STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — KISS’s Peter Criss is a rock ‘n’ roll legend — a man’s man teens idolize and men want to be.
But for a year, he kept a secret because he didn’t know how fans would view him.
Criss is a breast cancer survivor.
“It was embarrassing to talk about, because it’s not a man thing,” Criss told more than 100 students and faculty members gathered in St. John’s University’s Kelleher Center on Thursday for an event to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
After discovering a painful lump while working out six years ago, he visited his doctor, who initially told him it was nothing to worry about before diagnosing him.
“I was freaked out,” Criss said. “Immediately, I went ‘What? Men don’t get breast cancer.'”
Because it was caught in the beginning stages, the growth was removed by
surgery, avoiding the painful regiment of chemotherapy.
For the next year, Criss didn’t tell anyone of the ordeal because he felt embarrassed as a man to have had the disease.
But once he began noticing that there really were not any prominent figures — or any figures for that matter — raising awareness that men can get the disease, he decided to speak out.
“If it must be done I’ll do it for free standing on my head naked, whatever it has to be, I’ll do it,” Criss said. “I’m happy at the fact that I’m getting through.”
Michael Lazzarotti of Dongan Hills, who attended the luncheon, already knew men could get breast cancer because of Criss’ previous awareness efforts.
“I actually knew that Peter Criss had breast cancer, so that drew my awareness to it,” Lazzarotti said. “It’s devastating; it could happen to anybody at any moment in their life. Successful people, such as himself, at any moment success can be put on hold because of an illness. It’s very unfortunate.”
Kyle Glasse of New Dorp was not aware that men could get breast cancer until hearing Criss speak Thursday.
“I actually have a history of breast cancer and many other forms of cancer in my family, so it’s actually really scary to know this,” Glasse said.