After cancer diagnosis, State Rep. La Shawn Ford wants others to get screened

After cancer diagnosis, State Rep. La Shawn Ford wants others to get screened

State Rep. La Shawn Ford in 2019. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

State Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, plans to talk about his prostate cancer diagnosis — and urge others to be screened — Thursday morning at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Gov. J.B. Pritzker plans to be there in support, Ford said.

A state legislator who represents the West Side of Chicago hopes to use his surprising prostate cancer diagnosis to encourage residents to get screened too.

“When a doctor tells you you have an aggressive cancer and you have to have surgery, there’s automatically a feeling of fear,” Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“The moral of the story is if I hadn’t advocated for myself it would have metastasized and become a death sentence,” the legislator said.

Ford plans to talk about his experience — and urge others to be screened — Thursday morning at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Gov. J.B. Pritzker plans to be there in support, Ford said.

The 49-year-old legislator said he went to the doctor last October for his annual screening and battery of tests but sought a prostate screening in addition.

Results from a prostate-specific antigen test showed him at 12 — some doctors consider a level lower than four to be in the normal range, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Then came an MRI and a biopsy that confirmed he had prostate cancer.

Ford said his doctor was concerned about how aggressive the cancer was and urged him to act quickly to avoid a “painful death.”

Ford didn’t show physical symptoms of cancer and didn’t divulge the information to many people because “I didn’t want the story to be ‘La Shawn announced he has cancer’ — I want them to say ‘La Shawn announced he had cancer, look at me now,’” he said.

The West Side rep had surgery in January, shortly after he and his colleagues returned to Springfield for the lame duck session, and he said he’s been “cured” since March.

“It would have been one of those situations where it was too late,” Ford said. “The fact that people have to understand is this is a deadly, but preventable, death sentence … and all you have to do is check it.”

Ford said his decision to speak out months after his surgery is also to address the disparities in life expectancy between Black and white men and help people “understand this issue.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is on board.

Ford said the governor plans to be on hand Thursday in support of urging people to get screened.

In a statement, the governor praised Ford for his “strength of purpose, bravery and dedication to the people he represents” and said Ford is “an inspiration to us all.”

“Fighting cancer takes tremendous courage, and fighting cancer while working every day for your constituents, without telling anyone, is simply heroic,” Pritzker’s statement continued. “And as we approach Father’s Day, [Ford’s] story is a powerful reminder to make sure all the father figures in your life get screened and take care of themselves. He wouldn’t be with us today if he hadn’t taken action. I’m honored that he confided in me, and I’m proud to stand with him and ask Illinoisans to get tested.”