CINCINNATI - Steve Del Gardo is in a good groove now. He just started working out with personal trainer Nicolas Simpson.
But this workout is just one more step in a journey that began in April 2012.
"I was in the shower," he recalls. "I found a lump and I thought, it's a cyst."
The doctor thought it was a cyst, too. But then it grew and Del Gardo returned in October.
"The doctor said, 'you have stage one.' I said, 'stage one what?' Male breast cancer. After that, I didn't hear any words after that, it was just like, shock."
The Northern Kentucky man you see today, working out for only the second time since his illness, is hopeful, determined. But that wasn't the case last October when he heard the word "cancer."
"That's when it hit me hard," he said, recalling what he went through after learning the news. "I went out to my car and I cried. I'm like, I gotta get myself together. I have to call my parents."
Even in those dark days, a sense of humor helped Del Gardo survive chemotherapy, and laugh at questionnaires designed for women.
For instance: "When was your last period? I'm like, 'whoa, can't help you there.'"
And that's where the idea was born.
Protect the Pecs is a website for men with breast cancer. Del Gardo said the purpose of the site is to provide a message to men affected by the disease to come out swinging. A message he wore on a T-shirt to a recent Jimmy Buffett concert. He says people were taking pictures of it all night.
Simpson says he's honored to be working with Del Gardo on the cause. Simpson and GPP Crossfit in Blue Ash are donating their time to Del Gardo's comeback.
And Del Gardo says the support of friends has inspired him to give back.
"I want men to know they're not alone in this fight," he said. "Call me, heck, I'll go to your chemo treatment, I know what to expect."
The workout is over but the fight continues.