Desmond Tutu: 'There's "Life" after Prostate Cancer

By Cheers, D. Michael | Ebony, February 1998 | Go to article overview

Desmond Tutu: 'There's "Life" after Prostate Cancer


Cheers, D. Michael, Ebony


It's early in the morning and Desmond Tutu is remarkably upbeat at work at the downtown offices in Cape Town that house the Truth and Reconciliation hearings. Darting energetically in and out of meetings, Tutu stops in the reception area to greet some officials and pose for photographs. There are no visible signs that indicate the 66-year-old retired Anglican archbishop has spent the last year battling prostate cancer. In fact, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate is not at all bashful about discussing the debilitating illness. In fact, he relishes any opportunity to speak publicly about his personal fight with the sometimes fatal illness.

Though his Truth and Reconciliation Commission work is full time, Tutu's other worldwide crusade is informing men, especially Black men, that if detected early, prostate cancer can be treated effectively and is curable.

His present sermon to the flock: "There's life after prostate cancer."

After a routine examination in December 1996, Tutu says he left South Africa for the United States feeling fine and confident his results would prove normal.

"When I returned in January, my urologist said he wanted to see me," Tutu recalls. "He said he wanted to look inside my prostate. It was a general anethestic procedure. The next afternoon, he came and said there was no malignancy. My wife and I were relieved. The following morning he came to my room with my physician. I thought it was strange. He said, `We don't have very good news. There was a growth.'" He subsequently had part of his prostate removed.

A few months later, Tutu returned to the United States for more opinions from doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer in New York. He began receiving outpatient hormone and radiation therapy, therapy that ended in October.

Is he cured? "I have to be cautious," he says optimistically. "We are monitoring it. I sometimes tire easily and must rest in the middle of the day. But I exercise by walking on my treadmill every day for 30 minutes. At this stage, I'm as well as can be expected."

According to authorities, prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide, often second to lung cancer. …

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