Normalizing Breast Cancer Conversations with Michael Cox

In the U.S today, Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age, in later stages, with more aggressive types and have a lower 5-year survival rate. These disparities aren’t just caused by health issues but also by social injustice—unequal access to health care, a lack of diversity in medical research and services, unaddressed cultural barriers and more.

Michael Cox joins the show today to talk about these risks and normalize conversations about breast cancer.

About Michael

Michael Cox started Black SD Magazine to increase the education, empowerment, and economics of the black entrepreneur & small business community in San Diego (SD). With a background in business development, economics, media relations, and PR he knows the economic power in controlling the narrative and being the change he wants to see within his community. He created “Catalyst Black” a Free Entrepreneur Program for black entrepreneurs and creatives so that they can be better equipped to start and grow their businesses. This is a 3-month program where they learn everything from business development to securing strategic partnerships. Now the program is incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit the Catalyst Black Academy. As he wants to continue to tell stories and highlight the amazing and enriching experiences of the African American community he wants to simultaneously create more entrepreneurs to one day become full-time business owners.


Adam (00:02):

In the US today, black women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age in later stages with more aggressive types and have a lower five-year survival rate. These disparities aren’t just caused by health issues, but also by social injustice, unequal access to healthcare, a lack of diversity in medicine, a lack of diversity in medical research and services, unaddressed cultural barriers, and more talking about these risks and normalizing conversations about breast cancer with friends and family is crucial here today to tell us how he is doing his part to raise awareness is Michael Cox. Michael, welcome to the show.

Michael (00:46):

Hi, thank you. I’m happy to be here, man.

Adam (00:48):

I’m happy to have you. I’m really looking forward to your perspective. So tell us, let’s start by telling us a little bit about yourself and about your work with SD black magazine.

Michael (00:58):

So a little bit about me originally from Los Angeles. You know, when I started the magazine, I wanted to make sure that we focused a lot on, you know, social, cultural awareness within the community and be very proactive, you know, so I didn’t want it to be reactive. So I wanted to make sure that we try, we attempt to be at the forefront of new ways to help educate the community spread more awareness and also get the community involved. So we’ve done special programs like that with our breast cancer awareness campaign. We were 16. I had 16 African-American males where I’m paying it. It was called real black men wear pink. It was in association with American cancer society because of the disparity is for black women. And, you know, they always lead the charge for us. So I wanted to also make sure there was a representation and show film, and show the community as well that we as black men fight for those who always fight for us, you know? So we, sometimes we have the luxury that men in general, women fight for all the calls and we just kind of ride the coattails. So I would have been making sure that we did our part as well.

Adam (02:00):

That’s right. That’s right. I love that. It’s such a powerful image. You know, these men showing their support for women’s health. Can you talk a little bit about the barriers or, or any of the walls that you’re trying to break down by using this campaign

Michael (02:13):

With this campaign? I wanted to break down the stigma that also that black men aren’t proactive in fights for, you know, causes outside of other things. You know, especially because we had a big thing with black lives, matter the movement, there was so much going on so much social unrest and so much cultural you know, justice things that just work on, you know, left and right. And everybody was just moving in so many directions. So with this type of campaign, I wanted to make sure that we also showed that we can take a step back and still fight for other things that are happening in our community. That aren’t necessarily getting the same attention in the media that isn’t getting the same social sharing. A lot of times we share cancer sucks when it happens to us, but when it doesn’t happen to, we kind of have a, you know, a blind eye to it until it happens as in we’re like, Hey, you know, that’s what most causes happen until it happens to you until it’s personal. So I wanted to make sure that we did something where you were a part of the campaign, even if it hasn’t happened to you or you haven’t been directly or indirectly affected by.

Adam (03:17):

You’re right. You know, cancer can often be very out of sight out of mind. And so it sounds like you’re being proactive. You want to get it in front of people so that hopefully we can start making a bigger impact on some of these health disparities. Right? Exactly. I love that. So in your experience are conversations about breast cancer freely had in your community, particularly with women feeling comfortable enough to have these conversations with men?

Michael (03:40):

Not really, honestly. Anything, anything cancer related is, is not spoken about, you know, it’s not one of those things, that’s all the tip of your tongue. You don’t walk into a room and sit down and go, Oh, what are you all talking about? How cancer is killing us? It’s, that’s never happening. You know, it’s very reactive until someone’s inflicted on it or a loved one is then that’s when it becomes a conversation stopping, but it’s never very preemptive in a sense of having a conversational, Hey, what can we do to, you know, create more awareness for early, early screens for both men and women? What can we do to look at you know, with science is telling us are things that are causing people to be diagnosed early. We don’t have those conversations. What happens is it takes a plethora of things happening in the community, in society. And then that’s when we kind of do a train to fighting for, but then it kind of dies down and then we go back to life as normal. So that’s the thing, it’s just, it’s just not one of those things until it hits you. It’s like, you don’t realize people are playing basketball and to the basketball hits you in your head and you’re like, Oh, I’m on a court.

Adam (04:49):

That’s right. That’s right. Yeah. That’s, that’s totally, that’s a great way to describe it. So I love to hear about how you’ve had these types of conversations with the women in your life. Do you have any advice on how to navigate these conversations?

Michael (05:02):

Yes. You know, I have you know, tons of, of females in my family. I have lots of aunties because female cousins, sisters, and honestly the reason why I’m able to open up with these conversations is because my mom passed away pancreatic cancer when I was 14. So it makes it easier for me to talk about, you know, what that looks like, what is going through, you know, for, from both ends, you know, I’ve been there through the stages of it, the rapid progression, what happens during and after, you know, so from a, from a growth perspective from the trauma you experienced, so I’m able to be kind of like, you know, they always say in a church, be a living testimony and I can be the testimony of what happens if you don’t get tested early, tried to make sure my sisters and female friends, especially if you have kids, like, make sure this is something you, you know, you do once a year, twice a year, you know, just to be on the safe side and to instill that early, because I know for me, it was mom went to the hospital, diagnosed with something, don’t know what it really is.

Michael (06:04):

Three months down the line mom is gone. She passed away right a week before my middle school graduation. So it’s one of those things where I try to, I use this as a story of strength to tell people though it, I found strength in it. It’s something that I don’t want anyone else to go through, you know, breast cancer or any cancer or any type of deal.

Adam (06:25):

Wow. Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. That’s, that’s so tough. I know that that you’re raising awareness. You’re trying to bring things that are not top of mind for a lot of people, top of mind. Right. And I think part of that messaging is conversations around breast health for early detections and for communities to support each other. So can you talk just a little bit more about that and why that’s so

Michael (06:47):

It’s all important. Because we aren’t, it’s not something ingrained in us, you know, I will learn the 50 States and I will know when Alaska became a state and went Hawaii did before I learned, you know, check for lumps anywhere, you know, that’s not nothing we, we talk about, we talk about the disparities in the community. You know, we always say, Oh, the African-American community, this, that, and the third, but it’s, it’s always very, very, in a way that we act as if we’re powerless. You know, we, we, we are not progressive with it where it becomes a conversation topic around the table, as if I always say it this way, you know, it’s a be even Frank, we treat these conversations as if it’s something in the food, which it is there’s things that we don’t eat. We shouldn’t. But instead of having that conversation lead to action, it just stays there at the table.

Michael (07:37):

You know, we don’t really come back and say, okay, everyone, let’s make sure we’re checking in. Are you know, are you implementing these things with your kids? Are you implementing these things with your family? You, you can ask anyone, you, you can say, Hey, you’ve been through all these kinds of conversations. You’ve been through so many round tables with people. And then you see that whatever was, it was stayed at that table. Most people do not apply what has been granted to them because it’s just, for some reason, there’s like a distance it’s kind of like I’m home now. So let me get back to normal. But in the moment I was concerned, I care, you know, but it’s just the action part. And I want to make sure that it sticks. We, we make it stick instead of, you know, we become reactionary again. Yeah.

Adam (08:24):

Yeah. I mean, I, I love what you just said. You said, you know, we learned the 50 States we learned when Alaska became a state, which by the way, I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head, but I’m glad you know that. But we, we, we learned all these academic things and we don’t learn a lot of times the basic care that we need to be healthy. Right. And so you’re doing great work to bring more attention to that. And I really just commend you for that. And that, that really is kind of my last question. Like, what is your hope what do you hope comes out of this important advocacy work

Michael (08:51):

That you’re doing? I hope what comes out is change, you know, changing the mindset and, and, and I, and I think it’s really important because with it in the day and age of social media, it’s really easy to be performative. We can share everybody shares it, you know, in Facebook and Instagram are great with new features and filters. So people will change your filters and anything that lets you know, that you’re a part of a cause, which is great to a degree. But if there’s no action, if there is no collective, you know, it’s like with the pandemic right now, they have the whole her earlier, you, you don’t, you need enough critical mass for it to happen. Well, I need more than the critical mass being a filter. I need more than a critical mass to tell you to hashtag cancer sucks. The critical mass has to be where the schools have systems in place where women are learning early on to do these screenings. Especially if you’re in a marginalized communities, that’s where critical mass is. Because if you start it early first, she started as a pattern. That pattern becomes behavior, the behavior becomes motive and then it becomes instinctual and then it just becomes something you do.

Adam (09:57):

Yeah. Yeah. That’s right. It’s easy to be with the cause and name it’s, it’s a whole nother thing when you need to take time out here and do that. Self-Examination that’s really important. Well, Michael, this has been great. You know, thank you so much for your perspective. Thank you for the advocacy work that you’re doing. Thanks for joining me.

Michael (10:13):

Oh no, it’s my pleasure. It’s my pleasure.


This episode is sponsored by Merck, and Amgen Oncology.

This episode is brought to you by Merck.
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