If you need to refresh your memory, please refer to the blog “Why Meghan Writes” from October 29, 2015. You might also want to check out the guest blog Meghan did here from December 14, 2015.
Meghan is writing again and has given me permission to share her writings. Feel free to respond to Meghan’s column; she would love hearing from people. Here is a link to her website. Here is a recent post:
Three years….now what?
August 12th marked three years in remission. Three years since my knees buckled and I hit the floor of my parent’s house. Three years since I felt the most thrilling feeling of my life. I felt fearless, invincible, unstoppable. In that moment, I had just beat cancer at 24 and I had a whole life ahead of me to do anything.
I remember watching a Grey’s Anatomy episode during chemo and hearing the following quote, “It goes away. The feeling. That feeling you have right now….today….that feeling like you can do anything. That clarity…it goes away. And you go right back to bring the coward who can’t tell the person you love how you feel.”
I remember almost feeling angry at the TV. I remember wishing at the time that I’d hear the word remission and I’d forever be grateful. I wouldn’t ever forget that feeling. I would never forget what I had to go through and I’d be damned if I took for granted the second chance I received.
Fast forward three years and I couldn’t help but feel disappointed at myself on my three year “remissionversary.” I had lost that feeling. More importantly, I had lost the confidence that came with it.
Three years have passed and I am still trying to heal from what cancer did to me. I’m still healing physically, and more importantly, I’m healing mentally. I am healing from what therapists call trauma, but from my other doctors just call bad luck. That’s what Hodgkin’s was, after all. Just the short straw I drew. Nothing I could’ve done to prevent it.
I dealt with mental health issues long before cancer. ADHD from childhood, anxiety and depression during a bad relationship, anxiety disorders and OCD that spun out of control from more bad relationships. Somehow, though, I’ve never talked to you about that. Mental health seems so much harder to speak about. It’s strange because I opened up to you about my most private thoughts through chemo. Hell, even telling you about my sucidal thoughts wasn’t hard. But to speak about mental health and the aftermath cancer leaves on you…that seems difficult.
So here I am, three years later, and the list of disorders I’ve received from therapists includes: ADHD, depression, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, sensory processing issues, OCD tendencies, and panic disorder. I’m sure there’s something I’m missing. This is the list that’s been formed overtime, by many, many therapists.
Three years later and I have lost loves, friendships, and most importantly, time. I have skipped my kid’s events, family reunions, classes, and work because somedays, whether it’s physical or mental, the pain is just too much.
This past year, I started to make big changes for myself. Unfortunately I got scared, I doubted myself and my progress, and I returned to the comfort of my own bad thoughts because at least I know what to expect there. Change is scary, no matter who is doing it. For me, post cancer, it’s become even scarier. What if I fail? What if I succeed, but then the cancer comes back? What if I spend time on school and then something happens to my health? Won’t I wish that time had been spent on my kids, and not my education? But what if I spend all my time on my kids and my health stays good? Then will I regret not getting an education? The doubting and second guessing these past three years has affected every part of my life.
I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from people in my life and the one thing that is constant is the advice to do things for my own happiness. To figure out the woman and mother I want to be first before worrying about where all the other pieces lie. I know this won’t be an easy feat because I am constantly trying to make other people happy first.
So to end my long, rambling letter to you, I’ll tell you this. I refuse to feel defeated on my four year remissionversary. I refuse to feel like I wasted another year letting myself down and ruining things in my life due to my own mental state. This next year will be spent making changes. I hope to write to you often during this time. To share my adventures with you. To share my highs and lows. To share my learning experiences.
I have more health issues going on currently and for the first time since cancer, I’m going to remain hopeful that they are minor issues. I know I can solve any other diagnosis that comes my way and in the time spent fighting whatever this is, I’m going to learn to love myself and this life again. Stay tuned because it’s time to make great changes and I can’t wait to show you what’s next.
Until next time.
My friend Talia Pura talked me into submitting to her special event (featuring women Playwrights in Santa Fe )a short play she knew I had written. Because the cast of this play featured two young women (late teens early twenties) I connected with the New Mexico School for the Arts. Previously I had seen a number of their students in adult productions. I knew they were very talented. Thanks to one of their teachers, Barbara Hatch, I was fortunate to secure these very talented girls. Thanks to Talia for talking me into this!
Avonlea and Bella
Jayden - A new playwright
Snow - Memories - Tears - One With the Universe
Snow came earlier in Santa Fe this year, some nine inches. As I brushed it from my car I noticed how soft and crystal like it was. So pure, so beautiful. Different from the snow in the Midwest where I had grown up.
Other memories came rushing into my head: Snow when I was a child and Dad taking us tobogganing … always home constructed ones, but so much fun going down those hills. Mom waiting at home with hot chocolate and her freshly made cookies. As a teenager, it was snow and ice with ice skating at the local pond hoping the latest crush would ask me to skate or sit next to me at the bonfire we built to keep warm.
Married and with children my role reversed. I watched through the window as they raced down the hill with their sleds. We were fortunate to live so near their grade school which had this magnificent hill where the neighborhood children would gather at the first snow of the season. It was my husband who was with them while I waited inside having the hot chocolate and cookies ready for when they returned home.
Now that I am older two snow memories reside within my brain . Throughout my teaching years we always covered Abraham Maslow’s model. I really believed then that I understood and experienced that highest level “at one with the universe.” Perhaps ego brought that about. What I realize now is that these two memories were when I really understood!
The first was when I was on academic leave traveling in New England visiting former graduate students and eventually my sister-in-law who lived in New Jersey an hour from New York. We had grown up together and loved the same things especially theatre. Whenever I visited her we traveled to the city to take in a matinee, have dinner, then on to an evening performance of a second play. This particular time it was December, so we drove in earlier in order to see the decorated windows so often visited by tourists at the Christmas season. After the matinee we made our way to Rockefeller Center to watch the skaters. It was then the miracle happened.
We were standing on the bridge near the skating rink. Suddenly very soft snow flakes began floating down upon us. I felt what seemed like an electric shock go through my body. As I looked around it seemed like we were part of a Christmas card come to life. There was a transcendence feeling, a unique connection to everything. And me, so typically me, had tears flowing down my cheeks mixing with the snowflakes. So beautiful! Pat, Pat! My sister-in-law calling me broke the spell. Smiling she said “Where were you?”
My second snow miracle occurred when my friend Kathy, from St. Louis, was visiting. We planned to take in La Posada but decided to journey to the Plaza earlier. I was unaware of other events happening there, but we were both thrilled to see a Jewish celebration with song and dance by a huge Menorah . We watched and then participated in the festivities.
Next was La Posada. Lighting our candles we joined the crowd in screaming at the devils. I knew my friend would love those devils! We joked about the fact that in one day we were certainly taking in everything Santa Fe had to offer , Catholic, Jewish , and our last visit would be to the Cantina in La Casa Sena where we would see two of my friends doing a drag show.
Finding our way into the courtyard of the museum, we drank hot cider, ate cookies, then joined the crowd singing the traditional Christmas songs. My friend commented on what a lovely night it was, cold but not extremely so. Just as we are singing with the band “Silent Night” I looked up to see the stars and gazed past the huge cottonwood tree; then it happened again! Softly, so very softly, the snow flakes began falling doing their special dance. Once again, so did my tears … that connection, that strange and wonderful feeling that permeates every cell in your body, and you know you are part of something larger. You are one with the universe!
Not long ago a woman who writes poetry and was attending our New Mexico writer’s networking luncheon , passed out bookmarks with one of her poems on it. The title was “Saving Snowflakes in My Pocket “ by Barbara Jean Ruther. There were five verses all about saving memories . The last is, “Some memories are like snowflakes. No matter how hard you try to save them, they melt away and leave a stain in an empty pocket and in an empty heart.” I have those difficult memories too. However, when I think about these snow experiences, I know they will forever reside within my brain and heart.
As I think about these very special times, yes, the tears flow down my cheeks. I am beginning to realize the tears are a different version of snowflakes - signaling that I finally really know what Maslow meant when he talked about being “one with the universe!”
Renee was one of my students at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville.
Being honest, in her undergraduate years I really didn’t know much about her. I remember her being one of the students sharing a hotel room at a convention we were attending. She was always classically dressed and somehow managed to be up and gone before any of the rest of us were stirring. She never joined our get togethers in the evenings. I remember being concerned as she was the only African American in our group. I briefly felt I, being the faculty member with these graduate students, should make an effort to reach out to her. But I didn’t.
Several years later she asked me to write a recommendation for her as she was applying to another school for an advanced degree. She also asked for my input on the required narrative she wrote as part of her admission package. That was when I began to know Renee. The opening sentence of my recommendation read “Still waters run deep.” But even then there was so much more for me to learn about this woman who was such a lady in every definition of that word, but also a fighter! I am eternally grateful she has remained in touch with me all these years. She constantly talks about how I influenced her and thanks me over and over, and says she is always telling her students about me. But it is Renee who has taught me so much.
You can see from the family picture posted here, she has a large family. She also was in an interracial marriage . Recently she lost the love of her life and like many has had to struggle with that loss. It was only in recent years I learned how she had to fight to get their children in school and fight she did! The irony is that they ended up in a Catholic school where one of the teachers was the wife of someone who worked with my husband at that time. I do believe Renee was one of my students at that time, but as I stated earlier in this narrative, I really didn’t know much about her in those days other than she was a good student. In recent years she has been a faculty member in the same department at SIUE from which I retired many years ago. I am so proud of her!
I had just joined the New Mexico Writer’s Association. While attending their monthly networking luncheon, one of the members was very kind to this newcomer! I ended setting up a time to meet with her later that month. She gave me great advice which included the need to meet with Mary Neighbour as soon as possible. Also that Mary was a very busy lady, and I needed to get on her schedule ASAP! So I did.
We met for coffee, and while some who know me would never believe that I would feel insecure in such a meeting, I most certainly did! All I really knew about Mary was that she was an outstanding editor who was employed by most every writer I met. She fired one question after another at me. My confidence was returning as I had answers for most of the questions. At one point she asked me how I felt about doing radio programs. Well of course I had done quite a few of them being a guest here and there back in my previous days. She said, “I mean having your own radio show.” That one got me! I gulped and said I thought I could do that. Time was running out. The meeting ended. I really didn’t see much of Mary after that other than at the monthly networking lunches. When I met with her originally I was working on what I referred to as my two adult novels. Recently Charles Blanchard who hopefully you read about in my blog on connecting him with Doug Montgomery, suggested that I call them something else because people would think I was writing porn. Oh my! I did however stopped writing those books midway and started writing my Annemarie series - children’s books which I never intended to write!
As usual every one was having Mary as the editor for their books. But then at one of the networking lunches, Mary talked about the book she just put out in a second edition. What? Lo and behold, she and her husband Andrew had actually lived in St. Louis for a number of years. She became interested in the Dred Scott case and wrote a novel about it. As is my usual behavior, I immediately start thinking of all the people who might be interested in reading her book. She also had mentioned that a number of colleges and universities were using it in some of their courses as collateral reading. I’m certain some of you who have labored reading through all of my comments this far have already figured it out. Renee and Mary became connected because of the book.
I had sent Renee a copy of Mary’s book. She loved it and talked with some of her SIUE colleagues about it . Her supervisor asked her if she would like to use the book in one of the discussion groups that they had every year. Of course Renee said yes. She told me about this, and of course I told Mary. The two of them begin corresponding. Right now I don’t remember where I saw the announcement; perhaps it was in a message from Renee that in fact Mary would be going to St. Louis and meeting with Renee and her group about the book. I was so thrilled to hear this! I asked Renee if possible to get a picture of the group as well as with Mary. I also suggested it would be great if she could get one with the two of them by my brick on the wall. Several years ago the University build this wall of bricks with the names of the teachers who were there in the early days of the University. I felt somewhat silly in asking for this never thinking it would be a reality - just a bit too much to ask .
Later Renee sent me a link to the article the school newspaper wrote on Mary’s visit to her discussion group. I post it here for you. Should you perhaps want to get a copy Amazon carries it.
Dred Scott Book Author Gives SIUE Book Club Members Insights into the Man
October 3, 2017, 4:30 PM
Mary Neighbour’s book about Dred Scott, the African American illiterate slave whose 1857 Supreme Court case for freedom struck at the foundation of race and slavery in the U.S., was analyzed and praised during a Sept. 22 book club discussion at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Neighbour’s Speak Right On: Conjuring the Slave Narrative of Dred Scott was selected for the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion Fall 2017 Book Club. Renee Fussell, instructor in the Department of Applied Communication Studies, is facilitating the biweekly discussions that began Friday, Sept. 8. The book is one-fourth biography and three-fourths fiction.
The author released a second edition of the book in 2015, in part because of the racial climate in the country. The book was first released in 2006.
“I wrote the book because of how sad, perplexed and outraged I felt that we knew so little about the man behind the case,” said Neighbour. “I was in St. Louis, and I visited the Gateway Arch. They gave a history on Dred Scott.
Book Club “Speak Right On: Conjuring the Slave Narrative of Dred Scott” by Mary Neighbor 09-22-17
“A man held up one piece of paper and said, ‘Everything we know about Dred Scott is on both sides of this paper.’”
The abbreviated background on the person, who Neighbour said was one of history’s most important people, became a challenge and battle cry of sorts.
“What you can’t do, can sometimes open doors to what you can do,” the author told the book club.
The writer then began to build on the little information that had been recorded about Scott. She started researching, among other things, the era that Scott lived in, the subject and various types of slavery, and Scott’s owners.
Mary Neighbour, is the author of Speak Right On: Conjuring the Slave Narrative of Dred Scott.
Time to make more connections! Just did another which I will write about in the future. Stay tuned, and please comment on these. I would so love to get your feedback!
Today I … thought of this picture because my meandering mind was all over the place! It was painted by a former student . It was a very interesting person with a very complex background. While he was in my class he was having a show of his paintings. I went to see them and was overwhelmed since all of them were in this style. I planned on purchasing something but as I look at the paintings I wondered what I would see that I could buy. Then there it was – this picture. It spoke to me loudly and I do believe many of you can identify with it. The brain is on such overload you just want it to shut up. So as I continue with this article I’m sure you’ll understand why posting the picture was a necessity!
Why am I thinking of all these things? Being chair of the women studies program. Bernie Sanders and young people. Jean Houston’s comment so many years ago “ there must be breakdown before there can be breakthrough”. Recent book she published 2012 and restates that phrase but goes on to say “we are in breakdown now”. Wow! 2012? John Gardner - I recently re-ordered his book Self Renewal as it was one of many I gave away as I left Illinois to move to New Mexico 20 years ago.
But why did I buy it even then? Who told me about it? Can’t remember any connection! Go get your new copy and check the date. Can’t do that either as the chest that has new books that I want to read is currently blocked by a couch, and I can’t move it because of my recent heart surgery. #*=&@ !!!!!!! Calm down! Not good for your blood pressure! Breathe! You can solve this! Of course I can; google Mr. Gardner on my IPad. Oh my! Now all this crazy stuff makes sense.
My last year before taking early retirement at SIUE, the Women’s Studies Program was in danger of being cut. Some of the women wanted me to be Chair and fight. After all, I was taking early retirement . What could they do to me. I was a little embarrassed because as I’ve said somewhere else on one of these pieces student said I have been liberated all my life which I guess was true. While I certainly was very familiar with the national leaders at that time, I had never really been a member of the groups. I’m embarrassed to say I had to actually look up Alice Paul as she was one of the scholarship awards the group made annually. So I did my homework and got caught up as those teachers in the program were some of the original women fighting for women’s rights. So I’m in my little office for that program which was away from my main office; daily I dealt with the young girls coming in to complain about those teachers. Why did they have to learn all that stuff? The one teacher practically built an altar to those early women the one very young student shouted . I tried my best to explain why. John Gardner - Self Renewal. Yes ! That’s it. His major thesis was: Each generation has to rediscover for itself the meaning of our democracy. Bernie Sanders with his huge group of young followers…that’s it. But how did I get tied up with John Gardner? Please ! For those of you who have been kind enough to read my crazy writing thus far Google Mr. Gardner. There is so much there. Shortly I’m going to give a quote that was in the New York Times when he passed away in 2002. I highly recommend that article because it is lengthy, and it covers the extensive work this man did. Lyndon Johnson put him in his cabinet even though Gardner was a conservative Republican. Aha! John Gardner founded Common Cause and I joined then. The connection!
I leave you with this quote as printed in The NY Times article at the time of Gardner’s death. “Mr. Gardner’s time in Washington had convinced him that major problems cannot be solved unless the political system was reformed from within. With the Democratic and Republican parties in mind, he told the New Yorker: I think of people sitting in an ancient automobile by the side of the road. The tires are flat and the driveshaft is bent, but they’re engaged in a great argument as to whether they should go to Phoenix or San Francisco. In my imagination, I am standing by the road saying, ‘You’re not going anywhere till you fix the goddamn car.’” His solution was to found Common Cause.
If you go to this article what he describes next is actually an accurate description of the times we are living in now.
Okay I will stop here. Would love to hear from any of you who have been kind enough to read my meanderings. Sign in to follow my site.