[Black] Girl, Interrupted

“It’s like you’re screaming and no one can hear you.”-Angelina Jolie as Lisa Rowe “Girl, Interrupted”

One of my favorite movies is the 1999 film “Girl, Interrupted” by James Mangold starring Wynona Ryder and Angelina Jolie[who won an Oscar for her performance as Lisa Rowe]. MV5BMTUyNjUzMjk2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDQyMTAxMw@@._V1_SX640_SY720_This film takes you inside the 18-month stay of Susanna Kaysen in an 1960’s psychiatric hospital following a suicide attempt. Showing a raw and uncut look at the struggles of women from various walks of life with mental illness. Funny thing about this film is that it there are no African-American patients on the ward, one of the only black faces in the movie is that of Whoopi Goldberg who plays nurse Valerie Owens. It wasn’t until recently that I noticed the lack of black faces “on the ward” on this film, but then it occurred to me that this was not because the hospital [in the film] was segregated but because even then mental illness in the African-American community is and still is considered taboo. Why? In 2016, when there are so many treatment options is the stigma of mental illness in African-American women still a “thing?” Continue reading

“HERStory”

“I keep dreaming of a future, a future with a long and healthy life, not lived in the shadow of cancer but in the light.” Patrick Swayze

When I was a little girl I spent 90% of my time with my grandparents, so it goes without saying that I believed that both my Granny and Grandfather were made of something magical that would allow them immortality.

Jamesetta “Tootie” Williams July 10, 1039- January 22, 2015

But at nearly thirty years old I have come to the harsh realization that life does not last forever. At the age of 75 my Granny was diagnosed with stage 4 Uterine Cancer, just short of six months after diagnosis she lost her battle. This is HERStory.

I remember today, as if it happened yesterday; receiving a phone call from my aunt saying , “Mama is being transported to the Barnes, they think she has cancer.” It was almost as if in that moment the world stopped and all I could hear was the word “cancer”.  On August 23, 2014 around 5:30 pm I was told that my grandmother [Granny],Jamesetta “Tootie” Williams had been diagnosed in an emergency room with cancer of the stomach lining, she was immediately transported to the 17th floor of Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri; it wasn’t until later I would come to the realization that the 17th floor of BJH wasn’t the “cancer” floor it was the gynecological cancer unit. That night we were greeted by one of St. Louis’ most prestigious and respected gynecological oncologists and his team to explain the extent of my Granny’s condition. We would sit there listening as he threw out medical term after medical term explaining that the cancer was in the lining of her stomach, however it’s source was in the uterus and it was in fact stage 4. Ever the hopeful faith driven family we had faith in the physician and his staff. In all my years I could only ever remember by grandmother being sick or in the hospital a handful of times, but she always bounced back. I prayed that this time would be no different.

I remember when I was little getting my hair combed by my Grandmother.

On September 11th, 2014 my Granny underwent surgery in hopes that a complete hysterectomy would remove the root of the cancer allowing chemotherapy to kill the remaining cells. Along with surgery came complications that did not allow surgeons to remove all of the cancer; but they removed what they could without causing more damage. The long road ahead was just that, chemotherapy was not all [she] hoped it would be.[ I’m not really sure you hope for much with chemotherapy, but my Grandmother’s experience was a very difficult one.] During her initial treatment she suffered what we believed was a stroke but it was just an allergic reaction to the drugs, which meant the doctors had to switch her medications. My Granny spent the next few months in and out of the hospital and in inpatient rehabilitation facilities, all the while still with hopes of soon being cancer free.There were of course good days and bad days, but even on bad days her spirits were high. No matter how sick she was she was still a class act, her  nails were always painted, make-up flawless and her head wraps were top of the line. Her strength during her ordeal was inspiring; her grim prognosis never kept her from believing in the healing power or the love of GOD.

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