David E. Garnett advises all men to see their doctors regularly, because early detection could possibly change their lives. (Courtesy photo)

By J.J. McQueen
Special to the AFRO

In the world of sports, men who live on their passion and faith are often described as warriors and or leaders, especially those who play the game of football. Former University of Pittsburgh 1970s running back David E. Garnett fits the model of those who subscribe to the high achieving leadership brand. With an athletic build standing nearly 6’2, the former student athlete has never had many reasons to be anything less than poised in life. That’s until he one day found a lump in his breast. Brought to a pause by something he thought was foreign to his body, David scheduled a visit to his then primary care doctor. 

It was there that he began to value second opinions. When he shared his findings of the lump with his first doctor, it was dismissed as a growth with no validity to it. Still unsettled with the response from his first doctor, David sought a second opinion. While being led to take a deeper dive into seeking answers about mysterious lump, David’s faith was being tested as well. Upon meeting with the second physician, he was told the lump needed to be removed. In keeping with the tradition of the athlete he’d always been, he told the doctor, “remove it.” 

Removing the lump required an additional round of testing. This would be the final measure that put his will and faith on notice that they would be needed for the next part of the journey. A battery of tests and biopsies revealed he had breast cancer. When asked about his response, he said, “I asked, am I going to live?” The response on the other end of the line was, “I don’t know.” Being a man of faith, David knew that there was only one way to approach the situation, and that was head on. He decided to take the most aggressive forms of treatment possible. After a mastectomy,  four rounds of chemotherapy, and a shot of infinite faith, 22 years later David Garnett remains cancer free. 

The final words of wisdom he shared were, “All men should get regular checkups. If their employers offer incentive programs for taking positive health measures, they should take advantage of them. My health wake up call came through Richard Roundtree, the original Shaft who underwent the same procedure as I did. Hopefully, you’re getting yours today from me! If you hear your doctor say, “You have cancer,” put your trust in Yahweh, and not something you find on the information highway. I hope that all men will build solid relationships with their doctors and ask questions.” 

According to the American Breast Cancer Society one in 844 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, and one in five Black men will die from it.

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