A sign and lighting installer by weekday, on the weekends Jim Rosa is racing against the fastest flat track motorcycle riders on the circuit.
But six years ago as he crossed the finish line at the Adelanto Grand Prix, he came up against an unexpected foe: cancer.
"I crossed the checkered flag in second place, and that was it," said Rosa, 46. "My buddy said the next thing he knew I was foaming at the mouth. I was having a grand mal seizure."
He was taken to Desert Valley Hospital in Victorville and given an MRI.
"You've got a brain tumor," a doctor said.
Unfortunately, Rosa, who owns the Apple Valley-based Rosa's Signs & Lighting, had just canceled his health insurance. Two years of uncertainty, red tape and seemingly constant treatments were about to begin.
"I went through two years of treatments, two years of hell," he said.
Luckily, however, Rosa's mother was able to pay his COBRA insurance payments, and he would receive the necessary diagnostics and eventually have surgery. In 2007, Rosa had a Stage 3 brain tumor removed by a noted brain surgeon at Loma Linda University Medical Center. Following the surgery to remove the tumor located near his forehead, Rosa received seven weeks of proton therapy, which specifically targets areas affected by cancer. Then he took chemotherapy pills for a while after that.
Despite losing his home, his driver license — because his seizures were reported to the DMV — and his truck for a period of time, Rosa credited his family and friends — specifically his racing pals — for being there when he needed them.
"They just became another part of my family. Racing people have something special that keeps us together. It's just a certain bond."
Through it all, Rosa maintained a positive outlook and a deepened spiritual sense.
"For me, I've just been blessed. I'm here for a reason. By the hand of God my tumor has been removed."
Rosa recommends people take advantage of any cancer screening or tests available to them. In his case, he never had any warning signs, and most of his family members have lived long, healthy lives.
"Just go get an MRI if you can. Go get checked."
If a doctor discovers cancer, don't panic.
"It's not really the end of the world," he said.
Today, Rosa has his driver license back, a home, a solid job, a loving girlfriend and numerous friends and supporters. Most importantly, he said, he's able to hop on his motorcycle and fly with the wind.
"I've had no headaches," he said. "Here is am. I feel awesome."
Rosa's Team Brainiacs will be participating in the Hesperia Relay for Life on Saturday, April 9 at Hesperia Civic Plaza Park.
On the track, Rosa will compete in the three-event 2011 High Desert Flat Track Series at the Wheel 2 Wheel Raceway at the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds in Victorville on April 23, June 18 and Sept. 17. Rosa is sponsored by Britt Racing.