By Vi Waln
Sunday, June 5, 2016 is National Cancer Survivors Day. This day celebrates cancer free folks who’ve survived surgery and/or treatment. Courageous people currently undergoing treatment for any form of cancer are also survivors.
Cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence. In fact, there are many cancer survivors residing on the Rosebud Reservation. They are living proof that cancer can be beat. Early screening is the key to detecting and surviving cancer. We can beat this disease which has affected so many Lakota people.
I’ve outlived my Ina and my Unci, two women who were vital to me. Both died from colorectal cancer at a young age. When I say I’ve outlived them, I mean they were younger than I am now when they made their journey after being diagnosed with cancer.
Cancer is a disease affecting many American Indian people today. When my Ina passed away, it didn’t seem as though there were that many people dying from colorectal cancer. Ina has been gone 26 years this month. My paternal Unci passed away 50 years ago. I doubt there were many treatment options available to colorectal cancer patients in 1966.
Today, there are screening methods which can detect most cancers in early stages. Treatment can be successful. However, a key to survival is screening. Most colorectal cancer screening methods are painless. But just because there are painless screening methods available doesn’t mean our tribal citizens are taking advantage of them.
According to the American Indian Cancer Foundation, colorectal cancer rates alone are 169% higher among tribal citizens than the rest of the population. Again, a way to lower this rate is to have more people screened. And the only way to rule out cancer is to get screened.
I’ve had cancer screening done because I want to live to see my youngest Takoja graduate from high school. I also want to see my Takoja have their own family; to be able to hold my first great-grandchild in my arms is something I’m looking forward to. So, even though I’m at a higher risk for colorectal cancer due to my family history, I’m going to reduce the possibility of getting cancer by having regular screening. I don’t want cancer to rob me of important events in my life.
Cancer is scary. Many people are afraid of the results that may come back with a screen. There are many of you reading this who are too scared to get screened. But there is nothing to fear in being screened for cancer. You owe it to your family to stay healthy so you can be there for important life events. Early detection increases your chances of surviving cancer.
Local residents have an opportunity this week to get screened for colorectal cancer. The first event will be from 2pm-5pm at the He Dog School on Friday, June 3, 2016. A second event will be held in Rosebud at the Veteran’s Building located on the Fairgrounds from 2pm-5pm on Tuesday, June 7, 2016.
I will continue get regular cancer screenings. I do this because my Ina and Unci weren’t here to experience many important life events with their Takoja. Early detection of cancer can save my life and yours. So, if you want to witness important milestones in your Takoja’s lives, please have a colorectal cancer screen done this week. It is free and painless.
Your family is depending on you to be there for them. Don’t let them down. Get screened today.