A car show saved Carson Lev's life.
The Laguna Niguel resident checked out Cruisin' for a Cure, an annual charity car show at the OC Fair & Event Center that not only showcased over 3,500 vehicles, but also offered free prostate cancer screenings.
In 2002, the retired automotive marketing executive supported the cause but didn't feel too concerned about it until the event's organizer, Debbie Baker, convinced him to take a blood test.
He received his results two weeks later and saw bold-faced instructions that read, "See your doctor."
Lev's PSA was at 5.6%, a risk of prostate cancer. After a doctor took a biopsy, one of five samples came back positive, and he underwent surgery.
The cancer was caught early, but his doctor told him it would have taken a decade for any symptoms to appear, at which point Lev would have been fighting for his life.
"This show is very important to me," said, Lev, a 64-year-old husband, father of three and grandfather of seven. "Debbie is such an important person in my family. She's my guardian angel."
The 18th annual charity car show will return to the OC Fair & Event Center Sept. 23 with over 3,500 vehicles on display throughout the fairgrounds and more than 200 vendors and exhibitors, live music and free prostate cancer screenings for men over 40.
"Guys need to take care of their bodies the way they do with their hot-rods," Baker said. "Come on guys, it could be your life, your dad, brother or uncle."
Baker, who lost her husband nine years ago to prostate cancer, started Cruisin' in 1999 — the year her husband was diagnosed.
In order to get men to see a doctor, Baker thought of hosting an event where there would be medical professionals on-site during a festival they'd want to attend anyway. The free screening takes 10 minutes, and no appointment is necessary.
On the day of the show, Baker rides around in a golf cart checking men's arms for cotton balls and a tiny bandage, indicating they have been tested.
At last year's show, 815 men were tested, and 153 of them were advised to seek additional medical attention. Since the show's inception, doctors have tested more than 14,000 men and, in organizers' view, have saved more than 3,500 lives.
Cruisin' for a Cure is from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 23 at OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa. Tickets are $15. For more information, call (949) 353-7353 or visit cruisinforacure.com