This month, a car hit me.

I'm grateful I survived.

Pictured above: Me & my children on my daughter’s 13th birthday, celebrating that I’d just used my walker to get out of our apartment for the first time since I got hit by a car earlier this month. In the photo we’re waiting on an Uber to take us to Peter Rabbit 2, which was surprisingly good.

It was the evening of June 2, the hour before total dark. I’d been wrestling with deadlines, cancer-related nausea, and terrible jaw pain linked to dental issues. I felt on the edge of being totally burnt out, but I also felt hopeful. Walks always help me get grounded, and I had just started feeling good enough that I could take one.

I was heading to the Fresh Market across from my apartment to buy my daughter some cups and supplies for making pizza. After she officially completed 6th grade this May, my daughter recorded recipes of her favorite meals in a Beetlejuice notebook and started cooking on her own.

Before I left for my walk, I told her and my son I would be right back. Moments later, I was calling them to tell them I love them no matter what.

I was sitting on the sidewalk, my legs twisted and stuck at odd angles, uncertain whether I was going to die from internal bleeding within moments or face a remaining life of paralysis. Suddenly, all my talk about quality of life and how metastatic cancer was but one thing that could kill me . . . really hit home.

I saw the car that hit me right before impact, but the driver didn’t see me until I bounced onto her hood at the intersection of Peachtree and Bennett at the edge of Atlanta’s Midtown and Buckhead neighborhoods. She’d failed to yield on a left hand turn.

I felt her feeling almost as traumatized as me. In the aftermath of the crash, she was as helpful as anyone could be under the circumstances.

Now, I am back in holding—adding a chapter about this to my long-awaited book, figuring out a new approach to life/work that feels genuinely sustainable, relying on extra help from my children and my friends, looking for the beauty that is being born through this most recent pain, and embracing the notion that maybe—after this—I will no longer need pain to serve as my gateway to wonder.

I was discharged from Grady Memorial Hospital with a broken pelvis and badly injured left leg with stretched and torn muscles/ligaments/tendons. I am looking at about 12 weeks of pain management, physical therapy, and general recovery time.

If you haven’t already purchased a copy of Queen of Wands, please consider doing so! Meanwhile, general financial contributions are genuinely more needed than ever. May whatever you are able to give come back a thousand fold.

Links to contribute using the platform of your choice follow:

Venmo

CashApp

PayPal

GoFundMe (The book writing/cancer treatment fundraiser that I made for myself.)

GoFundMe (A separate campaign started by my friend Jessie following the accident.)

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Kelli

Issue 3: Updates from My Wonderland

Embracing Stage IV Cancer and All that Comes With It

Earlier today, I walked a couple miles from my home to this bridge over I-85 in Atlanta. I’ve been meaning to do this since moving in October. It felt like a moment.

Since last writing here, I’ve been in a state of constant flux. Moments that felt like endings have opened up, revealing themselves to be more like portals. Through these portals, I’ve stumbled into my own version of Wonderland—marked by abstraction, beauty, pain, obstacles, and possibility.

While I wouldn’t say I’m out yet, I would say that I’m closer.

If you’re familiar with Tim Burton’s adaptation of Alice’s story, I’m at the point where Absalom the caterpillar tells her that she’s “almost Alice.”

The battle with the jabberwocky still looms, as does her return to the wedding she left in chaos, but you get the general feeling that, no matter how things turn out, it’s going to be okay.

For me, my time in “wonderland” has involved having a body scan the same day that I went to cast my vote in Georgia’s historical run-off election. The insurrection at the Capitol happened, and the very next day my oncologist announced that I had an unexpectedly high amount of seemingly cancerous growth in my liver and throughout my peritoneal cavity.

A follow up biopsy confirmed this and placed me in a mild state of cardiac arrest, but I bounced back in time to host a series of “death parties,” in which I shared my advanced health directive, will, and guardianship plan with my closest family and friends. During this time my children faced their own health concerns, and their father sustained a traumatic brain injury within his home in Costa Rica. They are all slowly on the mend, as am I.

My current recovery is thanks mostly to three 3 wonder medicines: Ibrance, lupron, & letrozole. The first is an oral form of targeted chemotherapy, and the second two are forms of endocrine therapy that fight cancer by bringing on menopause. Together, these have caused a host of interesting side effects, but they have also been effective at dissolving much of my cancer.

Naturally, I’ve expanded Queen of Wands to reflect these new experiences. However, no big changes are on the horizon, so I think it’s safe to say it’s now complete and will finally ship once I’ve approved the printed test copy.

Meanwhile, if you’re someone who knows me because of the instrument company I managed with my ex-husband, please rest assured that I haven’t given up on my mission to close that venture with as much grace as possible. Those of you who have ordered a pan will receive it.

Finally, thank you, everyone who has contributed to my book campaign thus far! It’s greatly helpful, especially since I am among those still waiting to receive both stimulus money and a tax refund. I genuinely hope you’ll enjoy reading the writing as much as I’ve enjoyed creating it. It’s been a difficult process, but there is wonder within it.

Earlier this year, outside Fernbank Museum with my children, making the best of things.

Moving forward creatively, I’m working on a project that explores the intersection of sex and aging, and I’ve consolidated much of my Medium-based writing into a single publication called Canna Poet Mom, while still submitting to a few other publications when I feel inspired. Some of my recent(ish) work is here, and here, and here.

Although I hope for my creative work to become the foundation of my career (and have even applied to a graduate film studies program, because why not?!), I’ve presently settled into copywriting on a freelance basis. I’m happy to say my primary clients are businesses that I think are doing good in the world. These include Ohio Medical Alliance (for which I contribute to Georgia Marijuana Card and West Virginia Marijuana Card), Georgia Center for Nonprofits, Work for Good, and Education Without Limits.

Now, that’s enough about me!

Substack, the platform where I host this newsletter, has recently come under fire for being home to some incendiary right wing voices. Even though I’m very left wing, I currently support Substack’s defense of promoting free speech for all, and I’m staying on the platform for now. Should that change, I will certainly keep you informed.

Today, I want to uplift some of the writers who have also chosen to remain here and consistently inspire me in both esoteric and practical ways:

Fariha Roisin: How to Cure a Ghost

Fiza Pirani: Foreign Bodies

Multiple Editors: Memoir Monday

Matthew O’Brien: 4 PM

Mandy Hofmockel: Journalism Jobs and a Photo of My Dog

I’d also like to give a nod to Sarah Gailey, who left the platform, and to Nicole Cardoza. Nicole has never been part of the Substack community, but her newsletter Anti-Racism Daily is one of my personal must-reads.

Until next time,

Kelli

Content of The Grey Way is free, but tips via VenmoCashApp or PayPal are always welcome.  Thanks for your support!

Queen of Wands

Support a Poet's Journey with Cancer in the Time of COVID-19

Above: Hospital selfie snapped in November 2020 at Grady in Atlanta, GA, USA

In August 2019, I began writing SOVEREIGN: Recovery Poems. In December 2020, I finished it and changed the title to Queen of Wands.

The 83-page compilation of poetry and prose explores my unconventional journey with cancer and COVID while shining a light on large-scale issues of health equity.

While some poems also appear on Medium, Queen of Wands stands on its own as a unique artistic vision. The poems that you’ve seen have changed form—losing lines, gaining verses, connecting with other writing in ways that highlight how a whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

Now that the manuscript’s complete, the next steps are simple. I have to edit for formatting and then approve a test copy of my work. After that, it will be available for purchase via Amazon and other retailers.

Meanwhile, everyone who donates $20 USD or more to my campaign will receive a signed copy and invitation to a launch event. Across GoFundMe, PayPal, Venmo and CashApp, my original campaign raised over $6K USD! However, I’m still set on reaching my overall goal of $9K USD. This means raising a minimum of $2500 USD this December.

These funds will help me print copies of Queen of Wands, fulfill all shipments and possibly compensate visual artists for adding their designs to the book.

These funds will also help me meet the increasingly high cost of supplements, healthy food and pharmaceuticals while also ensuring that I can maintain a safe, functional living environment for myself and my children in the days and weeks following my upcoming procedures.

Any and all contributions and shares are welcome. A signed copy of the book will also make an excellent present for anyone with an enduring interest in deeply personal writing about the many facets of healing we humans experience.

To donate and secure your copy of Queen of Wands today, please use the following links:

Venmo

CashApp

PayPal

GoFundMe

Be sure to add a note with your name and preferred contact information!

Meanwhile, if you’ve already donated, please watch for a message confirming details about delivery options.

I’m deeply grateful to each of you. I wish you a wonderful holiday season filled with joy, compassion and sparks of beauty throughout the dark.

Above: From my home to yours, my tweens (pictured) & I send you joy. And, yes. That’s Remy the Rat atop our tree.

Issue 2: In Sickness & Health

I'm always writing.

Above: Selfie taken at my 2020 polling place, a church in Rome, Georgia. I’m grateful that I’ll be placing my run-off votes at an Atlanta school.

When Halloween came this year, I draped a red hood across my shoulders, literally cloaking the growing mass of cells in my left armpit. A few days later, I made what turned into a 5-hour round-trip to go vote in the general election. I pulled up at a church within an hour of the polls closing.

Since I live in Georgia, the following days brought no regrets. The senate races of Ossoff vs. Perdue and Warnock vs. Loeffler advanced to run-offs, and the state flipped “blue” for Biden. I felt for the first time in my adult life that my vote actually counted.

Meanwhile, more waves of cannabis reform swept the nation, and Oregon legalized the use of “magic mushrooms” in therapeutic settings while decriminalizing all drugs.

Suddenly, the work that I’ve done as an advocate for responsible adult use seemed to matter more as well.

I learned about many of these victories from within the walls of Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital.

Sharing a namesake with the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, from which I graduated in 2004, Grady Memorial Hospital rises up from the center of Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward. Old and grand, it stands watch over a bar called Church, rapper Killer Mike’s Swag Shop, the city’s vibrant and diverse Municipal Market, Georgia State University and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.

Many of us who grew up in Georgia received warnings against seeking care at Grady. Fortunately, I’m among those who see through these false fears, seemingly rooted in concerns over the hospital’s “inner-city” location and the largely Black population it serves.

So far, I’ve received excellent care at Grady. I’m also anticipating that I’ll receive a great deal more. Right now, I’m awaiting details about my next cancer treatment steps and surgery. I’ve begun taking a hormone blocker, and I’ve been navigating the rather nerve-wracking landscape of weekly biopsies, follow-ups and scans.

While this has hindered my ability to fulfill all my professional and parental obligations as smoothly as I’d hope, it has also opened my world up even wider to the concept of health equity, and I have at least finally finished my manuscript Queen of Wands.

Formerly SOVEREIGN: Recovery Poems, the newly titled book project is doubling as a fundraiser for my medical costs. When I started the project last year, I set a goal of raising $9k USD. I’m now seeking to raise the remaining $2500 USD that stands between what I’ve already raised and my goal. More information on this will be available in a special Grey Way edition.

For now, I’m very happy with how the book has shifted—from being a collection of writing about my personal agency as a cancer to patient to being a dynamic work of art about health equity in the COVID era. It now feels simultaneously broader-reaching and more personal.

In sickness and health, I’m always writing. Highlights from my latest work follow, along with some of my favorite discoveries. Should you wish to reach me, please contact kellilynngrey@gmail.com.


The Seed: Cultivating Consciousness

My Words from Oct./Nov./Dec. 2020

5 Ways to Become a Conscious Cannabis Advocate, Healthline

Cannabis, A Sacrament for All, Inside the Jar

Access for All Requires Native Justice, Eloquent Magazine

3 Things I Finally Understand about My Ex-husband, P.S. I Love You

Khan Academy is an essential homeschooling resource, especially for math, Mashable

Embracing Life While in Holding, BAMF Mag


The Grey Rose Garden:

Evidence from across the internet of hope blooming in the dark

My Real-Time Thoughts about Being the Other Woman by Shannon Ashley

SEAL Team 6 Were My Neighbors by Hannah Lane

Meeting the Mother of the Girl my Son Killed by Viki Hines

Some ways for you to shine your light this holiday season

Make a difference via Last Prisoner Project’s letter writing drive!

Tell President-Elect Biden: I Demand a Pro-Marijuana Reform Attorney General

For the holidays, support small businesses that give back. Some of my favorites are Witch of the Woods & Bebe Vaudou.


Content of The Grey Way is free, but tips via Venmo, CashApp or PayPal are always welcome.  Thanks for your support!

Issue 1: Trust the Process

Updates across the worlds of entertainment, cannabis, education, medicine and more.

Above: Selfie taken from my makeshift office in my new apartment, where I was writing this newsletter on the eve of my 38th birthday.

Last month, I made two key decisions. One was to acquire a new-to-me vehicle. The other was to move.

Given the current state of my finances, neither choice made complete sense. I had just acquired enough clients to relieve the strain of renting a tiny apartment in rural Georgia with no other significant expenses. Yet, I didn’t give myself even a month to enjoy the relief.

Instead, I took on the expenses of enrolling my daughter in a hybrid middle school, financing a 2016 Nissan and moving to Atlanta. At various points during the past month, I’ve doubted my intuition and asked powers unknown for some sort of sign that I could trust my process. Each time, I’ve received one.

First, a bumper sticker from a Move On campaign arrived the day before I went to finance my car. Next, my dining room wall filled with water and all the art hanging from it fell to the ground the day I submitted my intention to vacate. I interpreted this as the world’s way of telling me what I already knew: Change was coming, and stasis wasn’t an option.

Now, I’m here, in a nice apartment I secured through intuition-driven means. I’m living with cancer, gaining new clients, closing a company and guiding myself and my children through the COVID era.

As I trust my process, I encourage you all to do the same. An overview of my recent projects follows. Since this is the first Grey Way newsletter, I’m providing more background on each topic than normal. In the future, I’ll simply highlight published work within each area. If something speaks to you, please get in touch! I’d love to explore working together.


Arts & Entertainment

I began working in arts and entertainment journalism with a regional paper called The Rome Unscene. It was the early 2000s, and I interviewed regional bands and visual artists weekly. Having no formal understanding of music or art, I wrote from a highly subjective perspective that centered on unearthing over-arching themes and exposing each creator’s human vulnerabilities. It was fun work that ended around the time my 12-year marriage began.

Within the marriage, I co-founded TerraTonz, a steel percussion musical instrument business that I’m in the process of closing now. I invite you to listen to Kelly Richey playing her TerraPan and to Sam Maher playing his. I’m finding owners for the final instruments now and would love one of them to be a Grey Way subscriber. Please email kellilynngrey@gmail.com if you’re interested.

Additional background about TerraTonz and future-facing pieces about the sacred sound industry will also appear within BAMF Books’ Journeys here on Substack. My publication BAMF Mag also provides arts and entertainment coverage, with an eye on my other specialties.

Finally, I’m happy to announce that I’ve joined forces with Eloquent Mag. Published work is forthcoming in future issues of The Grey Way. For now, I give you the classic “Billie Knows Best.

Education

Trained as both a journalist and educator, I have ample real-world experience teaching traditional and non-traditional students, grades K-adult. When the pandemic began, I started developing a project with Six Red Marbles. Lately, I’ve been collaborating with Education Without Limits, a forward-thinking start-up.

Cannabis, Psychedelics & Drug Culture

Since beginning my blog-based column NORML Mom in 2015, writing about cannabis from the perspective of a parent and activist has been my passion. This extends to the psychedelics movement and drug culture as a whole.

Recently, I've been honored to collaborate with Healthline on a series about ethical cannabis. Links to my contributions about packaging and advocacy will appear in a forthcoming issue of The Grey Way. Likewise, next month’s issue will feature the essay about the intersection of cannabis, psychedelics and spirituality that I just completed for Inside the Jar.

I’m actively seeking more opportunities to write for businesses and organization at the forefront of cannabis culture. For your reading pleasure, an essay from the peak of my NORML Mom days is here: A NORML Mom Takes Not One Step Back.

Medicine

Since July 2020, I’ve been honored to serve Wellstar (the state of Georgia’s largest healthcare system) as a copywriter. I’ve created press releases, patient letters and educational materials. However, I’m most pleased with the content I’ve created for Wellstar’s Center for Health Equity. Researching those pieces has shined a light on social determinants of health and clarified my personal approach to having cancer.

Those pieces will also appear within a forthcoming issue. For now, here’s “I Have Already Survived” — an essay from Medium’s Invisible Illness that touches on my personal experience of social determinants of health, though I don’t refer to the concept by name.


SOVEREIGN: Recovery Poems

My full-length collection SOVEREIGN: Recovery Poems is forthcoming this year. Originally a project to help me process my cancer diagnosis and pay for treatments, it’s taken on new dimensions in the wake of COVID-19.

A minimum donation of $20 USD still secures a signed copy and invitation to the virtual launch party. Counting donations from GoFundMe, Venmo, and PayPal I’m just $2500 USD away from my $9K funding goal. Please use the links in this text to donate if you’re able!

And click here to read a sample poem and Write Club ATL Winner, “History: We live. We die. The world goes on.”


Content of The Grey Way is free, but tips via Venmo, CashApp or PayPal are always welcome.  Thanks for your support!

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