When he first felt that nagging pain in his right thigh, Bob Krawczk didn’t really think much of it.
The year was 1977 and here he was, an 18-year-old high school senior vacationing with his family in Florida. The pain? Probably no big deal. Krawczyk chalked it up to simply overdoing his sports activities.
He couldn’t have been more wrong.
“A few days into that vacation the pain in my right thigh got very intense, horribly painful,” said Krawczyk. “The last three days, I was sitting in our hotel room, icing my thigh, or sitting in a hot bath trying to relieve the pain. It didn’t happen.”
After returning to Milwaukee and going through a series of tests at St. Luke’s Hospital, doctors confirmed the deadly nature of what was really going on. Krawczyk had Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. In the 1970s, the five-year survival rate for this form of cancer was a mere 10 percent.
When his family and the doctors left his room, Krawczyk just stared through the window.
“I looked out the window and the sky was bluer than blue and the grass was greener than green,” said Krawczyk. “I just remember the impact of what they told me and what I would be going through.”
The treatments would be grueling and would exact a heavy toll on his body. Krawczyk underwent a 20-month protocol of radiation and a four-drug chemotherapy regimen. The radiation was performed not only on his leg but to his chest because Ewing’s often spreads to the lungs.
“I looked out the window and the sky was bluer than blue and the grass was greener than green.”
Four years later, Krawczyk had to have his right leg amputated at the hip because the radiation treatments had caused radiation fibrosis, a hardening of all the tissues in his thigh. Further radiation treatments led to a lump in his throat in 1990. The lump turned out to be thyroid cancer and Bob had his thyroid surgically removed.
Today, at the age of 53, Krawczyk lives with his family, wife Valerie and adopted sons Jeremiah and Nolan, in Menomonee Falls. Despite all the scares, all the harsh medical treatments and even dealing with being unemployed for nearly a year, Krawczyk manages to keep his situation in the right perspective.
“Mine is a story of hope because I am a two-time cancer survivor,” he says emphatically.
What’s more, Krawczyk is more than happy to share his story of hope with all who will listen. About a year ago, he started volunteering time with the American Cancer Society and he was selected to be the 2012 Honorary Cancer Survivor Chair for the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Sussex-Menomonee Falls-Pewaukee. The event will take place June 15-16 at .
“My ordeal has been a very positive thing because it opened my eyes to the faith that I have in God,” said Krawczyk. “My faith played a strong role psychologically and again spiritually to get me through this journey and it will for the rest of my life.”
The Relay For Life, which began in 1985, has grown into a global movement that engages 20 countries and to date has raised over $4 billion in the fight against cancer. More than 3.5 million people, including over 38,000 in Wisconsin, participated in the event in 2011.
At the event, community members celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer, remember loved ones who were lost, and fight back against the disease. Teams of friends, family and co-workers camp out overnight at the high school track to share memories and, most of all, stories of hope.
Stories like Bob’s. Today, the five-year survival rate for Ewing’s Sarcoma has grown to 60 percent.
“I want to thank the people from the American Cancer Society for the great job they do,” said Krawczyk. “Research needs money, and all I want to do is be hope for other family members, friends and neighbors who are going through cancer and tell them that there is hope. I want to encourage them and I believe laughter is a big part of anybody’s medicine.”
For more information about the Relay For Life, visit their website.