John Steven Radakovitz, Stage IV

For at least a year, maybe longer I had been experiencing annoying pains in my lower back. The throbbing kept me up at night. I began sleeping on the floor, then the recliner, back to the bed, and then I would repeat this routine till dawn. I let this go on far too long. I finally made an appointment to see my doctor. I was given an x- ray. The doctor said it looks like bone spurs on my spine and prescribed physical therapy. None of this worked.

A few weeks later, I told my doctor I could hardly walk, was losing control of my bowels, and was dragging my left leg. He ordered a MRI on Feb 1, 2012, at 2:00pm. That same evening my wife and I, while at a grandson’s karate lesson, received a phone call from my health provider. ” Mr. Radakovitz ?” yes “We want you to drop what you’re doing and get in here to emergency RIGHT NOW! The person at the other end of the phone mentioned for the first time, the dreaded words “possibly CANCER and a risk of paralyzation.”

My wife and I drove in silence to the E.R. We were admitted faster than the speed of light. The preparations for surgery began. I was then transported via ambulance to the spinal surgery hospital. I wish I was able to console my wife. She was the one doing the consoling. In fact my wife literally moved into my hospital room. The surgery lasted 8 hours. A tumor attached to the L1 spine was removed and another tumor that was crushing my nerves was tediously worked on to relieve the pressure off the nerves. The surgeon elected not to chase after the remaining cancer for fear I would become paralyzed.

It was then that the surgeon realized the cancer was not going away by surgery alone. The incision was closed up, and I was sent to recovery. It was suspected that the cancer was melanoma. A few days later, Bingo! They were right. I was diagnosed with, hold on it’s a long one, “Stage IV, metastatic malignant melanoma of the central nervous system with unknown primary and Cuada equine nerve damage.”

I should say my support system is a 10. My wife of 47 years, sons, daughter in laws, grandchildren, and numerous friends are always available. The day we were to leave the hospital it was suggested that I organize my personal wishes. We were told perhaps I had a month to a year to live. When my wife and I got home from the hospital, we collapsed in a heap on the floor, holding each other and sobbed for what seemed like hours. My head was swirling with thoughts of me departing my love. I do remember blurting out between the sobs. “I just don’t want to go to a place where you won’t be there.”

My wife is a dedicated runner. Dilyn runs marathons and averages about 150 miles a month. That’s a lot of daily running. She should’ve been a drill instructor. I really can’t say enough about her. She goes to every appointment with me, does all the research, and has been the driving force behind our fight with this disease. Also, I give thanks to all the doctors that took part in my case, and to the doctors that are still monitoring my life with cancer.

My treatment plan of attack was laid out. It was to be 16 radiation treatments, followed by 6 weeks of chemo with the drug Temodar. Those familiar with Melanoma know that it’s a stubborn devil and does not give up easily to radiation or chemo. Never the less, we went through this. A few months later I went in for a PET scan to see the effects of the treatments. Stubborn tumor lit up, athough smaller. It was in a worst possible location, precariously close and clinging to my vitals. After Googling around, I saw an article on radiology surgery called cyber knife. This was discussed as a possible treatment option for my predicament. The cyber knife machine is a work of art. Its purpose is to go where no man wants to tread. It is used commonly on the brain, but it can be used on the spine for ultra precision maneuvers.

Enter my beautiful Drill Instructor. I had already quit the obvious bad habits, smoking and drinking. The remaining sleazy behavior was to be slowly curtailed. I was overweight, didn’t exercise, had poor eating habits, and my negative personality was widely known. While we waited for the PET scan results following the cyber knife surgery, the D.I. began to make her moves. She had already been a vegetarian for a number of years. I would be next to join the ranks. No meat, wow. No dairy, ugh. Organic only veggies delivered to our front porch. We located a holistic doctor and he balanced my PH. I had to drink alkaline water and begin a detox plan. I purchased a juice machine, installed a water purifier, got rid of household chemicals, and improved my surroundings. The D.I. has accumulated every book that was ever written on the subject of melanoma. “Johnny! Get your butt in here; it’s time for the gym.”

It’s 5am – Thirty minutes on the stair stepper. Breathe deep, yoga, meditate. Then repeat this again each day. I bought a Multipoo dog to take my mind off of myself. Cancer hates oxygen. It loves sugar and salt. Year one, PET scan results show cancer shrinking. I love my Drill Instructor. After almost 3 years, my oncologist took me from 90 day PET scans to 120 days. In May 2014, PET scan negative for recurrent malignancy. Oct 1, 2014, PET scan showed no uptake; it was basically negative. Dr. Quote “He is clinically doing well without sign of recurrent disease. PET/CT is still requested for surveillance.” I give thanks for my life every day. I now do pray. We thank the medical community. I thank the holistic community. I thank the organic farmers. I give thanks for the strong woman that is driving me on this journey. I thank Dr. Reddy here at Stanford for seeing me and my Drill Instructor (Dilyn) and our little dog Midge almost 3 years ago. As of Oct 1, 2014, I am now considered as having a “History of stage IV Melanoma of the CNS.” This news is very uplifting!