Back in the late '70s, the Rev. Charles R. Williams was called to the Baptist Church. Twenty-three years later, Williams felt called to save African-American men.
Although he is an educated man, Williams admits he was not immune to letting his busy schedule overshadow his health. Not until the disease had spread to his bones did Williams learn he had prostate cancer. Only discomfort while urinating, a struggle with impotence and pain in his ribs and legs finally motivated him to see a doctor.
"A lot of men, particularly African-American men, don't see a doctor until something is seriously wrong," Williams said.
This devout Baptist, long-time Indiana native and 20-year president of Indiana Black Expo said God appointed him to address the issue of prostate cancer-screening among African-American men. That led him to co-write "That Black Men Might Live: My Fight Against Prostate Cancer," a book he defines as "a blessing."
Williams wrote the book not only to share his story, but as an educational publication. Chapters address his own experience, as well as diet, exercise and a background on cancer and the rigors of treatment. He hopes it will prompt other African-American men to receive the testing needed to catch prostate cancer early.
Whether a result of an unhealthy lifestyle, not having the needed insurance or, as Williams highlights in his book, black men's failure "to heed advice because of (their) sense of assertiveness and self-determination," too many African-American men don't make their own health a top priority. He points out that prostate cancer ranks as the second-leading killer of African-American men. Many cancer organizations recommend that African-American males at age 40 and older regularly schedule yearly exams and PSA (prostate-specific antigen) tests.
A speaking engagement inspired Williams to write the book. During an American Cancer Society support group, Williams noticed an absence of literature addressing the African-American patient's point of view. Immediately he contacted journalist Vernon A. Williams (no relation), the Indianapolis bureau chief for the "Gary Info" Newspaper and an acquaintance of 15 years, to help him write the book.
Since the book's initial June release, 8,000 copies have been sold. Vernon Williams had been asking the reverend to write about IBE for years, but Williams wasn't overcome with desire to write until his illness.
"It was a no brainer," he said.
With his journalistic background, Vernon Williams embraced the task of taking the reverend's words and experience and transforming them into a book. He said being with the reverend through his various treatments led him to know the man better. Telling his co-author that he "want(ed) to put it all on the table," the Rev. Williams truthfully shared many of his early and later life-shaping experiences.
When Hilton Publishing accepted the reverend's story, Vernon Williams said he was given a deadline of two months to write the 138-page book.
"I thought it was a typographical error," he said with a laugh about initially reading the contract. Yet, he made the tight deadline by writing the book in the hours after and before work.
Like the reverend, Vernon Williams believes "That Black Men Might Live" is an inspired project. Both authors hope the book will capture the attention of not only black men but of men from all races as well the women in their lives with Vernon Williams noting that most people who approach him at book signings are women.
Diagnosed in 2002, the Rev. Williams currently undergoes chemotherapy treatments, which his doctor informed him he needs to take for a year. His schedule for chemotherapy has him taking the dosage three days a week for three weeks with one week off. He admits the side effects create a "very difficult recovery period." But that is not slowing his desire to help men and their families within the African-American community.
"I'm on a mission," Williams said.