Most of us think we are kind of invincible in some sort of way. But as life goes on, sooner or later, we all realize that none of us are.
For me, it was my recent bout with stage 1 prostate cancer.
I grew up in Harvey, Ill., a tiny suburb right outside of Chicago. My parents always made sure my siblings and I had our shots and they took us to the doctor when we were ill. But the truth is that a lot of black people can’t afford to go to the doctor or get preventive check ups. And there are a lot of black men like me who have access to the best health care in the world – and don’t go to the doctor.
The way I grew up, we were always told as African-American men, don’t cry – be tough, don’t be soft. But for many of us, underneath that tough face, there’s a man scared to know what’s happening in his body.
Thank God I don’t think like that.
In October 2019, I was diagnosed with stage 1 prostate cancer. And I found out almost by accident.
I was just overcoming a rare spinal disease that could have killed me had I not been getting my medical check ups. Thankfully, I was treated for it and cured.
But it was during routine follow-up visits that my physician noticed I had a high PSA level. PSA stands for prostate-specific antigen. If your PSA level is a 5 or higher, get a biopsy. My doctor ordered one thank God, and that is when I was diagnosed.
I went in for a physical with routine blood pressure checks; I came out a cancer patient.
Just this month, I completed my treatments and I am expecting a clean bill of health in a few weeks. At least I hope and pray for a full recovery.
I am a private person. So I was pondering whether I should share my story so I can help others. I asked my big sister what she thought, and after talking it over with other family members, here we are.
I just recently celebrated my 66thth birthday. I’m a veteran and I will be retiring from federal government work in a few weeks. I’m planning to keep shooting photos for The New Tri-State Defender, and taking other photography gigs as they come. I’m looking forward to retirement – a cancer-free retirement!
I want to thank Dr. Jenny Tibbs and her staff at Saint Francis Cancer Center. Also to my urologist Dr. William Shappley lll and his staff. And I’m grateful to both my primary care physicians and my Veteran’s Hospital medical staff. Most of all, I thank God for blessing me with these great people. I credit the VA Hospital in Memphis for being persistent with lab tests.
Meanwhile, I am pleading to everyone, especially African American men:
Take your behind to the doctor!