CHICAGO (FinalCall.com)–“I am a survivor of prostate cancer,” the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said at Mosque Maryam during a May 10 press conference to announce the Louis Farrakhan Prostate Cancer Foundation.
“I realized that this disease was killing Black men at terrific rates, and that as men, we are difficult in terms of allowing ourselves to be tested. But, my dear brothers, let me encourage you. In fact, I’m going to spend the rest of my days encouraging men, in general, and Black men in particular, don’t wait,” the Minister continued.
He first expressed this sentiment while suffering severe side effects from his treatment for the cancer, and his daughter, Maria Farrakhan Muhammad, took his feelings to heart.
She, along with one of her father’s doctors, Alfred Goldson, and attorneys Lewis Meyers and Berve Muhammad, created the blueprint for an institution dedicated primarily to increasing the awareness of the causes and alternative treatments of cancer in general, and prostate cancer in particular. They are seeking to obtain 501(c) (3) tax-exempt status for the foundation.
Its endowment will be housed at Howard University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., where a clinic will later open to help provide treatment for prostate cancer to men who can’t afford to pay for it themselves.
While keeping his remarks concise, Minister Farrakhan shared a detailed chronology of his personal battle against prostate cancer and related illnesses. After a cancer screening at 42, his doctor remarked that the condition of his prostate was that of a teenager’s.
However, in the 16-year gap between his next testing for the disease, cancer had developed in his prostate and he was diagnosed after a digital rectal exam in 1991. Although his treatment was successful, he endured excruciating pain from a subsequent ulcer and hemorrhage that brought him to death’s door, he explained, calling prostate cancer a scourge that must be stopped.
“We are losing too many of our great ones,” he said, adding that it is more than the loss of one man; it is a family’s loss, so fighting this cancer becomes a family issue.
He noted that Black men have the highest mortality rates from the disease in the world and advised them to begin taking annual prostate tests at the age of 35. To those who say they cannot afford the exam every year, Minister Farrakhan urged them to cut back on something fancy at least once a year to free up the necessary funds and keep their scheduled appointment.
“Don’t sleep like I did when I was 42,” he warned. “That’s your date with destiny.”
After reminding the audience that two million men would not have showed up for the Million Man March had not the women in their lives inspired and pushed them to be there, Minister Farrakhan asked women to help motivate the men in their families to get screened for prostate cancer. He also encouraged them to take care of their own health as it relates to the necessary exams for female reproductive cancers.
In his concluding comments, he thanked his family members for their loving concern and care, especially his daughter, Maria, for her vision and labor in establishing the foundation. He informed the press of his plans to garner support from entertainers, sports figures and business people in building the foundation and clinic at Howard University.
Along with the press, representatives present were Chicago Police Superintendent Terry Hilliard and Chuck Bowen, executive assistant to Mayor Richard M. Daley, who read a letter from the mayor expressing warm greetings honoring Min. Farrakhan’s birth–which was part of the weekend celebration launching the foundation–and appreciating his residence in the city.
Illinois State Senator Donnie Trotter (D) delivered a proclamation on behalf of Governor Rod Blagojevich that declared May 10 to be the city’s “Prostate Cancer Awareness Day.” “We commend Minister Farrakhan in taking the lead in getting this great message to our country,” the senator said.
The message is not only great, it is critical, according to the brief statistical report given by Betsy London, who directed the day-long pre-screening drive at the mosque immediately following the press conference. Representing the National Prostate Cancer Coalition, the largest advocacy organization dedicated to the awareness of the disease, she said one in six men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime and the chances of Black men developing the disease is 60 percent higher than their White counterparts. Black men also have doubled the mortality rate.
In 2003, the coalition estimates that 25,000 Black men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 6,000 will die. Every 18 minutes, an American man dies from this cancer, which is the single most diagnosed non-skin cancer among Black people. Before the use of a blood test that screens for prostate specific antigens (PSA), about three-fourths of all prostate cancer cases were found in the late stages making treatment more difficult. However, widespread use of pre-screening has reversed this trend and now 75 percent of all cases are found in the early stages, which should give men hope.
Because Min. Farrakhan’s brother Alvan was diagnosed with, and unfortunately died from prostate cancer, his chances of contracting the cancer was raised to one in three. But, Min. Farrakhan said by God’s Grace, he fought the disease and stands today cancer free and nearly completely recovered from his cancer-related illnesses.
He urged all men to face the screening and the results with the same determination.
“Once you know you have it, then the next thing is aggressively start your war, and since we’re warriors, we don’t give in to these things,” Minister Farrakhan concluded. “We overcome.”