Name : Nika C. Beamon
Where are you from: New York
A little about your self (`ie your education Family life etc):
As for my background, I am from a close-knit family. My parents have been together more than 46 years and I have two brothers. I briefly went to a small boarding school in New Hampshire where I played ice hockey and on the men’s JV baseball team. I attended Boston College in Massachusetts and pursued a BA in Communication and a BA in Sociology at the same time. After graduation, I began a career in television. I’ve now been in the industry 21 years. Currently, I’m a Writer/Producer at the number one local television station in the US.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Currently, I am working on my first true crime book, Green eyed Casanova based on my correspondence with a former acquaintance who was convicted of murdering a woman just six months before we met in 1990.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing after I won the Bubblegum writing award in second grade. I decided then that I wanted to grow up to write books. On my 25th birthday, I pulled out my life to do list, saw my desire to write on it and got to work on my first novel, Dark Recesses.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think I consider myself a writer when I began to get paid to do it for a living at my day job. But, I felt like an author when my first book was published and someone other than my friends and family told me they read it.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
A picture my father took in the 1960’s, which is actually the cover of the book, inspired me to write Dark Recesses. I wanted to tell the story of a southern black family hiding secrets, other than slavery.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I have a very descriptive writing style. I think I’m a blunt person and that carries over to my writing.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The title from my latest book came from my love for and identification with the television show House MD. I knew I needed a doctor like that character who could identify rare medical problems and solve them.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I think all of my books have the same theme, empower yourself by gaining knowledge on whatever the problem, subject matter may be and then use ti to find peace within yourself.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
My latest book is a memoir so it is it’s absolutely realistic, maybe too much so. The first two books, Eyewitness is based on the rash of church burning in the South in the eighties but is applicable now because of the new wave of fires. Dark Recesses is only loosely based on attending family reunions in Virginia as a child. The characters, however, are named after people I know.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I always being by basing my stories in fact because I think it help the writing to be more relatable and authentic.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I don’t have a mentor but I must say I am touched most by true stories. In terms of novels, the classics like Catcher in the Rye speak to me.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Right now, I’m reading David Spade’s autobiography and Brooke Shields’ autobiography.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I love the collection of essays, Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Currently, I’m promoting my memoir, Misdiagnosed the Search for Dr. House; it’s about my 17 year quest to find the correct medical misdiagnosis. It outlines the surgeries, procedures and relationship that got me through the trying years. It also provides tips to help others avoid my fate. It’s essential since medical misdiagnosis is responsible for 400 thousand deaths every year in the us, making it the third largest killer.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My co-workers often ask about my books, buy them and publish blogs posts on their social media pages.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Writing is definitely a career for me.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I suppose the only thing I would change in my latest book would be to wait to have it published by a mainstream publisher. It was reviewed well and sold modestly but I feel it would do better if it were on store shelves where buyers would see it and reach for it.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
As I said prior, my interest in writing was fueled by an award early in my life but honed by working on the newspaper squad in high school.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Freak of Nature
I am a “freak of nature.” I have a condition few others in the world share but at least I know that now. I spent the better part of my twenties and all of my thirties, which should’ve been my carefree years, trying to find someone to tell me what was wrong with my body. In 2004, I was so desperate I began watching the T-V show, “House M.D.,” hoping it could help. I would tune in every week not to see how Dr. Gregory House would misbehave but to see who he’d be treating; if he’d have a case like mine. It never happened. I never saw anyone with the exact same symptoms. I was disappointed but not surprised. By this time, I’d already struggled for 11 years to find an answer to what ailed me.
My life changed dramatically my senior year at Boston College in Massachusetts in 1993.
I’d planned to spend it partying with my friends and enjoying the spoils of my hard work trying to earn a dual degree in Communications and Sociology. I never got to do that. I began suffering a rash of 104 degree fevers; joint pain and debilitating fatigue that made it impossible for me to make it to class most days. I adjusted, having my assignments brought to me in my room, sitting a Mac on my lap to type papers, and I had friends over instead of going out. I didn’t know it then but it was just the beginning the changes I’d have to make to my life.
At first, I endured minor inconveniences like a few days bedridden once a month, a doctor’s appointment every two weeks and a couple pills. These weren’t things that prevented me from beginning a demanding career in television which required working long hours and some weekends. I was able to focus on learning all aspects of the business, including writing and production. I also had the energy to join the softball team, volunteer for charity sports tournaments, and spend time with my boyfriend.
A few short years later, my body began to rapidly decline. Right after breaking up with my boyfriend, moving back home to the New York- New Jersey area without a job, and starting to write my first book, my aches, pains and fatigue made it nearly impossible for me to concentrate on anything, let alone get out and look for a job. My savings were quickly being depleted and I had no health insurance. It was the first time my failing health made me wonder what kind of a future I’d have, especially on my own.
My symptoms soon eased and I was able to take a job at Classic Sports Network, which became ESPN Classic, in New York. As HR/Office Manager, I was pretty sedentary, saving my energy for activities after work such as finishing my novel and jumping back into the dating scene. I thought I’d found a way around the nagging condition that had slowed me down but I’d only paused it.
It took four more years for me to realize I wasn’t in control of my body at all. A stabbing pain in my abdomen greeted me as I stepped in Eyewitness News in New York for the first time on April 20, 1999. I was concerned but didn’t have time to deal with it. The newsroom was bustling. People were running around, shouting and cussing. I’d come in just moments after word spread about the Columbine High School massacre.
I scurried into a chair and tried to shake off the pain while maintaining a professional exterior. It’s a good thing I collected myself because within minutes, my new boss, who had failed to reintroduce himself, was asking me to make travel arrangements for a reporter and cameraperson.
“Welcome, Nika,” he said. “I hope you are settled in. I need you to book two tickets for
Denver, Colorado for Nelson Gregg and Steven Sharp”
Who? I thought. I didn’t ask though.
“They need to get there as soon as possible.
“Is there a return date?”
“No, not right now,” he barked. “They will also need a car and a hotel though.”
I didn’t even know how to use the phone but I quickly figured it out. I dialed the number for ABC Travel mounted to the wall above the phone and prayed the person on the other end knew the crucial details like how to pay for the tickets and hotel.
“Joanna speaking, how can I help you?” the voice on the other end of the line said.
“This is Nika Beamon from WABC-TV. I need to get two tickets to Colorado as soon as possible.”
“No problem let me tell you what your options are.”
Joanna rattled off the possible flights and helped me select the best one for the station’s crew.
“Did you need a car and a hotel booked for them as well?” she asked.
It took less than fifteen minutes for me to complete my first task as the new Newsroom Manager at the number one local television station in New York. I did it without letting on that the pain in my gut made me want to double over.
This is only half the job, I thought as I rubbed my abdomen with a fake smile plastered on my face. I’ve agreed to produce a live sports segment on Friday mornings at 4 a.m. I wonder how I am going to pull this off?
The demands of my career took its toll on my frail body very quickly. A mere year and a half into my time at Eyewitness News, I was spending less and less time going out after work. It was all I could do most days to make it through the nine hour shift without needing to take one of the pain pills my doctors had begun prescribing. As my symptoms progressed, my primary care physician suggested various specialists across the city, each focused on one aspect of what was going wrong with me. Instead of hanging out at clubs, I was lying on my back in hospital rooms and on exam tables hoping someone could help me. Meeting men so I could occasionally go on a date was out of the question not just due to my physical limitations but because I dreaded the thought of trying to explain to someone that I was stricken with some mysterious illness which appeared to have no cure. So, I turned my attention to answering these questions for myself.
I drove countless miles to meet a slew of strange doctors. I endured colonoscopies to check my intestines, endoscopies to examine my throat and stomach, and biopsies to check my organs for Cancer. I had a spinal tap to check for infection, a transesophaegeal echocardiogram to make sure my heart was strong and countless blood and urine tests. I also had enough radiation that my insides probably still glow in the dark. But, I had no choice. At the time I was told if I wanted to figure out what was going on inside me all of these exams were necessary.
Truthfully, a lot of the doctors admitted they were as baffled as I by my case. Most agreed that it was clear my liver was damaged, that I had inflammation of my colon and intestines, the ovaries were blocked by polyps and that my lymph nodes were constantly swollen. However, no one knew of just one condition that covered all my symptoms. I got the MRI’s, CAT scans, and any other kind of test the doctors could order to try to narrow the cause of my illness down. When that didn’t work, I was sent to just about every kind of “ologist” that exists:
a hematologist to check my blood, an endocrinologist to check my hormone levels, a dermatologist to check for skin cancer, a cardiologist to check my heart, a rheumatologist to check my joints and figure out the cause of my fevers, an immunologist to make sure my body can fight infections, a neurologist to check the blood vessels in my neck and brain for clots and other defects, and a radiologist to examine the images of my organs.
As the list of specialists grew, my list of medications increased, as well. Unfortunately, most of the drugs I was on had no street value so I couldn’t even sell them to make back the fortune in hard earned cash I shelled out for them. To cover the cost, I skipped vacations, new clothes or furniture, dinners out and even holiday presents. Just trying to keep track of my refills or which doctor prescribed what drugs required an excel spreadsheet.
My doctors often thought they’d solved my case, diagnosing me with numerous conditions over the years, some of which I’m sure I never really had, including: mononucleosis, a common viral illness; chronic fatigue syndrome; GERD or acid reflux disease so severe it eroded my esophagus; Polycystic ovary disease, a hormone imbalance causing cysts, fertility and menstruation problems and excess hair growth; Acanthosis Nigricans, a skin disorder that can be a sign of Cancer; insulin resistance syndrome, a metabolic syndrome can increase the likelihood of coronary artery disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes; Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, an inflammation of the liver caused by an accumulation of fat deposits; transient ischemic attacks, a disruption of blood flow to the brain; Sarcoidosis, a condition that forms abnormal tissue in various organs; and Lymphoma, a type of Cancer.
In between my medical odyssey, I did manage to find someone who wanted to be with me illness and all. Nothing about my first date with Marc went well. In fact, it ended in the hospital. Yet, he asked me out again and again until we ended up spending more than a decade together. He went to doctor’s appointments, cleaned up after me, and acted as my eyes, hands
and legs when mine failed.
Still, my years of being half dead didn’t only affect me, it took a toll on him too. It did to nearly everyone else in my world too. Each misdiagnosis was another crushing blow and another affirmation that I might never be cured. Marc, like my parents and friends, tried to take it well but he was always balancing in a precarious position; caring for and about me but wanting the normalcy that every couple should have. At first, he’d stay home with me at night even though I’d be asleep at 9 O’clock. But, slowly he began going out without me and our lives started to drift apart.
I didn’t blame him. I figured he wondered like I did why a healthy, attractive, single man in his twenties would want to be shackled to a girlfriend puking or passing out all the time, not due to alcohol; why he’d want to be in bed every Friday and Saturday night just after the sun went down, especially when it was not to have sex; and what kind of future would we have when mine was so unclear. I understood the frustration he must’ve felt because I experienced it too. I wanted to be able to go out for a drink but I knew it would interfere with my medication. I wanted to go dancing with him but my body hurt just walking. I wanted to see the world with him but I could barely afford to keep a roof over my head. So, when it became apparent none of these things were going to be possible, I wasn’t surprised to learn he found other women he could enjoy them with and that he and I weren’t going to make it. Still, I felt fortunate to have been loved enough that he cared for me when I needed him most and that we could salvage a friendship.
When it comes to my other friends, I know the ones that are left standing after years of get well cards, calls, and visits, are the ones who truly didn’t tire of asking the same questions so many times: What did the doctor say? How did your test go? How do you feel? Is there anything I can do?
My parents never asked how they could help they just rallied around me and figured it out. . I have no idea what they expected my life to be like when they proudly stood behind me at my college graduation and sent me out into the world. If my conditions made me fall short, they never said. They never asked for grandchildren after they knew it would be nearly impossible for me to have them. They never asked if I would get married. They only asked if I found someone who makes me happy. They never complained about travelling to hospitals in three different states repeatedly. They also never seemed to panic whenever I fell ill nor did they allow me to give in to the depression and doubt that often overwhelmed me. They were, and are, the pictures of strength; remaining positive about my prognosis even when we didn’t know the accuracy of it. They only ever asked one thing of me: to not let my condition stop me from accomplishing my goals.
One of the key things I wanted to achieve was a sense of normalcy amid the unpredictability of my infirmity, that’s why my co-workers, by far the people I’ve spent the most time with, were oblivious to what I was going through. I didn’t want the look of pity every day so I hid my growing dependence on prescription drugs, the severity of my pain and my endless fatigue from them as best I could. Plus, I didn’t want anyone to break stride, miss their story slot or even lighten the work load for me. I didn’t want my bouts with poor health to make an internal email chain like the one several of our reporters who battled Cancer were on. I most certainly didn’t want my illness, treatment or recovery to become the subject of a story designed to boost ratings. I wanted to report the news not be it. I succeeded in keeping my private life secret until my illness ravaged my body to the point that it was obvious I was ailing.
Thankfully, by the time I was exposed at work, I’d found a real life Dr. House; a physician who was able to pinpoint exactly what was wrong with me. It may have taken two decades but it was worth the wait. Of course, I didn’t think that at first. Everyone said I should be glad, happy, relieved—pick your own adjective—to finally know what’s wrong with me.
Initially, I thought F*** that.
It took time for me to realize that the news I’d received lifted a huge burden off my shoulders. No longer did I have to scour internet message boards looking for someone else who shared my symptoms. I didn’t have to visit random doctors looking for the miracle cure. It also meant my family and friends didn’t have to be on edge all the time constantly wondering what bizarre condition I’d be diagnosed with next. We finally knew what I was up against albeit a rare, incurable disease.
I am a “freak of nature” but I know now it’s not a curse. I am as God made me. I have an imperfect body but a strong will. I have determination to make the best of the life He intended for me even if it’s not the one I initially planned.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
For me, writing is always challenging because my health doesn’t always cooperate. Having a chronic autoimmune disease makes it hard to move at times, let alone type.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I don’t believe I have a favorite author but I love mystery novels so probably James Patterson.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I used to travel a lot more to promote my books at conventions and stuff but since the invention of the web, virtual tours and radio interviews from my home have made my life a lot easier.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
All of the covers, except for the one for my non-fiction book, I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married, were selected by me.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The hardest part of writing my memoir was selecting the stories I wanted to tell, being as honest as I could be, and making sure I didn’t offend or expose anyone in my life who wanted his or her privacy.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
When I looked at the events in medical history together, it reminded me of how much I’ve survived, the lesson I’ve learned and the people who have supported me. I found I am much stronger than I thought and certainly not frail.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
The best advice I ever got was to write if you love writing. Continue to practice so you can tell the stories you want to tell in the way you want to tell them.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I think I would tell my readers thank you for reading my story. I also hope they will share their stories with the world too. We can all learn from each other.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Unfortunately, I do not remember the first book I read.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I laugh often because life is too short not to enjoy it so anything cheesy gets me to chuckle. I cry frequently too usually because of physical pain from my condition.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I enjoy meeting new people all the time. However, I regret not getting to meet the Pope when he was in New York.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
I’ve thought about this many times: I suppose it’s she never gave up, never gave, never stopped loving.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I love to cook, draw, to volunteer my time and spend time with my family.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I am a fan of the voice and any show on the Food Network. In terms of movies, Whiplash was my favorite last year.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music:
I don’t have a favorite food but I am dredfully picky. My favorite color is blue. My favorite music varies but slower is usually better.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I probably would’ve gone to law school and become a mediator to help people resolve their problems without litigation.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My blog is http://www.nikabeamon.com I can also be found on other social media like Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, Medium, etc…
Amazon Authors page http:///M.-C.-Beamon/e/B000APPHN0/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1