"I am a survivor of prostate cancer," the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said at Mosque Maryam during a May 10 press conference to announce the Louis Farrakhan Prostate Cancer Foundation.
On May 11, he officially unveiled the Foundation's logo during a black tie gala at the Chicago Hilton Hotel in celebration of the Foundation and his 70th birth anniversary.
"I realized that this disease was killing Black men at terrific rates and that, as men, we are difficult in terms of allowing ourselves to be tested. But, my dear brothers, let me encourage you. In fact, I'm going to spend the rest of my days encouraging men, in general, and Black men in particular, don't wait," the Minister said at the press conference.
While keeping his remarks concise, Minister Farrakhan shared a detailed chronology of his personal battle against prostate cancer and related illnesses. After a cancer screening at age 42, his doctor remarked that the condition of his prostate was that of a teenager's.
However, in the 16-year gap between his next testing for the disease, cancer had developed in his prostate and he was diagnosed after a digital rectal exam in 1991. Although his treatment was successful, he endured excruciating pain from a subsequent ulcer and hemorrhage that brought him to death's door, he explained, calling prostate cancer a scourge that must be stopped.
"We are losing too many of our great ones," he said, adding that it is more than the loss of one man; it is a family's loss, so fighting this cancer becomes a family issue.
He noted that Black men have the highest mortality rates from the disease in the world and advised them to begin taking annual prostate tests at the age of 35. To those who say they cannot afford the exam every year, Minister Farrakhan urged them to cut back on something fancy at least once a year to free up the necessary funds and keep their scheduled appointment.
"Don't sleep like I did when I was 42," he warned. "That's your date with destiny."
He said the initial goals of the Foundation are education and pre-screening. Once 501(c)(3) status is obtained, he added, the Foundation will be housed at Howard University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., where a clinic will open to help provide treatment and assist men who can't afford to pay for it themselves.
Following the press conference, more than 200 men received free prostate cancer screening on the grounds of Mosque Maryam in a mobile unit provided by the National Prostate Cancer Coalition.
A host of dignitaries congratulated Min. Farrakhan on his efforts during the May 11 black tie gala. Guests include the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, radio commentator Tavis Smiley, actress Beverly Todd, professor Cornel West and Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), among others.
"Minister Farrakhan does a very courageous thing by speaking to the issue of prostate cancer with a sense of authenticity. Cancer is a disease of mass destruction. As Minister Farrakhan uses his body as an example and takes public his private pain, we are healed by your strife," commented Rev. Jesse Jackson during the black tie gala.
"For your life, living and legacy we are indebted," he said.
"The Farrakhan years are something to celebrate," said author and National Public Radio personality Tavis Smiley. "Consider all the obstacles Minister Farrakhan had to encounter to get here. These years are worthy of celebrating."
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