I can’t think of a single family that has not been affected by cancer; and many have been affected by prostate cancer!
Now, I’ve been aware of cancer in women since I was a little boy because a lady in my church of origin, affectionately called, “Sister Eunice,” testified of being healed from breast cancer through prayer. Her miracle took place in the 1940’s following a cancer diagnosis. Sister Eunice had the wherewithal to undergo a medical examination to determine the cause of pain in her breasts, which resulted in her diagnosis. Following her healing, she returned for re-examination to confirm that the cancer was gone.
I don’t remember hearing anything about prostate cancer until I was in my late 40’s. Because of the stigma associated with illness, men, particularly African American men, seldom spoke about cancer of any sort. And if they did, they certainly never spoke about any disease affecting the prostate. Any conversations about incontinence, infertility, and treatment were usually held in very small intimate groups and medical advice was rarely recommended. I am doing my part to expand that conversation. As a prostate cancer survivor who was diagnosed during my routine annual examination, I am obligated to preach the importance of regular medical examinations and cancer screenings.
As a pastor, I know all too well that in the black community, there existed a religious culture that, for years, saw physicians as unnecessary; resulting, unfortunately, in many men not going in for medical examinations. These men (and women) relied solely on faith healing for physical maladies. They firmly believed that the healing of a person could be brought about by religious faith through prayer and/or rituals (like the laying on of hands) that stimulated a divine presence and power toward correcting and even eliminating disease and disability.
Many Christians nowadays still take the New Testament as proof that the Lord heals from all types of diseases, and He does. In addition to that belief, however, do what Sister Eunice did, and get the examination.
Awareness and education about prostate cancer, as well as prayer, will eventually lead to the cure. To that end, September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease that is the most common (non-skin) cancer in all men. One quarter of a million men are diagnosed annually, and over thirty thousand lose their lives to this dreaded disease annually. According the American Cancer Society, approximately one out of every six adult males will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. The American Cancer Society also states that prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among African American men. The prostate cancer incidence rate for African American men is 50 percent higher than that of European American men. The screening rate for European American men in 2010 was 62 percent, versus 42 percent for African American men. Approximately 56 percent of all prostate cancer in African American men is diagnosed while still localized, a stage that has a relative five-year survival rate of 93 percent. When diagnosed at a later stage, the relative five-year survival
rate drops to 30 percent.
Several of my heroes died of prostate cancer; including Langston Hughes, the African American poet; Eldridge Cleaver and Stokely Carmichael, both civil rights activists; and Floyd Patterson, former heavyweight boxing champion.
While many more people are aware of prostate cancer now than in years past, many don’t take the steps to detect the disease in its early stages and encourage others to do the same.
There are three things that all men, especially those over 40 years of age, can do to help with the elimination and cure of prostate cancer that I call the three P’s. First, practice getting regular examinations with your physician. Second, participate in discussions, whether online, or in small groups or seminars to empower yourself and other men about developments in cancer treatments. Then, finally pray for the cure.
Lord, we pray for all men diagnosed with prostate cancer. We pray for healing and remission. We know that through You all thing are possible, and we believe in Your capacity for miracles. In Your name, heal soul and body. In Your name, may inconvenience and pain cease. In Your name, may strength be increased and fears relieved. We trust You, Jesus, the Great Physician. Amen.
Dr. Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at wtrichardson@Bellsouth.net. Website: WTRMinistries.com