The lady he called "Mama" lived to be 104, and Ortiz likes to think he's carrying on her work. He's a certified massage therapist who combines contemporary training and the teachings of his childhood.
"Things I've been doing since I was four or five, they call holistic now," he says. "I have the healer in me. That's what I was born to be. To me, healing means massage."
I meet Ortiz at the Discover Chiropractic Center in Blackwood, where he sees clients. New Age-y music meanders in the background, but don't let that lull you into thinking a trip to la-la land is in the offing.
"Roger isn't about fluff and stuff," says chiropractor Michael Grodzielanek, who owns the center. "He's one of the best." Adds Brenda Graff, who lives in Sewell and has seen Ortiz professionally for several years, "it's not 'foo-foo' massage. It's work."
Ortiz, a Sicklerville resident who is also a personal trainer at Pinnacle Fitness in Turnersville, possesses a formidable physique.
It's the product of decades of bodybuilding, a necessity for the deep, sustained muscle and tissue manipulation and what he calls "energy work" integral to therapeutic massage.
The people he sees - from high school athletes to senior citizens - are typically not looking to relax. They want relief from pain.
Some have strained muscles at the gym. Others have sore shoulders from tapping at keyboards all day (sound familiar?).
"Every client is different," Ortiz says. "I learn from all of them."
Listening is key. A therapist must pay attention, he says, not only to what the patient verbalizes, but what the body communicates as well.
Ortiz, a father of two and grandfather of one, received just this sort of message from his own body four years ago. The eventual diagnosis was Hodgkin's lymphoma.
After a rough couple of days ("I was a little freaked out"), Ortiz got back his bearings. He has always believed things happen to people for a reason, and he became determined to regard the chemo, radiation, and other elements of treatment as opportunities to learn.
"It wasn't a test," he says. "It was a way of telling me, 'Put the brakes on, look at what's around you, and practice what you preach.' "
He's been cancer-free for several years. "Life goes on. I got cancer, but I didn't die," Ortiz says. "I got cancer, and now I'm training for a bodybuilding show in July."
He's not bragging; after all, Mama didn't go in for that sort of thing. Instead, Ortiz strives to be as humble as she was, sharing a gift for making people feel better.
Contact Kevin Riordan at 856-779-3845 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @inqkriordan. Read the Metro columnists' blog, "Blinq," at www.phillynews.com/blinq.