God bless you, today.
Yesterday's (Wednesday, May 21) radioactive seeds implantation for my prostate cancer went as Joyce and I prayed it would. Smooth. Wonderful. Even great?
I don't want to jump to conclusions too quickly. But so far, I not only feel better than expected but better than I've felt overall in a long time. As I told you at the start of this journey, I want to carefully take you through each stop along the way. I want to share with you even some--but not all--of the subtle details of this "healing in progress" trip.
Enjoy the scenery as we travel. Enjoy the trees and the breeze. The flowers and April showers. The hills, wind mills, frills and thrills. The valleys, the mountains, the sunshine, the clouds and all the whatever-else God bestows upon us as we reach our respective destinations of healing if you are truly praying along with me.
As usual, Joyce got out of bed before me, bathed and dressed. After we made up our common
king-size bed together, we knelt at the foot of the bed and prayed for God to see us through the day with
no complications. Our baby daughter Natasha called to pray us well. Noelle and Nicole also called Joyce to
assure us their prayers were with us. And off we went to the Chicago Prostate Cancer Center in
west-suburban Westmont for my 10:30 a.m. appointment for the world-renown Dr. Brian Moran to
implant my cancerous prostate with radioactive seeds.
Before we go farther, pause with me and give a prayerful shout out to all my fellow suffering warriors
fighting to survive cancer. I'm especially grateful to and prayerful for my Sun-Times colleague Roger
Ebert and my longtime idol Senator Edward Kennedy. I draw strength and encouragement from the
courageous battle Roger and honeybabysugarpie Chaz have been waging against his cancer. And I pray
that Senator Kennedy joins Roger and me in defying the naysayers and doing better than they have
projected. I'm more fortunate that my brain and prostate cancers are operable and that the brain tumor
is benign and treatable with medication.
Like so many Americans, I've admired the supreme sacrifices and selfless service members of the
Kennedy family have made to help our nation continue its stride toward peace, prosperity, freedom and
joy for all. Few families have lost as much in their giving to our nation's leadership. Many are calling
Kennedy the last in the Kennedy line in terms of magnanimous service, but certainly not the last of his
breed. I really think Barack Obama is of the same ilk.
Meantime, back to the CPCC. As we drove I-294 from Hazel Crest, Joyce and I listened to a CD of an
old watch night sermon I preached at Fellowship 12 years ago entitled, "I'm Just A Rubber Band
Being Stretched in God's Hand." It is about how Hezekiah, bed-stricken with a terminal illness, turned
from his wall of time to God's wall of eternity and prayed to God. In turn, God stretched his life by writing
out a cashier's check for15 more years. Hezekiah then cashed that check at the First National Bank of
God's Amazing Grace and it was shouting time in his house that day.
It was a sun-splashed Wednesday . We arrived at the CPCC on time, kissed and went into the facility
that Dr. Moran says did "1,100 brachytherapies last year, which amounts to roughly 80 percent of the
total performed in Illinois. We will do about 1,400 this year."
I was the eighth of 10 that the CPCC performed Wednesday. Because of my end-stage congestive
heart failure and my brain cancer, University of Chicago Medical Center urologist Dr. Glenn Gerber
suggested that I undergo the radiactive seeds implantation, or brachytherapy, because he had
diagnosed that the malignancy of my cancerous prostate tumors was early-staged and localized.
Nevertheless, I still explored the option of my cardiac surgeon, Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam, who
recommended what he felt was the best-case scenario of having a Heartmate XVE LVAS implanted
through open-heart surgery to strengthen my body for a radical prostatectomy. The latter is a radical
invasive operation, where the entire prostate is removed and where a determination can be made within
days whether one is "cancer-free." But prostatectomy is an in-patient procedure that involves hours of
surgery (even with robotic assistance), at least four or five days of being hospitalized, having to be
fitted with a catheter and bag to collect one's urine for at least five days, more painful side effects,
greater chances of subsequent impotence and more follow-up.
After talking with my good friend and mentor, Rev. Samuel Hinkle, pastor of Homewood's
Cathedral of Joy Baptist Church, I was encouraged to follow his example and was praying to enjoy
"I had my prostate cancer treated with the radiation seeds at Northwestern Hospital in 2002," Rev.
Hinkle said. "It was relatively quick, painless and within a month or two I had reached the cancer-free
status. Now, this isn't for everybody. Especially those who may be in a more advanced stage of the
disease. But because mine was caught early, thank God, I could opt for the minimum invasive procedure.
I didn't want to risk suffering too many damaging side effects like impotence and incontinence.
"But, again, the key is for men, especially African-American men, to have regular prostate
examinations every year to stay on top of this disease, which is the most common cancer that men
I likewise did not want to suffer many painful and damaging side effects. And at the tender age of
64, Rev. Dr. Lacy J. Banks sure did not want to be left impotent. (Please smile.)
Anyway, my procedure lasted just 40 minutes. My team comprised Dr. Moran (radiation oncologist),
urologist Dr. Paul West, nurse Rose Vrbos, anesthesiologist Maricio Orbegozo, technician Michael Foster,
pre-op nurse Nancy Gresham and post-op nurse Wendy Floyel.
The only negatives of the process was a painful hook-up of the IV into my left arm, the painful
injection of the anesthesia medication, which had my arm feeling like it was on fire and had me
groaning until I passed out, and what I considered the excessive post-op invitation for me to urinate
before I was good and ready. I knew they wanted to make sure there was no instant complication in that
area. But their insistence gave me the feeling that somebody was anxious to knock off for the day,
which I did not like.
Anyway, when I did urinate, I was relieved that the burning sensation was very, very mild--
certainly tolerable. As for the painful IV hookup, I've long had a beef with hospitals and clinics that seem
to hire the worst people to draw my blood or hook up my IV. I think that this is a very important
procedure and my experience has been that the older the person is, who is drawing my blood, the fewer
and less painful the needle-stickings.
Needles have never been a friend on mine, especially when the person doing the sticking does so
painfully and without success. One night after my triple-bypass at the UCMC seven years ago, eight
different people stuck me 12 different times trying to draw blood. Lacy Banks, not the reverend, cussed
out the eighth person and refused to let anybody draw any more. That was pitiful. I now refuse to give
anybody more than two chances to draw my blood. Once they frown and start fumbling around on this
hand, that hand, this arm, that arm and restart the process, I invite them to find somebody else.
And I really, really appreciate it when the technician confesses up front that he isn't sure and gets
somebody who can find my vein, rather than poke and poke and accuse me of being "a difficult stick" or
of having "rolling veins" or some other scapegoat excuses.
I feel like shouting when a technician, and I hope that's the proper term, feels my arm (not arms)
gently with his or her fingertips, says, "There it is. That's a good one," then needs only one poke and
strikes a gusher. I feel like hugging those who draw it so well that I hardly even feel it.
Oh yes, and another thing, why is it that the technicians in the blood-drawing labs of Northwestern
hospital and UCMC are either mostly black or all black? Hmmmmm. Just wondering.
We were out of the CPCC by roughly 1:30 p.m., dropped by Whole Foods to pick up soup, sushi,
orange juice, carrot juice, grapes, mandarin oranges and peaches. By 2:30 p.m., we were back home and
Joyce took over where the doctor left off, making sure I took me meds and ice packs at the proper times
until she retired for the night around 10:30 p.m. after looking at her daily soap opera recordings.
I stayed up and watched one of the most exciting comebacks I've ever seen on TV when the Los
Angeles Lakers opened Game 1 of the Western Conference NBA finals rallying from a 20-point,
mid-third-quarter deficit to a four-point win after NBA MVP Kobe Bryant took over the game and scored
25 of his 27 points in the second half. That comeback was almost as improbable as Bulls marketing chief
Steve Schanwald working his mojo to parlay a 1.7 percent long shot into the No. 1 pick in the upcoming
Obviously, Derrick Rose's decision not to attend the University of Illinois but Memphis, which lost to
my alma mater Kansas in the NCAA championship game, ironically worked to bring him back home after
all to play for the Bulls if they choose to pick him.
I enjoyed the replay of the Lakers-Spurs game twice and went to bed at about 4:30 a.m. feeling
little pain and needing no more ice packs at 1 a.m. And when I awoke Thursday morning, I felt hardly
any discomfort except for slow urination. And to my surprise, I discovered from Dr. Moran that the
seeds were not implanted through a tube inserted into my rear as I had thought, but through long
needles stuck directly into my prostate from the perineum area just behind my scrotum.
According to my post-op report, Dr. Moran implanted 87 of those 1-125, source-type,
micro-nuclear warheads into my prostate at strategic locations to bombard my tumors and dissolve
them over a two-month period.
"Why didn't I see blood at the punctuation marks?" I asked.
"That's because we do such a good job," Vrbos beamed when she called to make sure I was doing
According to Moran, I am making exceptional recover. Rev. Hinkle and I shouted for joy and he
prayed thanksgiving to our Almighty Jehovah Yahweh after I gave him my progress report. I felt so good
just overall that I even wondered if Dr. Moran really did operate on me.
"We get that compliment a lot," he said. "You will probably feel more discomfort later when the seeds
really start to working, however. And your urine stream may be slower and be clouded with some
Then again, maybe I won't. If and when I do, you will be among the first to know. While there is now
a two-week moritorium on me doing more than hugging and kissing my wife, I also now have to
wait a couple of months to see my PSA drop to 1 or less, compared to at least a week if I had had a
prostatectomy, I'm happy so far with my $30,000 procedure, perhaps one fifth the cost of a
Now, I will give more attention to my end-stage congestive heart failure. But as good as
I am starting to feel, I may not even need a heart operation, not to mention a heart transplant. And that's
God bless you.