I never thought this blog would become a public service announcement, but things seldom go as I plan.
The other day I had a memorable visit at my doctor’s office . It was my regular medical appointment, one that I had delayed more than once. Honestly, my blood pressure had been up. It has been elevated for months. I take the usual regiment of blood pressure medicine and relax through prayer and meditation. Taking a deep breath to enjoy what God has given me has always been hard, particularly lately. My creative agency faces the usual decisions of acquiring clients, evaluating and retaining personnel while juggling finances. It’s my burden, so complaining is futile. The little aches and pains, subtle headaches labored breathing are bothersome. I could always take my concerns to the bottle, or to Bambi at the Spearmint Rhino Club, but going to the doctor seemed the more sensible course.
Usually family should be restorative of joy and morale but aside from my household’s little man, Assani, I dwell in the company of women – a wife – four daughters — draw your own conclusions about added stress.
That brings me back to the doctor. I went there for two reasons. One related to my physical health. The other concerned my piece of mind. Look, I suffer from an African American male phobia: fear of doctors. It’s referred to as ‘white coat phobia’ and it isn’t restricted to black men, because as a rule, men avoid the doctor no matter how severe or bizarre the symptoms. It doesn’t make any sense. There are people that love and rely on us; people that really care. There’s only one way to reciprocate those feelings: be responsible and stop the bullshit. Go to the fracking medic!
Sam, my beloved brother died two years ago. He was a ‘man’s man.’ I miss him so badly it aches inside. He was that handsome, strong, courageous six foot-four dude men admire, and women love. Here’s the tragedy. He waged an eleven year war with cancer, but maybe it didn’t have to be that way. Eventually cancer spread to every organ. Despite it all, Sam didn’t look or act sick. On his death bed, he was even handsome and cut like Batman. That was no surprise because he had been a world class athlete and knew how to maintain his physique. In short, Sam was remarkable.
My doctor thanked me for being faithful to my health. But behind that was a reminder that Sam had walked around for two years with severe pain in his stomach and intestines before he got around to checking it out. This was the tragedy — if he had been more attentive, the result might have been different. By the time he saw his doctor, pancreatic cancer had a head start. He left his family behind — people who cared and relied on him. His widow, the lovely Margaret, two daughters and five grandsons were deprived of his laughter, wisdom love and guidance.
Sam’s legacy is rich and envious because he was a moral, ethical man. At time I feel he is around me.
My doctor’s visit was memorable because he told me of my greatest responsibility is to avoid repeating the mistake my brother and most men make – succumbing to the white coat phobia. Your doctor cannot tell you what you body doesn’t already know.
Men, get real. If you sense there’s something wrong, check it out. Please.
People need you.
Bernard A. McNealy, President