While working with cancer clients from all over the United States, I continually hear women ask why this dreaded disease happens to them. One such person is 26-year-old Joan, who is originally from Nairobi and now lives in Texas.
Joan has brain cancer that is spreading throughout her body. Especially prevalent in young African-American women, the disease has derailed Joan's once-promising career in engineering.
Over and over again, Joan has questioned God about why the frightening cancer has entered her body and boxed up her dreams and goals.
At one point, Joan stopped caring about her life, thinking that she was going to die soon anyway. That mindset led her to embrace a downhill lifestyle. She became pregnant and now has a 15-month-old daughter.
Joan's daughter, however, became a game changer, triggering a new, positive way of looking at life. Joan wants to live and watch her child grow up.
A particularly troubling part of Joan's journey was her encounter with the medical system. She had come away from an encounter with her physician's nurse thinking that radiation and chemo treatments would help her recover. Later, the same nurse told her that none of the treatment had stopped the spread of the cancer.
Joan said she had tears in her eyes and that her voice was trembling when she reminded the nurse of what Joan had taken as the promise of a recovery. Today, many journeying down paths similar to Joan's find themselves in a quandary about what to do and/or who to believe when it is comes to medical care.
All women, and especially African Americans, must seek out and ask questions of their primary care physicians. What are the options, whether conventional medicine or an alternative holistic approach? Given these choices, one will be able to make better decisions about what road to travel for recovery.
As I talk to African-American women about cancer, I share that the foundation for better health comes down to understanding themselves and learning to love who they are for themselves.
The questions I ask them are: What makes you happy about life? And, do you love yourself?