Minnesota Monthly

A Look Into Our Work

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                                                      My name is Anthony Bass, I'm an African American and the Senior Executive Director for the American                                                        Cancer Society. March 14th of 2022 was my one-year anniversary since coming to ACS. Since coming                                                          here, my eyes have been open to both the horrors and hope of cancer. Since being in this role I've                                                              learned that 1 out of 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime as well as 1 out of 2 men –                                                        cancer touches everyone, yet I've also learned that since the American Cancer Society inception,                                                                  cancer mortality rate has been reduced by 30%. ACS has saved millions of lives. Additionally, I’ve                                                                  discovered that even though cancer is a disease that can affect anyone, it doesn’t affect everyone                                                                equally. African Americans and other racial and ethnic groups, people who have low incomes or are                                                            underinsured or uninsured, and people living in rural areas often face greater obstacles for recovery                                                            than others, such as:

 

  • Racism and other forms of discrimination

  • Poverty

  • Lack of access to affordable healthy foods

  • Jobs with lower pay

  • Low-quality education

  • Living in low-quality housing and unsafe environments. [1]

These disparities even impacted my family growing up. My grandmother and grandfather were the first relatives that I had that I knew were smokers. Overtime I learned they smoked because it was the best way for them to cope with pain of being black and living in the Jim Crow south. They eventually quit; however, decades of smoking left a very real impact on their bodies. My grandfather who was a coal miner and had black lung eventually died of heart failure and my grandmother who late in her life was diagnosed with stomach cancer passed away from heart failure herself. Additionally, my dad's father who was also a coal miner and smoked and rubbed chewing tobacco was diagnosed with mouth cancer in his middle ages and lost his lower jaw before he passed away from the disease; I never had the chance to meet him. These traumatic experiences so impacted my parents that neither of them ever smoked throughout their life. However, my brother who now wrestles with mental health challenges is currently a smoker; he has been wrestling with his health issues for the past decade. I'm currently a father of seven and I'm looking ahead at the future for my kids; I want the cycle broken; I have 3 boys with autism, and I want to ensure that they are not persuaded to smoke as a means of coping with the pain of their lives. People living with mental illness or substance use disorders are more dependent on tobacco, smoke more heavily & are more likely to die from tobacco-related illness than from their mental health or substance use conditions. This is where the American Cancer Society comes in for me because it is the one organization that exists to improve the lives of cancer patients and their families through advocacy, discovery, and patient support.

 

Despite the challenges ahead for me and my family. I know I am not alone. And, neither are you.

 

 

 

[1] https://www.cancer.org/about-us/what-we-do/health-equity.html

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Anthony Bass
Senior Executive Director