Just Another Day: The Talk

The Talk

April 5th, 2024. 10:52 am

In life, there are a few talks that accompany a young man’s life over his years living on this earth. And if I were to get more specific and say a Black man’s life, then I would add an extra talk in there. In addition, to the birds and the bees, an additional conversation would entail how to harness “proper” and safe interactions when encountering police whether it’s while driving or on foot. As a Black man in America, our overall objective is to return home alive, which may sound like an easy feat, but it’s truly a gift. 

Well, today I had another talk of what I consider to be an important talk. 

Today was my annual physical with my doctor. After taking my blood pressure, and pulse, being probed about my last eye exam, dental visit, and my allergenic dry cough that I’ve been battling since childhood, that’s now grown into aggravation and an asthmatic allergy in my adulthood. My physician releases a sigh of seriousness. I braced myself for I knew what was coming next. Only because we’d discussed this concern in my previous annual. I assume today is the day for the more in-depth version of that conversation. 

My physician says, “Brian, you have a birthday next month, it’s time we revisit our previous conversation.” With slight angst, I reply, “Yes, I do.,” regarding the birthday. She continues, “You’ll be 45. It’s time for your colonoscopy. Let’s go over your family history.”  While waiting, I noticed the signs plastered around the medical room that read, and I may be paraphrasing: “Screening for colon cancer is earlier now. 45 is the new age. Ask your doctor today about scheduling your colonoscopy today.” 

After giving her what information, I do have on the men in my family and their medical history. She greeted me with options. Immediately, my mind traveled to last summer when my father, a man in his sixties was preparing for his colonoscopy. I remember his prepping process being strenuous and what I would deem as unpleasant. I also remember him being very uncomfortable about the process and the uncertainty. But ease fell upon me quickly as I recall his doctor being so pleased with his results. But still…it’s my turn. 

There’s a cacophony surrounding the conversation about men having a colonoscopy performed. I believe the discourse is the invasive nature of the procedure. But I’m also confident the conversation stems from the tragic history Black folks have with hospitals whenever medical attention was sought. Many are aware that Black people are reluctant to go to the doctors and seek medical attention, and that disdain stems from medical professionals killing us [Blacks] when admitted to hospitals. Stories of these heinous acts, and information date back to as far as the forties but are still heavily documented in the sixties. However, that’s another conversation for another time.   

Whereas prostate cancer is most common among Black men. Disproportionately, colon cancer affects the Black community more than any other racial group in the United States. African Americans are 40% more likely to die from colon cancer than any other ethnic group. From 2015-2019, African American men were 1.2 times and 1.7 times, respectively, more likely to have new cases of colon and prostate cancer, as compared to non-Hispanic white men. As stated by minorityhealth.hhs.gov.  

I said all of that to say. It’s time we as Black men dismantle this stigma lingering around masculinity and manhood and take care of ourselves. We’re dying because of the ideology and misinformation about the procedure of a colonoscopy. Thumbing through my phone, I sent a text message to 6 men who are age 40 and over, and one under age 40 to make sure I was generalizing the question. Secretly, I survey them with: “Yo! Honest answer to my question. What’s the first thing you think of when you think of having a colonoscopy?

Four of the men lead their replies with the fear of having cancer. Unbeknownst to me, one of the men already had one performed. I was only surprised by this information because he hasn’t reached age 45 yet. However, the other concern and consensus among the six men was the thought of having their anus annihilated, which I suspected would be the main concern. The fact that everyone expressed the fear of discomfort in a laughing and playful manner, told me that it’s not the fear of the unknown and uncertain, as much as it’s the fear of being or feeling emasculated. And whereas I want to sit here and ponder on that revelation, I’d rather move along and save that exploration for another day. 

After answering the questions my doctor was documenting on her computer, she informed me there’s a less invasive way to have my colon checked. She said due to my age and family medical history that there’s something called Cologuard. In so many words, it’s an alternative method to start the process, without enduring the colonoscopy procedure. Cologuard is something that comes to your doorstep. It’s merely a collection of your stool that you’ll collect in the privacy of your home and ship to a lab. You began there, and if there’s any cause or concern, then you’ll have a colonoscopy done. Now, I know many might be worried about the accuracy of the Cologuard, as I was too. But I did my research and found out that a colonoscopy detects over 95% of all colorectal cancers, while Cologuard detected 92% of colorectal cancers and only 42% of the precancerous polyps. However, you the patient must bear in mind that Cologuard has a 13% false-positive rate. It’s up to your discretion to have an informed and detailed conversation with your doctor, and you both feel secure about which method suits your needs best. But my sole mission was to sit and flesh out my options and fears for what it is I want to do to ensure I remain healthy. Because, I rather have this talk, than forced to sit my family down and have another talk that could’ve been avoided had I done something earlier. 

She [my doctor] also informed me that if the kit arrives before my 45th I am not to take the sample and mail it in before my actual 45th birthday because insurance won’t cover it and the expense will come out of my pocket. Good looking out on her part *winks*         



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