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Jericho Man Fights Cancer With Cars

Oct. 29, 2003 is a date Sandy Kane remembers well. It was the day he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

“I had a rough time psychologically,” says Kane. “For four days I went into denial.”

It was a simple blood test that saved his life—a test he almost didn’t take.

“A woman will go for a mammogram, a guy won’t go for anything,” he says. “My wife pushed me and finally I went to get tested and I found out that I was sick.”

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute. One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Kane, a Jericho resident for 41 years, decided in 2006 that the best way to focus men’s attention on the deadly, but often treatable, disease was through something he is passionate about and has a little more curb appeal than a doctor’s waiting room: car shows.

“I’ve always loved cars, but didn’t know the first thing about running a car show,” says Kane, who came up with the idea while watching a California Cruizin’ for a Cure event on the Speed Channel. “I reached out to Cruizin’ for a Cure. We became friends. I was licensed to use the name and we started a car show.”

His first Long Island Cruizin’ for a Cure collectible show was held with 125 cars on display and 200 visitors in a grass lot. Since then, the show has morphed into an all-encompassing event that includes a kids’ fun zone, metal racecar track, safety town, fingerprint ID program, video arcade truck, a shopper’s village with handbag and jewelry vendors, a Da Vinci surgical robot that can be operated by visitors, sports memorabilia, live music, a food court, donations of services from dozens of local and national companies and nearly 100 volunteers to help put it all together. He expects 600 cars this year. But those are just the extras.

“Absolutely the most important thing is we have Winthrop University Hospital,” says Kane. "They bring out four doctors who are surgical doctors and a bunch of other people and they run tests all day long.”

Those tests, offered free at the event, are Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Tests, a blood test for the early detection of prostate cancer. The higher a man’s PSA level, according to the National Cancer Institute, the more likely it is that he has prostate cancer.

“Last year we did 306 tests,” says Kane. “And we returned 22 elevateds, which is the first indication of prostate cancer.”

Kane makes no money from these events. All proceeds go to testing, research and education.

“Nobody, including myself, gets any compensation,” he says. “We’re all volunteers and about 10 or 12 of us are prostate cancer survivors.”

Last year’s event raised $20,000 for cancer research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

“We are a Long Island charity,” says Kane. “We try to keep everything on Long Island.”

But the whole purpose of the event is to get men tested.

“Guys won’t get tested,” says Kane. “If we bring them to the car show we stand a much better chance of getting them tested.“

For Kane, who retired three years ago from the promotional products business, it’s a formula that works. He says he spends 30 to 35 hours a week for a good portion of the year organizing the event.

“I put my heart into it,” he says. “We keep reaching and reaching and reaching to get more vendors and new vendors and interesting stuff so when you come to the show you’re not going to walk around for 2 seconds and get bored. The whole focal point of this is we get the kids occupied.  If the kids are happy, the parents want to stay.”

And the longer parents stay, the greater the chance dad will get tested. The test takes minutes and if the PSA level is within the guidelines, you’ll get a letter within a month. If it’s above normal you’ll hear back from the hospital through a registered letter within two weeks for a follow-up.

“Because of the rough time I went through, I wanted to give something back,” says Kane. “If we get one man—and we do, at least one man every year—who comes back and says ‘You know I went to your event, I found out I was sick, I got tested and I went and had it taken care of and you saved my life,’ then it’s worth it and we start all over again next year.”

And it’s a lot of work, not just physically. Unlike breast cancer awareness organizations, which paint Long Island pink with everything from pink promotional products to quirky bumper stickers, prostate cancer doesn’t get much attention and many men think of it as a stigma.

“Nobody talks about prostate cancer—We’re blue,” says Kane. “They don’t talk about prostate cancer because of impotence and incontinence. The word ‘impotence’ is a very scary word for a man. And we’re convincing these guys that impotence is better than death. Impotence is not always the case, but impotence is still better than death.”

It’s working, especially in the car community on Long Island. Every year, Cruizin’ for a Cure reaches more men and saves more lives.  

“The car people all know me as ‘the prostrate,’” says Kane.  “I tell them, ‘I don ‘t care how you pronounce it just go and get tested that’s all I care about!’ and we reach more and more men every year. “

Kane turned 71 on Friday. He went into his first of three surgeries on January 15, 2004 and has been cancer free ever since. He says he still gets tested every year and will for the rest of his life.

Today, down a side street in Hicksville, Kane stands in front of three cars he displays at his shows—two  vintage Mercedes and a Corvette—all with Cruizin’ for a Cure license plates.

A man in his early 30s pulls over and jumps out of his van.

“Beautiful!“ he says. “Very nice! Can I take a picture? I have to take a picture of this.”

Kane gives him a card with information about the car show next week and explains that it is to raise funds for prostate cancer. The man asks for another card to give to his friend.  

Kane hands the cards over and smiles from ear to ear as the man drives away.

“Life is too short,” he says. “Every day is a gift—And I love it.”

This year’s Long Island Cruizin’ for a Cure event will take place on Sunday, Sept. 8 at the Sears Automotive Center on Routes 106/107 in Hicksville. Gates open at 6:30 a.m. for car exhibitors. Show hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information, visit www.licruizinforacure.com.