What Happens to Black Cancer Patients
‘What would have happened if my parents did not have an oncologist-in-training as their daughter? What happens to the Black patients?’
Part one: It’s everywhere
My first prostate cancer patient was my father. He is the man who taught me to be frugal. He is parsimonious until he gets to talking, and then all you want to do is listen. His laugh is boisterous and genuine. It is pure magic when it rises from someone who otherwise seems so stern. He worked two jobs when I was very little, one as a United States Postal Service mail carrier and the other delivering papers for a now-defunct newspaper in Denver. His father left his mother and eight siblings when he was young when they lived in Wichita, Kansas. My father saw his father again when he was a senior in high school. His father showed up unannounced at one of my father’s football games. “Don’t worry about me,” he said to his father. “I’m grown now. I’m fine. Take care of my little brothers and sisters.” His father died when my father was a little younger than I am now. My father was the one who drove to a small town in California to settle the affairs. My father was the one I called as I lay sobbing on the floor of my apartment, just having heard the news that my lung biopsy showed cancer.
Five Tips for Living with Radical Uncertainty
A Black oncologist and cancer survivor passes on her wisdom
My mother first called me to talk about my father’s health when I was a second-year medical student. She said that he’d had trouble going to the bathroom. He went to see a urologist, and they were recommending a prostate biopsy. He had initially agreed, but then changed his mind, and now refused outright. She was scared and wanted to know what to do. Well, not what to do, exactly, but how to be. How to cope.
I asked a few mentors about the situation since I still had very little practical medical knowledge. Prostate cancer was common and so likely, they said. He should go along with a biopsy, but first, perhaps try to find a doctor he liked better or trusted more for another…