A Call to Action for Women’s History Month
It’s Time to Create New Legacies of Wellness!
By Lisa Peyton-Caire, CEO & President of The Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness
March is Women’s History Month and a time to celebrate the many contributions women have made to building our world and improving the human condition. This starts with the powerful women in our families and extended community who persisted against incredible odds and obstacles to move our families forward from one generation to the next! We ARE because of them!
But for me, history is not only a thing of the past, but something we are building and shaping every day through our daily choices, decisions, and actions. The history we leave behind tomorrow is very much about the legacy we are building today — starting with our health.
Legacy is defined very clearly as the things that are handed down from one generation to the next. In our faith and spiritual traditions, we are taught to understand the importance of legacy, and that how we live today will shape how our children and grandchildren live tomorrow.
Why is this question so very important right now and especially during Women’s History Month? Well, in last month’s blog and in my recent interview with Leslie Royal, I shared several startling facts about Black women’s health in the United States, and the personal impact these challenges have had in my own life that sparked the work I lead today.
What we know today is that Black women are more likely to:
- live and die from largely treatable and preventable illnesses like heart disease, cancer, and stroke at higher rates and at younger ages than our peers
- have the highest rates of obesity or be overweight compared to other groups of women
- be diagnosed with diabetes by a physician.
It’s time to flip the script!
These and other startling facts too numerous to list are unacceptable and run counter to my personal belief that good health is our God-given birthright. And the casualties I’ve witnessed along the way of beautiful, vibrant women living with and succumbing to poor health and leaving their children and families behind is too heavy a price to pay. It’s time to flip the script!
Fortunately, in the work we do at The Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness, we bear witness to women who are flipping the script every day! Women like Cassandra and Christine, who were once facing life-threatening conditions, have turned their lives and health around and are now setting a new legacy in place for themselves and others.
When we first met Cassandra in 2016, her doctor had told her to say goodbye to her children. She was struggling with obesity and heart disease and was forced by her condition to use a walker and oxygen tank. Cassandra was barely over 50 years old and on the verge of giving up when her niece begged her to attend our annual Black Women’s Wellness Day (BWWDAY) event that year. While attending, Cassandra was overwhelmed by the wealth of information and encouragement to transform her health, and decided that day that she wanted to live, to be there for her children and her grandchildren, and to create a new legacy of wellness to pass down.
One year later and 100 pounds lighter, Cassandra returned to BWWDAY with no need for a walker or oxygen tank and glowing with new life and energy as you can see in the photo above! It was an incredible moment of celebration for all of us who witnessed her transformation! Today, Cassandra is the healthiest she’s ever been, is a passionate health advocate, and working to launch a mobile health service in her community.
Like Cassandra, Christine’s life was on the wrong track when she first attended BWWDAY nine years ago. She was suffering from drug addiction, was an insulin-dependent diabetic, was overweight, and desperately needed therapy. Urged by her sister to attend as a last ditch effort, Christine sat quietly, not expecting much to change. But as she continued through the day, Christine felt a shift happening from within and vowed that day to change her life. Her transformation would require many years of hard work, a willingness to change, and a consistent support system, which she found as a member of our sisterhood and through her therapist and healthcare team.
Today, Christine is nine years clean, has lost the excess weight, is managing her diabetes and no longer insulin-dependent, and has completed training to work as a peer mental health and addiction recovery coach. As she healed, Christine became a source of strength to others, including her adult children whose lives continue to transform as their mother charts a new course.
The Ripple Effects
Cassandra and Christine are just two of many incredible examples of what happens when we as women decide to heal and care deeply for ourselves. The ripple effects not only transform us personally, but set a new cycle in motion that touches everyone closest to us. What I know for sure is that no family, no nation, can rise higher than its women, and when women decide to elevate their health, we all benefit now and for generations to come.
As you look in that mirror today, remember that the legacy we leave tomorrow is built by the life we lead today.
Let’s live it well!
Make 2021 your year of wellness!
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Thank you to Lisa from the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness
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