A call to action. A cry for help. An opportunity for you to realize your power to give strength to someone affected by a blood cancer (Leukemia, Lymphoma, and Myeloma). Get involved. Make someone stronger.
Dedicated to George Floyd, his family and the countless other victims of police brutality.
When I can’t breathe, would you help me?
My lungs filling with fluid like it has its own faucet. It started slowly over several weeks but as time passed and there wasn’t much we could do, it became bolder. Filling up in days and then hours. At first it felt like I had swallowed some water, now it feels like an elephant’s sitting on my chest and often it feels like I’m drowning.
I can’t breathe.
When it started I couldn’t ignore it because it was happening to me and I noticed it in everything I did. Walking, talking, laying down flat, bending down…it didn’t matter the motion, I could feel it trying to drown me.
But not everyone noticed because they weren’t around when it happened. Because it wasn’t happening to them.
Over time, I grew accustomed to it, numb to it, because it kept happening and all I could do was temporarily fix the issue. I learned to live with it. What choice did I have?
I can’t breathe.
As it worsened other issues emerged. You see, there was a systemic issue in my body we were unable to address and now it is seen in subtle and not so subtle side effects. Directly or indirectly causing it, and to have a chance at fighting it, we must acknowledge and understand the root cause. Permission granted because we didn’t, we couldn’t, address it.
Now more people noticed because it could no longer be hidden or denied. It was apparent.
My heart is often engulfed in fluid. My heart is compromised, not because it doesn’t try or want to do better, but because of the cancer and it’s impact on my organs has compromised it. Systemic. It’s surrounded by fluid that constricts it, almost choking it so it cannot fully expand and contract. It can no longer reach its fullest potential. It doesn’t stand a chance. The remaining organs sitting and watching, some not liking what they see but not sure what they can do. And some knowing they’re part of the problem.
I can’t breathe.
Do you know what that feels like? Do you know what its like to have something constricting your breath while you pray for it to stop? Stop because it finally shows some mercy, stop because it has a shred of value for your life, stop because it knows it’s taken things too far, stop because it realizes its not better than you?
Anthony Baez. Tanisha Anderson. Akai Gurley. Phillip White. Eric Harris. Walter Scott. Eric Gardner. Freddie Gray. Trayvon Martin. Sam Dubose. McKenzie Cochran. Philando Castile. Terence Crutcher. Alton Sterling. Tamir Rice. Michael Brown. George Floyd.
As I sat in the ER for over 8 hours yesterday, the nurses and doctor did whatever they could to make me comfortable. I didn’t have to say I can’t breathe, they knew cause they were doing their job. Doing it without prejudice, without judgement. I wasn’t invisible. I wasn’t another statistic to them, and they weren’t questioning what I did that I ended up there. There was no reduction in their effort despite knowing my situation. Knowing they cannot solve all my issues, they were committed to not adding to them. Lucky me!
Marinate on that for a second. They were committed to not add to my issues, problems, misfortunes or be the cause of new ones.
Now, imagine as that fluid builds up the doctor tells me it’s not as bad I think it is. Imagine they tell me I shouldn’t have drank an extra glass of water, IF I had only listened I wouldn’t be in this situation. Imagine the nurse thinking I’m faking it and not following protocol. Imagine the medical team who took an oath to help anyone in need refusing me treatment because they didn’t think it was worth the effort or that it applies to me.
None of that happened and that is why I can breathe.
But some are no longer.
Imagine telling someone you can’t breathe, and they don’t believe you.
Imagine pleading for help, for mercy, and they are unaffected.
Imagine being scared for your life and while there are humans in sight, there is no humanity.
Imagine screaming I can’t breathe and there being an audience but no one can remove that knee from your neck so you can catch your breath.
Imagine having this filmed, shared on every media outlet from ABC to CNN on repeat. Clip of clips shared and posted so many times it should be etched in the memory of its audience.
Imagine some of them digging up every mistake you made or anything that could be construed or misconstrued and in not so many words saying you deserved what happened to you.
Imagine even with videos from multiple angles, the system or a group of your peers sit back and say “I’m not sure this was intentional.”, “The person was scared he had to protect himself”, “I’m sure there’s more to the story” “Well it’s not like he was innocent” “ He must have done something”
Imagine you went from I can’t breathe to not breathing.
You can stop imagining cause this is happening. It may not be happening to you but it is happening.
I can’t breathe because of cancer. Cancer spreads and consumes anything in its way. Its need for survival is at the expense of anything and everything. It will get what it wants, when it wants and if it doesn’t, it will take it. That’s what cancer does. But at least I know it doesn’t have the ability to feel or think. It didn’t target me because I’m Indian, because I’m a woman or because it doesn’t respect the community I grew up in. It wasn’t personal. It’s job wasn’t to protect me. It doesn’t know better, but we do. And if we don’t its cause someone or something taught us that, directly or indirectly. Systemic and deep rooted. To have a chance at fighting it, we must acknowledge and understand the root cause.
If yesterday you would lend me a hand and wouldn’t want me to feel alone, then you should stand now.
If you would have spoken up for me if the doctor didn’t act quick enough, then you should speak now.
If you would have passed me an oxygen mask yesterday or stepped in to start my diuretic IV when you saw I was struggling to breathe, then you should act now.
If you would empathize with your loved one, your family, a friend, friends of friends, a stranger who has some form of cancer and pray for them, speak for them and support them, then you should do the same now.
It doesn’t have to be happening to you for it to affect you.
Who will be the change and demand change if not us?
I can’t breathe. Someone helped me and now I can.
Listen. Empathize. Stand up. Speak up. Sign up. Pick a side.
You can make a difference. Your voice matters.
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