It was as if one could hear and sing along with the theme song from the 1970s TV sitcom, Welcome Back Kotter – “Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back.”
Mellve Shahid Sr., president and founder of The Empowerment Network, Inc. (TEN) introduced a group of prostate cancer survivors who were not members of TEN at the last in-person, indoor prostate cancer support group meeting since February 2020.
“Three years ago, these men were not a part of our support group,” Mellve said, as he asked each man to stand and share their journey with the disease. After each survivor talked about their plight, he enthusiastically proclaimed, “This support group is designed for men just like you. Welcome to YOUR support group.”
The coming together again face-to-face was received with eager enjoyment by the more than 35 survivors, friends and guests who gathered January 14 th at St. Philips Evangelical Lutheran Church, 2424 Annie Malone Drive, across from Sumner High School in North St. Louis. Rev. Richard Ashley is the pastor. One of TEN’s members and prostate cancer survivor, Terrance Freeman, is a member of the St. Philips.
Guest speaker for the gathering was David Guller, a representative of Lantheus, a diagnostic, therapeutic and artificial intelligence (AI) firm. The topic was Pylarify—PET/CT Imaging for Prostate Cancer.
The pandemic forced TEN online utilizing Zoom for the monthly meetings. Two support group meetings were held last summer outside in Home Heights Park in St. John.
Many of the new prostate cancer survivors were eager to share their journeys. Elijah Moore, diagnosed in 2020 and underwent radiation therapy, said his PSA number is “way down” and his doctor urged him to “keep doing what you’re doing.”
Carlton Wicker, a 2 ½ year survivor, said “I was invited by myself” to the support group, after reading TEN
literature in his urologist office. “I was hooked,” he said. “A lot of us don’t know about the benefits of learning about prostate cancer.” One year survivor, William White Jr., succinctly said: “I’m thankful for just being in the group, proud to be here.”
Arthur Harris, 83, who had robotic surgery last year in July, said his past two PSA tests were zero. He read about The Empowerment Network years ago and remembered what he read. He admonished men to follow their doctor’s orders. And in a humorous but straightforward way, Arthur shared his response to his doctor who indicated that the surgery to remove his prostate could cause incontinence and impotence – two issues men have about how undergoing treatment for prostate cancer can impact their manhood.
“I told my doctor, I’ve got the incontinence part covered,” he said. “As for being impotent, I’m 83 years old and I turned in my playboy card.”
Mellve ended the meeting with a quote from Robert Bennett: Your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life. Keep going. Tough situations build strong people in the end.
“Fighting cancer can be a very hard time in someone’s life but surviving it can lead to great moments with life changing experiences and opportunities,” Mellve said. “I believe there’s a reason why we survived cancer. But it’s up to each one of us to find out why. Your “why” becomes your purpose for living the new life Almighty God has blessed you and me with.”