Thank God for modern medicine
I will always remember the closeness I felt with my aunts and uncles; both maternal and fraternal. However, my father’s youngest sister, Ervine, holds a distinctive place in my recollections. She had two boys. Her youngest son was born with sickle cell anemia. The eldest was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam. It was his charge to inspect battle grounds, ensuring that the corpses were actually dead before they were put into body bags. It took nearly twenty years after his discharge to overcome, only in part, the post-traumatic stress. Ervine’s youngest son died about twenty-five years ago, as the field of medicine did not (and still does not) have a cure for sickle cell anemia. Today, however, persons with sickle cell anemia are living into their forties and fifties, thanks to modern medicine.
Diagnoses: Breast cancer
Aunt Ervine was a petite lady with a big smile. Her pearly whites would always smile for the camera, whether she was sick or not. Coming from Arkansas and moving to St. Louis was a big step for a country girl whose parents were share croppers. But then again, decades ago St. Louis was a trendy location, booming with industry, and proud to be called, “home of the blues.” St. Louis was a grand place for Ervine and her sisters and brother. Only two of her siblings migrated to Detroit.
Ervine married Louis Bryson and enjoyed a relatively good life with her husband and children. When the boys were still young Ervine was diagnosed with breast cancer. Yearly exams were not commonplace with African Americans fifty years ago, and medicine had not advanced enough to detect the early signs of breast cancer. Ervine endured as long as humanly possible. Her malignant breast had swollen up to twice the size of her normal breast. She fought the good fight but still lost the battle.
Get the exam
Early detection of breast cancer is par for the course. No delays, no excuses. However, a few years ago I was just too busy to stop and schedule my mammogram. When I finally decided to pick up the phone and schedule an appointment, I turned right around and canceled it; assuming that I could put it off a bit longer. After a couple of years of playing Russian roulette with my health, I went in for an exam. I ended up having cervical carcinoma in situ and a mass in my right breast. Jack Pot! I had scored big this time. The fear overcame my senses and I went belly up; flat on my back with fear, pity, and shame. I was ashamed of my condition, pitied myself, and afraid that I was going to die too soon.
I had surgery for the cervical carcinoma in situ, and I had a breast biopsy that did reveal a benign mass. However, because of other apprehensions, the doctor placed a small metal chip in my breast where the mass was discovered, just in case she needs to pinpoint the site in the near future.
Singing the praises for modern medicine
Each Sunday, the minister of my congregation says, “Thank God for modern medicine.” The medical field has advanced in the detection and treatment for breast cancer. If my aunt had had the medical advances, that I so took for granted, she might have won her battle. Mammograms are here for everyone, and if cost is an issue, one may contact The National Breast Cancer Foundation for a referral. Getting a breast examination every year should be a priority. Early detection is proactive and it is possible. Incidentally, my cousin, the Vietnam Vet, has found much comfort in modern medically administered psychotropic medications. He is able to function and lead a relatively normal life. Thank God for modern medicine! “Let the congregation say, A-men.”