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August 2008 Archives

America's healing starts with you and me, not Obama

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God bless you.

For me, this was a week of tears. It started with me crying over my perfect storm of

sicknesses that have converged on me in the forms of end-stage congestive heart failure,

brain cancer, prostate cancer, an abdominal hernia, a pinched nerve along my spinal

column and a possible herniated disc in my back.

It continued during the week when the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver

reminded us all of the sickening condition that our nation is in. Then my voracious hunger

for my personal healing gave way to an even stronger hunger for the healing of America.

And, yes, tears flowed again.

I cried during the masterful speech of Michelle Obama. She set the record straight

by recounting the family histories of her and her husband, Barack, assuring us that they

are perhaps the greatest American story in the making. Two individuals, straight up from

America's common stock of hard-working, God-believing, determined parents--this

couple, longtime dedicated to serving the downtrodden, now stands on the threshold of

holding our nation's highest office of leadership.

I cried seeing our fellow cancer warrior, Ted Kennedy, get out of his sick bed and

come before the convention to serve notice that he not only is battle-tested but

remains battle-ready for the fight to restore America to the great internal prosperity,

tranquility, equality and promise that we were enjoying under President Bill Clinton.

Kennedy radiated a happy smile and a vibrant voice and demeanor void of any hint of the

serious surgery he underwent in June to address his brain cancer.

I cried at the outstanding speech by Hillary Clinton, the New York senator I was

hoping Barack would pick for his running mate for the sake of party unity. They would have

forged a political dream team that, I feel, would stand an even better chance to beating

the Republican alternative overwhelmingly. It had to the be the best speech--certainly the

most important--that she ever gave in her life. I did not appreciate the fiercely adversarial

campaign she and her staff ran against Obama. It's said that all's fair in love and political

campaigns. That's right for love. But I believe there are limits in a political campaign that

also is supposed to be forging party and national unity. Still, I would have loved to see

double precedents heading the Democratic ticket.

I cried when I saw Bill Clinton use his outstanding speech to regain some of his

credibility. His pluses still far outnumber his minuses. I regret he could not have run for a

third term. Sure, the Monica Lewinsky scandal would have been strong ammunition for

the Republicans to use against him. But I believe he still would have beaten Bush.

Clinton has to be one of the most intelligent, most eloquent and most productive

Presidents America has ever had.

Finally, I cried when it became official that Obama is the first black Presidential

candidate for a major political party. Then on Thursday night, the 45th anniversary of

St. (yes, I deem him a martyred saint) Dr. Martin Luther King's epochal "I Have A Dream"

speech, as Obama gave his acceptance speech, I felt no real urge to cry anymore except

for tears of joy knowing that I have witnessed and helped bring to pass something that I

never thought I would see in my lifetime and possibly even the lifetime of my children.

You see, I was there with Dr. King and some 250,000 other Civil Rights

demonstrators, when we marched on Washington, D.C., in 1963. As a member of the

Civil Rights delegation from Kansas City, Kan., I stool in a bunch clustered between

the reflection pool and the Abraham Lincoln monument as Dr. King thundered forth his

profound, poetic dream. I cried then, too, because I felt it was a pipe dream that I would

never see come true. I thought that I already had come a long way from a former, poor

Mississippi cotton picker to become a sophomore attending the University of Kansas

and attaining academic achievement to live in the university's coveted Battenfield

Scholarship Hall. But I also felt I'd never see King's dream fulfilled to this level.

What about you?

Are you pleasantly shocked, too, at Obama's success and what we all have a

chance to do to help him bring healing to our nation?

By the grace of God, the sacrifices of many Civil Rights fighters, the hard work of

many good congressmen of both parties, we have been put in a position now to save and

restore America to her former greatness. I am impressed with Obama, his power, his

conviction, his passion and his positive purpose--all exuded by his words, his voice and

his gestures. His was probably the best speech of all this week.

But as good and as qualified and as promising as Obama is to be our next President,

he can not do it alone. If he is to accomplish the healing he seeks for our America, that

healing must start with you and me. I see my sickness as a microcoism of the

macrocoism of America's miseries. Both are varied. Both need urgent, aggressive

attention. Both will also take time, hard work and great sacrifice.

You and I will be at our best when we are physically, spiritually, mentally, socially,

emotionally, economically and ecologically fit to quest for the best. We don't have to be

perfect. We don't have to be fully fit or almost fully fit. But we first have to be willing to help

our individual healing as a springboard toward America's broader healing.

Yes, let America's healing begin. Let it begin now. Let it begin here. And let it begin

with you and me. Let's bless God with our total attention, unbridled faith, full cooperation

and complete allegiance. For when America thus blesses God, He, in turn, will bless us.

He has already given us a formula that is foolproof and failsafe: "If my people, which are

called by my name, will humble themselves, pray, seek my face and turn from their

wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven; I will forgive their sins and heal their land."

God bless you.

God bless you.

Don't believe it when anybody tells you "a man ain't supposed to cry."

That's a lie. Real men do cry. Mean, inhuman and insensitive males may not. But

real men cry. Take me, for example. This morning (Saturday, Aug. 23), I broke down.

Yes, me, Rev. Lacy J. Banks, the strong preacher, great man of faith, Sun-Times

reporter, loving husband, father and grandfather, brave freedom fighter and resident

tough guy. I broke down. Sitting at the kitchen table, with my face looking out the window

at the tall trees dancing in sunny summer breezes and with my back facing a counter

top holding some 20 different medications and vitamins, I cried.

I cried because, for another crashing moment, I had gotten tired of being sick, being

in frequent pains, mounting medical bills and being cooped up in my house for most of

the day and night.

Tired of taking so many pills.

Tired of the frequent new pains in my lower back, my groin area and legs.

Tired of not being able to get on my treadmill consistently and work up a good sweat

with a workout that's also good for my weak heart.

Tired of waiting, perhaps most of all, on my healing to be complete.

And then the worst part of me dared to question my own God, my very rock, my

shepherd, my light, my salvation, my refuge, my strength and my very present help in

the time of trouble.

I dared to ask the question, "Oh Lord, how long? I know You're healing me. But

when will You be finished? What's taking so long? I want to be strong and pain-free

again. I want to go back to work for the paper covering and writing about the world's

strongest and healthiest human beings. I want to take my grandchildren to the park

and movies again. I want to go out with my wife more. I want to be better able to help

take care of my aging mother-in-law. I want to dance in the sunshine and run in the

rain and get back on the treadmill for hourlong runs. Oh, Lord, how long?"

Then when I realized what I was doing, I felt ashamed and even angry at myself.

I felt I had let God down, let you down and let myself down. When I started this blog

four months ago, after being diagnosed with brain cancer, prostate cancer and

end-stage congestive heart failure , I felt feisty and furious for the Kingdom of God. I

wanted to show the world through this blog that God not only would heal me, but that I

would be a perfect model of a faithful, patient, tough and courageous recipient of the

healing.

It was great encouragement when a Northwestern Hospital oncologist told me that

her extensive test results revealed that the cancerous tumor, discovered on my brain's

pituitary gland by some 100 MRI X-rays, is benign. That was one healing down and two

more to go.

Dr. Allen Anderson, UCMC cardiologist, added new medicines that relieved my

weak heart of the malfunctions resulting in shortness of breath and fatigue to the extent

that I no longer immediately needed a heart transplant.

Then on May 21, Dr. Brian Moran, renown radiations oncologist, performed

brachytherapy on me to help dissolve and destroy my prostate tumors.

But while the radioactive seeds were causing painful side effects in dissolving those

tumors, back and leg pains, that had been only occasional over the last two years, now

became more frequent and severe whenever I'd stand or walk for more than a few

minutes.

So, Saturday morning, home alone, after my dear wife, Joyce, had gone out for her

usual Saturday morning chores and shopping, and I had refused her standing invitation

to join her, I suddenly found myself holding an unscheduled and most rare pity party that

moved me to tears of sadness and madness. But in the midst of the crying, I sobered up

with the knowledge that God is still blessing me, regardless of my frailty and fallibility.

And when that happened, those tears changed in midstream from being tears of

sadness and madness to tears of gladness.

Relieved, I then called a faithful friend and prayer partner of mine, Deacon Erwin

Dabney, who, along with Deacon Jimmy Coleman, has been a staunch supporter

helping me to excel and prevail in my latest health issues. Deacon Dabney is also a

prostate cancer survivor, who underwent his brachytherapy, radiation treatment and

chemotherapy in August of 2007.

When I shared news of my mounting discomforts with him, I was relieved to

discover that he was still dealing with the same symptoms, though his are less

severe now because he is taking some medicines that I can't yet take because they

conflict with my heart medications.

Obviously, my situation has always been more complex because of the weak heart.

If I only had to deal with the prostate cancer, that would have been easier. But to have to

deal with prostate cancer, brain cancer and end-stage congestive heart failure forces my

doctors to reconcile conflicts with medications. So some of my symptoms are having to

go untreated or treated with less intensity.

Then in my conversation with Deacon Dabney, I broke down in tears again. But this

time, they were tears or thanksgiving and praise. I am thankful to know first-hand that

some of my most severe symptoms are common to most of my colleagues, who are also

battling prostate cancer. Knowledge is power. Deacon Dabney's revelations greatly

relieved my anxiety. He has been where I am and is faring better as the results of his

treatment progresses.

I also got great cheer, consolation, encouragement and comfort from another

friend, who called just to check on me and assure me that God still loves me.

But even though this happened in the privacy of my home, I felt obligated to be

honest with you, who are being encouraged by me. And so, here are some confessions.

Yes, I'm strong. But these health issues have taught me that I'm not as strong as I

thought I was. I have limitations, too.

Yes, I have faith that God will completely heal me completely of each health

problem that I have. But I often am haunted by anxiety and impatience during my

weighty wait.

I'm going to try harder to do better. Occasional preaching engagements help me

to stay active, praise God for His goodness, encourage others with similar problems and

pick up new prayer partners. I'm looking forward to preachinf Sunday morning (Aug. 24)

at First Baptist Church of Melrose Park, where Pastor John Belser was among the first to

assure me his church was praying for me and offered me a standing invitation to come

preach about my latest evangelistic assignment of being healed by God.

I'm thankful. And here comes those tears again. I'm thankful that I'm still alive and

not in as much pain as others in similar situations.

I'm thankful for my wife, my children and grandchildren, my sisters and brothers in

flesh and Christian spirit.

I'm thankful for a decent job with good health insurance benefits.

I'm thankful to have access to good doctors who are accessible and helpful and who

also love and respect God.

Most of all, I'm thankful for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who suffered more

than any of us will ever suffer, shed His blood on calvary as a remission for our sins,

died on the cross one Friday to pay for our sins and then arose from the dead Easter

Sunday morning to assure our salvation of eternal life. So, just as Christ arose from

the dead, so shall we if the Rapture return of Jesus doesn't come first.

God bless you.


Pain, pain, go away.....But nevertheless....

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God bless you.

Pain and I have never gotten alone.

I hate pain in itself, because it hurts. Anybody who loves feeling pain simply for the

sake of pain or loves inflicting pain on others is a sick masochist and sadist

respectively.

But I love pain as a teacher and thank God for it accordingly because if I never

suffered pain, I could never fully appreciate pleasure. I enjoy eating t-bone steaks today

because I had to make do with eating neckbones in my impoverished childhood. If we

never were hungry, how could we appreciate food? Yes, opposites have a tendency

to complement and even help define each other. It's the pain of winter's cold that best

defines of the comfort of a warm home. Pain teaches us, among other things, to be

grateful, tough, smart and determined.

So, I thank God for my pain.

And as God takes me through a healing process from prostate cancer, end-stage

congestive heart failure and brain cancer, pains have been frequent companions of mine

for the last three weeks.

Thus, this week, when I have my required three-month follow-up checkup with my

urologist, Dr. Glenn Gerber of the University of Chicago Medical Center, I'll have more

than incontinence and painful urination to complain about. Pains in my lower back, my

left groin, my thighs and legs will be added to the list.

When I first prayed, and continue to pray, to God to heal me from my cancers

and bad heart, I did not ask for a Gucci or a designer, pain-free healing. That sure

would have been sweet indeed. But I simply asked God to heal me and left it up to

Him to decide how He would do it and how long it would take Him to do it.

I prayed for a healing in a surrendered spirit articulated in the lyrics of an old

familiar hymn in my black Baptist heritage:

"Have thine own way, Lord

Have thine own way

Thou art the potter

I am the clay

Make me and mold me

After Thy will.

While I am waiting

Yielded and still."

I already understand the reasons for my incontinence and my painful urination.

They are side effects of the brachytherapy (implantation of radioactive seeds into my

prostate) that I underwent May 21 at the Chicago Prostate Cancer Cancer. I was

informed beforehand by Dr. Brian Moran, my radiations oncologist, that the 89

radioactive seeds he implanted would cause these discomforts while they attack

and destroy the cancerous tumors in my prostate. This discomfort normally lasts

for several months before eventually dissipating.

But to get a fix on the pains in my back, groin, thighs and legs, I will undergo an

MRI and possibly a neurological scan.
.
In the biblical accounts of the healings performed by our lord and savior, Jesus

Christ, these miracles were described as instantaneous, except for rare exceptions

such as the man born blind in the ninth chapter of the gospel of St. John. In that

event, Jesus spat on the ground, made metaphysical mudcakes and smeared them

onto His patient's eyes. But it wasn't until the patient obeyed Jesus' providential

prescription to go wash in the pool of Siloam that the man received his sight.

It is not clear whether I, in accordance with that miracle, am in the mudcake

stage or am headed toward a rinse in my relative pool of Siloam. I also don't know

how much pain and patience God is going to charge me for my healing. No matter. It's

still a to pay for the healings I seek. I already have enough for my healing. If you have

the faith, God's got the grace for your healing. And all any of us needs is a

mustard-seed-sized portion of faith to generate the power to move mountains and

to uproot sycamore trees. So I have enough the faith. What I need to do now is to be

ready to wait on the Lord and to suffer as much as necesarry before I get my complete

healing.

But in the interim, I want God to get glory our of my every "ouch", grunt and

groan, my every sleepless night, my every duel with doubt and my every fight with fear.

And I also want to thank all of you prayer partners who continue to hold me up in

prayer before the Lord.

God bless you.

Back from an Hawaiian paradise vacation...

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God bless you and aloha.

On this marvelous Monday, one week before my 65th birthday, five weeks after my

40th wedding anniversary and one day before the 36th anniversary of my employment

with the Chicago Sun-Times, my wife Joyce and I are wrapping up a 16-day Hawaiian

vacation.

We spent it on the island of O'ahu, the most popular and populous of the Hawaiian

islands that comprise our nation's 50th state, and the location of Honolulu, the state's

capitol.

This is the way we had planned, as early as last year, to celebrate our 40th

anniversary. And when I was diagnosed to be suffering from brain cancer, prostate

cancer and end-stage congestive heart failure in early April, the way I felt then with a bad

heart that moved doctors to tell me I needed a heart transplant, I had some serious

doubts about whether we could make good on a trip for which we had already paid.

But thanks to my faith in Jesus, prayer and God's grace, I recovered sufficiently

from serious shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, back and groin pains to treat Joyce to

her favorite vacationplace as a bribe to stay with me a little longer.

During our vacation here, I was honored to receive a Sam Lacy Pioneer award

from the National Association of Black Journalist, when it held its annual convention in

Chicago in late July. Gayle Sayers, my Kansas University classmate, and former White

Sox great Minnie Minoso also received a similar award for our achievements as pioneers

in our respective specialties.

When my father, the late Rev. A.D. Banks Sr., moved our family from Mississippi to

Kansas City, Kan., in 1956, it opened up new opportunities for my sisters and brothers

and I as refugees from the the racism and poverty that we suffered living in Mississippi.

And although I did not attend an integrated school in my life until I went to the University

of Kansas, I was blessed to received some of the finest education offered anywhere

when I was a student at all-black Northeast Junior High school and Sumner High School

in KCK.

As a student at KU in the early '60s, I was part of a period of great change and

tremendous racial, social, professional and political progress in America. In those

sensational Sixties, it meant something to be the first black this or that in something of

significance.

Before I graduated from KU with a BA in French, I forged, among other things, this

accomplishments that were great honors in the black community:

* I was the first black boy governor of Kansas in the state's annual student

government day when it allowed high school YMCA organizations throughout the state to

take over the state capitol in Topeka

* I was president of KU's largest student organization, the KU-Y

* I sang professionally one summer at Kansas City's Starlight Theater, that city's

summer Ravinia, as part of the chorus in the Jerome Kern broadway musical "Showboat"

* I played the lead role of Walter in the KU production of "Raisin in the Sun"

* I sang in the school's concert choir

* I was one of 12 American Hi-Y members to represent YMCAs across the nation in

the 1964 International Workshop Seminar, where we worked with Japanese students in

Omuta, Japan, and Chinese student in Hong Kong, building recreation camps for

impoverish children in those countries.

Then in the first semester of my senior year, I was invited to meet with the editors of

the Kansas City Star newspaper and asked, "How would you like to be the Jackie

Robinson of the Kansas City Star?"

I accepted the job offer to be the first black reporter at that proud paper, got a

scholarship from the paper to help me finish my education at KU to graduate on time and

worked a year for them before I applied for the U.S. Navy's Officer Candidate School in

Newport, R.I., during the Vietnam War, got accepted, graduated, received a commission

as a Navy officer (ensign) and served a three-assignment as a Navy information officer

and public relations teacher at the Department of Defense Information School at Ft.

Benjamin Harrison, Ind.

While in the Navy, I also became the first black reporter to work for the Indianapolis

Star and the Indianapolis News. Then after working three years as sports editor of Ebony

magazine, I was hired by former Sun-Times editors James Hoge and Ralph Ortwell to

become the paper's first black sportswriter in 1972.

Except for a brief setback, when I was fired for charging racial discrimination in

1975, and spent 13 months in arbitration to get my job back, my career with the

Sun-Times has been the greatest blessing of my professional life. Most people don't

realize that I had to weather some early abuse as the first black reporter in Sun-Times

sports because I was hired to replace a white predecessor, who, along with his friends,

took great offense and a lot of rude things to try to get me to quit. The fact that my

precedessor was also our department's union shop steward made matters worse. On

one occasion, I was called "black bastard" and on another occasion "stupid black son of

a b----" by fellow workers.

But those were the exceptions, not the rule. On the grand whole, I have been

blessed to work for and with some of the finest professionals and some of the best

human beings in the world.

During my career, the stellar likes of Michael Wilbon (Washington Post and ESPN),

Stephen Smith (ESPN), Roscoe Nance (USA Today), J.A. Adande (LA Times and ESPN),

David Aldridge (ESPN) and so many others grew up reading me and honoring me by

calling me one of their mentors.

The NABJ took these and other thins into consideration when they chose to honor

me with the Sam Lacy Award. Getting the award with Sayers is extra special because he

and I arrived on the KU campus the very same day back in the summer of 1961 and I

made it a point to leave Templin Dormitory and go over to the steps of the school library

and introduce myself to him when I heard that this "great new football player" was

holding court. Then when I got out of the Navy, I resumed my professional journalism

career here in Chicago, where he likewise was forging his legend as one of pro football's

greatest running backs ever.

Yes, it thrills me to know that our younger successors remember and honor those of

us who went before them just as we remembered and honored the pioneers who went

before us. Never did I realize that being a relic could become so rewarding. I am also

grateful to Clay Zettler for the fine story he wrote about me for the NABJ's special

convention publication, which you can also read by calling up this link

(http://unitynews.org/2008/07/24/honoree-who-fought-for-his-job-now-fights-cancer/).

My youngest daughter, Natasha Sarah-Loraine Banks, received the special plaque

for me a gave a wonderful acceptance speech. I also taped one voicing my gratitude and

regrets.

Meantime, in Hawaii, Joyce and I enjoyed a sublime time at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in

Kapolei, a west suburb of Honolulu. Thanks especially to the efforts of reservations

manager Michelle Reyes and concierge Pat Radona, and a staff of seeming thousands

under the superb direction of general manager Dan Banchiu, Joyce and I received red

carpet treatment at one of the world best hotels.

Partly because of my time-honored status of Platinum Elite lifetime in Marriott's

Honored Guest Award program, Joyce and I were upgraded to an eleventh-floor,

oceanfront junior suite that afforded us a broad, paradisaical view of the Pacific ocean

and some of the sweetest sunsets you'll find in the world.

This category-seven, Marriott hotel is an engineering and architectural wonder of the

world. There are many other oceanfront properties one can enjoy. But precious few, if

any, like this J.W. Marriott Ihilani. It abuts a beautiful sandy lagoon on one front and a

rocky shore on another in manners that afford oceanfront rooms not only breathtaking

views, but an acoustical oasis, where inhabitants can hear the soothing serenade of the

sea ceaselessly. Almost every night, I'd go out on my lanai to smell the fragrance and

savor the sonorous sounds of the sea and wind rendering a delectable duet that is most

delicious to my ears.

Few pleasures provide such magnificent music as the sound of a sea's waves

splashing, smashing and slashing against rocky shores. They give you that swishing and

swashing sound that relieves tensions, soothes sorrows, calms mental chaos and erases

emotional stress. Often, Joyce and I slept with my sliding doors open to allow us to hear

the ocean all nightlong.

Except for my agonizing incontinence issues, associated with my prostate cancer and

the radioactive seeds treatments, Joyce and I enjoyed perhaps our best vacation to date.

God bless you.


Lacy J. Banks

Lacy J. Banks, 67, has been a Sun-Times sportswriter/columnist for 38 years and a Baptist preacher for 58 years. He has preached at more than 100 different churches in the Chicago area. A native of Lyon, Miss., Banks graduated from the University of Kansas with a B.A. in French and he served three years in the Vietnam War as a U.S. Naval officer. Lacy and wife, Joyce, have been married 42 years and have three daughters and five grandchildren. Among beats Banks has covered for the Sun-Times are the Bulls, Fire, defunct Sting, Blackhawks, Wolves, Cubs, defunct Hussle, Rush, Sky, college football and basketball and pro boxing.

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