Dealers vs. Cancer – Leonard Bellavia is a nationally renowned dealership attorney. In 2016, at age 58, Bellavia’s yearly physical revealed a slightly elevated PSA level, a marker for prostate cancer. The doctor took a biopsy and ordered some imaging tests.
Each year since 2017, Bellavia produces a classic car show in upstate New York called “Cruisin’ For The Cure”.
A few days later, he was told he had stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer, which had spread to his bones; he had a year to live. It was suggested he get his affairs in order, including winding down his practice.
He met with the president of the local bar association for assistance in closing his Mineola-based law practice, the largest firm representing franchised auto dealers in the country in wrongful termination cases, then he spent a month secretly boxing up his office. He applied to get into a clinical trial for an experimental treatment at Sloan Kettering but was rejected because his cancer was too far advanced “my depression was profound and debilitating,” he says.
Then the salvation. One late afternoon, while cleaning out his office, he took a call from the medical director of Sloan Kettering’s laboratory, who told Bellavia, “I have never had to make a call like this, but I am so excited to tell you we made a horrific mistake. We misread your biopsy.” Weeks earlier, Bellavia’s wife had asked the hospital to “appeal” his diagnosis, a term that she was familiar with from her husband’s practice. “So we did,” the doctor said. “I can assure you, you are not dying.” Bellavia did have low-grade prostate cancer, but the finding that it had spread throughout his body was false. His cancer was treatable after all.
“I recall saying ‘Oh, my God’ five times in a row,” Bellavia says.
He experienced the emotions you’d expect: elation, anger, survivor’s guilt. He thought about suing the hospital but took a different path. “I know Sloan Kettering does a lot of good. So I called their senior attorney and asked them to send a large check to the Prostate Cancer Foundation,” he says. “I told them, ‘Either do the right thing, or I will sue you.’” They did the right thing.
Realizing this must have happened for a reason, Bellavia contacted the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) and asked how he could help. He was approved to spearhead “Dealers vs. Cancer” nationwide. Each year since 2017, Bellavia produces a classic car show in upstate New York called “Cruisin’ For The Cure”. This year it will be held on September 20th at Windham Mountain Resort. Those that contribute at least $50 by August 30th, shall receive a personalized Proclamation entitled Dealers vs. Cancer signed by Bellavia and the CEO of the Prostate Cancer Foundation.