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Dr. Joycelyn L. Speight, One Of “Best Doctors in America” Discusses Cancer in the African-American Community

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Did you know in the African-American community 95,000 men and 82,000 women are predicted to be diagnosed with cancer this year? Statistics also show that African Americans have the highest mortality rate of any racial and ethnic group for all cancers combined and for most major cancers.” When compared to Whites, African American women are 40% more likely to die from breast cancer and African American men are 2.5 times more likely to die from prostate cancer.

To address the issue of cancer among African Americans, BFT spoke with Dr. Joycelyn L. Speight, a board certified Radiation Oncologist and Palliative Care specialist, and since 2008, is considered one of the “Best Doctors in America” – a prestigious peer-voted group – for her leadership in the study and treatment of cancers. Read our interview as Dr. Speight discusses cancer in the African-American community, advice on treatment options and the role personal fitness can play in preventing the deadly disease.

BFT: It’s no secret, entering the medical field requires years of schooling and hands-on training, which cannot be accomplished without dedication, passion and determination – what influenced you to make Oncology, the study of [and treatment of] cancer, a career?

Dr. Speight: I think it will come as no surprise that my parents and my community had a huge impact and influence on my decision to enter medicine. My parents and their contemporaries embodied “the greatest generation”. Each of them were pioneers. They, moved across the states to set up medical practices in unknown cities to serve populations who otherwise would have had little to no care. The relationships they forged, and sense of pride they took in what they contributed, and the real benefit they brought made a huge impression on me and many of my contemporaries who also followed their parents into the medical profession. That fact that I loved math and science and felt compelled to bring home every sick stray animal to try to nurse back to health were “value adds.”

BFT: Do you believe there is a lack of cancer awareness in the African-American community? In your opinion, what needs to be done to improve the absorption of cancer prevention messaging in the community?

Dr. Speight: There is good data that suggests that the way in which information is communicated to a person, impacts how it is received and understood. This is true not only by African-Americans, but for a host of groups when looked at by race, ethnicity, gender, age, geography and socio-economics. I don’t think I would say there is a lack of awareness across the board. For example I think that many people are aware of breast cancer, & prostate cancer, but perhaps not the importance of screening, what their individual risk factors may be, how to reduce their risk of getting the cancer, etc. To me this translates to a lack of opportunity to live the healthiest life possible. This problem is compounded by access to care issues, patient compliance, among many other variables, not to mention the confusing and conflicting information on the web, that comes out in sound bites on the news With regards to prevention there are many avenues that can be taken, some of which are in the works. One thing that is very important in my opinion is to recognize that “true” prevention starts at the very beginning. What I mean by that is that we have to educate and promote living a healthful life style from childhood.

BFT: What cancers are predominately affecting African Americans? Is there an explanation as to why?

IMG_2454-reDr. Speight: The most common cancers in African American men are cancers of the prostate, lung and colon & rectum, and in African American women breast, lung, and colon & rectum. These same three types of cancer are the most frequently diagnosed in Caucasian populations, as well. The critical difference is that African Americans have the higher death rates and lower survival rates for most cancers. Although the overall disparity in cancer death rates is decreasing, the death rate for all cancers combined continue to be higher in African American men and women. The reasons for these differences are multi-factorial, complex and not completely known. Without question, individual patient behaviors (diet and activity level, smoking), physician behaviors (screening and treatment recommendations) and decision making, access to and utilization of health care services play a role. However there appears to be “biologic factors” meaning, differences in the characteristics of the “type” of tumor that influence outcomes.

BFT: What are the differences between the various oncology disciplines – ‘medical,’ ‘surgical,’ and your field, ‘radiation’? How is it determined as to which treatment will work best?

Dr. Speight: Surgical Oncologists treat cancer with surgery, ie cutting out the tumor. Medical Oncologists use chemotherapy and other drugs to treat cancer and Radiation Oncologists use high energy x-rays and nuclear materials to treat cancer. Most cancers are best treated by a combination of two or all three modalities.

BFT: As a professional not only providing treatment to patients but also providing support to their families – how can families best support their loved ones during the cancer treatment process?

Dr. Speight: That is a very complex and difficult question to answer as each situation is different and families and family dynamics are different. The simplest answer I suppose is for the family member to be present and participate throughout the journey of diagnosis, treatment and recovery. And for the family members to remember that in order to be supportive, they need to take care of themselves as well as the person undergoing treatment.

BFT: Many times health care professionals are so busy taking care of others that they fail to schedule time to take care of themselves – what do you do to ensure that you remain healthy while helping to restore the health of your patients?

Dr. Speight: Doctors often make terrible patients, so I have to make a concerted effort to eat well, get rest and exercise, too. I’m not as disciplined as I should be as far as exercise and rest, but I have migrated to a more vegetable and fish based diet.

BFT: The health field is mostly considered reactive care, and the debate on whether preventive care is getting enough focus in the medical industry has come into play more recently. For example, a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine surveyed 31 UK medical schools and resulted in only 13% of the school including curriculum on exercise and physical activity at or above the national guidelines during each year of the program, whereas 16% included none. What is your position on medical doctors possibly not knowing enough about physical exercise, which in some cases could possibly be the best answer as opposed to a prescription.

Dr. Speight: I haven’t read this particular journal article, and don’t know how it relates to the US, which likely has different behaviors and different habits than the UK. I also can’t speak to how the medical curriculum in the US has changed since I was in medical school, but my sense is that there has been an ever increasing emphasis on prevention and overall wellness, in which exercise plays a large role. I don’t agree that in general, medical doctors don’t know enough about physical exercise. It is standard practice in the treatment of conditions such as osteoarthritis, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure to include weight loss and diet as part of the treatment plan. For some people it works, for others it does not. Also, remember, the doctor can recommend, but the individual has to take the action. I think it is an oversimplification to say that physical exercise could be the best answer as opposed to a prescription, though I do feel strongly that exercise should be part of one’s overall health and wellness promotion and maintenance plan, so perhaps in some cases the prescription may not be needed.

BFT: From your years of experience what advice do you offer to a person or a family member of someone who has recently been diagnosed with cancer?

Dr. Speight: Ask questions, be informed and an active participant in one’s own health care

BFT:As a doctor who is consistently voted as one of the ‘Best Doctors in America’, how do you plan on using your influence to further progress the field of cancer treatment and research?

Dr. Speight: Wow, there are so many different answers to that question. I want to continue to be involved in teaching and patient outreach and education. I want to continue to try to make every interaction and encounter I have be one in which the person leaving my office feels more informed, empowered and less afraid and has the knowledge that we are going to walk this journey together.

BFT: How can people find out more about your practice and or follow you? IMG_2492-re

Dr. Speight: I am in the process of opening a practice that is focused on what I call “whole-person” care, meaning that we address not only the illness and the specific medical treatment, but also the physical, emotional and spiritual impact that the treatment has before during and after active treatment is concluded, to help patient’s re-establish or find their new normal.

For more on Dr. Speight and to stay connected, follow her on Facebook!

Ilen & Lauren Bell are the husband and wife team behind Black Fitness Today, born, in 2011, out of their motivation to change culture, build a platform and lead the charge. Their purpose is to help change the culture towards health and fitness in the African-American community, showcase those who are making an impact, and promote healthier living. They also aim to serve as a platform for African-American fitness and health professionals and enthusiasts who are otherwise overlooked in traditional fitness media.

Interviews

CrossFit Inc Global Branding Manager Talks with Black Fitness Today Ahead of Manion-WOD to Honor Fallen Hero

Ilen Bell, MS, CSCS, Co-Founder of Black Fitness Today

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Manion WOD events will be occurring at CrossFit gyms across the United States on Sunday, April 29, 2018. Times vary by location. Proceeds from each event will go towards TMF veteran initiatives such as TMF veteran expeditions, veteran-empowerment programs, and scholarships.

 

On April 29th, CrossFit gyms across the country will recognize the sacrifice of 1stLT Travis Manion and complete the Manion-Workout of the Day (WOD) to benefit Travis Manion Foundation (TMF) veteran initiatives such as TMF veteran expeditions, veteran-empowerment programs, and scholarships.

Read our interview with CrossFit Global Branding Manager, Jimi Letchford, and TMF President and Sister of Travis Manion, Ryan Manion.

Who was 1stLT Travis Manion?

Ryan: Travis was my best friend, and younger brother by 15 months. Even though I was the older sibling, I looked up to Travis in many ways because he always set the example. Travis was a high character person even from a young age, and when he saw something wrong, he would stand up. He was an all-league standout in wrestling, football and lacrosse, a member of five championship teams, and an All-American wrestler. Travis was best known as a motivating and popular figure to his classmates. This combination of leadership, athleticism, and academic achievement opened the door to his appointment to the United States Naval Academy.

After graduating from USNA, he decided to follow in our father’s footsteps and was awarded a commission into the United States Marine Corps. After finishing at the top of his class at The Basic School in Quantico, VA, Travis was assigned to 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force, with whom he deployed to Iraq for his first tour of duty. On April 29, 2007 during his second tour of duty in Iraq Travis, his fellow Marines and Iraqi Army counterparts were ambushed. Leading the counterattack against the enemy forces, Travis was fatally wounded by an enemy sniper while aiding and drawing fire away from his wounded teammates. Travis Manion paid the ultimate sacrifice that day, but his selfless actions allowed every member of his patrol to survive.

 

How does CrossFit serve as a vehicle for honoring heroes like 1stLT Travis Manion, who paid the ultimate sacrifice?

Jimi: Every day, millions of people engage in CrossFit workouts around the world. Our Workouts of the Day (aka WODs) are constantly varied, (relatively) high intensity, functional movement challenges that are intended to elicit physical and mental responses like no other workout regimen. The CrossFit program may not be for everyone, but it is for anyone.

Our Hero WODs are a different breed. They’re intended to take you to your limit. It’s up to the athlete to decide whether they’ll push past this limit. During this process, we honor the Hero(es) in which the workout was named. The men and women we honor through these WODs have amazing stories of character and bravery, and knowing about their legacy pushes us to go even further than we thought possible.

CrossFit has closely aligned its core values with that of the military. Why might CrossFit be something veterans want to give a try?

Jimi: CrossFit has a very tight-knit community, and a great sense of camaraderie among participants. When veterans join a CrossFit gym, they often find that camaraderie very similar to what they experience while in service to our Country. The idea that you belong to something bigger than yourself can often be lost while transitioning out of the military to civilian life. Like the military, there’s also a competitive nature to CrossFit. That friendly competition is something many veterans continue to look for in the next chapter of their life, and CrossFit is a great way to fill that void.

“If Not Me, Then Who…” is a question that has come to shape 1stLT Manion’s legacy. How is TMF and CrossFit answering this question?

Ryan: “If Not Me, Then Who…” isn’t actually a question, it’s a mantra that Travis lived by every day, and we’re inspiring future generations to put that mantra into action within their own lives. Just before Travis left for his second deployment to Iraq, he attended a football game with my husband Dave, and while they were leaving the stadium, Dave said to Travis “How about I push you down the steps so you break your ankle, and you won’t have to go back?” Travis looked at Dave very serious, and simply replied “If Not Me, Then Who…” He went on to explain that if he didn’t go back, someone less prepared would have to go in his place. This is the way Travis approached everything in his life, even from an early age. Those words have grown into a national movement that is inspiring hundreds of thousands of people to be of service to their own communities, and to be part of something bigger than themselves.  

Jimi: Travis was as true a friend as you could ever find. He always looked out for others, and often times would even thank me for pushing him to work harder. He was also a fierce competitor, and would never cut corners. His mantra of “If Not Me, Then Who…” really does represent how selfless Travis was. To me, Travis is representative of all the other Heroes that our Nation, and CrossFit community, have lost. So, I’d like to tell anyone that will be honoring Travis (or whoever else they’ll be honoring this weekend) to do so with the utmost integrity to the workout standards. Remember that those we honor through our Hero WODs paid the ultimate sacrifice in their line of duty. It is now our duty to never forget them. “If Not Me, Then Who…”

How does CrossFit motivate its members to collectively complete intense WODs sometimes named in honor of fallen military and first responders whom the members have no personal connection?

Jimi: The people that walk into our CrossFit boxes are people that recognize that only hard work will achieve health and wellness. CrossFitters don’t believe that there is a ‘magic pill’ for fitness. It turns out that this psychographic also tends to be very altruistic and humble. As a CrossFit community, all we have to do is tell the story of the fallen Hero, how it may relate to the workout, and the rest just happens. For example, the “Manion” Hero WOD is extremely leg intensive. We know from our relationship with Travis that he always had the strongest legs of anyone on our team. So, Travis’ workout consists of a 400 meter run and 29 back squats (135lbs), done over 7 rounds. The numbers are somewhat poetic; Travis was killed 4/29/07.

Manion WOD events will be occurring at CrossFit gyms across the United States on Sunday, April 29, 2018. Times vary by location. Proceeds from each event will go towards TMF veteran initiatives such as TMF veteran expeditions, veteran-empowerment programs, and scholarships.

How can people exemplify Travis’ character and sacrifice beyond the four walls of a CrossFit box where many join together once a year to complete a WOD honoring Travis’ legacy?

Ryan: Get involved in your own community. Look for your passion and a purpose, and wake up with determination to make a difference in the world every day, no matter how small. Live by “If Not Me, Then Who…” and look for those opportunities that present themselves each and every day that you can be the best version of yourself, and take advantage of them.

What communities does TMF serve?

Ryan: We currently have offices in 8 cities across the country, which include: Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, New York, Philadelphia, Raleigh, San Diego, Seattle, and Washington D.C. However our impact and opportunities for involvement are nationwide.

How does the Travis Manion Foundation ensure that children of fallen heroes are not left behind?

We work closely with families of the fallen, and specifically organize service expeditions for survivors. These expeditions allow family members of fallen military to spend time with others who can relate to their journey, while providing them an opportunity to carry on their loved one’s legacy by being of service to a community in need. We host 8-10 domestic or international expedition each year, and one such expedition is specifically for teens who have lost a parent or sibling in service to our country. These young adults learn that while their loved one may be gone, they can honor their memory and carry on their legacy through the actions they take each and every day.

Where can people find information on joining or volunteering with TMF?

Ryan: Anyone can join the mission by visiting travismanion.org. We have volunteer and engagement opportunities throughout the year, which includes our Operation Legacy service projects and the 9/11 Heroes Run 5K series.

What do you want people to know most about Travis?

Ryan: Travis always challenged himself to be the best person he could, and he did that by focusing on being big in the little things. Because of that, he was prepared when bigger challenges arose. The legacy that Travis left behind, and for that matter all our fallen heroes, is one that we all have a responsibility to carry on. The way that we do that is by look towards the character they lived with, and challenging ourselves to think about how we can be the best version of ourselves – because “If Not Me, Then Who…”

 

 

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Interviews

Bernie Mac’s Widow, Rhonda McCullough, Talks Regaining Health after Loss

“In October of 2016, I made up my mind. I said, ‘This was it,’ and I’ve been committed ever since.”

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Rhonda McCullough, Bernie Mac, widow

Rhonda McCullough, Bernie Mac’s widow, has dealt with so many life changes over the years. After losing her husband, then her father and mother last year, Rhonda’s eating habits became increasingly unhealthy and her weight skyrocketed. It wasn’t until last year after her mother’s death, that she decided to change her eating habits, and shed the weight. Today, Rhonda has lost over 70 pounds by eating healthy and keeping a regular exercise routine. She’d like to let others know, that if she could do it, so can you!

Black Fitness Today caught up with Rhonda McCullough, to learn more about how she turned pain into triumph and how she kick-started her weight loss journey!

Describe yourself as you can remember while you were with Bernie Mac:
I was a young mother, a young wife and a stay-at-home mom for a while. That’s where I came into my weight issues; being at home, a little bored, and having a baby… I’d eat a dozen of doughnuts, then I’d say, “wow I can’t believe I ate all of that.” It was always the sweets.

So your weight problems started as a young mother, even while Bernie Mac was still living?
Oh absolutely. The weight issues started after my pregnancy. I gained close to 80lbs. After I delivered her, I lost 20lbs, then I went on a strict diet. I ended up getting back down to my original pre-pregnancy size, and I maintained that weight for a while.

How long were you able to sustain that post-pregnancy weight loss?
I was able to lose the weight, but I couldn’t sustain it for very long. Bernie Mac worked 4pm to midnight, and I’d wait for him to come home before eating dinner, and you know, you can’t eat late like that, plus I wasn’t active. As African-Americans, we’re not taught that you must exercise daily to sustain weight loss. You have to exercise, you have to move, and I didn’t do any of that. So as life went on, I ate, and I gained the weight back, especially once Bernie got sick.

After Bernie Mac got sick, how did that affect your weight loss?
Bernie was diagnosed with sarcoidosis in the 80’s. As his sickness progressed, it just got worst for me. I was here taking care of him. After he died in August 2008, I could only think, “What am I going to do now?” I just didn’t care about my diet after that. Nothing was healthy, nothing was good. I remember saying to myself, “I’m going to be fat the rest of my life.”

What happened between 2008 and now?
After Bernie died in 2008, my dad died months later. In 2010, I joined Weight Watchers and ended up losing 70lbs. I got remarried at the end of 2010 on New Years Eve. From 2010 to 2013, I don’t know how, but the weight crept back on me. In 2016, my mom got sick. She was in and out the hospital, it was just so stressful and I didn’t care about my diet again. I was at my highest weight that I’d ever been. I just couldn’t stay focused on the weight loss.

What was the turning point for you?
I have a good friend, he told me, “You know what Rhonda, you’re a beautiful person, no matter what size you are. Stop talking about yourself… if you don’t like how you look, change it, only you can change it.” I’ve been a yo-yo dieter my whole life. So this time around, because I’m turning 60 this year, I said I wanted to be healthy, and I wanted to look good. So slowly but surely, I started making changes. After my mom died, months later, I knew it was time for a major change. In October of 2016, I made up my mind. I said, “This was it,” and I’ve been committed ever since.

How has your diet changed?
I cut out sugars, white foods, potatoes, sodas, I only ate lean meats and vegetables, and I did that for four months. I got tired of that so I decided to incorporate some foods back into my diet, but in moderation. You just have to learn how to compromise.

Are you happy?
I honestly am. I love the way my shirts and blouses fit; I love the way my jeans fit. I’m a size that’s suitable for me. I want to lose maybe 10-15 more pounds but I honestly am happy with the way I look now.

What are some words of encouragement that you would give someone going through the same thing you went through?
Right now in this moment, no matter how you feel, or how you look, you still have to love yourself. We always show compassion to other people, but we never show that same compassion to ourselves. Within loving ourselves, we can make a change. Start small, it doesn’t have to be big. Don’t make goals that are too big and overwhelming. Take something away for a week. Start walking everyday for 10 minutes, until you can build up and do more. Baby steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s not a diet, this is a lifestyle. Not to say you can’t enjoy some things, just not every day. We have to learn how to love ourselves and not let the food consume us. Eat to live, don’t live to eat.

Rhonda McCullough plans to continue her weight loss journey while living on purpose! Follow Rhonda on IG at @mcculloghgilmore.

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Cover Feature

Living Fit The Civil Way – How A Healthy Lifestyle Powers Karen Civil’s Success

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karen civil
Photo credit: Noel Daganta

Karen Civil, Live Civil, Black Fitness Today

It’s another beautiful November day in Los Angeles, and it’s shoot day. Karen Civil is en route, and the team is preparing for her arrival. You can feel how the atmosphere changes when she walks into the studio. She brings an aura of confidence, yet calmness. Even while she’s ironing out details of her schedule for the rest of the week, she’s in lock step during shoot prep. Karen is like a chameleon who can rock many different looks and shine bright while doing it.

Everyone has their own method of preparation for photo shoots. We can imagine that in being a cover girl for a fitness mag, she wanted to be ready. But, her lifestyle, work ethic, and commitment to maintaining good health and a solid physique proved to be a perfect return on investment on shoot day.

The Elizabeth, New Jersey native now residing in Los Angeles is one of the best digital strategists in the game.  Even if you still don’t know who she is by now, you probably know her work and have seen her footprint. Check some of her most notable receipts:

Remember when Weezy went to prison? Karen was responsible for the creation of his fan site weezythanxyou.com, that kept his fans connected and brand intact during his incarceration. This was crucial because it was before social media gave us all direct access to our favorite celebs and entertainers.

You know all those Beats by Dre ads with notable athletes and entertainers wearing the headphones while getting a glimpse into their journeys? She spearheaded that campaign.

The booming success of mainstream artists like YG, Nipsey Hussle and Dave East and more, link back to her, as she has elevated these artists into formidable brands.

One of Karen’s platforms, karencivil.com, which kicked off in 2008, has been unique in the hip-hop industry because it is credited with introducing now global superstars to the world before anyone else including Drake, J. Cole, and Nicki Minaj.

Karen and her team launched the LiveCivil playground in Haiti, the place of her roots, to create a safe place for children to be able to play and express themselves.

Karen Civil is not only holding her own in a male-dominated industry, but is setting the path that women — and men — want to follow.

What enables Karen Civil to be the powerhouse that she is goes beyond her knowledge, experience, and connections. It is often said that our health is our greatest wealth. How can we live out our fullest potential if we aren’t healthy enough to do it? This is an idea that Karen takes very seriously; it gives her balance and a solid foundation.

Self-care has enabled her to successfully fight her battle with anemia, and maintain not only a solid body, but a solid mental state – something so crucial in the industry she dominates each and every day.

Flip to the next page to read our interview with Karen to find out what fitness means to her, why she felt it was best to let go of her vegan lifestyle, what keeps her grounded, and advice she has on brand-building.

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