I remember as a little girl my grandfather would take my brother and I to the zoo and on fishing trips, he exposed us to National Geographic magazines and introduced us to the love of the Lord. He purchased my first pink bible and enclosed, "For my one and only granddaughter. Love, Grandpa." Strong, stoic, peacemaker and man of God, my grandfather was the rock of our family.
One day as a college student, I received a call that would change my life. As we sat in the doctors office, I remembered hearing "stage 4 prostate cancer" and then sounds similar to the parents voice in a "Peanuts" episode processing in the background as questions ran through my mind:
"What in the world is prostate cancer?"
"Is it curable? Will he make it through?"
"Stage 4? How many stages are there anyway? Is this good or bad?"
As a young woman, I was completely clueless about prostate cancer. I thought "that's the cancer men get, right?" and didn't know much else. "Isn't it taboo to talk about prostate cancer? It's so uncomfortable. These are my uncles, brothers, fathers, grandfather for heavens sake and I don't want to talk about THAT."
I would hear my mother say "get screened, get screened, get screened" not understanding our family history with prostate cancer and that the majority of my great uncles had to face prostate cancer at some point in their lives. I also didn't understand how much prostate cancer impacted the African American community as a whole with men of African and Caribbean ancestry having the highest rates of death and diagnosis than any other demographic.
After my grandfather was diagnosed, I watched him for 12 years live on a careful diet, researching the latest updates in treatment, and continually stayed spiritually uplifted as he has always taught us to do. He would tell me "everything's going to be alright" even when in my heart I knew everything wasn't always alright.
As a women, how do I support this man in my life fighting prostate cancer, this strong and stoic leader of our family, encouraged mentally, supported spiritually and connected to the right resources for his physical well being? He always took care of everyone else. What impact can I make? What role do I play?
My role as a woman in the fight against prostate cancer is to empower myself with the education and awareness to support the men in my life and stay connected to resources providing not only physical support, but emotional and spiritual support as well. I realize they lead this effort, but can't do it alone.
It's OK to talk about prostate cancer. It OK to say, "Dad, have you had your prostate cancer screening yet? Remember you have to get it done every year." Women make over 90% of the medical decisions for their families and are proactively involved in the health decisions of the men in their lives. Talking about screening for prostate cancer is a part of it.
My personal commitment to my family is vital for not only my son who will one day grow to become a man, but also my son's son and future generations.
We, as women and men together, can conquer this epidemic called prostate cancer.
Yours in prostate cancer awareness,
Blue Flowers Org seeks to empower women and the men in their lives against prostate cancer by providing resources on the physical, mental and spiritual effects of prostate cancer.
Shavonn Richardson is Board Chair of Blue Flowers Org. Follow her on Twitter @shavonnrichson. Learn more at www.blueflowers.org.