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Friday, May 31, 2013

Chronic Diva:Kizxandria Baker

We are wrapping up Lupus Awareness Month and I have a question for you. What does lupus have in common with lung disease, breast cancer, knee replacements, hip replacement, a hand brace, an arm sling, crutches, a mother who keeps beating cancer, a child who overcame Cystic Fibrosis, and a child who survived a brain tumor? Her name is Kizxandria Baker. She’s been through it all and she is a Chronic Diva!

My first encounter with Keeta, as she is affectionately called, was not the best.  There was no indication, whatsoever, that we would become the friends that we are today. Ironically, or perhaps I should say divinely, I was assigned to share a cubicle with her on my new job many years ago. I was happy to have found employment after my health caused me to leave my previous job. I dropped my belongings off at the cubicle I was assigned to and went off to training. Taking a break to unpack the things at my desk, I returned to chaos. Management had not informed the other employees that they would be sharing their space with the new kids on the block and Keeta was most furious. Already steaming at management for the absence of compassion they showed for her and her family’s bouts with illness, she was outraged at their further lack of consideration and poor communication with staff.

Fortunately for me, I was pretty unshakeable and survived the Wrath of Keeta! She admired my strength and patience with adversity that she so often desired to achieve. I applauded her audacity to faceoff with powers that be in a multimillion dollar corporation. We bonded over stories of having become bolder through dealing with illness and its perils. We spoke of dreams deferred. Keeta once had the beginnings of an acting and modeling career, but declined an invitation to Milan and gave it all up, as she decided to put her family and her health first. Then she was given a death sentence.  The doctor said she only had a few months to live. She came to regret her decision not to follow her heart and emboldened me to go for my dreams full speed ahead, despite anything I was going through. I told her she had to do the same and when I refused to help her plan her funeral she vowed to stop speaking death and to pick back up on her dreams.

We only had to share that space for a couple of months before the new private work areas were installed, but during that time the many conversations we held and the bond we formed would prove to be profound. Two years later, neither of us was still on that job, but what we took from those days has gotten us through the trials of chronic illness for 16 years and counting. While neither of us has yet to find a 9 to 5 that has accepted what we go through, we both have become fierce advocates and have decided that we never have to give up on even our wildest dreams. Today, we still push each other to our creative limits. Keeta has traveled with me to take my novel and my poetry on the road. She has gotten back into acting and we have starred in a poetry play together. She has recently completed her Master’s Degree and is applying to Law School. She wants to be able to help women who face what she herself had to go through. She is just about done with a short memoir of her stormy days to encourage others to keep pressing, the same way she has. She is even considering modeling again. Take cover, because I have no doubt that Keeta will take that world by storm, too. You know what they say about something that’s chronic…it’s persistent, perpetual, long-lasting. That she is!