Updated: June 13, 2014 6:12AM
Take a few minutes.
The Nag regularly rants in this space about staying healthy. All of us, and African-Americans especially, make too many unwise choices about our health. We suffer from high rates of maladies from obesity to diabetes to cancer, and it’s killing us.
No rant today, but a request. Take a few minutes.
Michael Adrian Hunter took a few minutes a while back. It saved him from “a miserable death.”
In the spring of 2011, Hunter’s older brother urged him to stop by the “4 Men Only” Health and Wellness Fair. The annual event, hosted for 17 years by the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, offers free medical evaluations, screenings for prostate cancer, stress levels, blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes and other services. It’s held at Provident Hospital, just a few minutes from Hunter’s home in Hyde Park, and aimed at African-American men.
“My brother told me I should come, and I was hesitant,” said Hunter, who runs Ivy League Tutoring in South Shore.
“But he said, ‘look, you don’t have anything to lose. Come.’ ”
Hunter got a PSA, a blood test which detects prostate cancer. Now 63, Hunter has had cancer before, beating back non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in his 30s. The test was normal.
The next year, he returned to 4 Men Only. “I came in 2012,” took another PSA, “and it had doubled.”
He had prostate cancer, he tells The Nag.
If he had not returned to Provident to take that simple, free test in 2012? “Oh, I would have died.”
The cancer was “aggressive,” he explained. “By the time I had the prostate removed, the cancer had already left the prostate” and was in danger of leaving the prostate bed. “And once it leaves the prostate bed, there is no cure. And so, it would have been a miserable death.”
Hunter ticked off his treatment regimen like a medical pro: 17½ weeks of hormone therapy. Eight weeks of 5- day-a-week radiation. More therapy.
Today he is vital, working hard, and cancer-free. And back at 4 Men Only, on a Saturday morning in late April. The Nag caught up with him there. “Every check is to my advantage,” he said.
We chatted with Dr. Aaron Hamb, the medical director at Provident and an evangelist for getting men to seek health care, early and often.
Why is it so hard to get black men to the doctor?
Men “generally don’t seek health care the way, say, our female counterparts do,” said Hamb, with a wry chuckle. “We wait ’til the last minute to get health care, and at that point generally disease has already developed, or you may come in already with that stroke, or with that heart attack.”
Many things keep them away, he noted. “Social issues” like unemployment and poverty. Drugs and alcohol.
Some think they can’t afford it, or don’t know about CountyCare, a government-funded program that provides low-cost and free care to Cook County residents. About 350 men attended last month’s fair, 260 got lab work done, and 80 applied to enroll in CountyCare.
If you can’t afford a doctor, check out www.countycare.com, or call (312) 864-8200.
It takes just a few minutes.