What "I'm hanging in there" really means

Friday, September 25, 2020

We need to talk. 

Inspiring. That's the word many of you have been using to describe me as I've been sharing my battle with breast cancer journey on my blogs and social media. You've seen me working and writing and blogging and building a business while undergoing chemotherapy and you've said I motivate you to keep going. 

And I'm very glad you feel that way. In fact, one of the reasons I decided to be open and honest about my diagnosis was that I'd hoped I would inspire you to go after your dreams even when your circumstances are far from ideal. 

When you text me or send me a DM via Instagram to ask how I'm doing, I probably respond with the same answer each time: "I'm hanging in there." 

But I need to let you know what that really means. 

Overall, my body has tolerated chemo well, but the side effect of hair loss that you can clearly see just scratches the surface of what I've been facing.  For the past five months, I've had to deal with nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, neuropathy, hand-foot syndrome, and more. 

But what's been hardest of all is the toll that cancer and chemo take mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I struggle with being angry with God and I struggle to accept that my life and my body will never be the same. I cry -- a lot. Many of my nights are restless because I'm sad, angry, scared, or in pain. 

Please don't think that I need you to say something that will make me feel better -- nothing will.  And I'm not sharing any of this for pity. In fact, I'm not sharing this for my benefit at all. I'm sharing this for your sake. 

Let me explain. 

In my cancer support group, we talk a lot about toxic positivity. When we're having a bad day some people -- though well-intentioned -- try to silence us. Instead of acknowledging and respecting how we feel, they simply cut us off and tell us to "stay positive" as if that will make it all better. 

Fortunately, I have friends and an amazing husband who understand that sometimes I need to scream, cry, and cuss. 

My goal throughout all of this has been to be as positive and productive as I can. And I am proud that I have been able to work and continue to motivate women in my sphere of influence even while I fight the toughest battle I've ever faced. 

But I want you to know that I am not positive and productive all the time and you don't have to be either. 

I want to keep inspiring you, but I don't want to be a source of toxic positivity in your life. You may not be fighting cancer, but we're all battling something -- depression, racism, sexism, illness, loneliness, financial troubles.

I want my cancer journey to show you that you can do hard things, but I also want to remind you that it's OK to rest. It's OK to have a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad month.

I also don't want to feed into the "strong Black woman" narrative, the assumption that Black women don't ever need help and that we even have a stronger tolerance for pain. 

I'm a girl of gumption and grit, but I FINALLY also know when it's time to give myself grace. 

Whenever you need to do so -- give yourself a break. 

Last week I had my last chemotherapy treatment and I celebrated with a virtual girls night in with the ladies of See Jane Write

But this battle is far from over. I have to undergo tests so my doctors can figure out why I've been in so much pain. I still have to go through two months of radiation. And I'll be dealing with some of the side effects of chemo for months. Some of the side effects I may have to deal with for years, if not the rest of my life. 

In the meantime, I'm going to keep fighting. I'm going to keep inspiring you. But I'm going to keep having bad days sometimes, too, because that's life. 

I'm going to keep hanging in there. 


  1. Thank you for being honest about how you're feeling and not pretending things are better just to make other people feel comfortable. That'd be so much extra energy that you don't owe anybody. I'm here for all the screaming, crying, and cussing you need to do. <3

  2. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  3. I appreciate you and I'm rooting for you, always. Thank you for your willingness to share.

  4. Javacia, you and your words are treasured. I am hugging you.

  5. Thank you for sharing your story. I have essential thrombocythemia but appear to be in remission now. However, it seems I also have chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Bone pain comes with that and that explains why I have been in so much pain over the last two years. I will add you to my prayer list. ��❤️

    1. Thank you for your prayers. I will be praying for you as well.

  6. Thank you for sharing your “ inside story” with us. As you stated we are all battling something. My something is grieving while trying to live and love. Your message is giving me strength by acknowledging that the death of my husband does not give me a license to give up on life. I want you to keep fighting because that’s what we need to do to make it through each day. L love you and as you say, while giving us person to hang in there.

    1. I'm glad my words could be a source of encouragement for you. I am praying for you as you grieve the loss of your husband. Love you!

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