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Was "Connie's" Death Preventable?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Was my former childcare giver’s death preventable? I pondered this question during her funeral yesterday. No one plans to die at age 54. “Connie” left behind a loving husband, three grown children and a grandchild. Was her cancer inevitable or could something have happened to prevent it? Being the curious person that I am, I started googling for information and found the following statistics from the National Cancer Institute:

• Caucasian-American women have the highest rates of breast cancer, but when African-American women get cancer, we are more likely to die. For every 100,000 Caucasian women diagnosed, 25 will die. For every 100,000 African-American women diagnosed, nearly 40 will die.

Risk factors associated with breast cancer are: smoking, physical inactivity, obesity, and excessive alcohol intake. Factors associated with higher death rates are: lack of medical coverage, barriers to early detection and screening, unequal access to improvements in treatment, and a higher prevalence of aggressive forms of breast cancer in African-American women.

I don’t have all the details that contributed to Connie’s death. I do know these basic things; her husband had health insurance, Connie did not smoke or drink, but she was morbidly obese for many years and did not exercise. She was also an excellent cook and ate a traditional soul food diet.

During the funeral service, feelings of frustration mingled with my sadness as her friends and family raved about her cooking skills during their tributes. The question that lay heavy on my mind was “Would Connie be alive today if she had changed her diet and started to exercise?” I’ll never know. But there is scientific evidence out there that says it would have removed some of the risk.

I am starting to grow tired of hearing about African-American women becoming disabled or dying in their 40’s and 50’s. I’m tired of opening the community newspaper and seeing all these tributes to middle-age women who’ve passed away, leaving behind broken-hearted families and friends. At some point, whether we’re black, white, American Indian, Latino or Asian, it’s time for us to reach out to the family and friends in our lives and our community and “Spread the Spark” of a healthier lifestyle. We have to find a way to do this without seeming holier-than-thou or preachy. No, it won’t prevent all deaths and disabilities, but it can put all of us on a road to better health.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • SPARKLE1908
    Well said...sorry for your loss...some things are preventable but people have to want it for themselves...
    1884 days ago
    So sorry to hear of your loss. I have thought the exact same question this week about my childhood friend of the family.

    My friend passed away on Tuesday. She was only 42 (a year older than me). She was morbidly obese, even as a child. We went to 8th grade and freshman year in high school together and back then she weighed around 200 lbs. Her mom is my mom's best friend sister so for a while we would cross paths a lot during holidays and family gatherings.

    I too wonder if she would still be alive if she had lost weight or changed her diet. Small changes in your life can add up and make a huge difference.

    I will pray for your friend and mine. Their families are missing two moms.

    1884 days ago
    Amen! I'm with you. We may not be able to prevent all these diseases, but we have to do our part to try.
    1885 days ago
    You are so right. A lot of the time the information is available we just need to make sure our loved ones get out there & get the test done regularly. Some times medicaid will pay for these test now what happens after that is up in the air. I think cost is definitely high on the list of not receiving the care we need. We either pay for it now with exercise, eating healthier & taking care of ourselves or we will pay later.....I am so sad indeed.

    God bless,

    1885 days ago
    My condolences.
    There may be preventable measures, but we can't force others to conform to healthier lifestyles. I understand your reflection nevertheless.
    1885 days ago
  • JACKIE542
    I agree, well written. emoticon
    1885 days ago
    Well said! emoticon
    1886 days ago
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