The People In Your Neighborhood

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Rain was falling lightly as I walked the quarter mile to my townhouse in Newark from the light rail. I was mentally and physically exhausted. A huge workload combined with the stresses of operating a new writing and editing system with glitches in a high energy newsroom wore me out. Add to that my ongoing health sagas (getting an analysis of the lumps in my chest, refilling my medications and booking doctors appointments) and I was ready to eat dinner and go to bed.

I was climbing the nearly dozen stairs to my front door while balancing my work bag, cane and an umbrella when an unmarked white van pulled up. A man emerged carrying a box. He flashed an awkward smile and walked up my neighbor Monica’s stairs.

“She’s not home,” I shouted.

“I have two boxes for her,” he replied.

“Give them to me. I don’t want to get wet. Besides, I know she needs them.”

I carried them inside then sent her a text.

The day before, she and I talked about checking on some of the elderly neighbors in our cul de sac. We’d both been more vigilant since one person died in her home at Christmas time and wasn’t found for a couple of days. Monica and I always check on each other. We have for years. In fact, we met when she saw and ambulance pull up outside my house. She asked if I was alone and needed help. I didn’t that day but we exchanged numbers. We’ve been looking out for each other ever since.

As I waited for Monica’s reply to my text, I wondered if other people are close to their neighbors. The thought reminded me of a song I first heard on Sesame Street, “Who are the people in your neighborhood?” Do you know?

#neighbors #peopleinyourneighborhood #sesamestreet #newark #tvnews #editing #writing #autoimmunedisease #chronicpain #chronicillness #disability

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Breaking Point

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There’s only so much one person can take. I’ve reached my breaking point over and over again.

I’d sometimes look over at the vat of pills on my dining room table that contains enough lethal dosages to kill several people and think I could take an excessive amount and everyone would think it was a tragic accident. My passing would spare my family, friends and myself from the misery of living with a chronic illness; the autoimmune disease IGG4-rd that has damaged my organs and cost me more money that I may be able to repay.

During those moments, I’d wonder what everyone else’s life would be life if they no longer had the burden of caring for me, worrying about my test results and thinking about what they could do to help me. I usually picture a few months of sadness followed by years I relief.

I’d imagine my “stepson”, nephew, brothers and parents spending the money left over after paying off my debts through the sale of my house, car and from my insurance policies. I could see them on the vacations they couldn’t take because they were afraid to leave my side. I could also visualize the relaxed, carefree looks on their faces.

Sometimes, I’d cry, wishing I could experience a life with them without the condition that has come to define my adult life. Other times, I’d drop to my knees and pray for solace.  I never heard the voice of God in response to my pleas but I’d feel a sense of resignation. I’d struggle to my feet, flop down into my bed, pull up the sheets and rock myself to sleep. In the morning, the wonder was still there but the longing to give in would be gone.

I consider the day that the notion that I’ve been defeated by my illness waned as my Independence Day; I’m now free from the anguish of those thoughts. Since then, I’ve made a conscious decision to be brutally honest about my feelings. I’ve chosen to use them and the knowledge I’ve gained from battling for my survival to help others facing those weak moments.

I know that right now my voice in the world is small. I haven’t reach nearly as many people I’d hoped with my blog or my memoir, Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House. But, as long as I’m alive, I have a chance to change that. If I give in, I won’t. So, I don’t.

 

#independenceday #suicide #chronicillness #igg4 #autoimmunedisease #chronicpain #disability #misdiagnosed #memoir #powerofprayer #healing

 

Not Enough Money To Repay My Father

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My father wasn’t my favorite person when I was a child. If I asked how to spell a word he’d say, “look it up in the dictionary or sound it out.” If I asked when or where an event occurred he’d say, “look in the encyclopedia.” If I asked how to fix something he’d say, “I’ll tell you what to do and you can do it yourself.”

If I forgot to do the dishes he’d wake me up to do them. If I came home late, my time out with friends was shorter the next day. And, if I did something wrong there was always a barrage of questions “like why did you do that?”

My father was tough on me. He made it clear he had rules and morals I was supposed to live by. At the time, It all seemed overwhelming. However, I can look back now and see my father gave me the framework for my life. He taught me to find the answers to my questions, solve my own problems and live up to my responsibilities.

I wish I could repay him. I wish I could afford to take him on trips around the world like he took me. I wish I could pay off the home that he bought that still provides a safe haven for me. But, I can’t. So, I’ll spend the rest of my life doing what I can to say thank you to him for the foundation he provided me. Thank you! Happy Father’s Day!
#blackfathers #fatherdaughter #fathersday #family

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. 

Guilty or Innocent, Cosby Has Proved He’s Not “America’s Dad”

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Bill Cosby has entered the courtroom with his head held high nearly every day. But, the truth is Mr. Cosby is the loser no matter what the verdict. 

When allegations began to resurface about Cosby drugging and sexually assaulting women, America was shocked. Why? He’d already publicly battled allegations of infidelity. Yet, I concede that cheating on your wife is far different than raping a woman.

Nearly five dozen women came forward and I still wondered, “Where’s the proof?” I know that there’s not always physical evidence in sexual assault cases. It often comes down to a case of her word versus his. But, in this case, I began to look at the details a group of women revealed that showed a dubious pattern of behavior.

America was expected to believe Cosby because he was “Cliff Huxtable.” And, he was the man who made us laugh for decades, was married for more than 50 years and lectured black America to look in the mirror and take responsibility for their woes.   If we were to believe Cosby did these awful things we’d have to see pass his image to the man. Cosby’s wife Camille urged us not to. She even issued a statement that said in part, “He is the man you thought you knew.”

Of course, I could fathom that “Cliff Huxtable” would cheat on “Claire, let alone drug women in the office in the Huxtable home while his wife slept. Nor could I conceive that the man who sold me pudding in commercials during cartoons in my youth would put Quaaludes in anything I ate or drank. However, I quickly realized that I wasn’t thinking of Cosby. I was focus on the character he played, the personality he displayed in public and not the one that may exist behind closed doors.

The problem is most Americans never knew Cosby because we’d never met the man in private. The women who did claimed he was a predator who used his money, power, influence and reputation to hide his crimes.

I, like everyone else didn’t know what to believe. Then, I read the excerpts from his depositions. He admitted to cheating on his wife for decades, buying Quaaludes for sex with a host of women, and to switching the drug he told Constand he was giving her. He also apologized to Constand’s mother then claims that was a lied because he didn’t want to be thought of a dirty old man. He then told her he’d send her the drug he gave her daughter but never did.  At the end of reading Cosby’s words I knew one thing for sure. He wasn’t my dad or any dad I wanted as an example; he wasn’t “America’s dad” or even a decent man.

Originally published in the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/59441cd5e4b0d188d027fdf0

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 

Wash Away The Pain

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I turned on the shower early this am so the water could drown out my tears. The hot water flowing across my shoulders relaxed me, if only for a few moments. I wanted to scream, shake my fists to the heavens or falls to my knees. But, I couldn’t decide which one to do so I cried. No matter what I did, I couldn’t ease my pain.

I kept thinking about the harsh words from someone I love that wounded my souI so deeply I’m not sure it will ever heal. I could see my father’s face in the hospital as he tries to be brave amid heart trouble. I could see my mother acting as the rock while I know she must be racked with fear like me. I glanced down at my broken toes and bruised arms from the crutches I’m using to get around and thought about the money yet another illness will cost me. I stared at my body riddled with scars from more than 25 procedures because my autoimmune condition and thought, how much more can I take?

I stood under the shower head until my face was only wet by the water coming out from it. Then, I silently prayed for God’s guidance. By the time I stepped out, I had no answers but I was a bit more calm because I’d gotten my pain and fear out and I felt a bit less lonely. All I could do is dry off and begin again. #autoimmunedisease #chronicillness #faith🙏 #backpain #nevergiveup #family #igg4