Recently, a (very) young African American woman- well-known and loved in our little hometown, passed away from health-related issues. I don’t know the specific details of her illness so I won’t share much of that, but what I do know is that the life of a woman, brand new to her 30’s is gone due to an aggressive terminal illness. News of her deteriorating health came as a slap in the face. How could someone so young be fighting for her life?
Most of us talk about turning 30 as if it were a milestone birthright. Marriage, children, travel, homeownership- we push it all off until 30, albeit for good reason. We expect to be more financially stable and mature and assume we’ll take these things more seriously around this age. What we don’t account for, especially as people of color and members of an era of chemically processed everything, is that we aren’t owed life until 30 and beyond. As women, our bodies are powerhouses, constantly changing and having to restore itself after menstrual cycles, menopause, hormonal shifts, and the doozie – pregnancy and/or childbirth. My fiancé is always amazed by the level of attention I have to pay to my body and what it’s trying to communicate to me; but I have no other choice. Men tend to push prostate exams back whereas women are expected to have regular pap smears and mammograms just to try and keep up with our constant changes.
Granted I don’t eat as healthy as I could, I’m not as active as I should be, and I don’t always see a doctor even with I experience the most evident discomfort. But we HAVE to start. This woman’s passing, though very difficult, is a reminder and message to the rest of us: life is short, our youth is fleeting, and our health is at odds with our lifestyles. Love your body; treat it like a new vehicle that you want to get the most use out of. How we manage to get inspection stickers, oil changes, detailing, hand-washes, and high-grade fuel for cars is the way we should maintain our bodies. You only get one and as much as we’d like to think otherwise, growing old is not a birthright.