Around the time my mother passed away I was supposed to get my first mammogram, but didn’t. I didn’t conduct my monthly breast self-exams either. I couldn’t. Too scared. Part of me feared the breast cancer that had sapped her spirit might have already claimed me.

After a couple of years of living with fear hanging over my shoulder, I grabbed hold of myself. In addition to implementing healthy lifestyle habits, like eating more fresh fruits and veggies and fewer refined foods and walking daily, I took a stand for my health and joined a breast cancer clinical trial. The goal of the Digital Mammographic Imaging Screening Trial (DMIST) was to determine whether digital mammograms are better than the regular film (X-ray) kind. I figured I was better off safe than sorry. Thankfully, my mammograms came back “all clear.”

As Chee Gates reports in “Fight Exam Phobia” (page 22) many of us fear and avoid diagnostic tests. What better way to alleviate our fear than arming ourselves with information? Taking a stand for our health is often a matter of life or death. Take using condoms, for instance. While the media has led sistahs to believe that closeted bisexual black men on the down low, or DL, are to blame for black women’s risk for HIV, many top black researchers question that theory. On page 30, Andrea King Collier dishes the real deal on the DL and reminds us why we still need to use a condom each and every time we have sex.

December 1 is World AIDS Day. It’s a day of double significance for our community: On that same date in 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Birmingham bus. With that simple decision, she sparked change around the planet. We, too, can improve the quality of our lives, our community and our world by implementing healthier habits, one by one.