On Sunday, Dan Foster, with the help of Elliot Magid, owner of Marine Park Barber Shop, and Dr. Jay Weissbluth, a local gastroenterologist, held the second annual Help Knockout Colon Cancer event at the Marine Park Barber Shop, located at 3010 Avenue U. All of the proceeds from the day’s haircuts went to the Colon Cancer Alliance Blue Hope Financial Assistance Program.
For Foster, a lifelong Gerritsen Beach resident, colorectal cancer is personal. In 1996, at the age of 46, his doctor diagnosed him with Stage I rectal cancer after experiencing severe stomach cramps, which the doctor thought might be kidney stones.
Unfortunately for Foster, it wasn’t. After enduring bouts of radiation treatment and surgery, in which 19 lymph nodes were removed, the doctors gave him a clean bill of health.
Much to Foster’s dismay, however, in 1999, at the age of 49, the cancer returned and metastasized to both of his lungs in the form of Stage IV cancer.
The doctors performed surgery on one lung in September and the other in October, proceeded by eight months of grueling chemotherapy. But Foster, a 20-year cancer survivor, kept a gleeful, positive attitude throughout the ordeal.
“I never really thought much about it coming back,” the 66-year-old retired gas company worker said. “When it came back, I thought, ‘I fought it before, and I’m just going to fight it again.’”
Magid, who was kind enough to open his shop on a Sunday and donate the day’s proceeds, has been friends with Foster for 25 years. Magid has always been impressed with his buddy’s positive outlook, especially during his past trying times.
“He was upbeat, actually, because I saw him during those times,” Magid said of Foster’s gleeful outlook during his cancer episodes. “He never complained. He never felt like he was sorry for himself.”
“When Dan was going through treatments, I had a barber working here, who was also diagnosed with colon cancer,” Magid recollected. “He basically was his mentor. He gave him such a positive outlook, like it was only the flu. He gave him such a boost. He encouraged him to get a colonoscopy. To make a long story short, he totally recovered because they got it in time.”
Why does Foster and Magid continue to volunteer their time?
“I want to give somebody else a second chance in life, and not just for colorectal cancer, all cancers,” Foster emphasized, urging people to get screened for the condition. “I realize how lucky I am. I want to help save somebody’s life.”
“We’re going to start doing this thing every two months,” Magid added. “We need to give people awareness. People have the mentality that it’s going to happen to somebody else. It’s never going to happen to me.”
Dr. Weissbluth believes there should be a 100 percent colon cancer survival rate, urging people to get screened for the disease at the appropriate age.
“Colon cancer is 100 percent curable,” Dr. Weissbluth emphatically said. “No one should die of colon cancer. Zero. The gold standard of screening is a colonoscopy. The general population, everybody without risk factors, for testing is 50, risk factors, 40, and in the black population, age 45, to get screened. Everyone should be screened—men and women. There’s a misconception that it’s a male disease. It’s not. It’s men and women who get it.”
The Help Knockout Colon Cancer event isn’t Foster’s only philanthropic activity. He’s also participated in The Walk of Hope, a seven-day, 150-mile jaunt from Montauk Lighthouse (on the tip of Long Island) to Manhattan’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where Cardinal O’Connor blessed him, in June 1999, three months before his second diagnosis. His efforts helped him raise over $20,000 for the Circle of Hope Cancer Foundation and Beth Israel Medical Center, where he had his surgeries.
Foster, who is the Brooklyn Ambassador for the Colon Cancer Alliance, noted that the Gerritsen Beach community helped raise over $190,000 for his cause throughout the years.
Foster and Magid hope to hold another barbershop event after Labor Day, and Foster is hosting his fourteenth annual Dan’s 5K Fun Run/Walk on Saturday, September 17th, with all proceeds going to the Colon Cancer Alliance Blue Hope Financial Assistance Program.
For more information on colorectal cancer, log onto www.ccalliance.org.