Jamie Schubert  Interview GlxoSmithKline ad for Medicare Part D

Cancer can be fought in many ways—including surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, etc.—but Jamie Schubert decided to add motocross. Whopping cancer isn’t just a question of battling the disease—it’s about making positive choices. Motocross riding keeps Jamie’s spirits up, and so does his decision to spend quality time with his 14-year-old Supercross-hopeful son, Tyler. And with that Jamie feels he’s winning.

Our editor-in-chief, Chet Cooper, recently donned the requisite dirt biker’s gear, dusted off his Honda and met up with the father-and-son riding duo in Riverside, California. Their dirt-filled interview, held at Milestone MX Ranch, was all fired-up with a flurry of jumps, pinned turns and whoop-dedoos.

Chet Cooper: How long have you lived in California?

Jamie Schubert: I’m a native. I was born in Newport Beach and raised in Huntington Beach. My mom graduated from Huntington High. She became a deputy clerk for the city. My dad worked for Bell Helicopters and set up the first police helicopter outfit in the area. He left Huntington soon after that. Now he’s 74 and he lives on the river. He continues to fly planes and still has his FAA license. When I was a kid, he used to say, ‘Let’s go fishing,’ and we’d fly down to Mexico and land on the beach. In the’60s, you could do things like that. Not any more.

Cooper: So you had a lot of experience with planes growing up. How did you become interested in motorcycles?

Schubert: They’ve always intrigued me. Everyone in my neighborhood had a motorcycle. I always wanted a dirt bike when I was kid but my parents wouldn’t let me have one. They bought me a guitar instead. Actually, it was part of a deal I made with my mom. If I took a summer school math class, she said she’d pay for any other class I wanted. I chose guitar lessons. So, I got a guitar instead of a bike, and it took me a different direction. I grew my hair long and went to Hollywood. I spent ten years there, playing the Strip.

Cooper: Did you play with any band we might know?

Schubert: Have you heard of Polkeralis or High Voltage? Or what about Mud Pie? We got to play at a lot of big clubs like Gazzari’s and the Country Club. I still have a really funny video from those days. It was the’80s. Big hair and Spandex—the whole nine yards... It’s pretty funny to watch it now. (laughs)

Cooper: Like the original MTV?

Schubert: Yeah, it was around’79—I did my first LA show at Gazzari’s back in’79. (laughs) Back then, that type of music was considered heavy metal. But when my son, Tyler, was born and I decided to give up the music scene. Going out to nightclubs every night or being constantly on the road isn’t a good family thing. I wanted to do something different. My wife and I started becoming really active in our church. One day, I was coming out of church, and I heard a few guys talking about Honda Valley and how they wanted to play out there. It was also where they went to ride dirt bikes. That’s when the light bulb went off in my head. So I bought a’77 RMZ 250 for a hundred dollars and started to rebuild it out of spare parts, but I had to be taught a lot.

Cooper: Who taught you?

Schubert: The owner of the local bike shop. He taught me everything from mixing gas to cleaning the carburetor. That’s how I got started in the business. It’s my real passion. You might say I’ve got the bug bad.

Cooper: So you went from rock and roll and heavy metal to riding over rocks with heavy metal? Sorry...

Schubert: (laughs) Right. It took about six years and then we were able to open JTS Motor Sports. Two weeks after we opened the store, we found out I had cancer.

Cooper: What were your symptoms?

Schubert: It was strange. I started noticing lumps and the doctor told me that they were simply fatty tissues. The specialist also insisted that I had nothing to worry about. When I mentioned having frequent pains in my side, he said ‘There’s no pain associated with this type of thing. It’s unrelated.’ I believed him. He’s the surgeon, right? He’s a specialist and he’s supposed to be the expert. After my first surgery, I told my wife, ‘I don’t think all the lumps are gone. I think they’ve missed something.’

Cooper: Why did you feel that way?

Schubert: The sharp pains I’d been nagging about since the very beginning were still there. When I went back to the specialist, he told me it was just scar tissue and that there was no reason to worry. Eight months later, I told my wife, ‘Honey, there’s a problem.’ By that time, the lump on my side had become as big as a grapefruit. I visited my doctor again who sent me to yet another specialist. She examined the swelling and said, ‘Well, I can’t do anything for you because I don’t operate on cancer.’ That’s how I found out I had cancer. Nobody had a clue.

Cooper: Didn’t they test the lumps after they removed them?

Schubert: Well, supposedly, yes. But I remember having pointed to another one that they neglected to remove. ‘It’s right here,’ I said. My doctor felt the lump and told me it was just more fatty tissue and that I shouldn’t worry. To be honest with you, he treated me like an idiot. I just wanted somebody to explain what was happening to me. He really talked down to me as if I were completely ignorant. He never did a biopsy, never had an x-ray taken—never did anything.

Cooper: He said the lumps were fatty tissue? And what did he say caused the tissue to develop?

Schubert: Supposedly it was just a freak thing. The fact that I had pains in the same area was simply a coincidence. He was the doctor and I was the knucklehead.

When the lump became too enormous to ignore, that second specialist finally said, ‘It’s cancer,’ and that’s how my wife and I found out. We left the doctor’s office and sat in the parking lot and cried. Then we gathered our strength together. We were determined to find a way to deal with it. On the Thursday after that appointment, they confirmed the type of cancer I had. The Tuesday after that, they operated. There was no time to waste.

Cooper: What kind of cancer was it?

Schubert: It’s called ‘Synovial sarcoma.’ It’s extremely rare. Less than two percent of all cases are this type of cancer. They had to send it to Italy to be examined. Nobody here knew anything about it. Once they did the biopsy, the doctors confirmed that we were dealing with a very dangerous type of cancer. It attacks soft tissue and it’s fatal for more than 50 percent of those diagnosed. In the worst-case scenario, it spreads to the lungs. After the operation, I underwent radiation for three months—five days a week, 45 minutes a day. The lump was attached to my pelvis so they removed all my muscle from my hip, all the way to the pelvic bone. Their goal was to wrap around the cancer and eliminate it entirely.

I’ve had a check-up every three months since I finished radiation. During my first check-up, they found that the cancer had, in fact, spread to my lungs. The full-body scan confirmed the worst. The cancer was going for the soft tissue.

Cooper: Did they confirm this by means of a CAT scan?

Schubert: Yes. They make you drink that funky stuff. You can feel the liquid entering your body, from head to toe. It’s a really warm sensation. The nurse warns you by saying that it will feel like you’re urinating on yourself even when you aren’t. Once the liquid enters your system, doctors have 30 seconds to complete the procedure. Thanks to this test, they confirmed that a piece of my lung had to be removed. Eight centimeters to be exact. They called it a wedge piece.

Cooper: When did you have the surgery?

Schubert: My initial surgery was in November 2005. I’ve managed to ruin every Christmas for the last three years because of surgery. Not to mention a broken collarbone from a motocross accident—but that’s a different story. I get checked every three months. At my first check-up, they confirmed that the cancer spanned fifteen centimeters. It was back and had doubled in size—spreading onto my other lung in two different spots. Now, it’s grown to 19 centimeters.

Cooper: They left it in there?

Schubert: Oh, yeah. ‘We’re not going to go in every couple of months and take pieces out of you,’ they said. The healing process is just too hard. Healing from lung surgery is a big deal. It was worse than when they took the lump out of my side. I had a hospital bed delivered to my house so I wouldn’t have to go up and down stairs. Just the breathing exercises were hard work.

Cooper: So when did they say you had 18 months to live?

Schubert: At my last checkup. If it keeps going at this pace, I have about a year and a half until I have to depend on hospice care. Nobody can determine what will happen after hospice.

Cooper: How many times a week are you riding?

Schubert: I used to ride at least three times a week, but now it’s gotten to where I’m riding once or twice week, and I’m OK with that. I’ll ride tomorrow morning for a little bit. I used to go out there and do three or four 25 to 30-minute motos and not even blink an eye.

Cooper: So are we ready to ride?

Schubert: Let’s go...

(The three go for laps on the vet track and then head over to the main track – then back to sit in the shade of the trees to finish the interview.)

Cooper: You kicked my butt out there. You had loads of energy. It was unbelievable. Not that I’m in shape...

Schubert: (laughs) Yeah, I was able to do a lot of laps, and I felt good. At home, I walk up the stairs and I get winded! I’ve got to catch my breath walking up the stairs! But on my bike, it’s a different story. I don’t know if it’s just a question of where my head’s at when I’m on my bike—but I do have extra energy. (laughs) Yet, I walk up the stairs and I start huffing and puffing! .... continued in ABILITY Magazine

ABILITY Magazine
Other articles in the Ty Pennington issue include Humor Therapy — Wheel Fun!: Headlines — National Employment Month; PTSD: Mentor Day — Disability Legal Right Center : Eve Hill — Honoring a Winner: Matt King — Building Accessibility Into Your Computer: Yoga & MS — Ancient Practice/New Mobility: Got Soy? — What’s the Fuss?: Green Pages — Recycling 101: Recipes — It’s Greek To Us: Breast Cancer — Think Pink and Grace Wright: Patients Beyond Borders — Budget Surgery Abroad: Tom Olin — Chief Photographer of the ABILITY Movement ABILITY's Crossword Puzzle; Events and Conferences...subscribe

More excerpts from theTy Pennington issue:

Ty Pennington — From ADHD To ABC

Jamie Schubert — Whoop De Doo To Cancer

Cynthia Basinet — Finding Her Voice

Patients Beyond Borders — Budget Surgery Abroad

Yoga & MS — Ancient Practice/New Mobility

Got Soy? — What's the Fuss?

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