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Janko Krotecjanko's obituary

May 24, 1946 - September 6, 2009

Living with Cancer – Part 1

The intent of this blog is to tell my success story and to encourage the belief that anything is possible. All of us have what it takes; we just need to find it and then put our energies to better use. A cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence. It is just a reminder of the worst kind, a call to live life to its fullest.

As I approach my 63rd birthday I often relive some events of the last thirteen years, especially:

Diagnosis

It all happened almost 13 years ago. I had just turned fifty which we celebrated in New York with my recently married wife and another friend. I was full of life and vigour. The following few days took me to work on Mayne Island where Sciatica from a bulging disc laid me up in bed. Finally I surrendered and was taken to St. Paul’s Hospital which turned out to be a two week stay. X-rays and scans confirmed a disc deformation and also discovered some spots on my liver. “We have to check these out,” was the prevailing medical wisdom. “We need to do a spinal tap,” was another request. More tests, more lab work, more time, more waiting. Finally the verdict came: “Mr. Krotec, you have cancer.” I later learned a few more details, specifically Small Lymphocytic, Type-B, Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. And then, “By the way, it has spread throughout your body – Stage IV.” I was shattered.

My first reactions

All of a sudden my wife and I were on our own. Past memories and future fears were coming at us from all directions, but most urgent was the present: “Why? How? Me? My family? Work?” Deep, deep sadness, tears of sorrow, crying over the loss of a future not to be lived. Maybe it was all a big joke? Perhaps someone had made a terrible mistake? Maybe not … I needed to dig up one of my predominant character traits: bulldog stubbornness.

Settling into “normal” life

Following a two week stay in the hospital I came home on a Friday. By Saturday morning I could hardly walk. My beloved wife asked, “Janko, we need to clean our home. Would you prefer to vacuum or mop?” A very unkind response something like “You B…h!” died on my dry lips. I got down on my hands and knees and washed the floor better then I had ever done before. It took me quite some time to place her request in the proper context. She really is my best friend and she really wants me to fend for myself. It was not about our home being clean; I was the issue and the ‘victim trap’ had been avoided. Connecting back to the real world, back to my life and our life together, I have made some great progress toward the strong, powerful part of ‘me’.

A moment in Notre Dame

A moment in Notre Dame

We had many conversations about this new shared reality. Do we need to change our lifestyle in general? Diet? Priorities? With the exception of visits to the cancer clinic, meetings with a multitude of specialists, and some other small adjustments, we continued living our daily lives as we had before my diagnosis. However, personally I was struggling — there was a raging war going on inside of me. How would I go on? I had just been given a death sentence: “Perhaps you have six more years,” blurted one doctor while rattling off some idiotic statistic. I chose not to believe him — lucky for me!

Then one day my darling asked me, “So … you think you cannot beat this? You are not able to find an agreeable way to live with it?” The simple question lit a fuse within me. “Yes I can!” I thought, well before Barack Obama was even thinking about running for president. I will not give in, will never surrender. I will focus on the present, give up the past, and not worry about the future. We all have the survival instinct inside of us — we just need to reach into our depths to find it.

Treatments

Hmmm … how do we slow down the progression of this cancer? We knew it was not curable and would not go away. We could not operate since it had literally spread throughout my entire body. We could not use radiation for the same reason. We searched for a bone marrow match amongst my seven siblings — no match was found. My hopes were dashed … again.

The only remaining option was chemotherapy. It became a continuous cycle, month after month, year after year. Either a series of treatments with one drug or a combination of two. There was a small reduction in the size of my swollen, cancerous lymph nodes. Finally some relief, more hope, then back for another blood test. “Cancer is crawling back, there are more tumours, many are larger, we need another treatment … ”

With love and affection,
Janko

Hope is a waking dream.” Aristotle

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