Chadwick Boseman’s death due to colon cancer hit hard. It’s understood that he was an amazing actor and played a rare role as a black man in power. It’s also understood that he was a humble and compassionate human. It’s understood that he kept his secret close (as was his right) and received treatment between movies while continuing to make public appearances - especially those that involved bringing joy to children. Variety.com quotes Bob Iger (Chairman of Disney) as saying, ‘He brought enormous strength, dignity and depth to his groundbreaking role of Black Panther; shattering myths and stereotypes, becoming a long-awaited hero to millions around the world, and inspiring us all to dream bigger and demand more than the status quo’.
However great he was as a person and actor, these are not the only reasons why his death hit hard for me. It hit because he died from a form of cancer that has a mortality rate higher for the black population compared to the white population. The incidence rate is 20% higher. Once again, African Americans lead the charge in incidence and mortality in yet another disease. (Colorectal Cancer Disparity in African Americans - Risk Factors and Carcinogenic Mechanisms, Augustus and Ellis. 2018)
It’s not clear why this disparity exists: it could be due to lack of testing; unwillingness to get tested; genetic factors; differences in diet; socioeconomic factors etc.
It’s important to get screened. Yes, the fact that something foreign is going in a place you would rather not be explored may make you squeamish, but the reality it’s temporary….AND necessary. You may not even have to undergo a colonoscopy - a simple stool test may only be required. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, unless you’re in a high-risk group such as family history of CRC, (discuss risks with your MD) regular screening should start at age 50. Interesting though, in the US, it’s recommended that screening for African American’s start at age 45 - likely to account for the higher rates of colorectal cancer in the black population. If you attended my recent workshop on Black Womxen and Health, you will remember that in Canada, we do not collect race-based health data so targeted solutions cannot be developed for the issues we don’t even know exist. The fact that in the US screening is recommended at age 45 while in Canada it’s recommended at age 50 is very concerning. It also could be contributing to lack of early screening and therefore, early treatment.
The Canadian Cancer Society also recommends the following preventative measures: regular activity, increase fibre consumption, have a healthy body weight (obesity increases the risk of CRC), decrease the amount of processed foods and red meat in your diet.
Although this is not an exhaustive list, some symptoms of CRC include bright or very dark blood in the stool, constipation, diarrhea, poop that looks narrower than usual, gas, abdominal cramps, feeling bloated, fatigue, weakness (Canadian Cancer Society).
As I said in the recent workshop - we need to continue to be an advocate for our health and ask curious questions. We also need to know our body. If we don’t, and we aren’t listening, how do we know something is wrong?
I’m not saying this is simple. But let’s start with simple steps. Don’t wait. Early detection of any health issue is so super important.
1. Listen to your body and know it intimately.
2. Be an advocate for your health - push for testing and screening.
3. If you are 45 years of age or older, ask to be screened and cite the fact that the US has well-documented statistics indicating CRC hits the Black community harder than other ethnic groups.
4. Get regular movement into your day.
5. Eat a healthy diet comprised of lots of fruit, vegetables, fibre and LESS red meat and processed foods.
On another note….
Here’s what I’m reading: Me and White Supremacy by Layla. F Saad. This is a fantastic day by day journey of learning. Why? Because I know I have more to learn and this lays it out for me in bite-sized chunks.
What I’m eating: This past week we were in Montreal taking our daughter back to University (*tears*)- my favourite meal was from Lov Cafe - a vegan restaurant in Montreal that now has a Toronto location. My fav meal this week was the Zen Salad, which had konjac noodles, red cabbage, lettuce, daikon, carrots, pickled chilli, cashews, cilantro, mint in an almond vinaigrette. Going to try to replicate this one day (meaning likely not, but I’ll put it out there to the universe).
Here's what I've enjoyed this past month: My morning gratitude journal. I started keeping a daily gratitude journal and am really enjoying giving gratitude before I start my day.
Here's what I’m listening to: In one of the restaurants in Montreal, I heard ‘Money’ by Michael Kiwanuka (with Tom Misch). I may be late to the game on this one, but I’ve got it on repeat.
My challenge for you this month: If you don’t already, start to listen to your body. Feel how it feels, focus on each area from head to toe slowly. Do you notice anything? Do this each night and you’ll start to note when your body is off or when it’s trying to tell you something. It will start as a whisper and if we ignore it, the scream may be too late.
Yours in Health,