Rarely is there a gathering in which the men agree that males are obstinate and pig-headed beings and that a combination of their egos and machismo could see the death of many in this gender.
Such a rarity occurred recently when a number of Barbadian men and women came together to tell stories about cancer, its trials and challenges, but mainly the triumphs of people over this blight.
A common tale among those of triumph was that of regular check-ups being forced on by family members or brought about in moments of life-scare, and there was common agreement that men generally need to change their habits and volunteer for regular checks for early detection – a crucial element in overcoming the scourge.
“Men are different. Let’s not fool ourselves. As men, we tend to be hard ears and stubborn,” noted Antoine Williams, a Stage IV cancer survivor. He was speaking at one of the regular forums provided by Cancer Support Services (CSS) for those battling the disease, persons who won that fight, family members and other loved ones.
Stating that men are always finding reasons to miss a check-up date, Williams went on to confess that though he has emerged from the threat to his life, the male habit continued to affect his psyche until his wife halted it.
“Even now, when I have to go and get my check… My wife said one time to me, ‘You are a big boy now. You going by yourself. I am no longer going with you. You can handle it. This is your responsibility’.”
Williams, more popularly known by his stage name, Brudda Daddy, explained during the CSS session at the Courtney Black Grand Salle of the Central Bank that his spouse forced change on him because of his tendency to hand over all notes and the hospital card to her during doctor visits, chemo treatment, and other checks.
“I go with my two hands swinging. So she said ‘no, you have to take responsibility for what you are going through’.”
Graham Bannister, who conquered Stage II colon cancer, admitted, “It is because of my daughter, the love she had for me and still does, my wife and my son, that I am here today to be able to say cancer is not a death sentence.”
His message to all persons on the island, especially the men: “You have to get tested for the slightest pain you have these days. Men in Barbados feel that they’re invincible and don’t have to go to the doctor. One of the biggest problems in Barbados when it comes to cancer as far as men are concerned is that men feel they too macho.
“When I get a little pain now, if I don’t decide to go to the doctor, my wife makes sure that I go and get it checked.”
CSS president Henderson Griffith joined the confession line. “Men don’t like to go and get checked. They don’t like going to the doctors at all.”
Griffith is, however, a radically different case as he has been making those checks without the spousal push. “My wife would tell you I go to the doctor any time I get the slightest pain. Sometimes she says I go too often.”
The difference in Griffith’s case was brought about by the 1994 tragic, non-cancer related death of his parents, which caused his doctor to put him on special watch. That watch led to a colonoscopy.
“I had colon polyps [tumorous growths] I didn’t even know I had, and I was walking around happy,” he said, adding that this discovery caused his doctor to remark, ‘If your father didn’t die, you would have because you would be dead in six months.’”
“I grow polyps. The doctor last week called me a polyp farm because… every two years I grow polyps.”
Prostate cancer survivor Richard Alleyne did not need a spousal push, as he heeded the signs from family with his father falling victim to cancer and dying at age 59. Alleyne fell into a routine of regular checks.
“At the end of 2010, after a very stressful year – and stress is one of the triggers – I realised that my PSA [prostate-specific antigen, a screening for prostate cancer] had made a jump,” he said, explaining, “The good news for me [is] I was just on the right side of the border,” meaning that it was not yet at the critical stage. Thanks to the early discovery Alleyne had successful surgery the following year.
“You have to play an active role in the management of your own case,” was his message to men. (GA)