Breast Cancer and Hispanic Heritage Month
Several years ago, there was a woman, full of life, who found a lump. Her fingers slid across the surface of her skin as she completed her routine. Maybe her children played in the background, or she got herself ready for work. She may have been talking to her partner, pausing midsentence as her breath caught. As the noises around her faded into a humming blur, she retraced her steps, hesitantly reaching the spot…her fingers recoiling as she feels the hard, moveable kernel.
The community she lives in may affect the care she can get. If she is not born genetically female or identify as They, or if they are simply male and have the gene for breast cancer, there can be hurdles of both psychological fear of confusion and embarrassment as well as community bias that can affect someone seeking further medical care. Communities without diverse medical staff can unintentionally create barriers in reaching potential patients to help them overcome their fears in receiving quality and informed care, because reality is, all our bodies are different. Our genes are different. One person may be able to tolerate one approach while another needs an entirely different combination of approaches. And let’s be very upfront, holistic care cane often be lacking in both rural and southern communities. There are interesting studies emerging of increasing alternatives in traditional medicine mindsets which do not center on chemotherapy as the first choice of approach; having physicians who can engage and research ever broadening approaches can increase the quality of care we have in our communities.
The fear and shock that can happen around the subject of cancer can lead families to not even talk among themselves. Women often will bear the burden of their diagnosis for weeks as they work through their emotions, trying to prepare to help support their family as they also tend their own needs. And this is before we add back the daily events of everyday life. How communities shape themselves around their known challenges, can help create the quality care we hope exists when our time comes to face our own illnesses.
This month has a crossover of both celebration and awareness, until October 15, it is Hispanic History month, and for the rest of October, it is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Members of our community of Hispanic/Latin/Latinx descent can face language and bias barriers based on the language limitations, political environment, and lack of cultural/human curiosity that can exist in many mind sets, even those in the medical community. This can hold true for many aspects of folks with divergent identities that may be faced with challenging stereotypes. Some communities have really utilized Hispanic churches as a central outreach for screening and health information Another example of how communities develop coordinated approaches, can be found in groups such as SOMOS LATINOS CONTRA CANCER, an organization on the west coast, which works to ease the financial hardship of treatment and invests in the next generation of medical providers by providing a fellowship to potential students. With our access to SOTC and Langston University’s Nursing programs, Ardmore should have an ever-broadening educational environment that delves deeper into integration of many approaches in shaping our medical community. Having a hospital management that can embrace and evolve into a more “Patch Adams” spirited approach may provide better care over time by expanding our understanding of how medicine and healing can truly work together, allowing our doctors and nurses who are curious, to have an environment that welcome and utilizes diverse approaches in shaping the hospital and treatment experiences. One way to help insure this is by sharing scholarship information for our next generations medical professionals, one example is the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Inc. which provides a scholarship for youth based on the DEMONSTRATED leadership, stepping away from the simple formula of standardized tests and academics, neither of which signify one’s potential solely. I hope one of our local Hispanic churches, health departments, or nonprofits will coordinate with their youth to head up a breast cancer detection screening, document it, keep it going, and help the youth take their steps towards a future of being a medical leader.
As you go about your day today, remember that how we care for ourselves is the first step in our health. Many grocery stores, food banks, and other local outlets have free or very inexpensive fruits and vegetables, choose those. Cut out the sodas and fast food as regular diet fare, it increases all forms of illness. If you smoke, add walking daily, may cut back some, or work to quitting. Connect with your loved ones, if you don’t have loved ones, connect with a local community and friends, engage in the world in a positive manner, it protects your health and mind. Turn off the news, say hello more, look for how we have already worked through so much rather than letting fear outline your outlook.
And above all, to each of us, be kind to you and one another.