Please note: I am writing this article knowing that I am blessed to have health insurance and access to affordable, quality health care, while so many people in this country do not. I believe that access to healthcare is a basic human right. This is yet another reason to get your vote on.
After reading our recent interview with BlackHer Shero Linda Blount, president and CEO of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, I realized that I needed to get my health act together. Blount explained that there are a lot of societal issues (like the stress that stems from racism and sexism) that have a negative impact on Black women’s health. As a Black woman, I am determined to engage in counter-combative measures against these stressors and take affirmative action to preserve and improve my health! Here’s the beginning of my journey.
Getting a Check Up is Great Self Care
I feel great when I take the time necessary to go to the doctor. When I do this, I am putting myself before work and other commitments, which I seldom do. I believe that having regular physicals and other check-ups is a key part of “self-care” that folks don’t always talk about.
Warren Buffet reminds us that we only get one body and one mind! Take care of them. I am going to.
Ignoring Our Health Can Be Fatal
Years ago, I struggled with another common health issue for Black women –fibroids. Since lots of folks, including several of my Black female friends, had “really bad” fibroids, I did not take this health issue seriously, even though I was hemorrhaging every month and in enormous pain. For many, many months I reasoned that I did not have time to see a doctor to address my fibroid problem because “my work was so pressing” and “everybody has bad fibroids anyway.” In fact, I ignored my fibroids until I passed out in a public place and was hospitalized as a result. During my hospital stay, I learned that I suffered from life-threatening anemia (hemoglobin 6). My doctors said that my blood shortage was causing my heart to pump much faster than normal to move what little blood I had through my body. They claimed that this could cause me to have a heart attack at any moment. I had to immediately act to address my lack of blood through blood transfusions, medically induced menopause and surgery. It was scary and wild! Faced with an extreme situation, I acted. I was lucky.
Within weeks of my collapse, another Black woman lawyer in my city named Eve passed out in a courtroom and died from a heart attack while the paramedics tried to revive her. The cause? Extreme anemia from fibroid tumors.
Everybody said that Eve was a terrific person. Everybody said that they did not know that she had such a bad problem with fibroids, or that anemia could kill you.
It was a wakeup call.
It’s a New Day! Let’s Get Physical.
It’s a new day. I am older and wiser, and I have a new attitude. I am working to improve my physical health.
A couple of weeks ago, I took primary healthcare step number one and had my annual physical. The news was not all good – e.g., I need to act now to avoid high blood pressure. On the other hand, my body is not wholly on a collision course for a disease. The bottom line is that I have work to do now, like changing my eating habits, and my reaction to stress to get healthier.
I went to the same doctor that I saw a couple of years ago for this year’s physical, which (if you have a good doctor) is a good thing. We spoke for 15 minutes about what’s going on in my life even though she had no idea that I’d be writing about our visit!
It is essential to have a doctor who has the time and interest to talk to you about what’s going on. They should ask you questions about job successes or woes, personal losses, your family, sleep patterns, your sex life, etc. Your doctor should also ask you about your family medical history. Because unless you are the most chill person on earth, your health can be influenced by all these factors and more.
Since I am a woman over a certain age, my doctor told me that I also needed to have a mammogram, and some other tests. My hearing, which has been bad for decades is deteriorating fast, so I also got a referral for an audiologist.
Health tip: If you can swing it, visit the same doctor each year. It can be helpful to work with someone who knows you and your health history.
Most years I lose all my mammogram referrals or put them at the bottom of my purse until I accidentally throw them away. Not this year! I am making time for my referrals. Since October was breast cancer awareness month, the first referral I scheduled was for a mammogram. I was screened a week before the end of October.
Mammograms are an X-ray picture of our beautiful breasts. Doctors claim that they are the best form of early detection of breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most highly diagnosed cancer among Black women, which is scary. However, survival rates for early-stage breast cancer are high. That’s why regular screening is recommended. If breast cancer is found early, it is far more likely that a woman or a man who can beat it.
I am waiting on the results of my mammogram and other tests.
I have a lot more health issues to take on, including losing weight and finding time to exercise. I’m also investigating therapy to see if it can help me deal with stress (and living in a world that feels bonkers.) I also need to find time for other forms of self-care, like sleep.
I am glad that I have taken some first steps to get my health on, and I encourage you to do so too!
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