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Janko Krotecjanko's obituary

May 24, 1946 - September 6, 2009

Is it a Blog or a Journal?

My oldest photograph

My oldest photograph

When I was young, I had a personal journal, today youth and adults blog. Wanting to be current I am searching for information.

Encyclopaedia Britannica says about the issue:

Blog: online journal where an individual presents a record of activities, thoughts, or beliefs.

Journal: The best part about journaling: anybody with a pen, paper or computer can try it – no special skills.

This is where I come in: unskilled, ready and eager to share; willing to listen with a need to be heard. As we live in 21st century, I too will blog.

Intention of my blog will be to communicate, with anyone who may be interested, anecdotes from my life journey, living with cancer, friendships, support, commitment to living and any other topic that may benefit my reading audience.

Until next time …

With love and affection,

Janko

“Hope is a waking dream.” Aristotle

My First Memory

The house where I was born

The house where I was born

Being part of a brew of eight siblings has its benefits and its challenges.  The same goes for being the fourth, or middle child as well — I could reach up and down and connect all of us most of the time.

My oldest brother is six years older than me.  He was born to be king and had an overall preferential treatment flowing out from our grandmother and parents — the rest of us were mere mortals.  The second in line is another brother who is four years older than me.  He was closely connected to my three year older sister.

This first memory of mine dates back to March 17, 1949.   I was two months short of three years.  A horse drawn wagon stopped at our humble homestead.   There was my mother, holding two tightly wrapped bundles — my newborn twin brothers.  A profound thought inhabited my mind, soul and body: “Janko, this is the end of your childhood”.  I have no other memory of this or of any other occasion for a long period thereafter.

The outcome of my twin brothers’ arrival into our midst was as I expected.  My older brother and sister promptly took possession of the twins leaving me on my own until the age of five when I became “an assistant” farm worker to my oldest brother.  Now I was steady enough to guide the oxen to plow the fields and perform general work on the farm.  We became a very tight duo.  He was my protector in school and my best buddy while we worked the fields.  Our union lasted until my departure at age twelve — I left home to live and work on another farm so I could continue to go to school and earn my room and board.

My early childhood experiences prepared me very well for my future life to be.  I am most grateful for every lesson learned.

Until next time …

With love and affection,
Janko

“Hope is a waking dream.” Aristotle

Lesson of the desert

Last week we spent several days in the Palm Springs area, a gift from some very dear and generous friends. It is as beautiful as it is artificial. The warmth and peacefulness attracted me most. I was always curious about the desert, its lack and abundance of life.

My medical home care team made sure I had all the medications needed and would be in touch should a need arise. Our journey was without any major incidents though I finally realized that I am most comfortable in our little apartment, our home.

joshuatree

A Joshua tree in the desert

We devoted one day to a journey to Joshua Tree National Park. It was filled with sparse vegetation, all clinging to rocks and dry, sandy “soil” for dear life. There was no visible water, no rain – sometimes for years. Wow! How do they survive? Apparently some bushes, more like shrubs, push their roots as deep as one hundred feet into the rocky ground in order to find the precious little water needed for survival.

This precarious situation connected with my soul. How do we, I exist, survive and even thrive with the ever present reality of cancer? My process was gradual, not necessarily unique. Through tears and near desperation, dungeons of why me, denial and what ifs, came acceptance: I have cancer. Only time allowed me to find my own path: to live fully, without denial, to treat cancer as an inconvenience in my daily existence. I appreciate the present moment, the sunrise and sunset, staying connected to the deepest reaches of my soul. I do only what is most important, conserving energy, being practical. I love my family and friends and build the strongest possible network of support to be able to journey together. Life is an open road, a blank page where I can write my own story. I travel to places I always wanted to explore, doing the “impossible”, sharing and listening. Most of all I try to be as human as I know how, stepping out of my personal comfort zone and making myself visible.

I have found the “water of life” in the deepest parts of my being, in this desert of living with lymphoma. Daily challenges appear less daunting, pleasures more profound. Each day is more meaningful and rewarding than the last…

Until next time …

With love and affection,
Janko

“Hope is a waking dream.” Aristotle

My Mama (Part 1)

How do I begin to address the memory of my mother? To ease into it I will break it down into three parts. Here is the first.

My mother and me

My mother and me

My Mother as a Woman

Ana Starešinič, my mama, was born on September 9. 1920 to a village midwife and a shoemaker both from the same village of Preloka. Preloka is an assembly of small land holdings and a few odd families scrapping their existence from different trades such as shoemakers and also farm workers earning their daily existence from work on neighbouring farms. Families without land were looked at as lower class – it was the same for a shoemaker’s family. It is strange how skewed our values can be. Ana’s biggest grief came from the death of her two younger brothers at the hands of the incoming government simply for being on “the wrong side” during the war.

Ana’s siblings quickly dispersed. Some married local village land owners, some searched for higher education, some emigrated to foreign lands. At age seventeen she was unceremoniously sent to work as a hired hand on a very large farm near the city of Metz, France. She quickly picked up a few words of French. Later, during my childhood, she would very proudly demonstrate her limited but proud knowledge of the French language.

Within a year and a half she was summoned by her very strict and controlling father to come back home immediately; he had arranged a marriage to my future father who was eight years her elder. Of course she obeyed without question and married my father just before the outbreak of World War 2. Three children were born during the war years and I saw the daylight just one year after the war’s end in May of 1946.

My mother needed very little for herself. Other than her babies, church and religion were the most important parts of her life. I think it gave her a reprieve from the daily grind. It was a refuge from the harsh realities of existence; it gave her an opportunity to tune out of the harassment form her mother in-law and a chance to escape the shadow of a demanding, often unkind and selfish husband. I am often very grateful that she survived both her mother-in-law and her husband, my father, by a number of years. I often wished that my parents would separate, only to learn that she did not understand the word divorce. All my mother ever wanted or needed was for the benefit of her eight beloved children — she could never do or have enough for all of them.

To be continued…

With love and affection,
Janko

Hope is a waking dream.” Aristotle

My Mama (Part 2)

My mother and all her babies

My mother and all her babies

A Mother of Eight

Like a candle burning in the wind … that was always our mama. She never gave up, never quit, could never do enough in order to feed and cloth her brew. Homespun cloth started with seeding flax and hemp in the fields that would eventually become homemade sheets, clothing, table cloths, even diapers. Her husband, a blacksmith, often “disabled” by homemade alcohols and some shop work saw farm/field work suitable mostly for the lower classes — like his tiny, scrawny wife and any of his young children able to walk in front of the oxen.

Our mother’s dedication to us, her babies, became clear in 1952 when our hay/grain barn burned to the ground. At the time the cause of the fire was a hush-hush affair. (I am forever grateful that my, a-hem, twin brothers managed to escape the flames!) The family food supplies were devastated for the oncoming winter. Our mother took a large homemade sheet and a very large home woven basket and set in search of hay and other food stuffs in our village and surrounding farm communities. The results were mixed at best — however due to her sacrifice we managed to survive the winter.

Working in the field together

Working in the field together

My brother Lojze was sent off that same September to another farm for work and school and would eventually finish his theological studies in Rome. My sister Anka was sent to live with our uncle Stane to continue school in a more favourable environment. She eventually became a mathematics teacher and assistant school principal. I was dispatched to the same farm at age twelve for four years before going to the seminary. Franje was shipped off at the tender age of seven to a physically abusive farm owner. There he would continue his difficult path into the travel industry from which he recently retired. His twin brother Slavko stayed at home until army duty called after which he spent 10 years as Gastarbeiter in a construction workers’ slum quarters in an area of Stuttgart. This work allowed him to finance our brother Miko who was in charge of building a brand new house to replace our 160 year old home in Preloka. Miko never left home and has grown up in the more prosperous times of the sixties and seventies. Our youngest, Marica, also grew up on the farm while taking care of our ageing mama.

I need to turn back and pick up where I left one paragraph above. My oldest brother Jozef continued his kingly rule. Although now, whether I liked it or not, I became his junior supporting partner. Together we became a great relief for our mother. One day however, we “caused” an unfortunate incident. While herding our and some other villagers’ sheep we were surprised by a very hungry and destructive wolf. After the flock had spread out in all directions, the wolf trotted past me, shining his healthy white teeth thus placing me firmly on the ground. I was thankful I had not become an early afternoon snack. On his rampage several sheep were killed and not even eaten; I assumed only a male could be so cruel.

In my father’s eyes the incident had somehow become my brother’s and my responsibility. Jozef was twelve and I was only six years old. Here came our mother to our defence. One of the slaughtered sheep had belonged to her sister, my aunt with whom I had spent the first six months of my life; another had belonged to relatives of my fraternal grandmother; two others had been meant to provide lambs for sale next season. As a result of my mother’s intervention, the workers who were building a new barn nearby were very well fed for quite some time.

On the river Kolpa

On the river Kolpa

My memory of our mother is one of a defender of her children without limits. When one of us would get into any kind of trouble we would always find a glimmer of hope, if not in public then in private — a slight nod, a faint smile, a word of encouragement. She always gave more of herself to the child most in need. We are all proud, grateful and will forever remember our mother.

Thank you mama, for our lives, for the constant guidance until you departed. We will remember you forever …

To be continued …

With love and affection,

Janko

Hope is a waking dream.” Aristotle

My Mama (Part 3)


It is most unusual for me to leave the difficult items to be last. My heart contains every possible emotion when it comes to my mama. Absolute devotion, amazement, incredulity, eternal love and undying affection, to just mention a few. This woman, Ana, gave me the precious gift of life but paid dearly in the process.

The house where I was born

The house where I was born

I was delivered by my grandmother, a village midwife. During my birth my mama suffered a nervous breakdown. Just imagine the circumstances: giving life to three children before me within a span of five and a half war years, post war famine, her husband in jail for disagreeing with the new masters, the communists: drought and famine, then all of a sudden having four babies. I would have “checked out” too.

As a result I was placed into the care of my mama’s oldest sister who by virtue of a disappeared husband (somewhere in Canada) was more of a farm keeper than a suitable surrogate mother. Fortunately, my mama came back home within six months.

During my twelve years at home I always felt just a little more “special” — perhaps we all did. Whenever possible I would get an egg, boiled and hiding with the beets and turnips intended for our pigs. I felt I was in good company — pigs were very important members of our household — the only uncomfortable issue was that they were were not raised to be pets.

My mother and I created an unbreakable bond that would last forever. She always provided enough food and clothes that were almost all patched hand-me-downs. Nothing was ever discarded and everything of value was always recycled. My sister’s pants with a zipper on the right side were probably the most embarrassing. Shoes were okay if they were big enough: “You’ll grow into them,” my mother would say. I did get one pair of new shoes and pants. They were made especially for my catholic confirmation ceremony and eventual departure from home at age twelve. I saw my mother cry and cry for me during my departure — I would be missed as an extra pair of hands. Perhaps it was my imagination, but I think she also knew how thorny my future would become.

Mama spent many an evening with me studying under a candle or kerosene lamp. She always made sure that I had clean clothing and fingernails for school and church. Shoes were optional from March to October and then rubber boots as facsimile would do.

Memories of meal times abound. We’d all sit down, say a prayer, and only then would my mama realize that she did not have a spoon or a fork for herself, and in later years not even a plate — they were always in short supply. My tyrannical father could not understand and would often start a tirade: how come she did not have more food on the table, a spoon or some other implement for herself. He did not appreciate the fact that he and all the children had their basic necessities. Her only defence was silence and a small sob with a tear here and there. Oh, how many disruptions at our meal time came out of ignorance, lack of respect, or plain misunderstanding. My father had an equally unjust ally in his mother. My mama never had a chance from the very beginning …

My family in the sixties

My family in the sixties

When I was seduced into the seminary, lured by the promise of a higher education and better living conditions, my mama was very happy. Yet, at the same time, she was not convinced. She knew better. In the summer of 1967 after completing five years in the seminary and mandatory service in the army, I was accepted back home with open arms by both of my parents (partly out of self-interest since a worker was returning). They needed a place to live and I was the great hope. The reigns of our entire farm were handed over to me. Everyone “obeyed” my orders and directions regarding the crops and restoration of an old stone house. This was not to last very long. On the morning of my departure to Canada, November 13th 1968, I again felt the sorrow and desperation coming from my parents. “Janko, how will we manage without you,” my mama cried. A more stoic expression remained on the face of my army and cavalry trained father.

Whenever I could, I would send a few dollars to mama to be used at her discretion. We wrote to each other on a regular basis. In one of the darker hours of my troubled past I needed to extract from my mama an expressly written confirmation: I wanted to know that she loved me. And this wonderful human obliged! “Of course I love you, you have the most burdensome life,” she wrote.

One day came a dreaded phone call. My mama was at home in bed and nothing could be done for her anymore — she had a brain aneurysm. With the insistence and encouragement of my Beloved Donna, I found myself on the very next flight back home to my very ill, always loved mama. The next ten days were probably the saddest, yet most profound and love filled days I had ever spent continuously with my mother. Finally, a time when I was able to take care of my mama. She could not initiate conversation and was only able to reply. Again, needing reassurance, perhaps only half an hour before taking her last breath, I had to confirm my place in the entire universe by asking if she recognized me. She replied, “Oh yes — you are Janko.”

My mama died in my arms, all sixty pounds of her. I laid her down onto the bed, closed her beautiful eyes forever, and walked out into the orchard. Not even an ant stopped to pay homage! The circle of life continued uninterrupted. How insignificant we are. My life source had just departed, but only her body. Her spirit, her soul, lives in me forever … she is a part of me and I am immeasurably richer for being her son.

This brought conclusion to our physical connection. Now the unity continues in spirit, through her presence in my soul. My life continues … full of memories, enriched by her generosity, strengthened by her endurance. My mama lives forever …

Until next time …

With love and affection,

Janko

Hope is a waking dream.” Aristotle

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

Living with Cancer – Part 2

Living day to day continues …

Travel became our passion, taking precedence over treatments. My oncologist, Dr. Connors, was constantly encouraging me to make plans for the immediate and more distant future. We traveled the world:

South America: Argentina and Chile. Patagonia – Tierra del Fuego
Africa: First with my darling wife, then a second time to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with two friends and two of our sons (one being my son John).
Europe: We made many, many voyages throughout.
Asia: Singapore, Hong Kong, Nepal, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Malaysia.

I continued my professional work with the same dedication of previous years.

I have often explored the mysteries of Natural and Oriental medicine — without any notable result.

A lesion on my face delivered another blow: Sebaceous Carcinoma. Fortunately, it was quickly removed. Twelve stitches also gave the right side of my face a partial lift — ha ha.

Over time I have succeeded in building strong alliances with the medical professionals around me. My oncologist, Dr. Connors, has become a true partner. My GP, Dr. Hassam, cannot do enough for me. Several other specialists became an integral part of my medical TEAM. My stubborn mind had found a perfect outlet: never give up, never surrender. No matter what anybody told me, I always had to explore it, find out more, and do my own analysis. After all, it is MY life and I need to be in charge, in apparent control. I will try anything …

Getting the most out of every day has become an obsession. Friendships flourish, my family comes closer and closer, each day has a meaning, each moment a gift, each breath a hope.

Eventually treatments became less effective. We tried different drugs, sometimes in combination. We even revisited previously used medications hoping they might now have something more to contribute.

Finally, in January of 2008 we came across a brand new treatment. I was the 2nd person in Canada and 26th globally to receive it. I was accepted into the Phase 1trial; of course, I had to sign my life away. Even though I had a severe reaction, this drug appeared to work like magic. We celebrated in Paris only to come home and back to reality — in only a few short weeks the cancer was back, the same magnitude as before. By August 2008, having exhausted all options (and I say for then and now), I accepted the reality of going into Palliative Care. This means the shelves of medical magic are currently — perhaps not forever — empty.

Home Care begins

Winter of 2008/09 was very bleak indeed. My body was telling me a lot. I tried to ignore the reality hoping it would all just go away. My physical condition was at odds with my desire to stay away and out of hospitals at any price.

I needed to make some far-reaching life choices. With the coaching of my oncologist, Dr. Connors, I decided to look honestly into the future. How did I want to spend the remaining years of my life? He suggested Home Care. My GP, Dr. Hassam set it all in motion.

I had to build a Home Care Team. The foundation of my Home Care Team is built upon the dedication of nurses Carole and Heather from the Three Bridges Community Health Centre. We assessed our humble condominium, discussed potential obstacles, and suggested changes to support my future physical condition. Carole matched me with Dr. Spring, a consummate fighter against physical debilitating symptoms and bodily pain.

This process was a direct slap to my proud face. I still have a hard time looking into the future while watching my body deteriorate and being in need of assistance. Yet I receive each and every day as blessed gift.

My Celebration of Living

The winter struggle brought forth an idea: I wanted to have a celebration, a Celebration of Living, my living. As the vision started to take shape, I realized just how important this event was becoming to me. My commitment brought my darling Donna on board. She became the event manager, logistics queen, and labourer of love. Many friends and family contributed beyond expectation, making the impossible possible.

We gathered family from close and afar, friends from distant places committed to being present. Everything turned out beyond my wildest dreams. We even created a musical slide show, a story of my life which you can view here.

My website was born allowing generous Canadian and American donors to financially support research into the root causes of Lymphoma and related blood cancers in both countries.

A toast to living ...

A toast to living ...

Finally, I summoned adequate courage and started these simple writings. My intention is simple: perhaps others will find something of value here, one small glimmer of hope which in turn may cause them to do something positive in their own lives, for themselves and for those they love. With this in mind I will do my best to keep writing. This is my commitment to all who read my words.

Until next time …

With love and affection,
Janko

Hope is a waking dream.” Aristotle

Am I My Father’s Son?

Where would I be without my father? I would never have been born? Not long ago, not now, not ever? However, I say … He was my progenitor, you say. So? I need to be eternally grateful? For what? One of my parents could have been someone else … then you would not be you, as you’ve been since your birth … then I got it! I, Janko Krotec, of this body and soul, would never exist without both of my parents. Not as me. They gave me the most precious gift of all: my life. For this magical gift, I am, and will be, forever grateful.

04-1-1963-mom-dad

Mom, Dad, me 1963

My father Jozef was born on December 18, 1912 just barely before World War I, a firstborn son of ten children. His father, my grandfather, died four years after his birth. (They said it was a stomach ulcer, today I wonder.) The custom was that a relatively new bride, my grandmother in this case, would re-marry within the family in order to keep the farm intact. The farm was transferred to my father. His uncle Franje was named as guardian, who would essentially become our grandfather. He died in 1945, just a year before I was born.

The family farm — the sustenance of life. Without a father or any other elder to guide him, my father had a lot in front of him. His stepfather spent a total of seven years in the army; three as a conscript and another four due to the breakout of war. It is through contemplation of my father’s early years that I begin to understand and realize how these shaped him. Of course this understanding is only my personal assessment.

He was the boss, always in charge, the decider, the judge, the jury – no right to appeal. These traits became even more ingrained during World War II which for him lasted more than five and a half years. It started with a general call to arms to defend the kingdom. He served as a blacksmith in a cavalry unit, deserted, and went into hiding. While in hiding some “friendly” neighbours managed to find him and turn him in. After using various torture and threat techniques, they decided not to kill him. Instead, they brought him back into the fold of the army which he promptly deserted again after a protracted argument about where to set up a kitchen. He would spend the remainder of wartime in hiding under a false wooden deck, beneath the sheep. At the end of the war he was arrested and jailed for six months due to an earlier “departure” from the partisan army.

During the war he contracted tuberculosis and spent a lot of time around hospitals or in bed at home. A deadly combination of illness and alcohol and cigarettes had hurt his body and spirit beyond repair. A lot of his rage and despair manifested in his disastrous relationship with my twin brothers. They both suffered horribly.

My first memory of my father brings me back to ploughing a field beside my beloved river Kolpa. I was perhaps four years old, good enough to walk in front of the oxen while guiding them back and fourth. I too “deserted” when he tried to quickly improve my knowledge one day by pulling me down to the damp spring soil by my ear and identifying something by name, a name I have still not learned. I cried all the way home – I have no memory of the consequences.

Another time, perhaps at the age of five or six, I was supposed to be helping in the blacksmith shop. Sent by the “god of thunder” to find and bring another required tool, with a German name of course; I had my nose rubbed in it. I still remember the name: durchschlog.

I remember a few instances when I rose to the defence of my mother and even my older sister. Following my departure from our homestead at age twelve, I would occasionally return “home”. During my visits my father and I had a distant, uneasy, mostly cold-war like relationship. Only once, for a brief moment, when I experienced my first infatuation, which I of course experienced as profound love, did he open the jail cell door of his heart to tell me that he too was once in love … a very long time ago. I still wonder if it was my mother he was talking about.

My father never escaped the dark shadow his mother cast over him. She was a silent shelter of his ways, always taking sides with him against my mother and my uncle, who on the basis of his stuttering was declared incompetent. This shadow grew until her death in 1967.

My family in the early 60s

My family in the early 60s

As I was pushed out of the warm and prickly nest of home, I made many promises to myself. Only one mattered to me most for many years: I would never become like my father. Life gave me many opportunities to challenge this commitment, often testing my resolve. My marriages collapsed one after the other — I was defending who I thought I was, limiting the possibility of seeing my father instead of myself in the morning mirror. I clearly succeeded in not being the same person as my father was. How could I be? I am another being.

I promised: I will be a better husband! Well, perhaps only different … my ex-wives would certainly vouch for this one.

Another commitment of mine: I will be a better father. Have I been? Will I ever know? Searching my heart and soul I conclude that I have been a different, not necessarily better dad. Trying to understand life I come to the conclusion that we are all products of our inheritance and life circumstances, the time we live in, the people we surround ourselves with … I am no different. It is hard to accept that I am not necessarily better, just different from my father. I am still working daily to improve my connection with each of my children, my family, my friends. I will only stop after my heart gives up.

Some messages taken from my father’s behaviour:

As a child I was in awe of my father’s intelligence – he knew everything. Observing him through the years, I realized that he was a very intelligent, if not brilliant, human being. To this day, I do not know how all his brainpower served him. Even if his first duty was to farm and feed the family, he preferred to leave “lowly” farm work to debtors of his earnings in the blacksmith shop. His exchange rate was 4:1. He was an excellent blacksmith. Most difficult and challenging tasks, like fire-welding and installing steel rims on wooden wagon wheels, stirred up the whole village. His commands, sergeant like screams, were heard far away. His helpers (us children) trembled on our bare feet.

Message I received from this experience: a clear command is necessary, while yelling is not.

His interest in politics drew him first to newspapers, then to radio, and eventually he was glued to TV. He spent his last few decades reclined in bed. We believe he invented the first remote control by fashioning a ten foot long branch into a channel-changing implement. He was very well-informed … and highly opinionated about world affairs. Too bad he had no one to share it with.

I too am a political news junkie.

Another memory with me to this day: I was sent to a larger General Store across the river which functions as a border with neighbouring Croatia. On the way back I lost ten para, one tenth of a worthless Dinar, with an official exchange rate of 3000 Dinars : 1 CDN Dollar. His royal cruelness sent me back to find it. What a selfish order, certainly destined to failure. I still believe that belittling me in front of all was punishment enough just by itself. Again, I do not remember the outcome or the punishment. I know it was not a belt of a cow whip, that treatment was exclusively used to tame my twin brothers.

Conclusion: There is always something positive in any action, by anyone. Always express both positive and negative sides. I am still working on this one.

During long winters, while others were preparing for spring work in the vineyards and fields, my father with his cronies would gather and endlessly play cards, eat prosciutto … and drink … usually until the barrels ran dry. Us children could only observe in silence from behind one of many beds in the room. We were even allowed to serve as long as we did not by accident taste any of the offerings. These gatherings ended as my father’s friends died one after the other.

Benefit of this experience: Share, be generous, treat all people around me like real people.

One way my father tried to indoctrinate his offspring was through slogans:

– Life is a battle.
I have taken this one to an extreme. For many years, I was against anything and everything. For the longest time I never developed my own world view.

– Save shiny pennies for dark days.
Perhaps influenced by this one in that I went in the opposite direction. I was going to show him what I could accomplish. When I tried to tell and show him, he did not want to know.

– Who, why, for what purpose?
My father was was a very inquisitive, deep digging, far reaching person. I too have developed, perhaps was born with a most curious mind. Only seldom can I find a bottom line that I can be happy with. My never ending search has served me both ways. In the army I ended up in jail for asking a question that the sergeant could not answer. Perhaps I had an agenda … In general, my profound curiosity has served me well. Often I have discovered a “better” way to operate in business and lately even in my personal relationships.

– Moving slowly we get to go far.
Fed up with his self-absorbed existence, I sprinted through most of my life. Late in my life, I was told to slow down and get real.

– There will be shortage of everything — only we will exist.
My determination to provide, to materially do all I could to sustain and feed my family has always been a very sacred obligation. It was an obsession I took too far for too long and missed my children’s childhoods. What a price to pay …

– Forethought is a mother of wisdom.
Hmmm … and where did it get you? In my shortsightedness, I ran through much of my life causing carnage and disarray taking no prisoners. Finally, I started to accumulate shreds of wisdom. I tried, I failed, I learned. Finally, I can claim small successes and thus get to know myself better.

In conclusion, these thoughts come and settle in my core:

The more accepting I become of who I’ve been and who I am today, the more appreciative I become of my father. Respect for others begins with respect for oneself. I am my father’s son, as he was his father’s son. I am finally beginning to understand him a little better. This process, and it is a long, drawn out process, would be somehow easier if I could share these discoveries with him. He died almost thirty years ago and we were not ready for dialogue. We never corresponded, never really talked to each other about anything meaningful. Alone, given my life’s circumstances, I finally have an opportunity to start working it out. Perhaps I will never finish, though I am on the way. The more accepting I become of myself just as I am, the more I allow for the memory of my dad to rest comfortably in my mind — as he was in our experiences together during my younger years.

To all who have followed me this far:

Keep searching, communicate whether or not your father is still alive. Tell him you accept him; even more, tell him you love him … just the way he is. It will be perhaps the beginning of a healing process. Perhaps you have a great connection with your dad, you can always strengthen it. Be kind, gentle, generous, curious, and loving. As the saying goes: love conquers all and is the only one remaining at the very end — it is eternal. When I ask, “ Have I lived?” I am really asking, “Have I loved?”.

For myself, I need to add this to the memory of my father: Thank you for teaching me what you knew. I am grateful for your contribution to my experience of self as your son. I may not be in love with you, I however do respect you. Fair well my friend …

Until next time …

With love and affection,
Janko

Hope is a waking dream.” Aristotle

Process of Investing Your Donated Dollars

** Appeal for more funds **

I wish to express my sincere thanks to everyone who has donated any amount to date. At present, we have enough donations to fund two research students. Each scholarship costs $5,000 dollars. I hope to make an even bigger impact with your continued support and contributions.

My appeal to ALL — please help me raise enough funds for at least one more scholarship.
With your generosity and caring, we can assist future stars to bring hope and eventually a cure for many and hopefully all cancers that are causing deaths one by one, each day. Time is of the essence.

Sharing the fruits of our endeavour

Sharing the fruits of our endeavour

Here is a brief time line of my journey to raise and allocate funds for cancer research.

Initially naive, I thought that properly placing the donations would be very easy, obvious, and rewarding. During the past several months I have spent countless hours finding out that this would not be a simple matter.

The original wish was obvious to me: help to prevent cancers from forming with education and early detection. There is no research in this field.

The second path I wanted to support was research how to: establish some benchmarks for early detection and immediate diagnosis. There is nothing there either.

Then I learned that there is a lot of research about how to administer treatments so they have the least negative impact on the patient, a better overall treatment experience, and ultimately a higher rate of patient survival. In the words of others from the “industry”: how to administer more treatments/drugs to more incoming objects (aka patients) with fewer complications.

Finally, I started looking into the field of scholarships. Approved students are entitled to a scholarship.

I am in the process of identifying three individuals whose personal traits and professional goals come closest to my expectations. My simple criteria are: 1) What motivates the candidate? 2) How close is he/she to working in the laboratory full time? 3) What is their desired field of research and goals for their future in medicine?

I have selected our first candidate: Sunjay Lakhi. Below is his reply to my initial inquiry:

“Dear Mr. Janko Krotec,

I am incredibly honoured and touched by your decision to fund my research. It would be my pleasure to assist you and attempt to answer any questions, which you may have.

To start, who I am as a person? I see this as an ongoing life long process in defining oneself, discovering new depths, attributes, personality and more so the endeavor of the development and discovery of one’s soul. Who I see myself as of present is a first year medical student, born and raised in Winnipeg Manitoba. I graduated from University of Manitoba with a BSc (major microbiology), and am currently attending The University of Manitoba School of Medicine. My hopes are to become a physician (which specialty I have not quite decided yet) with the possibility of integrating with a career in clinical research as well. My dream is to have a career, which allows me the opportunity to meet, interact, learn and assist individuals with their pain in whatever form that pain maybe. To be able to make a difference in patient’s lives no matter how small a difference it may be. I may not be able to alleviate all their pain, but to be granted the opportunity to support them through it is a career that would return the greatest personal satisfaction.

The research that I am involved with this summer is on CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia) focusing on the role of IL-8 expression and CLL cell survival. IL-8 is a cytokine and prior research shows that it increases the survival of the malignant B cells, which make up CLL. By understanding and quantifying the expression of IL-8 we hope to be able to gain a greater understanding on how IL-8 signals cancer cell survival and hopefully in the future develop possible treatments involving the targeting of IL-8.

I would be happy to answer any other questions that you may have. Again Mr. Krotec, this is an honor that you have chosen to fund me. I have had the opportunity to read your blog and it has given me renewed perspective and motivation on how important research is and the tremendous ramifications on patient’s lives and health. Sharing your experiences via your blog has also allowed me a brief glimpse into your life. Although I cannot possibly fathom completely what you are experiencing and feeling, your perspective on life, your celebration of life in the face of adversity is inspiring, and gives me new motivation to continue to quest for understanding cancer. Your courage has lent me courage to forge ahead in a career where I will help guide individuals who are trying to cope with this disease, because as much support physicians can lend they also need perspective and support from the person they are helping. Thank you Mr. Krotec for this opportunity, my thoughts and prayers are with you as you celebrate your life.”

In addition, when I told Sunjay about my decision, he replied:

“Dear Mr. Krotec,

I feel blessed to be supported by you.

I would like to thank you very much for funding me and for your good wishes for the future. Your support is priceless to me. If you would like to use my name, it would be my great pleasure and honor that you would hold me in such esteem.

Your spirit of strength and courage is truly awesome. Thank you, and may the light of your wonderful soul illuminate many paths…”

Please, come along and we will journey together. Anyone who wishes to can subscribe to my blog via email (top right corner of the website) and receive my posting directly into his or her Inbox. This would be one sure way to remain in touch. Every response or comment on my blog shines into my heart, knowing that someone, somewhere is following, paying attention, or possibly even finding something positive for him or herself. Please spread it around – it is free. Love will conquer all.

Until next time …

With love and affection,
Janko

Hope is a waking dream.” Aristotle

Janko Krotec - A Life Well Lived

janko_obit_photo

May 24, 1946 – September 6, 2009

Janko Krotec died peacefully at home in Vancouver on September 6, 2009, after living gallantly with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma since his diagnosis in 1996. This gentle heart will be profoundly missed by his wife, Donna Mandelkau Krotec, son John Krotez (Julie), daughters Tania Krotez (Donald) and Natasha Krotez (Charlene), grandson Daymon Krotez, nephew Sandi Dejanovic (Natasa), nieces Maryann Sutherland (Steve) and Irene O’Neil (RJ), sisters Anka Dejanovic and Marica Krotec, and brothers Jozef, Lojze, Franje and Miko. Predeceased by his mother, Ana (1993), father, Jozef (1981), and brother, Slavko (2008).

The story of his life is one that was well lived, well travelled, and well loved. No service by request. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada, Janko Krotec Legacy Fund, would be appreciated. Please visit: www.jankokrotec.org .

Perhaps they are not stars in the sky, but rather openings where our loved ones shine down
to let us know they are happy.

My Darling Husband Janko

My darling husband and I

My darling husband and I

There are many things in life that I am uncertain about but I am certain that I was meant to be with Janko. I was overjoyed that he felt the same about me!  We shared 3 days shy of 17 years together. It’s too intimate and precious to describe what Janko meant to me. You really had to be there!  However, I’ve chosen a few favourite quotes to give you a sense of my darling husband.

“At one glance I love you with a thousand hearts.”  Mihri Hatun

“I love you – I am at rest with you – I have come home.”  Dorothy L. Sayers

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed.  Happiness
is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.”  Denis Waitley

“If I know what love is, it is because of you.”  Herman Hesse

“I love you not only for what you are but for what I am when I am with you.”  Roy Croft

“When shall we live, if not now?”  an ancient Greek greeting

“Jaz te ljubim.”  Janko Krotec

Mali Janko

me and my dad on Mt. Kilimanjaro

me and my dad on Mt. Kilimanjaro

Always my hero, your hands became mine. Our thumbs, the same, our temperament, equally intense. We always do it the “right way”.

Your discovery and mastery of elegance and grace, a legacy I can only hope to improve upon. Such an appreciation of artistry, of excellence. I have the guts… you had the vision and execution.

You live in me… I am your son. And not an imitation, not so easy to discern, where I stop and you begin.

I know I’ve been living up to your expectations… and have just realized that I had none of my own. I float, I am here, now, always feeling too much at the wrong time, easily distracted from the prize, the goals I find hard to set.

Courage extraordinaire… a powerful and stubborn man, in body and in mind, slowed by disease yet unhampered by the new limitations. Rather, spurred onward by adversity, as though trying to prove yourself worthy before the eyes of the Creator, your family, your friends. Your gentle heart, as you say, “Goes on, and on… “

Pole, pole (slowly, slowly) on the Kilimanjaro mountain side — a metaphor for life’s little mysteries only observed by the patient heart, the humble soul, the present wanderer. We became brothers, man to man, eye to eye, hand in hand, heart to heart. We spoke of life… and death… we surpassed our fear with trust, and love held us there, until your end. “Just one more time,” my heart still sings a lonely song, to be known, to be held, by the one who made me and helped me to become the man I am today.

With Love, Respect, and Gratitude, your friend forever,

~Mali Janko

Memories of You

Somewhere a star shines...

Somewhere a star shines...

For Dad:

Quiet visits with thoughts of life

Your lessons remembered

Retold to me

To show

What is important –

To love, to be open, to live lightly, to nourish the Self

And most –

To be present in each moment.

We came together to a place of love

Always with wonderful food, we shared ourselves

How I now miss this and the sound of your voice.

I will feel your nearness in the sky, the wind, and in my heart always.

I love you.

~Natasha

A Letter to My Dear Uncle John

You have been there for many of the firsts in my life, offering guidance, support and your unconditional love.

Let me begin with one of our first encounters. I believe it was 1969 and it was the first (and last time) I ran away from home. I vividly recall you finding me on Knight Street and bringing me home. How was I to know that your care and concern would foreshadow the future of our relationship? Since that day, you always treated me like a daughter.

Fast forwarding to 1976, I worked my first summer job at Home of Cantu. You took me under your wing and taught me much about work ethic, a lot about dusting and a little about kitchen design.

Through some difficult times during 1986, once again you treated me like a daughter. Amid frustration, tears and uncertainty you stepped up to the plate and game me away at my wedding. Your support was unsurpassable.

Throughout the years you taught me many things… The rewards of using a good can of paint, the smell of roses growing in a garden and the taste of a good glass of wine… You even introduced me to my love of Las Vegas… Looking back through the years, we had shared many fun times together.

From having Knots Landing nights in the late 80s to sharing our love of the Vancouver Canucks during your last few years, you were always a constant; a friend, an uncle, a father.

Where ever I was in my life, I knew that I could always call and you would listen with an unjudgemental ear. You were always a dependable confidante, one who I respected and admired deeply.

Uncle John, thank you for helping me become the woman that I am today. Words will never be able to express my gratitude for all that you have done for me.

Affectionately, love always,
Missing and never forgetting,
Your niece
~Maryann

When I Get Where I’m Going by Brad Paisley (featuring Dolly Parton)

When I get where I’m going
On the far side of the sky
The first thing that I’m gonna do
Is spread my wings and fly

I’m gonna land beside a lion
And run my fingers through his mane
Or I might find out what it’s like
To ride a drop of rain

[Chorus]
Yeah when I get where I’m going
There’ll be only happy tears
I will shed the sins and struggles
I have carried all these years
And I’ll leave my heart wide open
I will love and have no fear
Yeah when I get where I’m going
Don’t cry for me down here

I’m gonna walk with my grand daddy
And he’ll match me step for step
And I’ll tell him how I missed him
Every minute since he left
Then I’ll hug his neck
[Repeat chorus]

So much pain and so much darkness
In this world we stumble through
All these questions I can’t answer
So much work to do

But when I get where I’m going
And I see my maker’s face
I’ll stand forever in the light
Of his amazing grace
Yeah when I get where I’m going
There’ll be only happy tears
Hallelujah
I will love and have no fear
When I get where I’m going
Yeah when I get where I’m going

Remembering you...

Me and Uncle John at my wedding

Me and Uncle John at my wedding

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we
take, but by the moments that take our breath away.
__________________________________

Those we love don’t go away,
They walk beside us every day,
Unseen, unheard, but always near,
Still loved, still missed and very dear.
__________________________________

My Buddy Janko

My buddy, Janko

My buddy, Janko

Hello sport,

I just know you’re watching us all.
If I never told you this, I want you to know you are one unforgettable character.
Your breadth of knowledge about most issues of importance was vast; interesting and well considered — your presentation flawless.
Of greatest value was your sharing of your views from which I learned much, even if we didn’t always agree.
Our connection was strong, and I thank you for all of what you are, and your friendship.

We’ll meet again.

Melvyn.

  • Top Ten Reasons Donna Loves Janko

    d&d 2
    10.
    Every morning — in sickness and in health — he serves me a latte in bed.


    9.
    Janko is worldly smart with an insatiable curiosity about world politics, economics and history. He’s not shy about sharing his opinions (conspiracy theories) about what’s just and right in the world and what’s not!


    8.
    His meticulous attention to detail, and the fact that he truly cares about quality and value, has served him well in his work… (and it’s driven those who work with him gently around the bend at times.)


    7.
    Janko has a delightfully quirky view of things; sometimes he’s taken this cheekiness a bit far causing some of his dearest friends to call him a
    bugger!


    6.
    His preoccupation with food is legendary at home and abroad; a fixation that belies his size.


    5.
    Janko’s level of comfort navigating the world is higher than most people’s level of ease travelling across town.


    4.
    He loves his friends openly, honesty and playfully. He always has time for them (especially if it involves lunch!).


    d&d

    3. Janko’s capacity to love and respect his  ‘children’ – John, Tania, Natasha, Maryann, Irene, Sandi, and their partners, and Daymon – as his equals is admirable. His commitment to staying connected to his siblings despite the miles and time zones reflect their importance to him… And his enthusiasm about Skype!


    2.
    He is sincerely kind. He expresses his generous spirit in many, many ways everyday.


    1. Janko picked me. He loves me with a gentle heart and tender devotion. I am a better person as a witness to, and a recipient of, his love.

    Your Generosity Supported Lymphoma Research and So Much More...

    In February 2009, Janko decided to bring together his family and closest friends to celebrate living.

    Like most things, he brilliantly executed his plan in a BIG way. He hosted a heartfelt dinner party for 50 friends and family to bear witness to his life and love. At that same time, he decided he wanted to make a lasting difference by raising awareness and funds for lymphoma. Then the need to establish a web site and share a bit of his journey took shape.

    Janko worked with Rick O’Brien, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada (LLSC), to find a way so that the funds he raised would be earmarked specifically for research. Working with the Society, Janko was able to participate in the selection of the first two research scholarship recipients. Rick O’Brien says “it’s rare that research ever results in one, big, ‘Eureka’ moment. Ninety-nine percent of the time the science results in incremental increases in understanding that brings us closer to our ultimate goal of discovering cures.” Janko’s scholarships have gone to support stellar medical students in an area of lymphoma research that the LLSC Scientific Review Panel has deemed to be most hopeful.

    The first recipient, Mr. Sunjay Lakhi from the University of Manitoba, worked with his supervisor Dr. Spencer Gibson. Their research was to better understand the lysophosphatidic acid in Chronic Lymphoma Leukemia, the most common form of adult leukemia. Gaining knowledge of the acid and how it protects the cancerous cells will help develop better, targeted treatment therapies.

    Ms. Rosanne St. Bernard, Ontario Cancer Institute/ Princess Margaret Hospital, was the second scholarship recipient. Her research was under the supervision of Dr. Mark Minden. Their research was to understand the genetics of acute leukemia cancer cells which will lead to better treatment for blood and other cancers.

    The final recipient of Janko’s Scholarship Fund is Ms. Kirstie Peden who will be working under the supervision of Dr. David Szwajcer at The University of Manitoba. The focus of Dr. Szwajcer’s research is analyzing clinical outcomes in Primary Central Nervous System lymphoma (PCNSL).

    It is a tribute to his persistent vision and your kind generosity that Janko was able to raise over $17,000 in six months for the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society of Canada’s research. The funds help these students gain knowledge that will lead to better treatments and a better quality of life for people living with cancer.

    A heartfelt thank you (hvala) for your support.

    Donna

    Thanks to Life (Gracias a la Vida)

    In these troubled times, may we all remember to be kind and let the object of our ire be the shadow within our own hearts. Seek truth. Dare to look within. Love is contagious. Let go. Surrender. Gracias a la Vida (english translation below).



    Performed by Mercedes Sosa – Thanks to life (written by Violeta Parra)

    Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
    It gave me two beams of light, that when opened,
    Can perfectly distinguish black from white
    And in the sky above, her starry backdrop,
    And from within the multitude
    The one that I love.

    Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
    It gave me an ear that, in all of its width
    Records— night and day—crickets and canaries,
    Hammers and turbines and bricks and storms,
    And the tender voice of my beloved.

    Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
    It gave me sound and the alphabet.
    With them the words that I think and declare:
    “Mother,” “Friend,” “Brother” and the light shining.
    The route of the soul from which comes love.

    Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
    It gave me the ability to walk with my tired feet.
    With them I have traversed cities and puddles
    Valleys and deserts, mountains and plains.
    And your house, your street and your patio.

    Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
    It gave me a heart, that causes my frame to shudder,
    When I see the fruit of the human brain,
    When I see good so far from bad,
    When I see within the clarity of your eyes…

    Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
    It gave me laughter and it gave me longing.
    With them I distinguish happiness and pain—
    The two materials from which my songs are formed,
    And your song, as well, which is the same song.
    And everyone’s song, which is my very song.

    Thanks to life
    Thanks to life
    Thanks to life
    Thanks to life

    On My Mind

    Presence.

    Presence.


    You are so interesting old man. Every time I think of you it’s like you’re really right here, actually right beside me… well maybe just a little bit in front of me! Jack Layton died from cancer yesterday and I cried… for him as he was a great human being… and for you because he reminds me of you in several ways such as his integrity, his courage, and his optimism. I miss you and have stories to tell and a new outlook on life to share. This year I’ve learned to ride motorcycles and horses. The rich, earthy smell of manure has become familiar as I stroll the back fields of Delta. My Kawasaki Ninja 500 brings back memories of my first ride at age 7 on the back of your motorcyle. I haven’t yet grown a moustache, but who knows, maybe one day… I’ve already tried the beard! Whenever I look at my own hands I so clearly remember yours; their gentle touch, guidance, dependability, and awesome strength. Thank you for your leadership and especially your courage. But most of all, thank you for believing in and rescuing me when I was 5. My life continues to be interesting day after day.

    Love forever,

    Mali Janko