Cancer can be fought in many ways—with surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, etc.—but Jamie Schubert decided to add motocross. Whooping 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 anymore.
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!
Cooper: What other strategies do you use for dealing with cancer?
Schubert: Just keeping active, riding and staying positive. That’s what’s been the best thing for my family and me. For a while, I had to quit answering my phone. A lot of people love you and wish you the best, but I couldn’t handle everyone crying all the time. I would say, ‘You’re bumming me out. Hey, I love you and thank you for your appreciation, but your crying is making me feel bad. Come out and ride with me! Come out and have some fun with me!’
I believe everything happens for a reason. We’re here on this earth for the blink of an eye. I truly believe the reason we’re put on this earth is to see how we can learn to treat each other—how we can inspire each other. That’s why we’re here. It will also determine where we go later. The real question is ‘What kind of a person are you?’
I talk to everybody I meet. That’s just the way I deal with it. I just try to stay positive and ride as much as possible. I have as much fun as I can. Other people can curl up in a ball and run from it. I think you’ve got to meet cancer head-on and keep a positive attitude. The key is to never give up. As soon as you start saying, ‘Man, I’ve got the cancer and it’s eating me up,’ that’s when it’s really going to start eating you up. I’m not ignoring it. I know that it’s there, but it’s not going to stop me from doing what I love.
And now the cancer is growing slower, and I think it’s because of this, you know, riding every chance I get. I never wanted to go on chemo. I like my plan much better!
Cooper: What is your most urgent goal?
Schubert: I want to teach my son to be an honest man— a man of integrity. That’s my biggest goal. The other day, the two of us went to the track with only one bike. At that track you are supposed to pay by the rider, even if you are sharing a bike. To be honest, I didn’t feel like paying the 50 dollars. But my son looked at me and said, ‘Dad, maybe we’re being tested to see if we’re going to be men of integrity right now.’ And I thought, ‘Man! He’s getting it!’
I want to be a good example for him. You’ve got to make the most of every moment. I’m going to keep doing what I love doing. I feel good, and as long as I feel good…
Cooper: And doggone it, you look good.
Schubert: (laughs) Like I said, I feel good, you know? My son really wants to do Supercross. That’s his dream. So I said, ‘Okay, the time that you’ve got me around— let’s spend it at the track.’ So we go to the track three or four days a week. And my wife—bless her heart—she’s my rock. She’s allowed me to retire and do this. Actually, when I went in for my Social Security, it kind of scared me. You know it’s bad when they say ‘yes’ to you. (laughs)
Cooper: When they don’t argue with you?
Schubert: When they don’t contest your request and your doctor says, ‘Yes, it’s terminal. He just wants to spend time with his boy.’ That’s when it gets really scary.
Cooper: Some reality setting in?
Schubert: Yeah, and it sets in all the time. Like when it hurts taking a deep breath or when I get easily winded… Some things do bother me. If I watch a movie about a guy and his grandkids, it will make me think about how much I wish I could be at my son’s wedding. Or about how much I’d like to know my grandkids.
Things like that hit me hard every now and then. It’s tough to look around and know that I won’t be around to experience certain things. My son is an aspiring Supercross rider, and I’m doing everything I can to help him achieve his goals.
Cooper: Is he going to ride Kawasaki?
Schubert: He loves his bike. But he’s going to ride whatever bike they want to offer us. (laughs) That’s the thing. This sport is fantastic—but it’s not cheap. That’s one of the reasons I opened JTS, to help provide parts and services.
But Tyler’s a good kid, and he trains hard. The boy he practices with is a top intermediate rider in the Nationals. His name is Brandon Brady. He’ll probably turn pro next year. Tyler is training hard and Brandon will help get him up there. His family has been really good to us. We help each other out—motocross families helping motocross families.
1. WHAT IS SYNOVIAL SARCOMA?
Synovial sarcoma is a type of soft tissue sarcoma. Soft tissue sarcomas are cancers of the muscle, fat, fibrous tissue, blood vessels, or other supporting tissue of the body, including synovial tissue. Synovial tissue lines the cavities of joints, such as the knee or elbow, tendons (tissues that connect muscle to bone), and bursae (fluid-filled, cushioning sacs in the spaces between tendons, ligaments, and bones). Although synovial sarcoma does not have a clearly defined cause, genetic factors are believed to influence the development of this disease.
2. HOW OFTEN DOES SYNOVIAL SARCOMA OCCUR?
Synovial sarcoma is rare. It accounts for between 5 and 10 percent of the approximately 10,000 new soft tissue sarcomas reported each year. Synovial sarcoma occurs mostly in young adults, with a median age of 26.5. Approximately 30 percent of patients with synovial sarcoma are younger than 20. This disease occurs more often in men than in women.
3. WHERE DOES SYNOVIAL SARCOMA DEVELOP?
About 50 percent of synovial sarcomas develop in the legs, especially the knees. The second most common location is the arms. Less frequently, the disease develops in the trunk, head and neck region, or the abdomen. It is common for synovial cancer to recur, usually within the first two years after treatment. Half of the cases of synovial sarcoma metastasize (spread to other areas of the body) to the lungs, lymph nodes, or bone marrow.
4. WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF SYNOVIAL SARCOMA?
Synovial sarcoma is a slow-growing tumor. Because it grows slowly, a person may not have or notice symptoms for some time, resulting in a delay in diagnosis. The most common symptoms of synovial sarcoma are swelling or a mass that may be tender or painful. The tumor may limit range of motion or press against nerves and cause numbness. The symptoms of synovial sarcoma can be mistaken for those of inflammation of the joints, the bursae, or synovial tissue. These noncancerous conditions are called arthritis, bursitis, and synovitis, respectively.
5. HOW IS SYNOVIAL SARCOMA DIAGNOSED?
The doctor may use the following procedures and tests to diagnose synovial sarcoma:
Biopsy: Tissue is removed for examination under a microscope.
Immunohistochemical analysis: Tumor tissue is tested for certain antigen and antibody interactions common to synovial sarcoma.
Ultrastructural findings: The tissue is examined using an ultramicroscope and electron microscope.
Genetic testing: Tissue is tested for a specific chromosome abnormality common to synovial sarcoma.
6. HOW IS SYNOVIAL SARCOMA TREATED?
The type of treatment depends on the age of the patient, the location of the tumor, its size, its grade (how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope and how likely the tumor will quickly grow and spread), and the extent of the disease. The most common treatment is surgery to remove the entire tumor with negative margins (no cancer cells are found at the edge or border of the tissue removed during surgery). If the first surgery does not obtain negative tissue margins, a second surgery may be needed.
The patient may also receive radiation therapy before or after surgery to control the tumor or decrease the chance of recurrence. The use of intraoperative radiation therapy (radiation aimed directly at the tumor during surgery) and brachytherapy (radioactive material sealed in needles, wires, seeds, or catheters, and placed directly into or near a tumor) are under study.
Patients may also receive chemotherapy alone or in combination with radiation therapy.
7. ARE CLINICAL TRIALS AVAILABLE?
Yes. Participation in clinical trials is an important treatment option for many people with synovial sarcoma. Studies are in progress to determine the effectiveness of biological therapies (treatment to stimulate or restore the ability of the immune system to fight cancer), including monoclonal antibodies, and chemotherapy with hyperthermia (kills tumor cells by heating them to several degrees above body temperature).
WHERE CAN PEOPLE GET MORE INFORMATION ABOUT CLINICAL TRIALS?
People interested in taking part in a clinical trial should talk with their doctor. Information about clinical trials is available from the NCI’s Cancer Information Service (CIS) via web and in the NCI booklet Taking Part in Clinical Trials: What Cancer Patients Need To Know, which can be found at on the Internet. This booklet describes how research studies are carried out and explains their possible benefits and risks. Further information about clinical trials is available on the NCI’s website. The website offers detailed information about specific ongoing studies by linking to Physician Data Query (PDQ), the NCI’s cancer information database. The CIS also provides information from PDQ.
Cancer Information Service: