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Woodstock resident ready to 'Rock Out Cancer'

Diseases and IllnessesMusicCancerMusic IndustryHPV

When Brian Kahatt discovered a marble-sized lump on his neck a few years ago, he didn't think anything of it. When it didn't go away after a couple of months, he decided to see a doctor.

The doctor told him he had stage 3 tonsil cancer.

Seven weeks of radiation treatments chemotherapy at Johns Hopkins Hospital knocked out the cancer, much to Kahatt's relief. But the experience left the 49-year-old Woodstock resident with a yearning.

"So many people have cancer, and I realized I wanted to do something to help," he said. "I'm not sure I've put a lot of time and energy into helping others in the past. But when you go through something like this, it changes your perspective."

And so was born Woodstoc ROC (Rock Out Cancer), a benefit concert to raise money and awareness in the fight against cancer. The first concert, featuring seven local bands, was held last summer at Hebron House in Ellicott City. It and drew about 200 people and raised approximately $1,700 for the American Cancer Society.

This year's concert will be held Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship. It will feature five bands, food, games and activities for children, and benefit both the American Cancer Society and the Columbia-based Ulman Cancer Fund, which is helping to sponsor it.

With more publicity (Hebron House did not want the benefit widely promoted), a bigger venue and at least one well-known local band (headliner Misspent Youth), Kahatt expects Woodstoc ROC to draw at least twice as big a crowd as last year.

"We'd eventually like to get this thing big enough to take it to Merriweather Post," Kahatt said. "I don't think there's anything like this around here. We'll have some great bands, a great cause. … We want to make it a real family event."

Kristin Johnson, event coordinator for the Ulman Cancer Fund, said her organization also has high hopes for the concert.

"We're really excited about it," she said. "It's a great opportunity for us to meet some other young adults (with cancer) we might not know about."

She said the Ulman Cancer Fund sponsors dozens of fundraising and awareness-raising events annually, from golf tournaments to road races. But Woodstoc ROC "is the only one like this, a larger-scale concert."

She added: "This could be an ongoing partnership for us, and we're really looking forward to it."

Kim Rosborough, the mother of a teenager with cancer, also has high hopes for the benefit.

Rosborough, of Glenelg, has participated in Ulman Cancer Fund fundraising events for years. And since last year, when her then-17-year-old son Keaton was diagnosed with germ cell cancer, she has helped organize such events herself.

When she heard about Woodstoc ROC, she figured it was a natural, and contacted Kahatt to help. She said she would speak at the event, "to let people know how this affects so many people's lives."

"It's a great thing," Rosborough said of the concert. "There are so many races and events for athletes, but we need more events like this, to reach out to more people."

Organizer and musician

Among the bands that will perform Saturday is Badmoon, a classic rock band that includes Kahatt and four other local singers and musicians. Kahatt, whose day job is in medical device sales, plays rhythm guitar and sings. He said he fantasized about being in a band for decades, but only got around to doing it four years ago, when his wife came home from taking their teenage son to a lesson at Columbia's School of Rock and told him the school was offering a class "for old people."

"She said I'd always talked about wanting to be in a band for years, and now was my chance," he recalled.

Badmoon now plays at such venues as the Ram's Head Tavern, in Savage Mill, and the Green Turtle, in Columbia. But Kahatt's side career in music almost ended when it was barely off the ground.

The type of cancer he had can ruin a person's voice, he said. Fortunately, he added, his voice was not permanently affected.

"The treatment is brutal," Kahatt said of what he underwent at Hopkins. "I lost 25 pounds because my mouth was torn up and I couldn't eat. If I hadn't had a feeding tube, I would've wasted away to nothing.

"But the good news is, it's pretty treatable."

Kahatt's cancer is a human papilomavirus-related. HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection and the virus is linked to cervical cancer.

But a growing number of men are being diagnosed with HPV-related cancers, usually tonsil, throat and tongue cancers caused by a virus that could have been in their system for years, if not decades. Actor Michael Douglas, for example, recently — and famously — revealed that his throat cancer was HPV-related.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommend the HPV vaccine for both pre-teen boys and girls.

Kahatt said spreading the word about his type of cancer and the vaccine for young boys is one reason for his benefit concert.

"That's the real message behind this," he said. "I'm a survivor, and I want to get out the word."

Woodstock ROC will be held Saturday, Sept. 21, from 3 to 10 p.m. at the Howard County Fairgrounds, in West Friendship. Admission is $10, free for children 10 and under.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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