Half My Life Recording History

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“Can everyone gather in the middle of the newsroom?” My boss said. 

I cringed.

I don’t have time for this, I thought.

I was looking for new video of a stranger punching a bicyclist in the face when my boss called out. I was also waiting for the Belmar drowning package and looking at an update about the jury in Cosby Sex Assault trial. 

“Nika!”

I didn’t know who called my name but I figured I’d better take a few moments away from my desk to see what was going on.

As my boss strolled towards me, I realized all eyes were on me. 

In a panic, I turned to walk away. When I did, I hit a cup in my co-worked Bryan’s hand. Soda covered his jacket and t-shirt. I broke away from the gathering, limped over to to my desk as fast as my cane would carry me, and grabbed napkins.

“Where are you going?” 

“I don’t want to leave Bryan soggy,” I replied. 

Seconds later, I felt a hand on the small of my back.

“Nika has been at ABC 20 years,” my boss said as she extended her hand forward. It contained a pin.

Wow, I’ve come to this place for nearly half my life, I thought, as she continued speaking.

“She always comes in with a smile on her face even though she’s been through so much. She deserves to be here. She deserves to be on this Earth.”

Her words choked me up. They made me think about all I survived in my years there; it’s enough to fill a medical journal. In fact, I had one of my two mini strokes when i was sitting at my desk.

Despite my health battles, I showed up to give a voice to other people’s pain, as well as the struggles and triumphs of the world. 

Through my medical strife, my job was a refuge. For eight or nine hours a day, I didn’t fret about the tests, the pain, the pills, the surgeries or the bills. I didn’t worry about my mortality. 

As I made my way back to my desk, there were hugs and shouts of congratulations. Sometimes I said thank you. Other times, I said, “is this really good news? I still have another two decades to retirement.”

I was uncomfortable with the attention. But, I was glad anyone cared that I reached a milestone that I wasn’t sure I’d live to see 20 years ago. 

Am I Losing My Humanity?

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Am I losing my humanity? That’s the question that went through my mind when my boss called a meeting in the newsroom and told us our co-worker, Mike Lynn, passed away. I felt numb when I thought I’d crumble.

Seconds later, my chest began feel heavy; it was weighed down by my sorrow but the tears didn’t come. My head hurt and I wasn’t thinking clearly but I knew there was no time to break down. I only had minutes until the 6 p.m. show.  And, I still had work to do. 

I tried not to think about the fact the Mike collapsed feet from where I was sitting. He too showed up for work today feeling under the weather but I was less than a half hour from going home while he wouldn’t.

Honestly, I didn’t see Mike often. He worked the overnight shift and I was on days. However, we were hardly strangers. His scripts were always filed in the rundown. I often used them as a base for my work in later shows. Whenever there was a snowstorm he worked late and I came in early. On those days, he’d stop to catch me up on his kids, office politics or current events. In recent years we became friends online. He’d like my posts, sometimes comment and occasionally send me a note in messenger to let me know he’d eaten some of my candy so he left me cash for some more.

It’s hard to believe that one of the most reliable co-workers I’ve had since the 90’s is no more. We are, or should I say we were, the last two full-time writers. Now I am alone and I don’t like it.

I will miss his wit, his humor, his intellect and his stories.  This thought made me cry on the train ride home. I guess years of covering tragedy hasn’t stolen my humanity; I still feel the pain of losing another co-worker suddenly and far too soon. 

A Gift from Beyond the Grave

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I almost never exclaim with glee in the newsroom. All too often I’m in the verge of tears because I’m covering one tragedy after another. But, this morning I was overcome with happiness. On my desk was a box containing candy from my late co-worker Mary Lilly’s husband, Jim. 

I hadn’t spoken to him she passed suddenly in December. The truth is I’m still in shock over the loss. I miss her stories, her kind words, her constant inquiries about my health and willingness to help, and her boisterous laugh. I miss my friend. 

Seeing that candy made the smile for the first time in months. Memories  of Mary providing lollipops and mints to the right side of the newsroom in edit room four came flooding back. I would supply the left side of the room.

I gladly shared that candy with my co-workers in her honor. I told everyone who gave us the unexpected treat. It was a sweet reminder of the little things Mary did to make every aspect of my life better.

#rip #marylilly #coworkers #randomactofkindness #tvnews #journalism #chronicillness #autoimmunedisease  #nyc 

Worst News Possible

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The stress of holding in my tears caused my shoulders to ache, my back to tighten and my head to hurt. I knew I had to hold in my tears;  that was the only way I’d get through the rest of my day at work without breaking down into an ugly cry.

I knew something was horribly wrong when I saw people surrounding Donna in the back of the newsroom. Donna’s makeup was running. Her face was red and there was a line to hug her. I knew it was bad but I didn’t think it was the worst news possible.

I figured out I was wrong when I overheard Donna say she got a call. What call? I thought. From who? What happened? Just then our six o’clock producer passed me. I blurted out, “what’s going on? ” I saw his mouth moving and I heard the words but my brain couldn’t process what he was saying. He said, “Mary died.”

My heart hurt. So I clutched it and muttered, “Oh no. No. It can’t be.”  I realized how dramatic I was acting so I turned to him and said, “thank you for telling me.”

I turned back to my computer screen and my mind was blank. How the hell am I supposed to break down these stories when I can’t think? I wondered. I tried to calm myself by breathing and stretching. I was okay until my boss came, placed her hand on my back and asked how I was doing, how my dad, who had also been ill, was doing. Tears clouded my vision as I blinked rapidly to hold them in. I said “I’m okay. He’s okay. We’re still here.”

Moments after she walked away, Donna walked towards me looking dazed. I did what I don’t normally do. I reached out, grabbed her, pulled her to me and told her I loved her. I wished I could’ve done something more to ease her pain but I knew I couldn’t.

Donna and Mary had practically become sisters; they were the best of friends. Donna provided all of the updates on Mary following her visits to Mary in the hospital. 

Mary had fallen a few months back, breaking what I believe to be her pelvis. She spent some time in the hospital in Connecticut then was transferred to a rehabilitation center near home in New York. 

I thought she was on the mend, especially because she posted a message on my linked in page a few weeks earlier. Yet, a couple of weeks later, we learned that Mary was back in the hospital. Rumors swirled: her liver was failing, she was in a coma, she was suffering from a life threatening infection.

 Last week, Mary’s boss purchased a card for the staff to sign to cheer her up. By the time I got to it at 11 am, it was full. So I went out at lunch and bought another one. This one had a basket on the front. Mary loved to make baskets for baby showers, weddings; really any occasion. She made them for me during my many hospitalizations due to my chronic illness. And, she always made sure there were a pair pajamas in there for me. She knew I collected them. 

Donna took the cards to Mary and then reported back. She told us Mary was improving but not out of the woods. Still, she hoped Mary would get transferred to a regular room soon. She hoped and we hoped. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. 

Mary left us before I could visit as I had promised on Christmas Day. She left us with the snowman filled with candy she bought to make everyone’s day brighter. She left me with the fiancé she encouraged me to have a milkshake with six years ago. She left the station with a body of work that won’t be forgotten. She left the world devoid of one more kind, loving human being. But, she left us all better because we knew her. Rest in peace, Mary. I loved you! 

Love Amid Lawlessness Cured Me

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Geography has haunted me for two weeks straight: Louisiana, Minnesota, Texas, France and Turkey. Another place meant another tragedy to cover at work; another slew of funerals to write about with dignity and respect. I thought I was doing it all with ease until Friday night I passed out in the middle of texting with my neighbor. When I opened my eyes on Saturday morning to wake my fiancé, my legs were weak, my vision was blurry and my brain felt like it was throbbing.

I laid down and put on my sleep mask. I took several deep breaths as I listened to my fiancé get ready for work. I felt calmer although my whole body had stiffened so much the cervical area of my spine was so stiff I could barely lift my head.

I rolled over and turned on the tv. As the news headlines flashed across the screen, the events I’d written about flashed through my head. I could feel my stress level rising. At the same time, my pain increased. This was the moment I realized my stressful work condition may actually be making me sicker.

I tried to distance thoughts by dragging myself through the house to collect the trash for disposal, start the laundry, and pick up anything that wasn’t in its place. Once that was done and one small errand was run, I headed to the mailbox. By then, I felt hot and faint. So, I snatched everything out and headed inside.

I collapsed on to the bed, swallowed my morning dose of medication, an assortment of nine pills, and began going through the mail. A giant envelope stood out. The return address indicated it was from my friend Karen.


I poured the contents onto the comforter beside me. The first thing I saw was a card drawn by her children that said, “our mommy loves you.” Tears welled in my eyes and a broad smile crossed my lips. Then, I saw a yellow post it. It was covering a bracelet called warrior. The card attached read: “remember that true glory is rising every time you fall… You are so strong, so fearless, so powerful. You are a warrior, stronger than you have ever been.” I sobbed as I put it on and read another card letting me know I was in her prayers.

Silently, I thought to myself I was too blessed to be stressed by work or anything else. I swear, instantly my body felt lighter and my pain decreased. I relaxed back onto my pillow as I listened to Yolanda Adams sing, “Sometimes life can place a stumbling block in your way but you’re gotta keep the faith, bring what’s deep inside your heart yeah your heart to the light and never give up. Don’t ever give up on you. No don’t give up.” I sang along and drifted off to sleep knowing I can never give up because I have faith, love and friendship in my life to lift me up when I’m down.

Testimony: Agony and Ecstasy: A Good Reason to Sacrifice

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I always hated when people said, “no pain, no gain.” But, I learned first-hand, the other night that agony and ecstasy sometimes go hand in hand. My grand revelation came during the musical Aladdin in Manhattan.

My day began like many others except, for one thing, I was holding tickets to a Broadway show and I didn’t pay for them. The executive assistant to the General Manager at the television station where I work sent out a note stating their office had received a handful of free tickets to the show. To get your wish for a pair of tickets granted, employees merely had to reply to the email. We were told they’d be given out on a first come, first serve basis.

Now usually I would’ve missed an email like this because I get anywhere between one and two hundred emails on any given day. Add to that, the number of stories I research, write and edit and there is very little time to pay attention to anything frivolous. But, as luck would have it, my fiancé was at my desk when the message came in. He appeared to look at my screen, prompting me to read it. I immediately hit reply. A few hours later, I was notified that I was one of the lucky few going to the show.

Without even thinking about it, I fired off an email to my mother to invite her. I knew it would be a welcome break from the boredom of her retirement and the stress of caring for my dad who has been battling seizures. The majority of time she left home, she came to care for me following my multiple procedures to restore my ability to walk without persistent pain. Of course, she emailed back to say she would be thrilled to go.

Two days before my big night out, Mary, a new Executive Assistant in the office and most constant lunch companion, spared me from making the difficult trip two flights up with my cane to pick up my tickets. I didn’t know it then but getting the tickets would be the easy task.

The day of the show my mom called to check and see I how was feeling. Even though my shoulder was already giving me trouble, I didn’t let on. I decided not to take my evening pain pill; I didn’t want it to make me sleep during the show. I wasn’t certain I ‘d be able to make it nearly four hours, with commuting time, without my pills but I felt I had to risk it. By 6:15 when I left work, I was already massaging my shoulder and the top of my back.

I was five minutes late meeting my mom at the New Amsterdam Theater on 42nd Street but she didn’t mind. We hustled through the crowd, me with my cane by my side, until we reached the orchestra. I paused, wondering if the steep incline leading to our seats would be a problem. It was; I felt pulling I my legs and back but I made it.

Halfway through the first act, I felt pins in my back, legs and feet. I tried to discreetly rub my limps to relieve the irritation but it wasn’t long before my mother noticed me wincing from sharp pains. I reassured her I’d be fine and we went back to watching the show.

When the curtain went down and the house lights came up, I tried to stand up but both feet were numb, my knees were achy and my back hurt as far down as my waist. Without a word, my mother reached for my coat. She held it up so I could still my arms through the sleeves without wrenching my shoulder. She then stood beside me as the theater cleared out as I tried to gather myself for the trip home. While we stood there it hit me that the pain I was feeling was worth it.

You see, my mother has never complained about the pain she went through bringing me into the world. She never dwelled on the sacrifices she made to dropping everything to stay at my house after procedures to make sure my bandages and ice packs are changed, I had my medication, my meals are made, my body was washed and my days filled with laughter.

I watched her take one final gaze at the set and I suddenly became ecstatic; I was thrilled I could give provide her with her first theater experience in years. More importantly, I was overjoyed that I could put a smile on the face of the woman who’d given me so many.

Also I thought about what the Bible says, “The righteous person may have many troubles but the Lord delivers him from them all,” Psalms 34:19. So, as I made my way home cautiously, I knew I’d be okay because my mother wasn’t alone in watching out for my well-being; I always have God in my corner too.

Mondays Just Got A Little More Bearable

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Testimony: Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for everyday. Still, I’m not a fan of Mondays; it means the weekend is over and the work day is here. Plus, this Monday, I woke up to a pain in my back, neck, across my collar bone and shoulder blade and to the news that David Bowe died. As a child of the seventies and eighties, I knew his music; it transcended color. As an adult and a journalist, I knew my day would consist of sharing what I know about his legacy and the other events going on in the world with New York television viewers. But first, I had to talk myself into getting out of the bed.

Just as I predicted, I was assigned to the Bowe obituary and eight other stories at noon, most of them tragedies. Yet, I didn’t focus on the morbid nature of my job. My co-worker Diana, came over and shared an update about her son’s recovery. This young man, little more than half my age, suffered a devastating injury that threatened his life, mobility and memory. Yet, there he was in the photos reclaiming his future bit by bit; it was in him I saw the endless possibilities that perseverance, medical help, faith and family can make. I stopped my whining and took action. I picked up the phone to report my newfound discomfort to my doctor. Then, I went back to work.

At around noon, the manager of the wedding venue I booked two and a half year earlier called. Lymphoma surgeries and nearly a dozen other procedures afterwards, including rebuilding my stomach prompted me to postpone my wedding. Yet, now my fiancé and I had decided to begin again. I’d sent email expressing my interest to get back on track and less than a hour later Adriel called me.

I’d figured the venue manager, Adriel, wouldn’t remember me but he did. He said my note, specifically the line that said I wanted to get married before anything else happened, spoke to him. He said he couldn’t let it pass. He told me he called to let me know I was a walking miracle; an example of what can go right with determination, intelligence and faith. He shared I am good writer, who by sharing her experience, has no doubt made a difference. And, he assured me God isn’t done with me yet. Then, he offered to pray with me.

I reminded him that we spoke the same day my doctor told me I needed my first lymphoma surgery years ago and he prayed with me then too. I told him how his words calmed me, bolstered my faith and gave me the courage to walk into a surgeon’s office to face an uncertain faith. This stranger, a man I barely know, offered to pay for dinner for my fiancé and I. Why? He said we need to stop thinking about how far we’ve come instead we should focus on where we are headed together; in short, he said it’s time to celebrate our bond.

Humbled, I hung up the phone and forgot my pain. I breezed through my fourteen voiceovers for the afternoon shows and waited for the clock to strike 6:30.

As I hobbled out the door, holding my arm close to my body, so my walking wouldn’t cause anymore pain, a friend of mine, a cameraman named Gus, asked if I was driving or taking the train. I told him I was headed his way. Slowly I meandered across the four streets to the train with Gus by my side. He even waited as I inched down the stairs and showed me constant concern. And, he even stood beside me until his stop came.

Alone at Penn Station, I climbed up the stairs to the deli to get something for dinner. I saw two black kids walk up carrying snacks they were using to raise money. Instead of sending them on their way the beer vendor took out a five dollar bill. He then told them to give the snacks to the homeless people standing against the wall. The boys did so happily.

I’m still not thrilled with Mondays but this one showed me everyday is an opportunity to make yourself and the world a little better. A kind word, random act of kindness of sharing good news can turn a difficult day into a blessing.