I’m fibroid-free. (For now.)

MARCH 2018:

I’m watching happy mommies, round with bumps.

Some are accompanied by partners. They stand close. They rub their bellies. They smile and speak softly to each other.

A pair of women sit together.

Others like me, sit alone. Arms folded, eyes closed…or methodically turning the curling pages of a magazine. Some tap tap tap on their screens. Like me, right now.

I watch the ones who are visibly pregnant. One mother-to-be pulls out snacks and water. Her outfit, a striped knit bodycon dress, a jacket festooned with brassy buttons and suede flats, is sharp.

An athleisure-wearing, topknotted mom comes in with a baby riding silently in a stroller, little enough to need a cushion around its tiny head.

Others, like me, are not pregnant at all.

The desire to at least be able to give birth almost overwhelms me. It is the one thing I can’t do. Yet. Or maybe ever.

We all wait.

The waiting room is rust with shades of apple and sage green. The wall coverings are alternating panels of wheat-colored and puce brocade-print paper.

Then I am called.

No tussling with a paper gown, this time.

Just a plop of warm goo on my bare belly. The sonographer glides the wand across my flesh, and the wall-to-wall flatscreens light up.

There I am, inside out.

And there they are, all three of them that are immediately visible. Seven, hiding. Growing, insistently. Constantly. Feeding off of me.

But they aren’t babies.

Ten noncancerous fibroid tumors take up all available space. They’ve been growing there for years, in the place where a baby should be. Maybe the seed of them is genetic. Or maybe it’s environmental. One thing is for sure:

They have to be removed, in order for any baby to grow there.

I almost don’t believe what I’m seeing. I want to look away, but I can’t. When I finally close my eyes, they fill with tears that spill over onto my cheeks and run into my ears and splash onto the paper covering the exam chair. I want to scream. Instead I just cry silently in the dark. And when my doctor tells me to prepare for serious complications that could mean the end of my life I begin to pray out loud.

I shouldn’t have come here alone. I am so shaken that I don’t know how I will find my car, or get home. And I can’t stop looking at the flatscreens.

They’re huge. So huge they’re pressing on my stomach and other organs—which explains why I’m always hungry but can barely eat. Why I’m so tired all the time but can’t really rest. Why I’m in pain but can’t get any relief. Why I feel like I can’t breathe.

“Wow,” says the sonographer as she peers at her screens. “You’re so thin that I’m sure you can feel them,” she says.

I can.

They’re hard to miss, since they announced themselves with a 25 pound weight gain and 24-hour fatigue and breathlessness and mind-numbing cramps and back aches.

I’ve had so many side eyes at my expanding midsection the last two years or so that I’ve lost count. Now I no longer notice. There are only so many times you can fake-smile and explain a belly away as a food baby. And I’ve given up hiding it with Spanx.

I’ve suffered through the persistent stomach ache, the damage it’s done to my body image, my self-esteem and my emotions and the problematic monthly cycles.

Add to that the constant stress I’ve been under, which releases a hormone that (surprise!) only makes the tumors grow faster. Because the world doesn’t care if you’re sick: it’ll demand more and dump more and wreck you, regardless. I’ve been through so much personally and professionally in the last six months that I’m literally turning it into a book.

But relief is held out to me, swinging like a pendulum for me to grab and hold on to. And I grab it.

It will mean an open procedure similar to a c-section, only I will go home with no baby.

It will mean that there is a possibility the fibroids could return, since the only way to get rid of them for good appears to be to have a hysterectomy — an option that is not an option for me right now.

It will mean all my dreams for a doula-assisted natural childbirth, with soft jazz and Beyoncé and candles and my mother and mother-in-law holding each other’s hands in prayer around us, for the boy and girl fraternal twins I keep dreaming about, won’t happen.

But at this point even that doesn’t matter anymore.

Because this weight has broken me down and I can’t carry it or drag it anymore. Not one more blessed step.

And I’m ready to be delivered.

***

MAY 2018:

Well, here’s your #nofilter outfit of the day and post, over a week after my open myomectomy has been successfully completed. I’m home resting, and will mostly be offline in the interim.

Why be this transparent? I debated about whether sharing this is TMI, but the truth is not enough women are sharing the reality of their experience with fibroids.  We’ve been taught our bodies are shameful and dirty and that what happens inside them should be kept secret. But who does that help?

I’ve been anxious, afraid and ashamed for SO long. And it’s time to let it all go.

Life got real, real fast last week and in the last few months. There’s nothing like planning your own funeral to make you reevaluate the direction your life is taking. I feel silly complaining now because I know it could be worse.

The important thing is I woke up and I’m still here, thank God. And I’m going to be fine. One day at a time.

I do not have enough words to thank my family and friends for their support, prayers and practical help. My surgeon/doctor says bikinis and babies are definitely in my future.

We’ll see.

What I know for sure is, life can only get better from here. No matter what I’ve lost through this process, I have retained my sense of humor, my grasp on reality and my ability to overcome anything. So my foot is on the gas, from here on out. And with a flatter stomach to boot. Yassssssssssss!

Now before Mama takes my phone and pc away: who can I talk to about improving this outfit they make you wear? It’s the real tragedy of this story.

XO//Alexis

P.S. There are several options available to treat  and/or remove fibroids, depending on their size, location and the patient’s preferences. The purpose of this post is not to recommend any particular course of action or treatment. I AM NOT A DOCTOR OR MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL, and I cannot treat or diagnose you. If you’re dealing with fibroids, please consult with a trained medical professional to make the best possible choice for your personal situation, preferences and goals.

For more information about fibroids:

O, the Oprah Magazine

Prevention

The Chicago Tribune

The White Dress Project

WomensHealth.Gov

UCLA Obstetrics & Gynecology

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Via IG/@idontdoclubs

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She’d put on her fabulous cuffs, snatch up her Lasso of Truth, put the invisible plane in gear and deal with it…

Via Beehive Fort Worth’s IG

I stand with April Ryan & Maxine Waters.

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On being one of many #BlackWomenatWork:
I remember when someone at a previous job gifted me with $5 in play money to “thank me” for a job well done. I remember being told to “smile more” as if I had been hired to provide some sort of reassurance, comfort or entertainment. I remember being constantly made to move, “musical chairs-style” in an office with plenty to spare. I remember being yelled at, cursed at and talked to worse than one would a dog. I remember watching others get away with coming in late and leaving early, when I could take 2 vacation days in a quarter and then be asked to account for “excessive use of time off.”
I remember being point blank asked how I could possibly afford my  designer handbags, shoes or my car. I remember being saddled with other people’s work while they were free to vacation, or simply take up space. I remember other people doing much less and being celebrated, while I could work from here to Kingdom Come and it still wasn’t good enough for a raise, recognition or some other reward. I remember mine being the only black face some people saw except for the cleaning, catering or maintenance people. I remember being asked about crime levels in certain areas of town as if I were the expert on such matters (um, I’m from a RURAL area).
I remember a million micro aggressions including being laughed at repeatedly in a classroom setting as I presented serious research. (That was a straw.) So was having to explain to someone older than I am–yet subordinate to me–why using profanity to talk to me was unacceptable.  Let’s not even go into the rude comments on my hair or the many attempts people have made to put their hands in it.
“Twice as good” is a concept that was drummed into me from the womb.
I needed those jobs, so like most black women I kept my head up, I swallowed a lot of tears and righteous anger,  I ignored a lot of disrespect and I kept pushing. I KEEP PUSHING. Black women typically don’t have much of a choice to do otherwise. I left each of those experiences on my own terms (“always stay gracious; best revenge is your paper”–be it degrees or cash). I wasn’t ever a perfect employee (who is?), but I worked hard. I work hard, still.
Even if it goes without external recognition.  Especially when it does.
I validate and reward myself. #MartyTaughtMe
To be clear: there are countless women who came before me and had it much, much harder. I thank them for enduring and making my way a bit smoother, for the blueprint they left. This isn’t a rant, screed or complaint. It’s merely a series of observations collected over time and added to a narrative. Only by being open about our experiences can we change the pervasive part of our culture that supports Zora Neale Hurston’s words published in 1937:  “The [black] woman is the mule of the world.”
After all, as she also pointed out, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
The rules, expectations and assumptions levied at people who look like me are vastly different and applied on a constantly shifting plane. They are set up so you always fail someone, somewhere or fall short in some way for which you can never quiiiiiiite never atone. They are designed to make you feel less-than and to justify paying you less or failing to promote you. They are bent on teaching — and/or keeping — you in your “place.”
But I’m grateful for what those experiences reinforced in me:
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Deal with it.
*Follow Same Chic Different Day on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
(Note: I don’t own the graphic posted above. I just received it in a text and thought it was cool! The featured image of me was shot by Derrick L. Curry of Camera Play Photography.)

Don’t judge me.

Image via Instagram (@patricejwill) 

Every Michelle Has a Melania.


I SO did not want to address this again. But I have to.

When I was in high school, I saved my allowance to buy a banging new outfit for the Bayou Classic. It was a pair of black jeans (as tight as my mother would allow), a matching black denim cropped vest and a black and white striped top, all by Bongo Jeans and all from The Body Shop, which was THE shop for teenage girls when I was growing up. I was so excited to go to Pensacola’s Cordova Mall and buy this outfit, then wear it in New Orleans and to school.

Imagine how I felt when soon after I’d worn it, a classmate went out and bought a nearly identical outfit, down to the shirt and belt with a big buckle–in hunter green. If there were hundreds of kids in my school it might not have mattered, but there were just about a hundred kids in each class. So if we showed up wearing them on the same day and had the same class(es), it was awkward.

I still wore my outfit but it didn’t feel quite as…special. I never let my classmate know her blatant imitation did not feel like flattery.

I’m a grown up now. And I don’t think anyone is out here trying to copy my looks from head to toe anymore–if they are, good luck with that. What has become impossible to ignore though is people who are, shall we say, heavily inspired by what I’ve written, posted and shared. These are people who stop just short of clicking “Control +C” and “Control +V.” Inspiration is great; many people inspire me. But what you won’t see is me coming out with a Pink Lemonade album, or singing “When Swans Cry” and acting like I thought of it myself.  I won’t ever try to be The Jenesaisquoi, J.Crew is My Favorite Store, Atlantic Pacific or Demetria Lucas D’Oyley, because I’d be a poor imitation. I love them. But it’s much more fun just being me. And if I were going to be inspired by them I’d at least give them props in print (like I just did). Or via video.


I don’t copy because it’s taken me a long time to be totally comfortable being Alexis, and writing in my own voice. That’s why I have to put up this post today. I’ve put too much time and effort into what I do not to defend it. So for those who are leaning heavily on or who are so deeply inspired by my posts,  graduate work or journalism (and I know you’re reading this), that you use it to attempt your own low budget versions, know that I see you.  We all do. E for Effort, darlings! I’m just thankful my family of supporters know the difference between cheap imitations and the real deal.

Make sure you don’t ever get so sloppy and desperate that you directly plagiarize my work, though, because then we’ll have a problem. Let me be explicit: my work is original content that is protected by copyright law*, and I take my intellectual property as seriously as I take getting dressed every day.

Keep it chic,

Alexis

*i.e. That’s what the fine print at the very bottom of this page means.

Images via Giphy  (<—Here’s another way to attribute work you didn’t do or dream up by yourself. You’re welcome.)

This. 


Are you wearing clothes you love? Why in the world wouldn’t you? I’m not suggesting you go to work dressed like Tinkerbell-unless that is in fact your job. But why keep a closet full of things that don’t fit your body, taste or lifestyle? Who does that serve? Let it go. 

Stop forcing yourself into clothes that don’t fit, literally or otherwise. Pretty soon you might find you’re forcing yourself into other areas of your life that really don’t fit either.

Via @ilovejcrewyesido

On Prince (1958-2016)

“A strong spirit transcends rules,” Prince said.

 His music was for the nonconformists, the dreamers, the mad poets, the unapologetically funky. The first music I bought with my own money was a Prince cassette tape that I had to keep hidden because my Mama literally did not play that.

Prince’s fight to control his catalog and own his image and presence as TAFKP set the stage for what we know now as intellectual property. He made it ok to be different, to be strange, to be artistic and creative and answer only to the muses in one’s head. I used to not get why people lost it over Elvis and The Beatles. But I’ll admit I felt some type of way when Johnnie Taylor and Luther Vandross died. I got it when Michael and Whitney died. But now I REALLY get it. I wanted to be Appollonia Kotero. I wanted to be Vanity. I would’ve been ok with trading lives with Lisa and Wendy (who played in his band and got to wear awesome pink furs and go on stage when he won an Oscar for Best Original Score in 1984). But I REALLY wanted to be Sheila E. When I was a little girl, I would dance and lip sync to “The Glamorous Life” in my babysitter Laura’s kitchen. I wanted to live that life when I grew up.

When I became an adult I realized that in writing the song, Prince was reflecting “cynicism for the decadence and materialism of the song’s protagonist, referred to in the third person, who “wants to lead a glamorous life, although she is aware that without love, it ain’t much.” (Wikipedia) And in some ways, maybe you get a sense of that on this blog. I could listen to his music–or Whitney’s or Michael’s–and be five, ten, or fifteen years old again.  Yesterday the music died for me.

Maybe I’m not just crying for Prince. Maybe I’m crying for my aunt and my grandmother too, and the many ways in which the familiar, the beautiful, the precious, the irreplaceable and well-loved elements of my life are being erased and eroded. Prince’s music was always part of the soundtrack.

“Until the end of time/I’ll be there 4 U/U own my heart and mind/I truly adore U/If God one day struck me blind/Your beauty I’d still see/Love’s 2 weak 2 define/Just what U mean 2 me…”-Prince/”Adore”

Image via feelnumb.com

 

I’m here for #Formation. Here’s why. 

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Oh, y’all thought you were going to survive Super Bowl 50/Mardi Gras/the weekend without getting your wig snatched? In the middle of our Saturdays we were all blessed with a new song+video from Queen Bey. If you’ve been living under a rock on an undiscovered planet, the clean version is provided HERE.

Now let’s discuss. The Internet is on FIRE trying to deconstruct what it means, such that I am experiencing analysis paralysis while I bounce to the beat. The song unapologetically celebrates Mrs. Carter’s proud heritage and motherhood. It also makes a pointed statement on race, class, work ethic and creativity. What she’s been serving all along–and the side she let us see in her self-titled surprise album in late 2013–comes into even sharper focus. And is baby sis Solange driving the getaway car???

Beyoncé releases new single, music video ‘Formation (Dirty)’
Bey’s “Formation” is getting on folks’ nerves for the same reasons Cam Newton’s dabbing does. The thing is, they don’t care whether we’re here for it or not because they both have a radical sense of self-acceptance that doesn’t depend on our opinions. Even more radically, she’s raising a precocious little black girl to love herself, baby hair, Afro and all. And she doesn’t give a pot of Mama Tina’s red beans what we think about it. She rocks multiple hair styles in this video and celebrates her “Negro” nose and dares you to suggest she alter (or contour) it.  She’s gonna make us ALL dance to this message, and maybe we’ll start loving our own uncommon beauty, unique backgrounds and unusual tastes–our weird, wonderful, conflicted, contradictory selves–whoever we are, wherever we come from and however we’re made. We’ll go off, “go hard/get what’s [ours]” no matter what our haters say or do. That’s why there’s a church scene: because Bey just gave us all Gospel. Then she turns the “BlackLivesMatter” movement on its ear, with a little black boy dance battling a line of policemen–easily my favorite part of the video.  Has she always been “woke,” i.e. totally self-aware and/or socially conscious? Have you?  Is she here to speak for or even save the African-American experience or community? Are you?

Reflect on your own emotional, physical, social, financial, and spiritual evolution. Are you the same person you were fifteen years ago? I hope not. I am not even the same person I was a week before my last birthday! When you free yourself, you too will slay, swerve, serve, second line, toss sequins and twirl regardless of how other people respond–if they respond at all.  You’ll do it on your own timeline. And you won’t need anyone’s permission. As for me, I’m headed to Red Lobster…and yes, I have hot sauce in my bag. Bye!

GO OFF!

Images via Vogue and Hypable

   The Year in Review: 2015

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This year, I held two internships, commuted between three cities, completed graduate school, started three (!) new jobs, covered the First Lady’s commencement speech at Tuskegee University and a story in my own backyard, published my first fashion piece for a magazine and my first essay for a major women’s-interest website, interviewed a Maasai chieftain, survived some serious shenanigans with my car, learned to live with hypoglycemia, raised some serious money for the United Way, took my first trip to New York City, appeared in Glamour magazine and got to share lifestyle expertise on 95.7 JAMZ and ABC 33/40 (a dream that was decades in the making!). The unexpected loss of an aunt and my grandmother during the last two months of this year have been sobering reminders to take absolutely nothing for granted. I am more determined than ever to drain every bit of positivity and purpose from 2016.

Throughout all the ups and downs, twists and turns, dead ends and roundabouts, this creative space has been a constant source of joy. Sometimes it’s been my escape. It has been the launching pad for so many special experiences this year that some of them will run over into next year’s posting schedule! I don’t make resolutions, but I will say it’s my intention to continue living life with a little bit of sparkle and a whole lot of gumption. And I’m especially excited about a couple of things coming up next month–but for now you’ll have to stay tuned!  Thank you for sharing the journey with me; I can’t wait to see where 2016 takes all of us. I’m sure it’s going to be fabulous.

Xo, Alexis

P.S. What are you looking forward to next year? Drop me a line in the comments!

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