Managing your health and assuring yourself a long life- When is it a good time to fire your doctor and get one that really works for the money you pay and treats you like an equal???

As we grow older, we will no doubt develop newer health problems we never expected to have. Those of us living in the Diaspora from African descent will have diseases that others from European descent or from Asian descent do not have. And yet, we will be free of diseases those from other backgrounds or races have. For example, African women and men or blacks will develop more problems with High Blood Pressure, obesity, Diabetes, and stroke at a higher degree than people from other backgrounds. We will also have less cholesterol problems, less problems with bone loss, etc. than those from Western European backgrounds because we have larger bone mass and if we stick to our diet of of less sugar and less processed food, we can do even better. But if we eat all of the oils and the sugar choices added to the salty diets we already have, than we will add our inherent problems caused by our culture to that of the Euro-centric proplems to push us further toward the grave yard.

All of this silly explanation is to say that we NEED to manage our health since no two individuals are the same and no two races or cultures experience health issues in the same ways. What works for us does not work for others, and our diet practices at home in Africa are not exactly the same as we try to improvise out here in the US.

Additionally, the child who grows up in an African home, eating African meals alongside hamburgers and French fries, drinking highly carbonated, sugar coke products, eating lots of candies and other types of sweets, one who does not exercise through walking as children in other countries do, will have different childhood diseases, and later, adult health issues than children in Africa. Worst is that the children we bring up here in the US do not do the same tasking household chores children and their parents must do in Africa. Our children will therefore for this lack of exercise develop even bigger bones, but they will also be heavier, more obese, and will develop many health problems children in Africa will never have.

What’s worse are the adults who come to the US and develop all of the eating habits very fast because of stressful work schedules, a lack of opportunities to exercise or the refusal to change lifestyle practices. Now having stated all of these negatives, let us examine how one can be the manager of their own health, keep a clear eye on what the doctors are giving one to swallow, how doctors treat us, and how to stay alive longer than our parents.


I’m no medical specialist or doctor, but from my common sense experience and my own life, I’d like to offer a few words to women out there. If this is a good word for men, thanks to God. I am no specialist on what illnesses men have, so you can bear with me.

FIRING YOUR SWEET, SOFT SPOKEN, NICE LOOKING FEMALE DOCTOR…. or FIRING THAT OVERBEARING, VERY CONFIDENT MALE DOCTOR WHO DOESN’T EVEN GET IT WHEN YOU TELL HIM WHAT YOU’RE FEELING- Can you do that? Can you be brave to say to your doctor, who probably, has been your family doctor for longest “You’re fire!”?

YES- you can! Yes we can, as Obama’s campaign would say- YES, WE CAN!

Let’s examine some of the problems with us women who care more about our doctor’s feelings than about own health.

Let”s say you are a very professional, hard-working woman who takes care of your health, you have a very good insurance, and because you care about your health, you have been at your doctor’s office every time you felt something wrong with you. You go to see your doctor, whoever she or he is, male or female, but on every visit, you tell her that you think she out to check your sugar, to check for whether or not you have high cholesterol because you feel a certain way that is not like yourself.

But time after time, your doctor does not check for these problems. She tries to console you or he tells you that it’s all in your head, that you’re overstressed, and therefore, he or she does not do anything to check your sugar, to check for problems with your pressure or to inform you of results from a Mammogram you had or you feel something strange, and need to be examined for certain serious conditions, but she refuses by quietly dismissing you or promising to order the exam later. Or maybe you need a certain medication to treat an ongoing problem, but she says, oh, you don’t need it. It can wait.

Now, you may think these are really extreme examples. But you’re not being true to yourself because one time or the other, this has happened to all of us. We are often so busy, so caught up trying to keep our families in focus, we neglect ourselves. We never stop to think- hey, didn’t I tell that doctor how I am feeling, and why didn’t she take me seriously?

When weeks after you discover something wrong with you, your doctor finally feels the bright light from Heaven and orders the test for what you already knew, BAM, she calls to tell you that you have this or that disease. She tells you have something you knew all along you had, and the problem has got so bad, your life is threatened by this disease that the doctor was too busy trying to avoid treating even though you have good insurance. What do you then do, especially, when you discover that the doctor is not even qualified to treat what the laboratory work has discovered, and she, your nice doctor who only wants to appease and not treat you, does not want to refer you even though she should and she can.

What do you do?

Or let’s take this argument on another leg. You have a certain illness that is being treated by some medication that is actually killing you. You go in and tell your doctor to take this medication away. You tell your sweet female doctor or your big male doctor that the medication makes you sleep all day, that it makes you suffer from that stupid illness they call Vertigo, or that the medication depresses you or that the medication is just not doing what it was meant to do. Your doctor looks at you and says with her/his eyes “here we go again- this woman!” You cannot get it.

You are used to those old time doctors who saw an illness and wanted to destroy it, who wanted to go to battle with illnesses for the sake of God. Today, your doctor is a younger, more popular-culture kind of person who actually may be underhandedly working for someone else. If she/he sends you to the lab to do that very complicated procedure, the insurance company may not like her anymore. So, she puts off finding a diagnoses by not ordering the test. Remember, now you live in a country where most good medication has to be prescribed for you to get your hand on it and one does not ever order their own lab test.

Maybe your doctor does not help you out because the insurance will be mad that she has given you a very expensive medication that actually does the job it was meant to do, so she holds back. Or maybe she will look bad among her peers, so she gives you some weak tablets that make you come and go when what will really help you will cost you just two dollars after insurance. All of this is difficult to prove, but that is just what seems to happen, doesn’t it?

What do you do with such a doctor?

Now let me tell you why these questions are significant to us African women or women from African descent or simply immigrant women who come from a culture that respects and treats our doctor as if they were some God. We do not quit a doctor or question them or try to find out why they cannot agree with us. We simply go, and if they are so bad, we will keep going until they finally kill us.

My mother died because her nurse practitioner who noticed that she was very ill one day decided to help her by injecting her with some medication that caused her to have a cardiac arrest. He did not mean any harm to her. He simply did something stupid, and Mama was no more. In this country where we don’t have to have someone come to our home to play doctor on us because we have great doctors despite the problems, why should we settle for less?

My case was made for the woman with the best health insurance or the very good one. But just because one does not have health insurance or the money to pay does not give a doctor the right to neglect treating them or giving them the right medication or from listening to their complaint. There are many ways of solving the financial problems with the lack of health insurance, therefore one should not allow a doctor to give them poor services because of this lack.

When a doctor performs in the manner I have described above, such a doctor should be fired. I mean if you went to work and did not perform your job properly and caused clients to leave your business or if as as an professor of English, you could not effectively teach English so that students are drawn to your classes and to the institution, do you think your employer would keep you just because you are sweet or beautiful?

A doctor that causes a patient’s health problems to remain undiagnosed for long even after the patient asked them to check for the problem, should be fired immediately. Firing your doctor does not mean that you will take their job away. Firing your doctor does not mean that you dislike them as a friend or a person. It simply means that the relationship as doctor and patient is no longer working well. You simply stop seeing them and find yourself a good doctor, one who knows what you’re paying them to do. Do not settle for any less.

In case you settle for less, in case you allow your doctor to play with your health, in case you make excuses for your doctor, you should know that you are only playing with your life.

The idea for this blog came to me not only from my own personal experiences. I was watching CNN when the topic came up about the high statistics of women who die or put their lives in danger because they refuse to fire or get rid of their bad doctors. Men refuse to go to the doctors, but women who go, never fire a bad doctor and can die from the lack of good services.

As immigrant women, we find ourselves in an entirely different country now. The doctor is a good friend, but that friendship is base on the trust that the doctor will be the good care taker of the health needs we pay them to meet and we will in turn take care of our health the way the doctor advises.

I was in to see my doctor, who is a very fine specialist in his area, and when he saw the new results of an ongoing health condition he has been treating me for, he was elated. He is a very no-nonsense kind of doctor, one who seems to be from the old school of thought where doctors took seriously the needs of their patients. I have friends who do not like him because they say that he has “bad bedside manners.” They mean that he doesn’t waste other patients’ time chatting about useless things when they go to see him. He gets to the matter of one’s illness, finds a problem, and chases it down. He does not give useless medications. In fact, the first time I was referred to him three years ago, he took some useless tablets my family practitioner at the time had given me, and asked me if he could throw them away. Of course, I said yes. He told me upfront that the medication would harm me in five years, would do this and that, that I did not need such when my body could produce better than the medication was doing. I tell you, he was right. I have never needed that medication again in three years.

This time, now, he was excited that within two weeks, I was making progress. Now, that’s what I call “good bedside manners!” When a doctor can see a difference in his/her patient and get excited about that, that is a good doctor. When a doctor sees a problem and pretends it’s not there simply because he/she does not want the extra work of following up, that is what I call “bad doctor,” who should be fired.

It is your first responsibility as a woman, as a mother, as a professional woman, as a human being to take good care of yourself and your health. I always compare taking care of my own health to what the airline stewardess tells us about emergency safety precautions when the plane is taking off. “If you are traveling with a child, you must assist yourself before you can assist the child.” To me, that means that if I am not alive because I did not take care of myself, I will not be around to take care of my children.

As I conclude this discussion, let me give you the right to free yourself of a bad doctor if you need to. Fire your doctor who is not good for you. If you are taking medication that is killing you, get rid of it with your doctor’s consent, but if your doctor does not understand your need to quit the medication, you need to ask yourself why.

I recall the last time I had to quit a medication when I was with another doctor. My doctor did not think so, but the medication was causing me to lose my sight gradually. I called a girlfriend who told me to dump the medication because she had had a similar problem with the identical medication. My doctor would not allow me quit the tablets she believed were good for me, but on my friend’s advice, I threw the medication into my trash can. Within a couple days of quitting the medication, my vision began to return, and within a week, as my friend said, my vision was normalized. When my doctor learned that I no longer had vision problems because I had dumped her tablets, she simply smiled. Now what was that?

The medications we take as well as the health services we get are important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Please take care of yourself. You are the only person you’ve got that is you.

Super Mom or Not,— HAPPY, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY To All The Moms, To Women Without Children, and Women Who Take Care of Other People’s Children Out There!

Yesterday, I was thinking of Mother’s Day, and was reminded of my own deceased mother, Hne Datedor Mary Williams, of my deceased stepmother, Nnano Mary Morrias Jabbeh, of my Aunties, my father’s struggling sisters in Liberia, my mother’s sisters, who all died too early because of the struggles of women around the world, often, the house-keeper, provider, mother and childbearer, wife on whose shoulders all life must rest in an African household, the patient one who sits there as her husband cheats and cheats on her with other women, often, the one who is tossed aside for another woman in the the cities, and often, with nothing to live for, she dies earlier than other women around the world.

I was not thinking of myself as a mother, hardworking woman, who having lost everything continues to work hard and better myself and take care of my own children.

I was instead thinking of other women like many of my women friends still in Liberia, in the US, both African, African American, Asian, white American, friends who are women, with that culture of nurturing their children, their husbands, working hard to help bring in the meal, supporting their husbands for ages, and then afterwards, many of these are like their African counterparts, tossed aside.

I was not emotional at all about all the things that we are teary about on Mother’s Day. I was on the other hand, teary about a few of my friends, African women who in the last five years were tossed aside, after childbearing and nurturing, having given all their life to a husband they thought would take care of them in their old age, and after that, they called me to say that it was over. They had exhausted all attempts to save their marriage, and were allowing their husband to go ahead and divorce them.

This is where our mothering comes in. As a mother, I keep asking myself whether or not I am bringing up the old African son like our fathers or the new one who is able to transcend the old culture of relegating women to lower roles, to not caring about their wives after they grow old or am I bringing up sons that will know that it is not only the woman’s place to be the cook and housekeeper, to be the one looking after the children, and yet the one helping to bring in the household income. I want as a mother to bring up sons that can take the best from both the Western culture and the African.

We should aim to bring up new men. Many mothers are alone in their old age not because they cannot live with their husbands, but because of an older culture. I wrote a poem to one of my good friends during my time of reflection, a poem that I will send out to a journal and include in my fourth book. I do not feel it should be posted here, but the poem helped me put into words how Mother’s Day can bring mix feelings. Many of us are happy mothers because we were the lucky ones to have husbands who care a lot about us as women. But there are millions of women who are in tears on Mother’s Day because life was not fair to them or because another woman’s son destroyed their life.

Our mothers were hardworking and dedicated, and taught many of us their children how to be dedicated to family and to our children.

Last year I spent some time with my childhood friend, Marietta Freeman Johnson, and was amazed at how much our memories of our two mothers inspired in both of us. Our mothers, Auntie Mary, as she was called, and Auntie Vic were best friends when we were very young children in Monrovia. The night I stayed with Marietta on my way from Colombia, South America, stranded in Atlanta after one of my poetry reading trips, we talked for hours into the morning about what our mothers have left with us, their love of hard work, their commitment to their children, their struggles to overcome Monrovia’s difficult existence, their ever-enduring love even in moments when our fathers were not there for us.

But I remember my younger friends also. There are younger women who in their dedication to family and to God, have been great mothers, even examples to some of us who are a bit older. My friend, Lola Audu comes to mind. In my early years here in the US, Lola and I had younger children, and at that time, it was difficult to see where we would be in five, ten, fifteen years. A couple years ago, I was in Grand Rapids to read poetry as a guest of Calvin College’s Festival of Faith and Writing, and had the pleasure of being honored in Lola’s home when she threw a girls’ party for me. This was fifteen years after our first meeting, and our friendship began. At that get-together of Christian women friends of Lola was her mother, a woman who inspires love and dedication in the younger woman who simply will take a moment to get close to her.

That day, I was looking at Lola however, not at the older motherly woman, I call “Mama” since I already knew what she was as a mother. But I was delighted to see my friend, Lola, now a mother of a high schooler and a near teenager, a professional woman who owns her own realty and is the broker in her firm, a dedicated wife and an inspiration to all of those who know her. What was important to me that day was how Lola had grown not only as a professional woman, but also as a woman of God, a mother of her children, a dedicated wife, and a community person.

Every woman does not however have to be a woman like my friend Lola or like myself, whatever people think I am or and no woman has to be an angel of mercy. Every mother ought to be herself, to live within the grace that God has given her, to enjoy her life, and to continue to nurture their children to become good citizens. Those of us in the Diaspora, the new immigrants know where we have come from, how much the struggle is to become what we want to be, and knowing this should inspire us to be true mothers to our children, and most particularly, to our sons.

I will conclude this blog today on several poems by some of my favorite poets and with Prince Nico Mbarga’s beautiful song, the popular and eternal, “Sweet Mother.”

All of the poems are credited to the Famous Poems and Poets.Com

Mother’s Day Proclamation by Julia Ward Howe

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country

To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

if there are any heavens my mother will by E. E. Cummings

if there are any heavens my mother will(all by herself)have

one. It will not be a pansy heaven nor

a fragile heaven of lilies-of-the-valley but

it will be a heaven of blackred roses

my father will be(deep like a rose

tall like a rose)

standing near my

(swaying over her


with eyes which are really petals and see

nothing with the face of a poet really which

is a flower and not a face with


which whisper

This is my beloved my

(suddenly in sunlight

he will bow,

& the whole garden will bow)

Nature — the Gentlest Mother is, by Emily Dickinson

Nature — the Gentlest Mother is,
Impatient of no Child —
The feeblest — or the waywardest —
Her Admonition mild —

In Forest — and the Hill —
By Traveller — be heard —
Restraining Rampant Squirrel —
Or too impetuous Bird —

How fair Her Conversation —
A Summer Afternoon —
Her Household — Her Assembly —
And when the Sun go down —

Her Voice among the Aisles
Incite the timid prayer
Of the minutest Cricket —
The most unworthy Flower —

When all the Children sleep —
She turns as long away
As will suffice to light Her lamps —
Then bending from the Sky —

With infinite Affection —
And infiniter Care —
Her Golden finger on Her lip —
Wills Silence — Everywhere —

In Memory Of My Mother by Patrick Kavanagh
I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
You walking down a lane among the poplars
On your way to the station,
or happilyGoing to second Mass on a summer Sunday–
You meet me and you say:
‘Don’t forget to see about the cattle–‘
Among your earthiest words the angels stray.

And I think of you walking along a headland
Of green oats in June,
So full of repose, so rich with life–
And I see us meeting at the end of a town

On a fair day by accident, after
The bargains are all made and we can walk
Together through the shops and stalls and markets
Free in the oriental streets of thought.

O you are not lying in the wet clay,
For it is harvest evening now and we
Are piling up the ricks against the moonlight
And you smile up at us — eternally.

Nigeria – Tilda – Sweet Mother

In The Presence of A Mountain, One Must Bow: Meeting Muthoni Likimani- African Writer, Long Time Woman Fighter, Social Activitst, Women’s Role Model……What A Blessing!

Muthoni Likimani, the author of many books was approachable even after 80, and inspires humility in anyone who would take a moment to talk to her.

Meeting Muthoni

Frank Chipasula, another African poet and Editor of African Literature captures in this photo Muthoni attempting to stop me in my tracks, and then I discovered who she is.

When I met Muthoni Likimani last week, it was like coming up to a mountain just to realize how huge and how great the mountain is. I met the great Kenyan writer, activist and one of the most influential figures of Kenyan literary and political history, Muthoni Likimani at the African Literature Association (ALA) conference in MaComb, Illinois a week ago. The ALA conference was held at Western Illinois University from April 22-27. There were many African literary greats all over the place, but if you are like me, new to attending ALA conferences, you were lost to these great people unless you had a good friend like some of my good poetry and literary friends who took me by the hand to introduce me to everyone. My friend Gabeba Baderoon from South Africa was good at introducing me to so many great people. But when I met Muthoni, no one had to tell me who she was. I knew it by her walk, her smile, her eyes that seemed to say, “come here, little girl, let me meet you and bless you.” I simply walked up to her, and introduced myself. She was a magnet, a giant to be reckoned with, a true writer, someone who has already done what many of us aspire to. I do not know if others around us in the Union at WIU discovered the woman I was discovering for the first time.

Muthoni Likimani is more than 80 years old, but walked with strength and the power that she carries in her walk. She greeted me and discovered that I am Liberian. Then she struck a conversation with me about the famous Liberian musician and artist, Miata Fahnbullah, whom she referred to as her “daughter.” At that point, I was curious about this Kenyan author, and wanted to know more about her. I wanted at the moment to get all of the books she’s written and read them, to sit with her and ask her all the questions a younger woman can ask of an elder- the how to write for a generation of younger women, how to write in the Diaspora, how to stay alive, how to “fight without ceasing,” how to find out “what a man wants,” and all of the things this great woman writer and role model has written about.

Conferences are so interesting. One has just a small bit of time for sessions, for presenting, for meeting great people, for meeting not-so great people, for searching for food, looking for rides, for avoiding those who need to be avoided, and so forth. Once in a while, one meets someone who is a rare treasure. The ALA was such a conference, but there was nothing better than meeting Muthoni. I wanted to introduce her to my readers. There was that smile, that freedom of spirit, that love of the younger more inexperienced woman writer from Africa, for the new Diaspora woman from Africa. One never ever lives to learn enough. Each day brings new blessings. I felt really blessed. Meeting Muthoni was one of those moments when one felt like bowing down in reverence to the grace of an elder. There was much bowing and kneeling in reverence to elders at ALA, but meeting Muthoni Likimani was one deserving of knee bending.

Later on, after we had posed for photos, Frank took me to the book table where The Feminist Press had her one book, “What Does a Man Want” on display.

Here, again Frank Chipasula faithfully captures Muthoni here with me and Kassahun Checole of African World Press. Kasahun has faithfully published African writers from around the world for decades.

There were many other great moments and great things that happened at the conference. My friend, Maureen Ngozi Eke of Central Michigan University became President of the African Literature Association, and gave the most wonderful speech. I am still basking in that great speech. She made me proud of her. I was not elected as an Executive Committee member of ALA, a decision which I felt was a great one. I was a great loser, and loved losing. A great person nominated me, but I believe that I am not ready to take on any more responsibility anyway, especially, since I am still an Executive Committee member of MLA’s African Literature Division.

I met another very wonderful author and writer, translator and sister, Wangui Wa Goro. On Sunday, Wangui and I were among few who were still stuck in that little town of MaComb, and spent some time with young student members of the African Student Association at Western Illinois, chatting, mentoring, and advising them over lunch. We later on visited Safouri’s house to eat Jollof rice and talk before retiring at the Union where we were staying.

My appreciation for all of the photos above and below goes to Frank Chipasula who took everyone by surprise and captured many great moments at the conference. Enjoy the photos below:

Papa Suso of Gambia was again at ALA, performing, entertaining everyone and being his usual happy-go-lucky self. Here he is waiting with all of us for the ever-not-coming shuttle bus to arrive. His instrument, the Kora. I first met Papa Suso at ALA 2007 and then again in Medelin, Colombia, where he performed to thousands as we read poetry. Standing over us is Kevin, one of the great people I met at the conference.

This other shot is a good one since this shows us preparing to eat Chinese food. In a town like MaComb, we had few choices in the way of meals, and being African, we went for any thing with rice in it. Below is Mark de Brito of South Africa about to have lunch. I turn around just to hide my own meal from the camera- Ha. Mark was introduced to me by my South African friend, Gabeba.

Below are some of Muthoni Likimani’s titles. I have just ordered two of them.

They Shall Be Chastised (April 1991)

Passbook # F. .47927 Women and Mau Mau in Kenya (1986)

What Does a Man Want? 91974)

Fighting Without Ceasing (December, 2005)

Women of Kenya in the Decade of Development (1985)