How Cancer helped me find my Inner Blerd
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Greetings All! I'm Keith, The New blogger in town. I feel as if I'm walking into a new school, tip toeing slowly passed the long hallway, checking each corner, hoping I won't be stuffed into a locker. The editor in chief of Blerdnation assured me this doesn't happen here... often.
First of all I want to thank Seun for accepting me and giving me this opportunity to write for blerdnation!
Acceptance. Isn't that what we all want? Not just from our peers and family, but from ourselves. This is a humorous tale of how being a blerd helped me though my battle with cancer and vice versa. First off, I want to dispel some myths about cancer. First of all... Not all black men look good going bald. ::shakes head:: I thought I was going to look good going bald, like Nick fury or Kojack, not at all, the only thing I looked like was an Ashy Uncle fester and another thing, Not all nurses are hot! Greys Anatomy lied to me! I loved all my nurses to death, but they all looked like that women from that old pine sol commercial. You know which one I'm talking about "the power of pine sol, baby"
I was originally diagnosed in 2008 and usually when I tell people I have cancer their response, in most cases are “WOW you’re so young” Which it’s true, being diagnosed with an incurable disease, a month after your 24th birthday, kind of felt like a slap in the face by God. Especially since 4% of people under the age of 50 are diagnosed with my type of cancer. It's like being an X-men without any of the abilities. Although, I'm pretty sure I've taken more radiation to the face than Bruce Banner
While going through treatment I had an identity crises of sorts, I didn't receive the help or encouragement from my family I thought I deserved and I was living a double life, hiding my illness from my friends. Growing up in Oklahoma( Yes Oklahoma, one of the few places where you'll find a church, liquor store and gun pawn shop on the same street corner) I always felt out-of-place, people would often criticize me for using big words or for "talking white". Moving to New York opened my eyes to a world that was both progressive and encouraging, but cancer gave me the power to change how I allow other people to make me feel about myself.
Going through treatment gave me the opportunity to evolve in a way. I was never a timid person, but I would never really stand up for myself. I remember going out with a girl who would often question my "blackness" She would say " black people don't go to comic-con" Why I was going out with her in the first place the world may never know. Actually, Let's go ask Mr. Owl
Keith: Hey Mr. Owl.
Owl:: Yes Keith?
Keith: Why did I go out with ******
Owl: I don't know, kid.
Keith: But you're the wise, old, all-knowing Owl
Owl: look Kid, I don't answer questions anymore.
Keith. But, but why?
Owl: Dammit it ::tosses out Tootsie pop:: It was the Summer of 1991, a hot day it was, a kid asked me how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Twinkie and I-
Keith: - Don't you just eat it?
Owl: Who's telling the story here! you or me?
Owl: Like I was saying, it was the winter of 1988
::Keith walks away::
In all honesty, I consider myself fortunate to have found myself through cancer. I remember this day like it happened yesterday, It was 2010 and I had to stay in the hospital after a bad spell. While getting up to use the restroom one night I started to cough, unable to catch my breath I fell to the ground. While coughing up blood, reaching for the bed to pull myself up, a comic I was reading fell to the Ground. Spider-Man the final chapter. The Story is about Peter (who has gone through hell from start to finish) trying to reach his Aunt May who is sick , through the comic he goes through obstacle after obstacle until he finally reaches her. It is an amazing story with breath-taking panels that are both empowering and haunting. I remember looking at Spider-Man trying to free himself from the debris, he kept saying how he felt like a "loser" How he let himself down, his friends down, Uncle Ben down and most importantly his Aunt down. As I try to lift myself up, ultimately falling back down, I began to think about my life; from my beloved Cindy, who died of cancer, to my parents lack of empathy and my responsibility to the other sick children, who depend on me to read to them. Somehow I felt as if I was letting all of these people down. As I finished the comic I remember the last things Cindy said to me before she passed "Life is just a state of mind" which in turn gave me the strength to get off the floor, wipe the blood from my mouth and limp to the bathroom. I remember looking at myself in the mirror; staring deep into my own eyes, as if I was Kaa from the Jungle book, trying to hypnotize myself. I remember asking myself " Am I happy with who I am", more importantly, "Do you even like yourself?" The silence was enough to answer that question. I looked down, disgusted at the unrecognizable figure I saw before me, as I looked up I smiled and thought for a moment "What are you going to do about?" From there, It started a change within me that gave me permission to be who I wanted to be and never apologize for it. I started collecting comics again, I lost 130 pounds and in 2012 I wrote and directed a short film called Chemo: A Love story a dark comedy about two cancer patients, who fell in love in the hospital and decide to make the relationship work. The film went on to Cannes short film corner as well as the Miami, Hoboken and San Francisco film festival.
Two of my favorite characters of all time would have to be Spider-Man and Pip from Great Expectations.
I have always been a Spider-Man fan, he has always reminded me that there are two paths we can take. Sure, I could have taken the path of the Angry black man who got cancer or I can choose to do something about it and hopefully help other people in the process. It's Peter's doubts and fear that makes him the lovable character that he is, plus, the brotha has women and rent problems, although, not anymore! Thanks to Dan Slott!! Also, Shout out to Dan Slott and Editor Steve Wacker who sent me Spider-Man comics while I was sick! How cool is that?
Pip is important to me because of what he aspires to be, a gentleman. The interesting thing is, it's Pips Great Expectations that lead him astray in life, the one person(Joe) who could have taught him how to be a Good person. Pip passed Joe over to be a " Gentleman", but the interesting thing is, it's the Kindness of Joe along with another link to the past (HA. ZELDA!) that ends up teaching him life's many lessons. Like many of us, sometimes we make observations and certain judgements of people, before we actually know the whole story. Sometimes we're too hard on ourselves and often we unconsciously put those expectations on others. which can, if we're not careful, break great relationships apart. It's good have ambition, it's good to dream, but don't allow those dreams to turn you into a person you're not.
Reading, Dreaming and Spider-Man saved my life. It gave me the courage to tell my friends, to confront my parents, lose 130 pounds and continues to this day, give me the power to change something If I don't like it.
Alright Blerdnation, Nuff said