FERNDALE – More than 70 people came out Friday for a benefit variety show for Kevin Rogers at Drayton Avenue Presbyterian Church. The show, which featured folk tunes, Broadway and even opera, was followed by a raffle. The entire evening brought in nearly $1,800.
Two days later, Rogers sat down with Between The Lines to talk about his health and his battle with cancer. “The official diagnosis is stage 4 melanoma,” he said. “The reason people shriek when they hear ‘stage 4’ is because it used to be in the old days, stage 4 meant you were curtains.”
It all started with a growth on his arm. “What ‘stage 4′ means is that it’s relocated to other parts of my body,” Rogers explained. “It’s relocated in not so good places in my body. It’s in my lymph nodes, it’s in my brain, it’s on my spine and it’s on my hip.”
Rogers has already undergone brain surgery and may require a second procedure to remove additional lesions. “I’m taking four weeks of this new drug, and if we don’t notice some treatment difference in that time we’re going to go in and zap those four spots,” he said.
Though he initially sought treatment at Beaumont Hospital, Rogers has since switched to the Barbara Ann Karmanos Institute. “I think it’s my only chance of survival,” he said of the Institute. But Rogers has far from given up hope. “It’s kicking me in the ass big time,” he said. “It’s come after me with both barrels, and hopefully the doctors are ready to fight with both barrels, because I am.”
Rogers has long been fighting for one thing or another, usually justice and equality for gays. He bought Just 4 Us in 2004, which has raised countless dollars for numerous groups through ticket sales and fundraisers throughout the years. Even before the store, Rogers was very active in the community. “It’s been 10 years with the store, eight years with Fans of Ferndale before that and many years of everything else,” he said. “It’s been 25 years of community service that I’ve given.”
Though he still comes into the store as often as he can, he’s turned the day-to-day running of things over to his staff. “I have an awesome team of guys,” said Rogers. “I couldn’t ask for better friends. They’re not just employees; they’re friends. They’re my family.” Indeed, it’s Rogers’ network of friends who have proven to be his biggest ally in the fight for his life. “I always knew that I had great friends; I never questioned my friendships at all,” he said. “I just never realized I had so many. It’s weird, because no matter how hard we try not to judge people and be opened minded about everything, there’s people who come into your life and they’re OK. They’re tolerable. You enjoy them. Do I want to go out to dinner with them? No, not necessarily. But when you’re pushed against the wall, you’d be surprised who are the first ones running to your defense.”
“It’s reinforcing this whole mankind thing. I’m not saying that I’m a saint by any means,” Rogers continued. “But I believe I’ve put enough positive energy out there toward helping people that I just knew, sooner or later, it would come back to me. And it has.”
As Rogers continues to fight cancer, additional benefits are planned for later in the summer. Donations are also still being accepted at Just 4 Us, which is located at 211 W. Nine Mile Road in Ferndale.