God bless you.
Early Sunday morning, I called my baby sister in Grand Rapids, Mich., Veruynca Williams, to get additional information about our departed oldest sibling, Mrs. Maude Lee Burrell, who lost her battle with end-stage congestive heart failure in 2001.
I got more than the information I sought. I got fervent supplication as she led me in a prayer so powerful that I wouldn't be surprised if it shook both the ceiling of hell and the basement of heaven. It certainly filled my soul with joy and boosted my faith to continue my successful healing from brain cancer, end-staged congestive heart failure and prostate cancer.
Roughly four months before Maude Lee died, I had undergone a triple-bypass at the University of Chicago Hospital to address a 50 percent blockage of my main left artery. I did that to hopefully position me to avoid the end-stage congestive heart failure that, with the aid of an infection, finally killed Maude Lee three months after she had spent six futile months at the Cleveland Clinic trying to qualify for a heart transplant.
Maude Lee was 65 when she died three months before her 66th birthday. I will be 65 in August. By the healing grace of God and with my faith, common sense and the help of competent doctors, I plan to fare better. I am a healing in progress not just for my personal benefit, but for the benefit of my family members and others who may need to be encouraged and enlightened in their battles against life-threatening health issues. People like you prayer partners are helping me achieve that.
I am happy to report that I continue to feel stronger, continue to respond exceptionally well to medication and this blessing is inspiring more and more people to prayerfully join me on this healing train.
On Wednesday, I power-walked three miles non-stop in 63 minutes on my treadmill and weighed 230 afterward. That's a magnum improvement since eight months ago, my weight had shamefully reached 253 pounds, and two months ago, I could not take 10 steps, wash my face, shower or eat a meal without stopping every 30 seconds to catch my breath.
Last week, I also covered a Rush arena football game, my first assignment in more than two months. This week, I plan to drop below 230 pounds for the first time in six years. And while radioactive seeds work to dissolve my prostate cancer and my heart continues to respond well to medication, rest and consistent low-grade exercise, I will ease my way back to work.
In three weeks, I am scheduled to undergo a stress test and other examinations to confirm progress in terms of my end-stage congestion heart failure to clear me to return to work full-time. By that time, I plan to have lowered my weight to a consistent 225 and have my heart strong enough where the need for a heart transplant will be significantly minimized at the least and eliminated at the most.
I wish you could have met Maude Lee. She was one of the most faithful, loving wives and mothers
you'll ever find. She loved her Jesus, her family, her church and friends with all her heart. Working
feverishly for years to support five sons and a disabled husband, my sister literally worked herself to
death. As such, she was a symbol of the great suffering and uncommon sacrifice that so many black
women have invested to preserve our black families in particular and our race in general. She simply
continued the proud tradition of our hard-working mother, who was outlived by each of her surviving
eight children by at least seven years and as many as 27 years and counting,
I was the first of my siblings to graduate from college. Two of my brothers, Rev. Jimmie Lee Banks
and Rev. Ephthallia Lucas Banks, both pastoring in Kansas City, Kan., not only followed me in graduating
from college, but did even better by receiving their Masters degrees in divinity. Jimmie excelled in the
corporate world, in community service and leadership, and last year he did our family proud when he
barely fell short in his political bid to become the first black mayor of Kansas City, Kan.
My oldest living sister, Luekicius Brown, became the first of our generation to reach age 70. Our
mother Sarah Loraine Banks, died a tragic death, at age of 43, from blood poisoning after carrying the
dead fetus of her 12th baby in her womb for at least a week. Our father, the Rev. A.D. Banks, Sr.,
died of a stroke at age 64, and our youngest sibling, Hansel Jordan Banks, died of a heart attack
at age 50. My older brother, Anderson Douglass Jr., A.K.A. Sonny, 68, is retired. Although a childhood
illness retarded Sonny mentally to where he was never able to read or write, he was perhaps the most
enterprising of our family, working tirelessly at assorted minimum-wage jobs. Jimmie saw to it that
Sonny got his social security and Medicare benefit to sustain him economically for the rest of his life.
On the whole, we have done well for a family that rose from Mississippi poverty. We were all raised
in the church and, with the exception of Veruynca and Hansel, born in Mississippi. My father baptised
each of us and my mother shouted each time one of her children joined church and got baptised.
Lue and her husband, Sylvester Brown, recently became the first of our family to celebrate their 50th
wedding anniversary in their Cincinnati home. Jimmie and his wife, Alice, have been married 43 years.
Maude Lee and her husband, N.L., were married for 45 years. My wife, Joyce, and I will celebrate our 40th
wedding anniversary June 30. We've been married far longer than any of her five siblings.
I share this information with you because this is part of who I am and I come into this healing
process drawing strength from my immediate family members and our collective experiences. They help
power my drive to thrive and survive. And although I have a family history of heart disease, my healing
will henceforth add to my family's heritage and provide positive direction for my relatives, friends and
even strangers to be encouraged to follow and fare even better than I will.
God bless you.