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September 2008 Archives

My blessed comeback begins slowly but surely

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God bless you.

I thank God for blessing me to return to work full time for the first time since going on

sick leave five months ago after being diagnosed with end-stage congestive heart failure,

brain cancer and prostate cancer.

In late March, my heart was so weakened and damaged that Dr. Valluvan

Jeevanandam and his staff of cardiac surgeons and cardiologists at the University

of Chicago Medical Center concluded, after extensive tests, that I needed a heart

transplant to assure me of long-term survival. Nobody ever gave a specific timetable.

But one insider said I needed serious heart surgery involving the implantation of a heart

pump to assure me of living longer than a year.

But when tests qualifying me for heart transplantation revealed cancerous tumors

in my brain and my prostate, I was quickly disqualified from candidacy for heart

transplantation.

I then prayed to God for complete healing from all three illnesses and started this

blog to chronicle the process. My first good news was the determination that the tumor

on the pituitary gland of my brain was benign.

Thank you Jesus!!!

My second good news came when Dr. Allen Anderson, a UCMC cardiologist,

prescribed new medicine to my already crowded medicine menu that relieved me of

the shortness of breath, chronic fatigue and ghastly cough that drove me to the

emergency room in the first place in late March. Those symptoms remain suppressed.

Thank you Jesus!!!!

My third good news came when the prostate cancer was ruled early-stage and

localized. So on May 21, I underwent a radiation treatment called brachytherapy, where

Dr. Brian Moran implanted micro radioactive seeds into my prostate to attack the two

tumors that had been discovered by UCMC urologist Dr. Glenn Gerber.

Since then, I had had scattered writing assignments, as my health permitted, while

spending most of my time and energy undergoing treatment and praying and working for

complete recovery. To you regular readers of my blog, your prayers and encouraging

responses to this blog have provided invaluable encouragement to me. And my

struggles and progress have provided encouragement for others.

My prostate cancer has yet to be totally dissolved. My latest PSA was 2.43. My

goal remains to be declared cancer-free, which means having a non-detectable PSA or

something darn close to it. Painful incontinence issues associated with the prostate

cancer treatment also persist.

Complicating the exercise therapy for my heart are back and legs pains that have

yet to be fully diagnosed and treated effectively. But I am healthy enough to return to

work and I am easing back into the grind because a weak heart won't allow me to do

so any faster.

My first week was successful and enlightening. It reminded me that my heart is still

weak and I must take my time walking from Point A to Point B and also take care not to

take on too much stress and tension.

Steps are one of my main enemies. I can't scale too many too fast because of the

weak heart. And I can't stand too long in lines before back pains force me to sit or bend

over. Nobody said that comeback would be quick and easy. But this is the way my

comeback has started and I'm just glad to be alive and have a reasonable portion of

health and strength to work again.

My best moment of the work week was when my editor Stu Courtney gave me a

great assignment to report on the adoption of a baby girl by 77-year-old Ernie Banks,

former Hall of Fame Cub superstar, and his 52-year-old wife of 11 years, Elizabeth.

Our superb columnist Stella Foster first broke the exclusive and I got the first

interview with the jubilant Liz. She was all gum drops, jelly beans and lolly pops over

her first baby, Alyna Olivia Banks, who weighed in at seven pounds, seven ounces and

20 inches at birth.

If a couple this old is willing to take on the responsibility of adopting a child,

surely younger couples with more energy should be inspired to do the same. But what

Ernie and Liz teach us is that you can never be too old to be a loving, caring, sharing

parent. I'd rather see a baby in their tempered, tender care than in the tempestuous,

chaotic, dangerous care of a younger couple unable to provide love, peace, safety and

wisdom.

In the care of kids, affection trumps age every time.

One of the main reasons our society is so troubled today is because there are not

enough loving parents. That's why what Ernie and Liz are doing is not really that

unusual anyway because more and more children are being raised by their grandparents

and even great grandparents anyway. So I thank God for the likes of Ernie and Liz and

I hope there are more and more like them every day until every child is being cared for by

loving mother and father.

God bless you.



Hallelujah! I'm back to work.

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God bless you.

Yesterday, Friday, Sept. 19, was a special day for me because I returned to work for

the first time in three months.

Thank you Jesus!

It was the Blackhawks' annual media day that kicks off the team's training camp. It

was held under sunny skies and cool temperatures but inside the United Center, where

some 60 reporters, representing print, radio-TV and the internet media, were on hand

to interview team management and players.

"There's Lacy," team president John McDonough said as he broke court with four

companions and walked toward me with a smile and a stretched-out right hand. "How

are you doing, Lacy?"

"Fairly well," I said, as I smiled back and shook his hand.

Thanks largely to the addition of McDonough's dynamic leadership, the Hawks are

primed to do very, very well this season after a sizzling summer of transactions that have

enriched management, improved team promotions and added new talented veterans to

the core of an exciting 40-34-8 team that featured Rookie of the Year Patrick Kane and

an equally budding star in Jonathan Toews and fell just three points shy of making the

playoffs for the first time since 2002.

"We've been making a lot of changes every year," general manager Dale Tallon

said. "But these have been the most dramatic. We're not going to sit still. But the thing

is now it's exciting because a lot of players want to come play in Chicago after they've

seen what we're doing, the direction we are headed and the type of players we have in

our system throughout.

"It's a very good group of young players, a good mixture and good combination of

veterans who are not just talented and experienced, but who have a lot of good character

as well. It's a really good locker room, they really get along well and they're excited

about getting going. We also are under the cap, which gives us a little room to still make

a deal. So we're going to ice a good team and we're going to keep dealing to make that

team better."

Coach Denis Savard says he is very happy with what he calls ''an improved team

that has a great chance to excite our fans, return to the playoffs and compete hard for

a championship, which is always our ultimate."

It was great to see my media comrades again , led by Sun-Times lead hockey writer

Len Zheim, whom I have been backing. We both are the walking wounded. He is on

crutches after breaking an ankle in a recent fall. But he is a better reporter on one leg

than most writers are on two or even three, if it were possible.

As for me, I'm having to ease back slowly into the grind because I am not yet

completely recovered from my multiple health issues of brain cancer, prostate cancer,

end-staged congestive heart failure, an ailing back and sore left knee. My brain tumor

is benign and is being treated by a pill a week. My prostate cancer is undergoing

radiation treatment from permanently implanted radioactive seeds. My heart is being

treated by the daily ingestion of eight different pills (16 total), diet and exercise. But the

sore back and knee have hampered my exerices on the treadmill, which is bad for my

heart health.

So while I'd not yet fit enough for unlimited, full-time work, I am well enough to ease

back into some assignments that won't require me to climb a lot of steps, sweat too many

tight deadlines or walk anywhere far and fast. I also know that I must arrive earlier for

assignments so that I can better take my time from the very start.

While the back, knee and heart ailments have slowed me, I'm still in no great pain.

My progress, in terms of complete recovery, is slow and perhaps may never reach full

restoration of optimum health. But I'm still alive, I'm slowly feeling better and I am able

to return to work, starting at a slower pace and with a lighter load that will increase as my

health progresses.

I thank all of you fellow warriors and fans for your prayerful support. But most of all,

we thank God for His grace and mercy as we remain healings in progress.

God bless you.

God bless you.

On Feb. 14, 2001, I ignorantly made a decision that helped save my life but also

killed me, at the same time, in terms of new insurance coverage.

I elected to undergo a triple bypass where University of Chicago hospital cardiac

surgeon Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam surgically rerouted grafted blood vessels around a

50 percent blockage of my main left artery.

Once I did that, neither my current life insurance carriers nor new carriers, offering

better plans, would sign me up for new coverage. I am now locked into the policies

presently in my possession. Their premiums are rising each year. Carriers offering

10-year, 15-year or similar longer-term fixed rates for new coverage refuse to sell me a

policy because their calculations tell them I have a better chance of dying much sooner

than later. Yes, insurance companies play the percentages. While heart surgery alone

made it much, much more difficult for me to get life insurance coverage, my brain cancer

and prostate cancer exacerbated things by making it pretty much impossible to get

good, affordable coverage.


So please learn from my experiences. Upgrade your life insurance policies before

you have a serious operation or you won't be able to do so once you have that operation.

Usually, patients are advised to undergo bypass surgery when there is a blockage of

a minimum of 90 percent or when one has suffered a heart attack or has shown signs of

other such life-threatening conditions. I had not, and still have not, suffered any heart

attack or even angina.

UCMC doctors recommended I undergo the bypass because I had an enlarged

heart from suffering years of high blood pressure and because the 50 percent blockage

was positioned just before a point where that main left artery broke off into several

smaller arteries that drape and provide life-sustaining blood to the heart.

An angioplasty, where that blockage would have been stinted, could have been an

equally effective and less-damaging procedure. But because my oldest sister, Mrs. Maude

Lee Burrell, at that time had been a patient for five months in the famed Cleveland Clinic

awaiting an heart transplant. I panicked and over-reacted by choosing to undergo the

triple bypass as soon as possible.

While there were some costly mistakes in the operations overall (three broken ribs,

being sawed open off-line and failure to stabilize my sternum with experimental titanium

plates), the grafting phase of it was a success. It improved my health and gave me

a much better chance of living longer. But it killed me in terms of getting new coverage.

If I knew then what I know now, I not only would have opted for the angioplasty, I

would have gotten new life insurance coverage with cheaper fixed premiums long before

I even got the angioplasty.

It would have been nice if the surgeons and cardiologists would have warned me of

how surgery would make me un-insurable or make potential new carriers charge me

exorbitant rates. But that's not their job. They are neither insurance agents, nor financial

advisers, nor investment brokers. They are doctors, whose primary, and, often, only

concern is to improve my physical health, not promote my financial betterment or help

my insurability.

So, please beware. If you are thinking of undergoing heart surgery or cancer

diagnosis any time in the near future, make sure beforehand that you have life and

medical insurance policies that offer you outstanding longterm coverage at the best

affordable rates. Then you will be grand-fathered into those rates if and when you have to

have serious surgery or are diagnosed with a serious life-threatening medical condition.

God bless you.

God bless you.

I'm so sick and tired of being sick and tired that I don't know what to do.

Sometimes, I want to return to work so badly that I want to run out into the

middle of my front yard and scream like a crazy man until neighbors call the police and

the paddy wagon hauls me away to some jail cell or the funny farm.

Really. It gets that bad sometimes. And you, who have been sick or are sick right

now and desperately want to get well, know what I'm talking about.

Long-term sickness or slow recoveries have a way of driving you crazy when you've

been so used to working all your life. And as sweet as retirement is to every working man

and woman, sometimes retirement can speed you to the grave yard if you really get over

into some quiet, dark corner and do nothing. I mean, I believe you can actually rest

yourself to death if you don't keep busy doing at least a little something.

No, I'm not totally healed yet. I still have some painful and embarrassing

incontinence problems from the radioactive seeds that have been attacking the

cancerous tumors in my prostate. Plus, my heart remains weak from the end-stage

congestive heart failure issues of a severely dilated left ventricle and a defective mitral

valve. But while a pill a week is helping keep my brain tumor benign, I'm still restless and

anxious enough to try to return to work.

Except for some minimal-exertion, very controlled work assignments, I haven't

been back to work full-time since April. Thanks to a union contract and kind, appreciative

bosses at the Sun-Times, nobody has been trying to rush me back to work before I'm

physically ready and my wife, Joyce, would raise hell to high heavens if I tried to come

back before I'm ready.

But not only has my heart been holding steady under the care of my medical dream

team, headed by the likes of Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam, Dr. Allen Anderson and Dr.

Glenn Gerber of the University of Chicago, Dr. James Flaherty, Dr. Jeffrey Trunsky, Dr.

Allison Hahr and Dr. Kevin Mcvary of Northwestern Hospital and Dr. Brian Moran of the

Chicago Prostate Cancer Center, my PSA has dropped to 2.43.

I was informed of that progress last week, when I had my first prostate checkup

since I underwent brachytherapy May 21.

The PSA reading is what urologists take to determine, among other things, prostate

cancer. I really have never had a very high PSA. The desired limit is under 4.0 and mine

has never been higher than 5.1. But that was cause for caution and a biopsy, which

Dr. Gerber did. He took 12 snippings and he says two of them came up cancerous.

The revelation that I had any kind of cancer shocked me into an instant numbing

depression. And once others found out I had both prostate and brain cancer, I could see

in some of their eyes the pessimistic compassion that probably had many of them

thinking, "Poor Lacy. I wonder I much longer he has to live."

Of course, for your enemies, and for the chronic, curious gossipers, who love to

have something to talk about, they may be wondering what's taking me so long to die.

But I'm not ready to die.

I am a healing in progress.

God is doing a new thing in me and He has some more work for me to do.

Meantime, I have a rage to live.

And if death shows a hint of coming near me, I'll kick his ass, in the

name of Jesus.

My anger against death is my ammo to fight it. I'm not afraid of death. Yet,

I am man enough and certainly Christian enough to die with dignity and not with whinning,

if that's God's will because God has been, is and always will be mighty, mighty good to

me.

I'm just thankful for the continued prayers from people like the great majority of you.

There are few exceptions. I've posted their comments and you've had a chance to see

those people who like to fuss, and fume and fight about certain issues. I never meant this

blog to pit people against people because they refuse to respect each other's

differences.

But if there's any thing you should know about Lacy J. Banks, it's that I love love and

I love people who love to love others and try, as best we can, to love everybody. It's hard

to love people, who don't want to be loved, or who are so wrapped up in themselves that

they can't return love in equal measure. But love is what's keeping me alive today. I'm

talking about the love of God, the love of my wife and children and the love of other

relatives, friends and people like you.

Love is my primary medicine.

Here's hoping you'll see me writing regularly again for the Sun-Times in a couple of

weeks. At the same time, I'm going to continue this blog until God heals me completely.

God bless you.

Dr. Kevin

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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This page is an archive of entries from September 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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