Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Racial Discrimination & Disparity in CancerLand

So, this week we are each looking at ourselves and asking about our own participation in the culture of racism, and asking ourselves (I hope you are) “What can I do to be an anti-racist?”

But, for goodness sake Diane, this is CancerLand, could there be a place more inclusive, and more, “we are all in this together?”

Well, I get that. 
Colon cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer—when we suffer, we suffer. Our caregivers are stressed and anxious in similar ways. Yes, but. But. There are differences related to race and class and income and poverty and disproportionate care and access to care.

Years ago, working with a cancer support group I was dismayed that when there was an opportunity to locate that luscious care center in our County it was built in a very suburban area, with very little access to public transportation. Yes, busses do go there a couple times a day, but no sick or tired cancer patient was going to take two or three buses with a 30-minute wait in-between. But the place was so pretty and the staff so truly loving, that reality slipped by.

The other way that cancer and cancer care discriminates is in its relationship to poverty. When many of us—let’s say middle-class—are diagnosed, our friends rally: here come the casseroles (Oh, dam the lasagna), and the offers of childcare and rides, and “I’ll go to the doctor with you to take notes.”

But if we live in poverty the odds are pretty good that our friends do too. They care just as much but maybe they can’t cook for two families or take time from a no-benefits job to accompany us to appointments, or spend hours at chemo with us, or offer rides if public transport is their ride. 

So, patients in poverty miss more appointments, leave chemo earlier, don’t have a pal advocating fiercely for that second opinion or that NYC or Boston trip. Do those things affect cancer’s outcome? Add to that--their family caregiver likely can’t take as much time off  from work.

And, we haven’t even touched the subtle racism (let’s say unconscious) by some docs and other medical personnel. 

It’s a very different part of CancerLand.

Let’s learn about that, and use our Cancer Power for advocacy in our shared territory.

And let’s read a bit, and ask more questions, now or as soon as you are feeling better.

Want to learn more?
Here are two articles that explain this discrimination and disparity in CancerLand:

This article is from Rush University Medical Center

This article is by Brian Rivers, PhD for Cancer Today Magazine

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