July 30, 2016

This Year's Check-Up

The clock’s minute hand in the doctor’s office echoes as I wait clad in those flimsy paper gowns hastily designed for privacy. My feet swing back and forth nervously off the examination table's side.

Soon enough there is a courtesy knock, a Hello and the doctor emerges. Just a few family history questions, says the doctor glancing at my chart.

I see here you have a daughter. I nod and smile. What I’m about to ask isn’t just for our records, but for your daughter too – there may be hereditary conditions of which she should be aware.

That hits me hard, and I volunteer information in rapid succession: Well, my mom, grandmother and great aunt died of cancer. I’m also realizing my mom dealt with depression, sometimes I struggle too. I make sure to watch what I eat – kind of – because people are overweight in my…STOP. STOP NOW the doctor interrupts.

My feet haven’t stopped their nervous swing, and I shrink into a ball of bewilderment and irritation.

The doctor continues, This is too much – cancer, depression, weight issues. Ms. Fritsch, think about it: this is absolutely frightening! Is there anything uplifting – or at least not so dramatic -- in your family history? My mind swims so fast with outrage and confusion that I can’t even spit out a word. All I can think is:

Dude, you’re supposed to be helping me – and by extension – helping my daughter. You asked for my family history, and it happens to include cancer, depression and weight issues. You think I like owning up to all of these risk factors that could put my daughter in peril? Help me help her so I can act sooner rather than later.

Settle down. That whole conversation never happened.

Although a form of that very conversation is happening right before our eyes, and it has been happening for generations.

Every four years, our nation gets a check-up. Flag pins, flag hats, flag cakes everything flag and patriotic is waved by folks vying for political office. We, the people, stop for a moment and test the nation’s blood pressure, heart rate and other vitals.

If there are odd growths, we take a biopsy or x-ray in hopes they aren’t malignant or metastasizing. Sometimes we demonstrate, or protest, or work with our elected officials to excise the abnormality.

Sometimes someone speaks to draw attention to a risk factor, and like every MDA telethon, they reassure us that while progress has been made, there is still work to do to eradicate the disease. Which is what FLOTUS did so eloquently when she said this:


She was acknowledging a risk factor within the nation’s history, but at the same time, pointing to progress on beating the collective illness.

Yet there were cries of Slavery wasn’t so bad or Move on and that’s just history.

Seriously.

And that’s the point. It is history. Our history.
From The Trail of Tears, to Jim Crow, to five thousand lives lost to lynching, to chattel slavery so horrific and entrenched, the only way I can trace my lineage is to refer to the will of the man who owned my family; to housing restrictions, to a segregated military up until the mid-1940s, to resettlement of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor, to voting restrictions -- y’all, our risk factors are HIGH. 

It's crazy to glaze over risk factors in your family like cancer, depression, obesity, 
alcoholism or any other disease, and brush off the possibility it might be passed down.

It's just as crazy to glaze over, gloss up or ignore the frightening part of our nation’s history in political conversations, blogs like this one or, for heaven’s sakes – our kids’ history books -- in hopes it will erase these risk factors altogether.

The real question is whether we address our national risk factors during this year’s doctor visit, or let them remain unattended and a potential full-blown disease for the next generation.

2 comments:

  1. Boom.

    Gut punch for those who don't pay attention. Wake-up call for anyone glossing over it all. Powerful words for those like me who never feel like I'm saying or doing enough. I will not ignore it. I will pass on an education to my daughter to ensure that she learns and knows and stands for what is right - as I do.

    xo, my friend. Thank you for this.

    ReplyDelete