My cancer diagnosis and the disease of denied prison medical care

Free-Rashid-self-portrait-in-red-star, My cancer diagnosis and the disease of denied prison medical care, Abolition Now!

Demand compassionate release! Bring Rashid home now!

by Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson

On July 1, 2022, I was informed by a prison doctor here at Virginia’s Nottoway Correctional (sic!) Center (NCC) that I had tested positive for prostate cancer.

This diagnosis came after I had been left for months by NCC medical staff with known blood test results showing that my PSA (prostate specific analysis) levels were extremely high, evidencing likely prostate-related illness. This delay in followup testing and treatment left the cancer to develop or advance beyond stages at which it might have been less serious.

First signs

My PSA levels were first tested on Oct. 8, 2021, at which time the reading was 14.3, way above a 4, which is considered the normal level. My PSA level was tested as part of routine blood tests that I receive biannually as part of my ongoing treatment for chronic hypertension. The prison doctor recognized the reading to be abnormal and told me as much when he saw me a few days after the blood tests for my routine hypertension checkup. He ordered a followup PSA test to determine if the results were correct or a “fluke,” because, according to him, the PSA tests sometimes come back with erroneous elevated readings. He told me he would see me again after this second test to discuss the results.

A followup blood test was administered on Nov. 10, 2021. I would later discover that this reading came back even higher, at 14.6. The doctor never saw me again.

Second signs

My next regularly scheduled hypertension-related blood tests were taken six months later. My PSA levels came back again at 14.6. A few days later I was seen by the chronic care nurse named Bendyl for my routine hypertension checkup. At that time she told me that my PSA levels were extremely high and had been when I was seen on chronic care six months before. She expressed concern that I had not been sent immediately out to a urology clinic for examination and testing after the abnormal PSA test results six months before. I mentioned that this was clear malpractice. In response she assured me that she would have me promptly seen by a urologist.

Testing and diagnosis

On March 22, 2022, I was taken out of the prison to a urologist for initial consultation and scheduled for an MRI and biopsy. The MRI was performed on May 26, 2022. I was told nothing about the results by NCC medical staff, so I filed a complaint within the prison. In response I was told I would be seen on sick call that week. I was not seen.

I was then taken out to the Medical College of Virginia on June 23, 2022, to receive a biopsy. At that time hospital staff told me the results of the May 26 MRI. I was told that it showed a “spot” in my prostate that might be cancer. This area, they explained, would be targeted in the biopsy along with other random areas. Thirteen specimens were taken from my prostate during the biopsy.

I was able to speak to an NCC doctor named York, not the doctor who saw me in 2021, while I was in the medical department a few days after my biopsy. This was a chance meeting, where he happened to walk past me going on his lunch break and I stopped him to raise concerns about my possible condition and lack of prompt care.

He immediately acknowledged that from my description, my situation had not been properly addressed and committed to look into it. He also assured me that he would have me brought to the medical department a week later by which time the biopsy results should be available which he would share with me.

On July 1, 2022, Dr. York called me to the medical department and read the biopsy results to me. It was found that 11 of the 13 specimens taken from my prostate showed positive for cancer. Also that I suffered prostatitis. But for my chance encounter with him the week before no one would have told me of my diagnosis. And had I not pressed the issue with nurse Bendyl during my April 2022 hypertension chronic care visit, I may never have been sent to a urologist for testing and diagnosis.

Protect-Our-Leaders-art-by-Kevin-Rashid-Johnson, My cancer diagnosis and the disease of denied prison medical care, Abolition Now!
“Protect Our Leaders” – Art: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson

A cancerous prison system

This is typical of prison medical departments. On a routine basis, prisoners are left to suffer, deteriorate and die from lack of care or from substandard care. I’ve written about this condition in relation to other prisoners many times over the years, in the many prisons and prison systems I have been confined to. My acute awareness of this disregard for our health needs is one reason I am extremely vocal and vigilant in pressing officials to address and follow up on my and others’ medical care needs.

This is but another layer of the inhumanity that inheres in the U.S. mass imprisonment system, which demands that this system be razed to the ground and that one oriented to healing people be erected by the people in its place.

Dare to Struggle Dare to Win!

All Power to the People!

Rashid Johnson, a prisoner in Virginia who was transferred to Oregon in 2012 and subsequently to Texas, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and currently back to Virginia, has been held in segregation since 1993. While in prison, he founded the New Afrikan Black Panther Party and its successor, the Revolutionary Intercommunal Black Panther Party (RIBPP). As a writer, Rashid has been compared to George Jackson, and he is also the renowned artist who drew the image that became the icon of the California hunger strikes. See his writing and art at Send our brother some love and light: Kevin Johnson, 1007485, Nottoway CC, 2892 Schutt Rd, Burkeville VA 23922.

What we can do to save Rashid’s life

Message from Mary Ratcliff: Rashid is calling on all his supporters to call the Virginia authorities and urge that his cancer  treatment begin immediately. Because I have cancer and am in touch with many friends who do as well, Rashid asked me to write a message for us to relay to the authorities; the contact info is below. Here’s the message:

“My name is _____________. My friend Kevin Johnson, #1007485, housed at Nottoway, just learned from the prison doctor that he has prostate cancer. Tests he took last October and November indicated that diagnosis almost certainly, but no biopsy was performed until April and the results reported to him on July 1. Eleven of 13 biopsies are positive for prostate cancer. 

“Cancer kills, and it can kill fast. A friend with prostate cancer says his treatment started immediately upon diagnosis in an effort to stop the cancer from spreading to his lymph nodes and on to his bones, where it would be fatal. The Virginia Department of Corrections has already failed in its responsibility to provide even minimal care. Mr. Johnson’s thousands of supporters are shocked to hear of these inexcusably long delays in diagnosis. The best possible treatment must begin now. No obstacle must be allowed to cause further delay.”

Personalize the message if you can, and send it to the following Virginia Department of Corrections authorities:

I’m afraid the Virginia authorities, who have wanted to get rid of Rashid for years, shipping him to states reputed to be most cruel, have seized on cancer as the cure for their problem. WE THE PEOPLE MUST RETURN RASHID TO GOOD HEALTH! DEMAND COMPASSIONATE RELEASE! BRING RASHID HOME NOW! Don’t let cancer and medical delays take him from us. He’s the captain of the ship to abolish slavery and improve prison conditions and must be able to guide it into port.