Prostate cancer sidelined longtime Boise morning radio personality Mike Kasper this summer — but not for long.
The 54-year-old was back at the microphone in the Mix 106 studio 11 days after he had surgery to remove his prostate and hip lymph nodes. He’s done the Mix morning show for almost 15 years, first with co-host Kate McGwire and then this year with Nicole Hanks.
It’s more than a job to Kasper, one of those people who says “it beats working for a living.” He and McGwire were named best radio hosts six times in a row in the Statesman’s Best of Treasure Valley contest.
“I miss it when I go on vacation,” said Kasper, who has been in radio since he left his family cattle ranch in the Grangeville area more than three decades ago. The eldest of eight children, he developed his public speaking skills in 4-H and high school drama/speech. He recalls listening to radio broadcasting giant Paul Harvey while driving a tractor.
Annual health screenings offered at the Boise radio station offices may have saved Kasper’s life because he had no symptoms of illness, his wife told the Statesman.
“As aggressive as the cancer was when they found it, I would have lost him,” Tracy Kasper said. “We wouldn’t have had any chances at fixing it. No question.”
Mike has always been healthy. He’s pretty sure he hadn’t been to a doctor in at least 10 years before all this.
Blood tests are part of the voluntary health screenings at Townsquare Media, which began offering the work-based checkups to employees several years ago. Increases over several years in Kasper’s PSA counts — a measure of a protein produced by the prostate — prompted an inquiry into what was causing it. His numbers weren’t high but they were trending upward, doubling each of the the last two years. A biopsy confirmed he had cancer, and Kasper had a radical prostatectomy in mid-June.
Kasper hoped that going public with his diagnosis would help others. He has already heard of two other men who decided to get checked and were found to have serious issues (one had prostate cancer, the other testicular cancer).
He was buoyed by the outpouring of support from fans, who sent prayers, gifts and food. KTVB Channel 7 meteorologist Larry Gebert, who also had prostate surgery, met with him before and after the surgery.
“It was great to have him be able to help me understand what I was in store for and to also not push it to get back to work too early,” Kasper said.
It’s a sobering experience for someone who is otherwise so lighthearted.
Kasper is always cracking jokes. He revels in the daily banter about news, popular culture and the minutiae of life on “The Mix Morning Show with Mike & Nicole.” The show airs from 5:30 to 10 a.m. on weekdays.
During a recent show, the pair chatted about Taylor Swift’s latest boyfriend woes, Donald Trump’s debate sniffles and how to inadvertently upset your girlfriend (give her a gift in an engagement ring-size box).
“Keep your mouth shut and dance,” Kasper said after reading an entertainment news nugget about disgraced U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte speculating that “Dancing with the Stars” is rigged.
Kasper gets to work at 5 a.m. every day, but he’s not really a morning person, he said. His alarm clock is set to go off three times, with nine minutes of cherished snooze time in between the dreaded beeps.
“If I go on vacation, I’m sleeping till noon and staying up until 2 in the morning,” he said.
He typically stays up until 11 p.m. on workdays because his wife, who owns Silverhawk Realty, works late. They have a blended family with seven children — the youngest is a high school senior — and they attend games and other activities at night.
The good news that came out of Kasper’s surgery was that the cancer did not spread to his lymph nodes. The bad news was that it broke the margins of his prostate. His last PSA count was extremely low, but his doctor told him it should be undetectable since he no longer has a prostate.
“They’re concerned that there’s still cancer left in my body,” he said. They’ll continue to monitor his PSA counts closely. If his PSA count doesn’t go down, or if it goes up, he may need to have radiation treatments.
Ever the optimist, Kasper jokes that he can no longer use his diagnosis to get what he wants at home.
“I don’t want to watch ‘Law & Order.’ Can’t we watch football? I have cancer,” he recalled telling his wife.
“He uses that here,” Hanks, his on-air morning radio partner, interjected.
Kasper urges middle-age men to talk to their doctors about annual PSA tests. It’s not something men generally talk about with each other, he noted.
“It is kind of private,” he said. “It’s not something you bring up at a party. It just doesn’t come up.”
Men who have more than one first-degree relative who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer may want to begin screenings as young as 40, according to the American Cancer Society. Those men at average risk may want to consider screenings starting at age 50.
Mix 106 is an adult contemporary station that targets listeners who are 25 to 54 years old. More than half of his audience is women, so Kasper encourages them to make doctor’s appointments for their husbands if the men aren’t doing that themselves.
Tracy Kasper said she always believed that Mike would be OK, but the experience definitely left a mark. They’ve got a pile of medical bills to pay off, but they’re looking forward to a vacation next year.
She noted that two of her close friends lost husbands this year. “I hug mine a lot. I appreciate that I’ve got him,” she said.
The red roses are a bit redder, the sky is a little bit bluer, and you appreciate what you have a bit more.
Tracy Kasper, Mike’s wife
We’ve gone pink — and more
You might remember that for several years each October, we printed an entire day’s Idaho Statesman on pink paper in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and included stories in that day’s edition about breast cancer and Idahoans fighting the disease.
Over the years, many of you wrote in asking us to focus on other types of cancers, too, and to highlight more Treasure Valley residents who have faced the personal struggles that the disease — in all of its forms — brings.
So we are doing something different this year. Each Sunday in October, we’ll feature personal stories and more about screenings and treatment in the Explore section — covering several types of cancer. We also will have stories about some of the Treasure Valley groups that are working to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients.
Our aim with these stories is to raise community awareness. The Idaho Statesman also will continue to support our community by donating at least $10,000 to local charities and research.