23 May


by Lisa Peyton-Caire

Those of you who know SisterSpeak Online well know our motto when it comes to health; our health is our wealth. As we pursue our life’s calling and our various endeavors, we must first take stock of the fact that without good health our dreams and aspirations are merely fragile fantasies. Poor health can and will derail the best and brightest of plans.

I struggled to write this introductory piece for our Special Health Series for one simple reason; my aim is to inspire, not to frighten or to dampen the spirits of you our readers with glum statistics and depressing bylines.

Yet, I know that truth must always be the ultimate guide in shaping the messages that I personally, and SisterSpeak Online specifically deliver to those who choose to listen. Ultimately I decided to say what was on my heart and to trust that the message I intend to convey is received in the spirit of love, care and urgency in which it is offered.

Having said that, there is one message I want to blazon into our collective consciousness:

As Black women, we MUST make our health our first priority. The stakes are too high if we don’t.

I make this plea to you from a deeply personal place. Most of you know by now that I lost my mother, Roberta Peyton, to heart disease and a string of related complications. Today, Thursday, May 22nd marked the second anniversary of her passing. I cannot convey in words alone the impact her abrupt and unexpected departure has had on my life and of my extended family. She was the glue that bound the entire family together; a vibrant, colorful, and constant source of wisdom, encouragement, and love. I talk about my mother frequently not only to keep her name and memory alive; not only because of the foundational impact she has had on my life; but also in a passionate effort to empower women like her, like me, like you; women of all ages, young and old, to write a new story for ourselves in terms of our health and longevity.

My mother’s story has become all too common; middle aged black women between the ages of 45-65, battling a laundry list of diagnoses and toting overstuffed bags of medications in the prime of their lives; hard working, enterprising women who have worked all of their lives to raise their families, who have contributed to the life-blood of their communities and country through committed service and labor on their jobs and chosen professions. Women like my paternal aunts, Lois Alston, Barbara Jones, and Marguerite Green, beautiful, loving women, pillars of strength and stability, all deceased from heart attacks in their prime. My mother-in-law Corrine Caire is counted among them as well, passing a year before my mother from a mutliple diagnosis of diabetes, liver cancer, and lymphoma. She too was 64 years old. These losses have exacted a heavy toll on my family and I refuse to be the next victim, to bury another premature victim, to attend the funeral of yet another Black woman expired before her time.

Oddly, in an age of unparalleled medical advancement, innovation, and obscene profits in the medical establishment, Black women are dying in record numbers and at younger ages from largely preventable diseases. Many of us who are left behind find ourselves living in a state of chronic disease and illness, whether physical or mental, with little guidance or support on how to reverse the trend.

Today, Black women account for roughly 7% of the U.S. population, yet we are overrepresented in all major categories of disease and illness including hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, obesity, and reproductive disorders. But I’ve heard this enough! You’ve heard this enough!

It’s time to rewrite the script! This need not be our destiny!

As we emerge from the recent Mother’s Day weekend, as we celebrate our birthdays this year, 2008, the year of New Beginnings, let’s do so with a mindfulness that our role as mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, caregivers, guides, mentors, and elders in our families and communities are too precious to be cut short by disease and illness. Let us declare once and for all that our many gifts, dreams, and aspirations are worthy of being seen through to fruition. Let’s decide on no uncertain terms that our lives are worth fighting for and the best way to fight is to care lovingly, consciously, consistently and unashamedly for our bodies, our minds, our hearts, and our spirits. We deserve it ladies. We are worth it. And there are more resources available to us than ever to get us moving in the right direction.

I hope our Special Health Series over the next several weeks will get us all jumpstarted.

To our healthy future…for Roberta’s sake, Barbara’s sake, Lois’ sake, Marguerite’s sake, Corrine’s sake…for our sake.

In Sisterly Love,

Founder & Editor-in-Chief


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