Building Relationships: Archie Emmanuel Jr.

When Archie Emmanuel Jr. got engaged to his future wife, she asked him to get a checkup. Until then, he hadn’t been going to the doctor regularly. After the appointment, Emmanuel found out he had prostate cancer.

His fiancé wasn’t afraid. “She told me she had my back,” he remembers. It was the beginning of what would be a truly supportive partnership through his journey to better health.

After his treatment, Emmanuel joined a prostate cancer survivor’s group. “The doctor there said there was a group of guys I should tell my story to,” he says.

That group of guys was MOCHA.

Building Relationships: Archie Emmanuel Jr.

“Men have to understand that we’re not Superman. We can’t do it all by ourselves.”

Building a relationship with the doctor

As a new member of MOCHA, Emmanuel began seeing health improvements right away. The physical activity classes at the Y helped him recover from his cancer treatments. And in MOCHA’s wellness classes, he found comfort and camaraderie.

One of the most useful class topics, he discovered, was about establishing a good relationship with the doctor. As a cancer survivor, the topic hit close to home for him. And he’d had family members who died of colon and prostate cancer because they waited too long to see a doctor.

“Men in general aren’t always comfortable talking about health issues,” Emmanuel says. “We were raised to show no signs of weakness.” And going to the doctor regularly can be especially difficult for men of color, he says, because “men of color fear the unknown.” He says he’s concerned about the way this kind of thinking can contribute to health disparities — like the fact that black men have a higher risk of dying from prostate cancer than men of other races.

In MOCHA’s wellness classes, Emmanuel and his cohort learned how to get comfortable with the idea of regular screenings and wellness exams. And he discovered strategies on how to advocate for himself and ask the doctor questions. “It’s not a one-way conversation,” Emmanuel says. “We have to ask, What do I need to do?”

Still healthy and positive today

Emmanuel joined MOCHA 5 years ago — and he’s been with the program ever since.

Now, he’s keeping busy recruiting men for the program, tabling at health fairs, participating in cancer walks, and helping out with MOCHA’s annual cookout. And he provides free transportation to men so they can get cancer screenings at local hospitals. One of his favorite things about being involved in outreach, he says, is meeting new people.

He’s also a mentor — a role he’s very proud of. “I’ve been to college. I’m a Vietnam-era vet. I have knowledge and experience to pass on to other men of color.” He says he loves sharing positive health information and helping other men learn their options. “I can help them live a little longer and be around for their families — and get them involved in their community too,” he says.

Emmanuel has seen major improvements since joining MOCHA. He’s more attentive to and aware of his health now. “I’m drinking more water, I’m eating healthier food. I’m walking more and doing chair aerobics.” He also continues to regularly attend MOCHA meetings, which he says keep him on track.

Holding each other accountable

The lesson’s he’s learned from MOCHA have made his family structure stronger, too, Emmanuel says. And through it all, his wife has stuck by his side. He’s found her support to be indispensable — and he believes that MOCHA has helped him be a better partner to her. “We hold each other accountable for being healthy,” he says.

In the end, for Emmanuel, it’s all about the people that have helped him along on his journey to healthier living. He finds that humbling. “Men have to understand that we’re not Superman. We can’t do it all by ourselves,” he says.

That’s what MOCHA’s for.