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Richard “Rick Rock” Rodriguez spent years keeping the mass on his kidney a secret. A motorcycle accident uncovered the mass through a CT scan. Over the next two years, the mass grew significantly and Rodriguez had surgery in 2022 to remove the kidney.

“I didn’t even know I had kidney cancer until after they removed my kidney,” he said. “It was a total shock, a slap in the face.”

The surgery appears to have removed all detectable cancer and Rodriguez is not taking medication as part of his follow-up care. But the experience made him wonder who else could be in the dark about the possibility of kidney cancer.

“The motorcycle accident saved my life,” he said. “I just didn’t know what the signs or symptoms of kidney cancer were. That being in my mind, I thought, how can I bring awareness to those that don’t know what to look for?”

Rodriguez confided in his friend Ann Marie Montoya, who he knew through his tight-knit group of Harley Davidson motorcycle riders in southern California so close they consider themselves family – the “Familia Viclera” – about his diagnosis, surgery, and desire to bring more awareness about kidney cancer both to the biker community and their Latino community.

Familia Viclera are bound by their love of riding Harley Davidson motorcycles and their passion for community.

Montoya, a gregarious teacher who goes by “HellaBella13,” jumped into brainstorming with Rodriguez, forming a small event committee within the Familia Viclera.  

The Rick Rock Kidney Cancer Awareness Event, presented by Familia Viclera, takes place on March 11 in Riverside, California. Learn more.

“I have to be 100% truthful, I didn’t know you could live with one kidney,” Montoya said.

“RickRock had a wonderful vision to bring awareness to the biker and Latino community. He wanted to inspire others not to ignore common symptoms of possible kidney cancer and wanted people to be better informed on what those symptoms are. Familia Viclera and RickRock have a mission to host our first annual Kidney Cancer Awareness Event on March 11, 2023 to highlight kidney cancer awareness, celebrate RickRock’s ‘cancer free’ announcement, and to fundraise money for the Kidney Cancer Association during Kidney Cancer Awareness Month.”

Awareness among men in the Latino community is an important aspect of their mission, both Montoya and Rodriguez explained, because of the prideful “machismo” that keeps many men from seeking help or support for any type of illness for fear of seeming weak.

Rodriguez worried how many men he knew, men he considers brothers, might be keeping major health issues to themselves and suffering for it, like he did.

“I wish I would have reached out earlier, I only shared it when the surgery was done and I was recovering and in a good spot,” Rodriguez said. “The reason I didn’t share it was that people can stress out, worry, ask what I thought would be unnecessary questions since I couldn’t give any answers. I don’t want to burden my friends. Now that I’ve done it, I’ve gotten more information about what I was going through and started to meet other people with one kidney.”

“I just didn’t know what the signs or symptoms of kidney cancer were. That being in my mind, I thought, how can I bring awareness to those that don’t know what to look for?”

The Familia Viclera is known for supporting a variety of causes throughout southern California, Montoya said. With their upcoming kidney cancer fundraiser, the group hopes to begin an annual event where they can continue to give back to the whole community through education and support kidney cancer research.

“We are humbled by the outpouring of support and love we have received. A huge collective of vendors, businesses, local celebrities, and artists have thrown their hat in our ring and the enthusiasm they have brought has been tremendous,” said Montoya, who counts local radio DJs, Aztec and Folklorico dancers, and Rocky Padilla, the “Smokey Robinson” of the East Side, among the event supporters, as well as sponsorship from the law group Campeones Legales.

“It’s always good vibrations when Familia Viclera is together,” Rodriguez said. “And because of what I went through, they’ve shown their support and picked up the mantle to say, we got you 100%. This is our little village where we raise our kids, help when others need help, and be moral supports. Even though we’re not blood related, we’re real family.”

Rodriguez’s efforts have already inspired others to action – and to share.

“One of my friends, he said: ‘Bro, I wanted to let you know I have high cholesterol. I wouldn’t have found out unless you told me to go see my doctor.’”

Rodriguez hopes that same brotherly spirit will be a big feature of the Familia Viclera’s first annual kidney cancer awareness event in March.

“God has me in the right spot,” he said. “I’m going to move forward knowing that.”

The Rick Rock Kidney Cancer Awareness Event takes place Saturday, March 11 in Riverside, California. For more details, follow Familia Viclera on Instagram @familia_viclera. To donate, visit the event fundraising page here.

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1 thought on “With their first fundraiser, Familia Viclera focuses on kidney cancer”

  1. I also need to talk to someone about my knees as far as kidney disease and I have cancer for stage one kidney and I spreading and also have breast cancer and had surgery they just took a lump out and I just need a help of survival financially mentally physically so I don’t know who wants to turn to or want to turn to so maybe I do need to open up and get me a new fundraiser not sure yet

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