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Rev. Dr. Clyde W. Oden, Jr.
By Rev. Dr. Clyde W. Oden, Jr.Senior Pastor, Bryant Temple A.M.E. Church
My world was rocked earlier this year. As an activist pastor, a retired health executive, and an advocate for aggressive preventive health practices, I have always tried to "walk my talk."
I lost 55 pounds by participating in the ‘Cookie Congregation Diet,' and maintained low blood pressure, low levels of unhealthy cholesterol and normal levels of blood sugars. I don't drink, smoke, and I exercise. I also have routine physical examinations that include periodic colonoscopies, HIV screenings and annual checks on the health of my prostate gland.
My church, Bryant Temple A.M.E., has been a leader in advocating for health screenings. They hold regular Prostate Cancer Screening drives with Dr. Fred Parrott and the Real Men Cook Foundation. Over the years, we have participated in screening thousands of men.
So, when I got back my reports from my regular health examinations, I expected to receive the usual good news. All reports were good except one: I had an elevated PSA (prostate specific antigen) report. I had always had values around 1.11 and now my PSA reading was 4.44. That is a significant change for me.
My internist referred me to an urologist who ordered another PSA and performed a digital rectal examination (DRE). Still, the PSA came back too high (for me), 3.08, and the DRE suggested there might be a problem. Next step, I had a biopsy that showed I had cancer of the prostate.
The cancer was early in its development and not yet at an ‘aggressive stage.' That was my set back. I had cancer despite the fact that I had been living a healthy lifestyle. What was going on? My world had been rocked.
I am a person of prayer. I believe in the power of prayer and the power of healing prayers. Now, I was praying for a "touch of the hem of His garment." I know God could make the problem go away. The Lord works in mysterious ways and yet the problem did not go away.
Once the urologist confirmed the cancer, I had to make a decision about a course of treatment. I could have chosen to wait to see if the cancer was going to grow or give God more time to make the tumor go away (as if time matters to an all-powerful God).
I could chose to have the prostate removed in hopes all of the cancer was removed with it, or keep the prostate and have radiologic treatment to destroy the cancer cells inside the prostate. Finally, there were some experimental treatment options, and not have surgery at all.
There are no easy ways. I knew I had to just "man up" and do what is proven - and that will save lives - at least my life.
I am not only a person of prayer; I am also a person of preparation. Long before prostate cancer became a personal issue, I had researched the options for men, so that I could help educate the men of my congregation and the men in our community regarding this disease.
When I met with my urologist, I knew enough to listen, ask probing questions and then tell him, along with my wife Velma, (a retired RN) that we would choose the laparoscopic radical prostatectomy to be done at the Kaiser Hospital in Harbor City.
I am blessed. Yes, I consider having cancer, and detecting it early, and going through the surgery, a blessing. Prostate cancer is nothing to be ashamed of - in fact, it can represent victory! You see my set back was only a set up for my comeback. God, in my mind, allowed me to experience these challenges so that my blessing could be shared with others.
Many men have been where I now find myself. Public figures such as Harry Belafonte, Robert De Niro, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Nelson Mandela, Colin Powell, and Bishop Desmond Tutu. Local men include John Mack, Rev. Dr. Cecil "Chip" Murray, Dr. Fred Parrott, Rev. Ron Wright, and State Senator Rod Wright.
I have preached on more than one occasion, not every blessing that comes to you is for you. In this case, I believe I can be a vessel for saving the lives of thousands of men, especially African Americans, if I can put a face of hope on the so-called dreaded disease of cancer.
You see, there will be no invitations regarding a "pity party" in my behalf. There will be no slow walking and soft talking about "my condition." I have cancer, I was treated, and now, because of God's grace and early detection - I am cancer free! Praise God.
Whenever the Lord calls me home, what will not be on my "death certificate" will be "prostate cancer" as the cause of my departure. This is my comeback!
It turns out, I did touch the hem of His garment - and I am cured of prostate cancer. Praise the name of Jesus!
Prostate Cancer Awareness Sunday will be observed on Father's Day, June 19, at Bryant Temple, 2525 West Vernon Avenue in Los Angeles.