Encouraging Men’s Health Screenings

From the moment I heard my firstborn child cry in her first moments of life, I knew I was going to do everything to make sure I was there to protect this little person who was now my responsibility. Fourteen years and three babies later, I can say I have faced a gamut of situations that I am sure many other parents have seen in their journey as protectors—spiders, skinned knees, nightmares, monsters under the bed, bullies and more. I was informed by my siblings that it gets tougher as they get older, dealing with teenage hormones, emotions, first loves and broken hearts.

One thing I failed to realize until five years ago is that being a protector is not my only responsibility as a parent—I must also be present. It is taking care of myself to ensure I am around long enough to see my babies have babies, and to spoil them rotten. I quit smoking in 2010, gave up alcohol in 2013 and work hard to keep my recently-diagnosed type 2 diabetes in check by focusing on exercise and nutrition. I’ve decided I will go to any lengths to make sure I stick around for as long as possible.

Over the past five years, I have seen members of my family pass away from conditions that may have been preventable with men’s health screenings and checkups. My family, as is the case for many Native American families, was very closed off when it came to sensitive subjects such as age-related health screenings. Unfortunately, I witnessed the devasting effects on my family when my uncle passed away from late-stage cancer that went undetected until it was already untreatable. He was my godfather, my father’s closest sibling, and father to cousins that were like my brothers. The void his passing left is something we may never fully recover from but will be something we learn to accept. As I left his funeral and returned to my life, I reflected upon my uncle’s situation and thought about steps I could take to best protect my wife and children from having to prematurely experience a loss of this magnitude.

With a background in health care, I am fortunate to be able to speak candidly about medical conditions and understand the importance of being open with your health care provider. At my last checkup a couple months ago, I asked my provider if we could add a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test to my bloodwork, and when a good time would be to schedule a colonoscopy as I am now 43 years old. I listened to the recommendations my provider had for me to best protect my health and have chosen to make a wholehearted effort to implement the changes she suggested. I owe it to my wife, my children and myself. I plan to utilize every opportunity to be an advocate to help eliminate the stigma and hesitancy of men to seek potentially lifesaving health screenings and checkups. I do this to honor those family members who passed.

Early detection of a medical issue is the best way to improve the effectiveness of condition treatment and management. Please honor those you have lost and those still with you by getting your age-related screenings scheduled with a health care provider today.

Additional resources:

Colorectal Cancer Screening Program | Department of Health

Prostate Cancer – Questions For Men To Ask Your Health Care Provider (PDF)

Men’s Health Month – Celebrated Each June