My name is Yasmeem Watson, and in May 2013 I was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer. I was quickly scheduled for surgery (sigmoid resection) and endured eight months of chemotherapy. During this time I was in a dark place. Yes, I had tons of support from family and friends, but I needed support from someone who had been on this journey themselves.
My oncologist had no resources for me, and basically sent me to a breast cancer support group. Well of course once I got there, I was shunned because of my diagnosis and no one looked like me. I just needed someone to identify with and to tell me that it would be ok. I began to seek guidance from a higher power and in that I found comfort. I told God that if I survived I would dedicate my life to making sure that no one else would feel lost like I once was. So I began doing my own research and attending national conferences to represent the African American community as a whole.
Often times I would be the only person of color at the table, but that didn’t matter because now we had a seat at this table. There must be a seat available to have these difficult conversations. Why don’t we as a community discuss health? I’ll wait………..
Yes, if we had these conversations at home, at our own table, then we would be more informed when we join their table.
Had I had known that my maternal grandmother and her twin sister both had colon cancer I would have been better prepared to deal with my own diagnosis. We have to change the way that we deal with health issues culturally. The work has to begin at home; we need to individually begin drafting a family health history document for our maternal and paternal sides of our families. This is the foundation that can be saved and carried forward through generations – it’s invaluable information.
Finding The Blue Hat Foundation was my saving grace. Not only are they faith based, but they were brown folks just like me. Ms. Candace Henley received me with open arms and assured me that I would never feel alone again. In partnership with the foundation, our goal is to provide better tools within our community to facilitate dialogue within our families concerning health issues.