Founding member of The Commodores talks about his cancer battle

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At 68, William King, has been playing music for as long as he can remember.

He helped found the soul/funk band The Commodores when he was fresh out of high school.

"We started the Commodores my freshman year in college," King says.  "It was really to meet girls and have a great time."

But it never stopped.

"We've been going since 1968," King says.  "49 years."

But in 2012, King, who lives in Atlanta with his girlfriend Deb, got a blood test during his yearly checkup, known as a PSA screening. It's used to detect changes in a man's prostate gland. His PSA level was elevated, but King says his doctor told him they would keep an eye on it. So, King went back on the road.

"But in the process, I had a heart attack," he says.

Touring in South Africa at the time, he needed emergency bypass surgery.  And, it took years for his body to heal. So, he put his concerns about prostate cancer on hold.

"And in the process of waiting, the cancer wasn't waiting, the cancer was moving on," King says.

When he got his PSA checked again in 2014, his levels were extremely high.  And the doctor had bad news.

"He said, the first thing I want to tell you is you have cancer," King remembers. And I looked up and I could see the doctor moving his lips, but I couldn't hear him."

Georgia Urology's Dr. Darrell Carmen, a prostate cancer specialist, says stories like William King’s are, unfortunately, not all that rare. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men over 40, Dr. Carmen says, affecting about 1 in 7 men.

"In the African American community, that number is higher; it's 1 in 3, or 1 in 4," he says.

Dr. Carmen says a combination of genetics and a high-fat, meat-heavy diet may put African American men at increased risk. So he encourages Black men, and those with a family history of prostate cancer, to started getting their PSA levels checked at around 40, while most low-risk men can wait until about 55.

"Men in general don't like going to the doctor," he says.  "So, I typically tell them this is a maintenance issue. So it's really no different from taking your car to get serviced."

By the time William King's PSA was tested again in 2014, the doctor had bad news.

"The cancer had progressed," King says.  "So, that kind of shut the door on various types of ways to treat it."

He underwent robotic surgery to take out his prostate gland, then went through about 40 rounds of radiation to kill off any remaining cancer. The recovery was harder than he expected.

"For a while there, I could barely walk," King says.   "You can't play tennis in pain, you can't play a horn in pain."

Today, William King is finally starting to feel good again. He's back on his tennis game, and back playing the music that makes his, and millions of Commodores' fans, happy.