Not so D.C.

This week I headed out to Washington D.C. Unfortunately, this trip was far from anything I could have thought up on my own.

Well, my first night was fairly slow-paced. I spent the evening with my host discussing things I could do for the next few days and places I absolutely needed to visit. I danced in the living room, ate pizza, and did yoga. Eventually I did homework, and read a few chapters of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It was sweet time by myself, to focus on myself.

I woke up for day one with slight pains in my lower abdomen. I wasn’t too concerned at first, because one of the effects of Endometriosisis is regular UTIs. I went to CVS, grabbed some cranberry juice, a few pain killers, a gallon of water, and shook it off. I’d requested my ride on Lyft to the D.C. Metro and was ready to see the National Museum of African American Culture and History. I went to get my clothes out of the bedroom and noticed a puddle of blood. I’m not sure how I didn’t notice it as soon as I woke up, but then it dawned on me that I never went to the bathroom. I’d gotten up, brushed my teeth, and walked to CVS in blood soaked sweats. I was completely oblivious to what my body was telling me. I was in awe. There were no tears, and no immediate reaction, I just looked at the puddle. My body was burning hot, and I could hardly stand. I sat on the floor (in the same spot I’d done my yoga) and begged God to heal me. I’d never prayed that before. Even with the cancer, even with Endo, I’d never blatantly asked God to stop it. I felt myself feel with rage when i realized it wouldn’t happen that way. I lied down there until the pain subsided, then I got a Lyft to what I THOUGHT was the nearest Urgent Care. 20 mins into the ride, I realized I’d taken myself to Maryland (so I mentally marked another state off my 2018 list) and sat quietly in frustration and pain.

I know you may be thinking, THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A TRAVEL BLOG, but if you look on my Travel Tour page, I told y’all I will give you my experience as it was. As unfortunate as it may seem, this was my trip to Washington D.C.

At Urgent Care, I sat silently. The pain had increased, and it was unbearable. I ran to the bathroom and for the first time since 10pm the night before, I peed. By this time it was about 11:00pm the next day.  I know you’re probably like “ugh…why’s she telling us this” but honestly, I’d ever been so excited. The doctors ran a UA and immediately had me go to the nearest Emergency Room.

My Lyft driver Abdul, was perfect. Abdul heard me crying in the backseat. So he pulled over, gave me a bottle of water, and asked if he could do anything. I simply responded “please get me to the hospital.” Once we got there, he asked if I needed to call someone to come meet me. I said no. He asked if I had someone coming. I said no. He went park the car, came into the ER, and sat with me until I got called back. I was stunned. I’d never been loved like that by a complete stranger. He sat next to me for a solid 30mins in silence and concern. I will forever be thankful for Abdul.

Upon going to triage, the nurse, Barbara asked why I was alone. I said I was traveling, and we discussed the power of perseverance. She was super sweet. She told me that when I walked in, the first thing she noticed was my smile, then I sat down in her chair and it disappeared. She said, “You don’t have to pretend to be okay for me. It’s okay to be afraid. Now give me some blood.” Lol. I thanked her as well.

Once I went to the back, the doctors ordered the CAT scan. They said the UA, my CBC, and all of the other lab work came back fine, so they wanted pictures. My nurse, Justin asked if I needed to call anybody, I was so sick of answering that damn question, but I realized that was their approval to console, in each case, they did just that. Justin rolled me to the CAT scan, rolled me back, gave me meds, and I tried falling asleep. I can recall about 10 people who would NOT stop texting me. My mama and Elijah were a constant presence and peace, Aunt Trill with her strength, Lindsay with her encouragement, Bri with her maternity, Shelby and her PURE love for my well-being, Jared, Tim, Tiara, Stacey, Jammerio and so many more. I was overwhelmed, but I can spout off names, because it penetrated my heart. My phone died, and I finally fell asleep. When he woke me up, he said, and I quote

“Ms. Solomon, you have a tumor on your uterus that is approximately 12.5 cm long. You also have one on your cervix that is 5cm long, and one on your right kidney that’s 4.5cm long.”

I sat there. I didn’t cry. I was honestly still waking up. I asked if this was some sort of practical joke and he lowered his head. I put my head in the other nurse’s lap, and wept. I can vividly remember the silence in my cry. I remember the stillness of that hospital room and the raw fear that was oozing out of me. She let me cry. I sat up. They read a stack of paperwork and made arrangements for me to be flown back home.

I want to point out a few important details. The people, the circumstance, and the future. I was surrounded by some of the most beautiful souls I think I’ve ever encountered, and I truly believe it was purposeful. I believe it was orchestrated that way because it needed to be. Not just for me, but for the people in the hospital watching Abdul console me, for the nurses in the back, watching Barbara confide in and Justin encourage me, for the nurses and patients passing while I cried in the lap of my nurse, and for the people on the plane who were stunned by the fact that the hospital would do such a thing. I haven’t lost my faith in the beauty of all people, but PEOPLE have lost faith in the beauty of people and I feel like if even one person was able to watch these days play out, they were powerfully affected.

The circumstance: I got back home the next day, and upon my arrival I went to my mom’s and let it all out. I was afraid of a hysterectomy, and they started recommending it again. I wanted children, but I also wanted a normalized reproductive system. I was afraid the pain would be chronic. I was afraid I couldn’t go back to school. I was basically a ball of fear, and I needed to release. I curled up inside of her, and left it there. I could have held on to that. I could have decided that I was the victim, that my circumstances were undeserved and definitely unwarranted. I could have lost all joy in life itself. In that moment, with my mama underneath me and my brothers around me, I decided that would not be the case anymore.

The future: Today is February 17, 2018, I have my first appointment with my gynecologist on Monday and I’ll find out when my surgery to remove the tumors and/or my uterus will be. I’m not as afraid as I was, but I am instead hopeful. I’m hopeful in the doctor’s ability to remove them safely. I’m also confident that this is a small piece of preparation for a much bigger story to be told. This week reminded me how important it is to continue putting others before myself. It reminded me of the power in self-sacrifice. It reminded me that we do live in a broken world, but it is filled with beautiful and loving hearts. I appreciate all of your sweet words. Thank you for reading.

I love you.

Meet Aries.

I know it may seem a bit juvenile for me to introduce my dog in the “Meet A Friend” collection, but he has done things in my life that I’ve failed to put into words-until now.

On March 15, 2016 I was diagnosed with Endometriosis. It was easily the best thing to have happened to me. For years, I’ve struggled with understanding my body and why my reproductive system just didn’t seem to be healthy. I’ve had countless doctor’s appointments, with numerous specialists, and spent thousands of dollars on “trial treatments.” I’d finally gotten a semi-concrete answer for my pain, so I was satisfied. Simultaneously, my doctor found an alarming amount of cancer cells from a cervical biopsy. I didn’t tell my family until about 6 months after beginning treated, and by then, I was having to re-learn the value of self. It wasn’t that I didn’t want them to know, or that I didn’t think they could handle it, I was just too scared to say it aloud.

I was in a relationship, one that I don’t regret, but he was not prepared to carry this sort of burden. I soon found out that I’d tested positive for HPV, so I told him. It seemed like every visit to the doctor came with a bag of bad news, and I was sick of sharing it, but I knew it was my responsibility. I’d broken my virginity that year. I felt safe having unprotected sex with him because I trusted him. I was sure he’d be my husband, and it’s like I set aside what I knew to be true about sex outside of marriage. I took a risk. Luckily, HPV can easily be treated, when caught in time because it’s a virus, not a disease. This was not the case for me. The infectious cells had multiplied at a pace I wasn’t aware of, and those were the now cancer cells, I was fighting.

I know you may be asking, what could this possibly have to do with a dog, but I promise I’m getting there. On more than one occasion, he (my ex) made it very clear that I was becoming “too much” and that he “wasn’t used to seeing me this way.” We separated for more reasons than that one, but I think that one hurt the most. I don’t blame him for any of this. I don’t see him as the enemy. I have no hatred in my heart. I will always love him, but it was necessary that I realized the beauty in letting go. I was not as strong or rational as I’d been in the past. I was sensitive and easily broken. I was fragile. I was afraid. I was damaged goods. Eventually, the only emotions I felt were loneliness and perseverance. I may have been lots to handle, but I needed to be handled, and he was not the man for the job. I was determined to submit my brokenness to someone, and I finally told my mother. The way she held me is a moment I often re-live in my head. I have never wept like that in my life. I vividly remember yelling “He took so much from me, but motherhood?!” I said this because with the treatment and surgeries I was scheduling, infertility was the biggest risk factor. I remember her responding with, “Don’t you let hate fester. This will not break you, Renae.” I fell asleep in her lap, on the floor, in the living room.

At the ripe age of 25, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis and Stage 1A Cervical Cancer.

The school year seemed to drag, but as an educator, I had to put on my “poker face” and serve. It was exhausting. I was exhausted. My students knew something was up, and they refused to take “I’m fine” as an answer any longer. The thing about Endo, is that it causes a kind of pain that I don’t think I can adequately put into words. There were days in class when I’d have to walk out, sit on the floor in the hallway, take deep breaths, then reconvene. I remember one of my Senior girls catching me outside on the concrete beside the building, in a ball. She said, “Queen, whatever it is, let me hold you” and I cried. I could not stop crying. It wasn’t a snotty, snorting kinda cry, though. It’s like the tears just fell while I sat there in a blank stare. I felt so inadequate as a leader, mentor, and teacher, but that was the first time in a while that I didn’t feel like a burden. I never told that baby what was wrong. I got up, told her I loved her, and went to my next class. When I talk about my bond with my students, it’s so much more than being their teacher. This was the day after my doctor suggested a full hysterectomy. I hadn’t missed work the day before, because I refused to miss out on that little bit of joy. A hysterectomy meant no kids, no family, no motherhood, and I was broken. If you’ve read my blogs in the past, you know how badly I long to be a mother. You know about the adoption process that came back void. You know about the fostering. You know I’ve tried.. I found myself reading Galatians, where Isaiah 54:1 was referenced, it said,

For it is written,

“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;    break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!For the children of the desolate one will be more    than those of the one who has a husband.”

I decided then, that being barren would never define me, nor would being a mother. I, instead, loved my students as if they were mine. We decided that instead of a hysterectomy, a Myomectomy may do the trick. This would remove the non-cancerous fibroids that had formed, once I’d treated the cancerous cells. This would also increase my chances of fertility. I haven’t made a concrete decision. I’ve mainly been focused on taking care of my body, as is, but I have an appointment this March and we’ll see.

Still wondering where Aries comes in? Here he is!

a year ago, my doctor recommended I see a therapist, just to help navigate through my emotions. He knew that I’d broken up with my boyfriend and he knew how close I was with my moms, but he also knew how prideful I am with my feelings. It’s crazy how necessary mental health is, and how often we cower away from it (that’s a blog for another day). I’d decided “I was fine” and carried on. Soon after I made that dumb decision, a co-worker of mine posted a picture of this long-legged, gray, something or another dog that she’d found. She had 3 huge babies of her own, and couldn’t see herself keeping him. I waited. I prayed. I wrote. I legitimately thought about whether or not I was in a place mentally to care for that creature. I decided I wasn’t, but he would be the driving force behind my getting there.

I adopted Aries Paul Lewis at two months. He was gentle. He was afraid. He was nervous about yet another new home, and person he’d have to trust. I had a connection with him that still blows my mind. On days when the pain brought me to my knees, he’d lay his head underneath mine while I cried. On days when the bleeding just wouldn’t stop, he sat on my feet in the bathroom while I screamed. On days when I couldn’t walk, he’d let kme hold on to him while I crawled to the other side of my apartment. On days when I couldn’t get up out of bed because my pelvis had swollen and my bladder refused to release, he curled up against me and let me lie on his back. What I thought was just a dog being overbearing, was a friend being my protector. I still have some hard days. I still have days when it’s more comfortable to sleep on the floor, and on those days, I text my mama, and curl up with my best friend.

My cancer has since subsided, and I’m down to only about 6% cancer cells. I haven’t tested positive for ANYTHING in over a year. I have no tumors. I have no bleeding, and I thank God for that daily. It sounds silly, but I felt “dirty” and now, I feel like I got my freedom back. Unfortunately, the only treatment for Endometriosis is surgical procedures and pain relievers. I’ve had 2/3 conservative surgeries which is the removal of endometrial tissue. I can honestly say, I have never felt better. I’ve changed my lifestyle. I’ve changed the criteria for people I allow in my life. I’ve changed the way I see perseverance, and I’m thankful for the people who have walked with me through those changes. This sickness took a toll on many of my friendships, because I’d grown exhausted with talking about the pain. It taught me who would and could stick around. It also taught me the uselessness in complaining. It taught me so much. I still have days when the pain can become unbearable, but I’m learning that it comes with the territory.

Aries has played a vital role learning what it means to love myself. He taught me how to, even when I didn’t think I deserved it. I call him my best friend and people laugh. I sing happy birthday and people laugh. I make him waffles for breakfast and people laugh. The laughing is fine, because I’m fully aware of how ridiculous I can get, LOL,  but please understand that this dog played a major role in saving me from myself. So, again, meet Aries.

He’s my best friend.

Thank you for reading, I love you.