I full intended to post this earlier, but you know how it be. I don’t want to lose another sister to this cancer shit. It is tearing through generations of our women and it pains me deeply. NO, the situation is not simple. There are very significant systemic barriers of access and affordability of care and culturally competent providers. However, women, and women of color in particular, continue to struggle with self-care. We will push, even nag, our partners, kids, even clients to be proactive in getting check ups, eating right, and even resting. Our resourcefulness and creativity in helping other organize their schedules and priorities to make time for wellness is uncanny. Unfortunately, we get a big fat fail when it’s time to take care of our own precious selves.
This shit is played out.
I lack eloquence in communicating my feelings on this because my frustration around it is off the charts. Martyrs can be poetic and all, but guess what? They become martyrs because they’re dead. Gone-zo. And in many cases, there is a point at which we can actively and consistently participate in the prevention of breast cancer. But we ignore it in the name of nurturing others. This shit has gotta stop. I have the honor of participating in a project wih the Carol Milgard Breast Center (CMBC) focusing on outreach to Black women. We’ve held 6 listening sessions examining the barriers to breast health for Black women, young, old, and all ages in between. The sessions were both inspiring and heart breaking. More than one session involved stories of a granddaughter, aunt, mom, and grandmother all impacted by breast cancer. Women avoiding mammograms only to be diagnosed in the very advanced stages of breast cancer. And as we pushed even further, we uncovered some of our very real distrust of the health care industry. The aftermath of scientific experimentation, betrayal, and humiliation by doctors/nurses are at the core of generational aversion to critical office visits. The even trickier issue of faith was prevalent in every group. Recognizing that it is reliance and belief in God AND honoring God’s gift of medicine is an imperative in the fight to save our sisters. And make no mistake, it is a fight. CMBC’s recent report indicates that Black women in Pierce County are dying from breast cancer at a higher rate that other ethnic groups. It will take a concerted, loving, determined effort to stop this trend.
Check your breasts. Self-image is keeping us from becoming comfortable and familiar with our bodies. We must know what feels right to recognize when something is wrong. Honor your body by learning and responding to its needs.
Each one teach one. Instill the value of self-care to your younger siblings, nieces, and mentees. A girl’s first period is an opportune time to discuss wellness in its totality; womanhood from head to toe.
Twerk it and work it. Nobody can move like a sista…you know I’m right. Walk, stretch, kickbox, do the damn wobble…just get in some exercise. Every day. Errrr day,hear?
Get a breast buddy. Take a support person with you to your office visit and/or mammogram. It can help to have someone else there, asking questions, telling you a joke or two, helping you fend off the nervousness and fear. And in return, serve as a breast buddy to someone else.
CMBC has a great list of prevention tips here. Read it. Apply it. I’m struggling to reduce my alcohol intake (my favorite vice) and stay out the drive thru (my go-to solution to a long work day). But I’m trying. Show Betty some solidarity.
I have immense respect and love for the hospitality and trust extended to us in the name of this project, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart. More importantly, I lift up Jackie Ostrom, Executive Director of CMBC, for her commitment to invest money, resources, and social capital to improve the health of underserved women in our community. Not only is she garnering support to ensure long term impact, she is not afraid to turn over the power and trust women from the community to lead the work—not a common approach for many well intended but ineffective organizations.
As we push ourselves silly toward professional and personal goals, let’s hold each other up, hold each other accountable to love our bodies. Love our beatiful bodies by caring for them diligently and without apology. Take the self-care challenge and share your experiences; successes, challenges, ideas, all that. Nothing changes if nothing changes. Let’s do this.