Latin@s and Cancer

Social services nurse holding elderly woman's hand with care.
Social services nurse holding elderly woman's hand with care.

I read something recently that made me catch my breath. It said that 90% of cancers are preventable.

Crazy, right?

It's Hispanic Heritage Month and I am part of a team of people at MomsRising.org that works at bringing awareness to health topics via a tweet chat called #WellnessWed.

This month, we are focusing 4 of our chats around Hispanic Heritage Month and I couldn't be prouder. We'll focusing on cancer awareness this week, diabetes/heart disease on 9/30, breastfeeding on 10/7 (YAY!) and HIV/AIDS awareness on 10/14.

My dad has suffered several heart attacks and Mami died of cancer so, this month's chats have an extra special place in my heart.

It makes me think about what could've been done. I try not to dwell on it, having already spent too much time in the last 4 years doing just that. It's difficult not to. Difficult to reconcile having a healthy Mami that cared for your child as you returned to work one day and one that you were caring for the next.

2015-09-22-1442950644-1478639-Sili_Mami.jpg

Heartbreaking to say the least. When I see that cancer is the #1 killer of U.S. Hispanics, no se. Me da terror but at the same time, it drives me to make everyone aware! To spread the word, to break down the social and cultural constructs that at times allows this disease to run rampant.

My siblings and I had named Mami's cancer. She had what I thought was a rare form of cancer but which I'm now finding out is rising in Latin@s. Cholangiocarcinoma. Bile duct cancer. We named the cancer so that we could concentrate all of our energy into destroying it. Randall was his name. He shrank during chemo, as did Mami. But he lurked in the background and took her from us shortly thereafter.

I've seen people go through chemo after her and folks that knew her marvel at how she was so stoic about it. How she never really got "sick". She suffered in silence. Felt pain in the darkness.

I don't want that for anyone else. Statistics show us that 1 in 2 Hispanic men and 1 in 3 Hispanic women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Did I mention Papi is a cancer survivor?

Cancer accounts for 21% of deaths overall in our population (and 15% of deaths in Hispanic children).

We need to do something about it. I don't know what the plan looks like long term but for now, I'll focus on spreading the word and hoping that if we put out enough information, facts and resources, we can bring this number down.

I'd like to see old age being the #1 cause of death among all humans. Let's work on that!

2015-09-22-1442950215-3048078-HHM_Cancer_Awareness.jpg