Oak Parker Brian Kitzman hopes to soon don his best tweed suit and ride his motorcycle in the Chicago Distinguished Gentleman's Ride (DGR) for the second year in a row to spread awareness and raise money for prostate cancer research. This year, DGRs are being held in over 700 cities and 110 countries. Some 600 people registered to participate in the Chicago ride, which was canceled, Sept. 29, due to rain. Organizers hope to reschedule.
The Distinguished Gentleman's Ride, in partnership with the Movember Foundation, has raised and donated millions of dollars for prostate cancer research and other men's health initiatives.
"If anybody goes and gets screened as a result of this ride, that's a win," said Kitzman, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer three years ago and is a carrier of the BRCA2 gene mutation. Carriers of that particular mutation have a higher than average risk of cancer.
"Conventional wisdom says you should start getting screened for prostate cancer when you're 50," said Kitzman, who was 47 at the time of his diagnosis. "I was not getting screened because I wasn't 50."
Prior to being diagnosed, Kitzman was suffering from bad back pain. He could tell the pain wasn't muscular. And it was getting increasingly worse.
"One day, I just did something little; I bent over wrong to pick up a package of lightbulbs," he said. "And it just hit me, and I was basically immobilized. I couldn't move my body."
The next day, Kitzman first went to urgent care then to the emergency room. There he learned that metastases were eating away at his spine. Right away, doctors suspected prostate cancer, which a biopsy confirmed as the source. The cancer had already spread to his lymph nodes, spine, rib cage and leg.
"It's very advanced. There's no remission," he said. "It's just keeping it held at bay."
Kitzman found out about DGR in 2015. He and his friend were out riding one Sunday morning, when he saw a bunch of people dressed up in tweed suits riding motorcycles. "That was my first introduction to it," he said. "I didn't really know that by that time next year, I would be diagnosed."
He went on his first ride with DGR last year. Kitzman plans to ride his Triumph Bonneville motorcycle this year. To give the issue greater visibility during the actual ride, each side of Kitzman's bike will have a sign, courtesy of Oak Park's It's A Sign store, promoting prostate cancer awareness. He hopes the sign will encourage men to get examined.
"For a lot of men, they just don't do it," Kitzman said. "And then it's too late because once you start feeling stuff, it's usually bone metastases and then it's already spread."
He admits getting examined isn't a particularly fun thing to do. However, it is inarguably necessary. Any momentary discomfort from the exam pales in comparison to the toll cancer takes on a person's body.
Amassing over $15 thousand in donations, Kitzman currently ranks seventh on the list of DGR participants worldwide who have raised money for the cause. Donations come from Kitzman's friends and family primarily, but social media helps get the message out. "My wife is very good at sending things out on Facebook," said Kitzman, who isn't on the social network. "She has a lot of friends who contribute as well."
Friends will also share posts on their pages. "I end up getting donations from people from high school who I haven't thought about in 30 years," he said. "It's pretty crazy, but super-cool."
Everyone who donates to him gets a personalized thank-you note. "I'm really overwhelmed by the support," he said. "People have really stepped up and it's very amazing."
Combined with last year, Kitzman has raised roughly $30 thousand for prostate cancer research. Health permitting, he plans on participating in the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride again next year.
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