When life comes at you on a curve you adjust your swing, change your approach, maybe alter the way you live your life and the way you share that life with others. You show courage, channel hope and inspire others by your example.
The Sunday Series (34): Get Your Motor Runnin’
Get your motor runnin’ , head out on the highway. Looking for adventure in whatever comes our way. – Lyrics from Born To Be Wild
Robert Kaitz put it off for way too long, it was barely an issue, besides he’s a man. Kaitz was owner of a successful computer business with 500 clients and 5000 computers worldwide. A tough guy, member of a motorcycle club, loved to party and have fun. When you’re a man like that, there’s not much that can hold you back or take you down. Certainly not a minor ache or pain.
Robert says he had experienced acid reflux for years, but as he kept banging on his chest to stop the indigestion, something was unsual. Just below the left nipple, a tiny bump. Probably just another cyst Robert thought, he had had several removed from his back, not a big deal. But when the bump eventually got painful he reluctantly went to the doctor.
“I’m pissed I didn’t go sooner”, says Robert. “But I didn’t think guys could get it.” He’s right, in a way, because the odds are only one-in-1,000 for men, not like the 1-in-8 for women. But the odds in life are not always in your favor. For Robert Kaitz he was suddenly odd man out… he had breast cancer.
Surgery was scheduled immediately to remove the cancerous tumor, which by now was Stage-3. A radical mastectomy, 25 lymph nodes removed, five of them positive for cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation next, and a new lease on life. Robert was ready to share his story, but it wasn’t easy, still isn’t. He says, “people look at you funny when you say you have male breast cancer. People smile like you are kidding when you tell them you have breast cancer. But hopefully we are making a difference.”
The difference is in how Robert spreads the message and that is without fear, or embarrassment. And it would be easy to be uneasy. As part of the treatment for the breast cancer he was given tamoxifen, the same drug prescribed to women who experience the same disease. Robert was dealing with the same side effects women do, sweating, hot flashes, and mood swings. “When I first got diagnosed and received treatment and then tried to get out here and tell people, many were surprised”, says Robert. “I got up in front of a bunch of bikers, men and told them about the breast cancer and the side effects of the medication I was on. No one could believe it. But if I can help one guy not be a stubborn ass**** like me, then I have done a good job.”
And Robert’s cancer journey was not over just yet. In 2009 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Because he had genetic testing after the breast cancer, the prostate cancer was caught early and his prostate removed. Robert says if he hadn’t had the testing it might not have been picked up. The double whammy only served to make him more determined to share his story.
In December 2009 Robert sold his computer business and now travels the country, on his motorcycle or in his big RV, raising awareness, especially about the male breast cancer and early detection for any disease. His journey has received national attention. He was invited to visit the The Dr. Oz show, in a program which aired in January 2010 and helped to shine the spotlight on diseases which typically are associated with women, but can also affect men. Robert says there was a woman in the audience who said she came to the show but her husband refused to come. Robert told the female audience member, “when you are intimate with him, feel his breast and if you feel a lump grab him like a fish on a hook and drag him to the doctor!”
And this is where part of the problem lies, says Robert: “The biggest issue with male breast cancer is men are dying from it. “Only one-percent of breast cancer cases are men, and twenty-five percent of those men die from the disease because they catch it so late, they are simply not aware.”
And too late is no good for Robert. His experience with cancer has taught him a couple of things, besides his desire to share and educate others. Robert is a member of the Legion Motorcycle Club, (http://www.legionmc.com/). Everyone in the club has a nickname, his is Atlas, for a good reason. “Because I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. I will give the shirt off my back for anyone to help them. If you get out of bed and you hate the day ahead, come talk to me.” And Robet doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. If there’s one thing he says he’s learned, it’s to live life and enjoy, because life is short.
Robert says, “don’t put something off that you will do another day, that you want to do, because you will probably never do it. Don’t sweat the small stuff, if you don’t worry too much it works out. Work it out and move forward.”
A big part of that forward progress is Robert’s participation in the John W. Nick Foundation, (https://www.malebreastcancer.org/), an organization dedicated to male breast cancer and to the man, John W. Nick, who died from the disease at age 58. Awareness could have saved his life and Robert is on a mission to save the lives of other men. “Do normal checkups and get physicals and stay on top of everything”, he says. “The key is catching this stuff early, if you don’t catch it early then there is trouble. If you find it now you can fix it, if you find it later, it might be too late.”
Just like the lyrics from, Born to be Wild, Robert is gonna make it happen, take the world in a love embrace. If he can save even one life, or make that life better, then the ride is worth it.
Until next time thanks for taking the time,
Mark Brodinsky, Author, Huffington Post Blogger (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-brodinsky/), Emmy Winner
The Amazon #1 Best-Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
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Barry Grosshandler says
Great and informative story! Everything you write is so well done!