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Over the past 13 years of being a prostate cancer survivor and health advocate for prostate cancer awareness, I’ve seen several epidemics – prostate cancer, poverty, economic stress, black on black crime, the coronavirus, social and institutional injustices – impact the health and safety of cancer survivors. Urban epidemics are pandemics in African-American communities.

COVID-19 has put a halt on my making face-to-face contact with many of my prostate cancer survivors, a brotherhood that I love so dearly. It has temporarily closed the doors of our Cancer Center and shut down our monthly in-person support group meetings. I miss seeing and hugging my sweet angels, the elderly ladies at the Metropolitan Village Apartments, who work so closely to help us host the support group meetings.

Yes, a cease-and-desist order from this pandemic has shut down many of our programs, activities, and the projects we do every year to raise funds and awareness for our cause and organization. We are fostering new and creative ways of helping The Empowerment Network stay afloat as we continue to save lives from this disease. We’ve been forced to use social media and phone conferences as a means of staying connected in this time of uncertainty. We will not allow this pandemic to impact the mission that we’ve established.

As we watch the epidemics raging among men still being diagnosed with prostate cancer and as we see police brutality and violence on the rise in our community, it sickens me to my stomach to think that these epidemics are something that our younger generation will face if a solution is not found in our lifetime. I can see great similarities in all of them, and they all need to be eradicated. 

In my advocacy, I’ve said on many occasions: controlling the narrative of the awareness and educating the community about prostate cancer are keys to solving this public health plague.  As prostate cancer survivors, we are subjected to this pandemic and the epidemics daily.

We must come out of our comfort zone, keep fighting by telling our stories and sharing our journeys with this disease. We must use our voices in this climate of despair to encourage men to get tested for prostate cancer. We must also demand social justice, fairness and inclusion for all. As survivors, we are not exempt from the social ills and epidemics that trouble our society.

God has blessed this organization with a hard-working leadership team and some great minds to help us survive the pandemic and epidemics we now face. We are not going anywhere, and we are stronger than ever before.

The road to success is always under construction.

Mellve Shahid Sr. is a prostate cancer survivor and founder and president of The Empowerment Network.

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