Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Benj- Steve Benjamin Interview on Cancer

* The Benj (a.k.a. Steve Benjamin)- friend of the Editor since 1977 when both sailed in college at Tufts and Yale, respectively, has undertaken a new mission after a bout with prostate cancer. To see Benj and his wife Heidi (another college sailor) continue to enjoy sailing today is both heart-warming and an inspiration for all generations of sailors; a wonderful example that demonstrates the human spirit is paramount in our life, that no matter what obstacles life throws in front of you, that sailing is a life-long sport to be shared with all (young and old alike).  Here is Benj's story:  "Surviving Cancer to Sail Again- Why an Olympic Medalist Dedicates Around Long Island Race to Live-Saving Doctor."

At the starting line for this week's Around Long Island Regatta, many of the participating sailors will be thankful to take part in one of New York's favorite distance sailboat races. One sailor who may be the most grateful is Steve Benjamin (South Norwalk, Conn.), who underwent successful surgery for prostate cancer less than six months ago.  An Olympic Silver Medalist (1984 in 470s), and lead salesman with North Sails, Benjamin is known fondly throughout the sailing community as "Benj". This month he has re-dedicated his 41 foot sloop as ROBOTIC ONCOLOGY in tribute to the life-saving skills of Dr. David B. Samadi, Chief of Robotics and Minimally Invasive Surgery at Mount Sinai in New York, N.Y., and will compete in the 190-mile race with an eye on winning the title.

"I made Dr. Samadi a promise that if he could cure me, then I would take him sailing," said Benjamin about re-naming his boat which, until this point, was known as HIGH NOON.  "My wife Heidi and I have been campaigning HIGH NOON since 2005.  In addition to winning races, one of our missions is to help introduce juniors and new sailors to the sport.  We are always training new crew and getting people sailing as much as possible.  With the ROBOTIC ONCOLOGY campaign I saw the possibility to help raise awareness of prostate cancer, and to let everyone know that the disease can be overcome."

Anyone familiar with prostate surgery would say, "Surgery six months ago and he's out sailing!" And anyone familiar with Benjamin would say, "That guy has the most positive attitude!" The successful return to the helm of a racing boat is largely credited to positive thinking by the patient and to robotic rather than "open" surgery where the recovery time is lessened.

"No question that the personal spirit and the approach of positive thinking combined with a good surgeon is going to win," said Samadi. "To me prostate cancer is very personal, and I always want to win. I perform the surgery from beginning to end, and I've done over 3000 surgeries." He went on to explain that robotic prostate surgery is not just about the technology of robotics, but it is really the experience of the surgeon that counts just like a very experienced sailor.

When asked to compare the competitive nature of sailboat racing to performing life-saving surgery, Dr. Samadi said: "The trophies for the patients are their lives and their children. Just like in sailing, you can't do part of the race. You have to do the entire surgery. Thankfully, we have 3,000 friends and families doing well today."

According to the American Cancer Society, about one man in six will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime, and more than 2 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point are still alive today. More than 200,000 new cases and about 30,000 deaths are attributed to prostate cancer each year in the U.S.