*The headline topic particularly hits home for me. And with all of the family, close friends, and colleagues that I am sure many of you have lost over the years to cancer, I know it will hit home for you too. Upon reading an article in The Guardian that pulls back the curtain on who may be more likely to survive cancer, not because of better genes or even luck; but because of their race – which whether folks want to believe it or not has a LOT to do with access to medical treatment – I was compelled to share a personal experience.
It seems almost criminal that the odds for a person’s survival of cancer lies in the color of one’s skin. That, if you’re Black or Hispanic, you are automatically less likely to survive the disease due to late diagnosis; little to no insurance coverage, and the blockage from necessary treatment due to governmental rules and regulations.
And for the few “fortunate enough” to get the treatment they may need “for free,” it seems to automatically be assumed that these people have signed up to be “research rabbits.”
It is this last entry that identifies the reason the topic hits home for me.
I have a friend, lets call her “Brenda.” She is Black. When we met in 2013, she had been in remission for nearly a decade; having survived three different types of cancer! But not unlike most cancer victims, this did not mean she was free of going to the hospital daily to maintain her life.
As a Black woman, not only did she endure racism in a lot of these medical settings, where she was often ignored; made to wait for lengthier periods to be seen — even though she had an appointment, in lieu of the front office staff in her Armenian community attending to “their own” first.
Needless to say, her visits with the doctors were not much better.
But then, in what appeared to be a stroke of good fortune, a high profile medical facility in Los Angeles who only accepts a few patients annually for no cost, fast-tracked her application and called to say she could now be cared for by them.
“Brenda” was thrilled and couldn’t be happier at leaving the medical facility she had attended for at least a year, but had treated her so badly, behind.
The daily routine of visiting the facility to maintain her life became even more intense for “Brenda.” But she was being treated with the utmost respect and she felt she was getting the very best care.
Remember: At the time she arrived at this new facility, she was still cancer-free.
After months and months of what “Brenda” thought was fine treatment, she and her family decided to take a trip to visit other family members abroad. They planned for months, waiting for the children to get out of school on summer vacation. I was both happy and sad. Happy because this family had already been through SO much, even aside from the tremendous responsibility of remission; and now they were going to be able to have fun! And sad because I would miss them during the time they were away.
Finally, the tickets were bought and the trip was a reality.
Or so I thought… Continue reading