Mortality was the last thing on the mind of 37-year-old Bart Saidel when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2005. Fighting was all the Cherry Hill resident could think about. Maybe it’s a guy thing, he says, but with a wife and three young children, surviving was his only option.
Just before he was diagnosed, Bart began to experience some pain in one of his testicles. At an appointment with his urologist, everything looked normal, but the doctor felt there may be an infection. In order to “rule out Lance Armstrong disease,” his doctor scheduled an ultrasound just to be sure. Additional pain developed over the next two days and a CAT scan was added. The ultrasound came back clear, however a large tumor in his torso was found on the CAT scan. After an immediate consultation with Robert Somer, MD, a Cooper oncologist, additional scans and testing were ordered and after a five-week period the pathology determined the tumor was in fact testicular cancer; pure seminoma.
Testicular cancer is most common among males aged 15 to 40 years, particularly those in their mid-twenties. It has one of the highest cure rates of all cancers: in excess of 90 percent and essentially 100 percent if it has not metastasized.
Bart’s treatment regimen started with four cycles of chemotherapy followed by surgery. He suffered from bouts of nausea, fatigue, and other chemorelated side effects, but Bart found inspiration in the tough times through the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) whose beliefs validated what he knew already in his heart to be true: cancer is survivable.
“The Lance Armstrong Foundation is more than just the yellow bracelet,” says Bart. “They empower you to fight, look at cancer realistically, and provide tremendous resources for survivorship.”
Today, as a four-year cancer survivor, Bart has made it his mission to support cancer research, awareness, and survivorship programs. A huge Jimmy Buffet fan, Bart co-founded the Salt Shaker Foundation with family and friends to benefit the LAF and other local cancer organizations like Cooper Cancer Institute (CCI). Bart and the Salt Shaker Foundation are proud supporters of CCI’s Patient in Need Fund. Through this fund Bart helps other cancer survivors meet their financial, emotional, spiritual, physical, and medical needs. Bart knows he can make a clear and tangible difference in another survivors life.
Bart recalls one instance where his foundation’s financial assistance helped a young testicular cancer patient at CCI to bank (freeze) sperm before beginning treatment, as radiation and chemotherapy often results in sterility.
“When I was diagnosed and needed treatment I already had a family and didn’t have that concern. Although I didn’t know this patient’s name, age or situation, I could relate to how the possibility of having a family sometime down the road was important to him,” says Bart. “It symbolized his hopes for the future. And that’s key to survival.”
Since its inception in 2006, the Salt Shaker Foundation has raised more than $170,000 through events such as their annual “Team Margaritaville or Bust” fundraiser. With more than 150 members, Team Margaritaville or Bust participates annually in LAF’s LIVESTRONG® Challenge, a physically demanding event consisting of cycling up to 100 miles and a 5K run or 5K walk.
According to Bart, surviving cancer has instilled a sense of community in him. In addition to forming the foundation, Bart, a Senior Account Executive with CDW Corporation in Voorhees, is active on the CDW Charitable Contributions Committee, working with and supporting other organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, the American Cancer Society, Autism Speaks, NJ Division of Youth and Family Services, and the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America.
“The whole cancer experience was and is very surreal,” he says. “I lived it, but I don’t let the past define me. I don’t have the time or energy to devote to it. I’ve got too much more to concentrate on.”
ADDENDUM: Bart was originally interviewed for this profile in August 2009. Shortly after, Bart developed severe back pain, and after testing his physicians found that he had developed leukemia secondary to the chemotherapy treatments he received for his testicular cancer. Bart is receiving chemotherapy. But between tests and procedures Bart is on the phone, calling and texting his friends, colleagues and contacts — continuing his mission to raise money for cancer causes and improving the lives of other cancer survivors. Determined to fight. Determined to win. Determined to survive. Go Bart!