Captain Mike, From Kansas City

Posted 3 months ago

On August 10th, we received an open letter. This letter came after we shared another story of a man named Eric Hansen. You may have read Eric's story, if not you'll find it here. It was candid, open, and inspiring. So much so, that it gave others the strength to share their stories of cancer and the impacts that has on their mental health. These stories gave us a beautiful moment of realisation. That through DGR, riders all around the world who have shared the same battles are able to connect with each other to know they are not alone. These messages are true to the fact that even though we are apart, we can Ride Solo, Together for men's health.

We'd like to take the opportunity to share Captain Michael L. Pandzik's story, of the U.S. Navy Reserve. Who, admittedly, is quite a private person, but after reading Eric's story of he and his daughter, felt compelled to write to us. 

Mike, thank you for your bravery in sharing your story. 

MY DGR LETTER

"This is my fifth year with the DGR. I plan to ride it with my daughter, Emily. She rides a Ducati, and I’ll ride my 2018 BMW with DMC Expedition Sidecar attached. We’ll ride in the ‘solo event’ here in Kansas City.

I’m 74 years of age and have been riding motorcycles since I was 16. When I was younger, I thought I’d ride until age 60; then I was 65, then 70, and -- good grief! -- I’ll turn 75 in a few weeks! I know I’m older than the average bear who rides the DGR, but it’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. You see, I’ve survived three kinds of cancer -- including prostate cancer -- and, for all of you younger men, I plan to live to see the end of it once and for all.

My prostate cancer was discovered as a result of keeping track of my PSA score. (PSA stands for Prostate-Specific Antigen, and the test is a simple blood draw. I’m certainly not a doctor, but I understand that the change over time in PSA score is just as important as the specific number at any given time.) I’ve been tracking my PSA score for 25 years, and I keep a list by date, score, and doctor. Anything under ‘5’ is considered normal, but six years ago mine started climbing steadily, from 10, to 20, and then, to 30. I saw a local urologist, and he performed a digital exam and, soon afterwards, a biopsy.

Something had to be done.

A few weeks later, my prostate was removed at Kansas University Medical Center, using their DaVinci robotic surgery suite. Unfortunately, my PSA score -- even with my prostate gland removed -- continued to climb.

By the time my wife and I looked for a third opinion at Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn. USA my PSA was nearly 90. Cancer is ‘staged’ as to severity; I was scored at Stage 4 (the worst level), and it had metastasized, with cancer cells found in my skull, my ribs, my pelvis, and my sternum.

My doctor and the team at Mayo saved my life. He prescribed a new medicine, and within six weeks there was no evidence of prostate cancer in my body. I still see a KU MED oncologist here in Kansas City, and twice a year I go back to Mayo for a cancer screening with my oncologist there. It’s been five years since my surgery – and, so far, so good.

Prostate cancer does not have to be a death sentence. Many men will die with it, but not necessarily of it. There are things you can do, steps you can take, but time is of the essence. Cancer never gets better by waiting, and early diagnosis is the key. In my experience, if something has the potential to kill me, it’s worth it to get a second opinion, and maybe even a third.

It’s not much fun sometimes. Chemotherapy made my hair fall out for a while, but it grew back. Many days I was simply exhausted. I’m done with chemo now, but still taking quarterly Lupron shots. But I’m alive, and I feel pretty good. And once this damned COVID-19 virus takes a hike, my wife and I will start travelling again.

You can do this. Make up your mind now that you’re never going to quit. No matter what. Keep asking questions...

I wish we could ride in London with Eric Hansen and his daughter. In the meantime... Don’t ever give up. Never. And neither will I.

Michael L. Pandzik
Captain - USNR (Ret.)
Shawnee, Kansas USA

 

 



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