Kiss ex-drummer talks about male breast cancer

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119823 (BC-BPI-KISS) Take a look at the picture of KISS. You may now stop reading, if you wish, or so says KISS bassist-singer Gene Simmons. The only thing I care about is this: Print the big picture of me, Simmons says. Look at that photo again. It could have been taken two decades ago, but it s current, and so is the band. Guitarists Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley, Simmons, and drummer Peter Criss are the Dorian Grays of rock--looking the same as ever, even as their aggregate age is pushing 200. (Frehley and Criss beat substance abuse problems and rejoined the band in 1996.) KISS is more popular than ever. KISS. BPI DIGITAL PHOTO BARRY LEVINE CR: BARRY LEVINE

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It took time for drummer Peter Criss to tell the world that he had breast cancer.

“I fought with it for the first year or two when I had it,” said Criss, the former drummer for Kiss, who lives in Wall, N.J.

Criss stated publically that he had beaten breast cancer in 2009. “Should I go on CNN? Should I discuss it? I prayed hard on it and eventually decided, better me than some tabloid that never says the truth and ruins people’s lives ... so I wanted to beat them to the punch.”

It was a punch against cancer.

“God’s given me five more years, and I’m a devoted Catholic and know it’s a miracle I’ve had when I hear a doctor say that a man’s coming in because he saw my commercial and said, ‘Gee, if Peter Criss can do it I can do it,’ ” Criss said. “It’s an honor to educate people about male breast cancer and reaching out and letting people know about it. I’m so freaked out about it. I’ve gotten many accolades in the 50 years I’ve done this but there’s one no more greater then saving a life and recently that theme has been my calling.”

It’s all about being in the right frame of mind and that’s where Criss’ advocacy for breast cancer comes in.

“The fact that Peter Criss can readily say he had breast cancer is terrific for other men who have breast cancer,” said Ilene Winters, founder of the Cancer Support Community, the New Jersey cancer support group that is honoring Criss Thursday. “You don’t get more manly than someone who played drums for Kiss.”

Criss wore the cat makeup in the New York City band Kiss. The group achieved stardom around the world, and perhaps the band’s most famous song is the Criss ballad “Beth.”

Criss already had departed the band when he noticed something odd about his chest area in 2007.

“I wore Spandex all my life and I’m a very active guy and I’m a very physical guy,” Criss said. “When I came home from the gym I took my shower, and in the shower I checked myself and I caught it immediately.”

Criss went to his doctor and in early 2008 the lump was removed and found to be cancerous. Criss has been cancer-free since.

“It is a disease for women but two percent of men (out of all breast cancer victims) get this in the world and they need to be educated about it,” said Criss, who added that he would like to add a patch of blue to the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon. “Most men are ‘Oh, it will go away’ or ‘I lifted weights wrong’ or ‘I did something on the job — I’m a man,’ and they don’t realize.”

One in 1,000 men will get breast cancer as compared to one in eight women, according to the American Cancer Society. The danger is that often men are diagnosed late, hurting their survival chances.

“I feel so fulfilled at my age,” said Criss, 66. “I’m getting older and I hate that word, but I am. My music is always there, but this seems to be very important because I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t go (to the doctor) immediately. Men need to know — they need to go right away to check it because it won’t go away. The next thing is you go away — I hate to be blunt about it, but that’s the truth.”

Gannett News Service