It’s been almost eight months since I lost my grandmother to the battle of cancer, and yet my heart still aches. The grieving process is also in place for my grandfather, whom I lost almost eight years prior to cancer as well. Both were taken from me by a disease that is prevalent in the African American community. And because I am a researcher, I pulled a recent report from the American Cancer Society which study shows that even though the cases where African Americans have been identified to have any form of cancer is less than those of the White population, there are more deaths from cancer reported in our population than in the White population.
The study goes on to show something that alarmed me the most: Mississippi (where both of my grandparents resided all of their lives) had the HIGHEST number of deaths in the African American male community than any other state between the time period of 2005-2009!!! My grandfather passed away in that time period so he is amongst those numbers, IF it was even reported! Remember, not all cancer cases are reported. So the numbers are not as accurate.
Could their deaths have been prevented? Why do some live and some die? So many questions I have. But here’s what I know about my small hometown in Mississippi: the healthcare system is limited in providing serious illness treatment. Both of my grandparents were diagnosed with cancer and passed away within a few months after the diagnosis. They both underwent aggressive treatment, but it was found so late there was no chance of survival! And they had to travel to Memphis, TN, and hour and 45 minutes away from their homes to receive certain treatment! What is wrong with our healthcare system?? Why is healthcare resources limited in low income areas?? Why is nothing being done about this? So many families are suffering, including mine, from the loss of a loved one due to something that is survival and livable with the right treatment. And in low income areas, why is healthcare not affordable? Yes, we have Obamacare now, but there’s so much red tape that it’s not accessible to those who desperately need it! What about those in extreme poverty conditions that do not have access to an internet access to sign up for Obamacare? Hell most people do not have computers! And the signup process is not easy and can be confusing. What about those who are elderly who cannot read (and yes, there are people in today’s world that still cannot read) and who has no one to help them sign up for healthcare? And for those in poverty who found a way to sign up for Obamacare, don’t have the medical facilities accessible to them for proper care? This is heartbreaking but no one feels that pain until it directly affect their family. That’s why I care now. I’ve always known that healthcare in my hometown sucks but once you live in an environment for so long, you just adapt to it. Well I’m pissed and tired of adapting! Because I’ve lost two of the most kindest, loving, sweet spirited human beings on this earth! They were genuinely good hearted people and now they are gone. I tear up every time I think of them. Questions I wished I could’ve asked them while they were here. I’ll never get that opportunity to tell them I love them and how much they mean to me.
So grief is what I have to deal with but that’s not where I am going to stop. I don’t want their deaths to be in vain. There are many lessons to learn from them and their lives. There’s something seriously wrong with our healthcare system in low income areas. And I plan on taking a stand…. Starting with the White House … starting with whomever in power to do something and bring attention to a small town where our people are dying off in high numbers from something that is PREVENTABLE! Early detection could have saved my grandparents, perhaps. But that’s something I will never know. Proper healthcare could have saved my grandparents, perhaps. Again, something I will never know. But for those who are living in those low income areas, they still need healthcare.
I’m not promoting cancer research; there are plenty of government agencies and rich folks doing that. I’m promoting early detection through available and accessible healthcare resources in particularly low income areas. Get the right, qualified doctors in those areas. Get the right healthcare systems and make it available to everyone, despite of their economic status. Do something! If I have to be the one to go to the news outlets or walk in President Obama’s office (swap team and all), I’ll do it. Because I’m that dedicated to the cause. I want to help those families who are going through what my family is going through and also provide a preventative measure so other families in the same economic status NOT have to go through. Questions to ask your doctors, getting medical care, getting health insurance, getting what you need to be healthy and aware of your medical condition. If I have to fly back home and visit house to house, with my laptop in tow, signing up everyone and then realigning the healthcare resources so that when they do signup they can get the proper care they need – yep, I’ll do that too! Am I rich? Hell no! I don’t have any money in my own pocket, but I have healthcare. And I live in an area that houses the most predominant health care possible – John Hopkins is one of the best medical facilities in the country. Why aren’t they in Mississippi? I’m on a mission. All in the name of my lovely grandparents: V.O. and Minnie O’Neal. Gone too soon.
Matters of my heart – Jai