. The officers thew him to the ground and used a carotid hold, which restricts blood to the brain to render someone unconscious.
I don’t think it’s any surprise ALL THREE OFFICERS’ BODY CAMS “FELL OFF” during this part of the encounter!
While detained and on the ground, Elijah vomited several times. He actually apologized, saying, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to do that, I can’t breathe correctly.” Mr. McClain had chronic asthma.
At one point, an officer said, he would use his dog on him if he did not “stop messing around.”
After approximately 15 minutes, EMTs arrived and injected him with ketamine, a powerful sedative.
My father is a veterinarian and ketamine is used to sedate animals! You have to be very careful with animals and injecting the drug based upon the weight and any medical condition that animal may have.
I was not even AWARE EMTs used ketamine on people! In the body camera footage, one officer said that fellow officers had “put him out” with a carotid hold twice, “at least once successfully,” meaning Mr. McClain had already lost consciousness! So why the need to sedate him?
Mr. McClain went into cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital, passing away several days later.
An autopsy report by the Adams County coroner said that the cause of death was “undetermined,” and that it could have been a result of natural causes, a homicide related to the carotid hold, or an accident…. The 3 officers remain on the force and no charges were brought against them. I’ll just allow my rage to sit here with this utter B.S.
More Atrocious Police Violence At a Peaceful Vigil In Elijah’s Honor
Now, back to the fantastic year of 2020… On June 27th, thousands marched to honor Elijah and to demand justice in his name.
There were speeches outside the Aurora Municipal Building and protesters then held a vigil for Elijah with a violin performance, as he had been an avid, talented violinist. The protest was organized by students from Denver Public Schools and Aurora Public Schools. Lynnsie Holloway, a 17-year-old Black student from Denver East High School, said that she and the other students joined together because they were “upset by the lack of attention McClain’s death has received.”
Many also gathered outside the Aurora Police Department. However, that was a different group than those at the vigil.
So, at this beautiful, peaceful vigil organized by students, filled with music… the “Storm Troopers” arrived!
While the music was still playing, storms of police marching shoulder-to-shoulder in full riot gear surrounded the crowd. They began pepper-spraying people and using batons to push the crowds trying to flee. Police also attempted to make arrests. They claimed they were trying to get the crowd to move off the grass into a parking lot, utilizing bull-horns and firing warning shots into the air.
At the very least, the “carotid hold” the chokehold used on Elijah, has now been banned in Aurora, but only in the past few weeks. Prosecutors will also reexamine the case to see if charges should be brought against the 3 officers involved.
SO AGAIN, I HAVE TO ASK, WHY CANTWE JUST GIVE PEACE A F—-ING CHANCE?
This “Babe”just got accepted to a writing program that aides writers fulfill their ultimate dream – to be published!
I took the chance 2 days ago, since I’ve been meaning to do this for ages, and submitted 3 short articles to a writing program. This program’s goal is to aide writers get their work published. In a sense, they are similar to a writing agent, but they don’t take a cut of any profit made from your writing. I see this as the first stepping-stone to my true dream – publishing a book.
When I received the acceptance letter via email yesterday, I was shocked by how quickly they responded. When you apply, they state it can take weeks for a response. In the acceptance letter, the company stated they reject 80% of applicants. Now, my “lawyer brain” still works, on occasion. So, I immediately thought, “Is this some marketing ploy?”. If so, that would be a major misrepresentation.
I had a telephone conference today and was very frank in asking that question. The company’s representative clearly understood my hesitation. However, she explained that their Review Board does indeed reject most applicants. She further explained that the Board will only take on clients they’re confident in, and believe can get their work published. Essentially, they don’t want to waste anyone’s time. Okay, totally understandable. Additionally, the representative explained they suggest very targeted publications where the writer submits his/her work so that the chances of being published are far greater than blindly sending your work out.
There are no guarantees, of course. Yet, considering their quick response and then accepting me into the program, I believe this “Brain Cancer Babe” is on-track and well on her way to getting published! Yippee!