‘I’ve bought terminal most cancers. This is why I’m prioritizing travel’
(CNN) — Kris Sokolowski has often been lively, paying out his no cost time mountain climbing, operating and training martial arts.
And at every single opportunity, he could be uncovered boarding a airplane, en route to explore the entire world. On his initially official date with his now wife, Sokolowski booked flights to South Africa for two months. The couple have a son, now 11, who also joins them on their adventures.
Sokolowski’s outside pursuits have assisted preserve him healthful. At his very last yearly physical checkup in December 2020, his medical doctor named him “Iron Male.”
But all over six months immediately after that appointment, Sokolowski begun encountering what he describes as an “odd sensation” in his belly.
Sokolowski went to get checked out and was told it was probable acid reflux. He was specified some capsules and sent residence. A couple days afterwards, the gurgling feeling was still there, so he sought more health-related tips and a scan, soon after which he was explained to to see a gastro expert proper away.
Sokolowski’s health care provider instructed him there was a “massive mass” on his colon and liver and he suspected late stage-four cancer. Phase four is the most sophisticated stage of most cancers and generally indicates it has unfold from its origin.
“My to start with response was, ‘How can this come about? I’ve in no way missed an appointment,'” Sokolowski remembers.
But at 48, Sokolowski hadn’t been outdated plenty of for encouraged normal colonoscopies in the United States (the age has since reduced to 45). And right up until the gurgling feeling, he hadn’t skilled any symptoms.
An MRI scan, colonoscopy and tissue sample confirmed the worst: Sokolowski had phase four colon cancer.
“The MRI showed it in 6 destinations on my system,” states Sokolowski. “So it was my colon, my liver, my sternum, my backbone, my lymph nodes, and the partitions of my stomach.”
Oncologists told him there was no cure for his affliction.
“They gave me a lifespan concerning two and a 50 % and 5 a long time to live,” he says.
Like of travel
The Sokolowskis traveled to China in 2015, below they are on the Wonderful Wall.
courtesy Kris Sokolowski
Atlanta-centered Sokolowski is the initial-era American son of two Polish immigrants. He claims his adore of journey stems from the many childhood summers he put in again in Poland. In his 20s, he commenced traveling whenever he could, routinely exploring Europe.
When Sokolowski fulfilled his spouse Elizabeth in his thirties, the two realized they have been united in a thirst to see the planet. That first day in South Africa sealed the deal, and the few have been married 6 months later.
“When our son was born a year afterwards in 2010, we made a dedication that each and every calendar year, we would consider him out of the nation,” says Sokolowski.
It really is vital to the few to introduce their son to cultures and activities outdoors of the US.
Given that he was born, the household has been to 19 international locations and counting.
“We the two perform for corporate The united states, but we preserve up all yr, and commonly get about three months to travel, regardless of whether it is really Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, where ever we can go.”
Solowski suggests he and his spouse normally look forward. They almost never return to the exact location, and focus on how they can make the ideal of their recent conditions and plan a thing thrilling for the future.
This is the family members in Seoul, South Korea.
courtesy Kris Sokolowski
It really is that mindset that Sokolowski brought to his terminal cancer analysis.
He says he’s on the greatest dosage of chemotherapy available. He was warned by health professionals of side results of fatigue, vomiting, hair decline and fat loss.
“I mentioned, Search, I’m a younger person, I am 48 several years previous, I have a 10-yr-previous at household. Throw anything you bought at me now although I am youthful and potent,” remembers Sokolowski.
So considerably, facet effects have been small and he’s continued to physical exercise and run consistently.
“I’ve under no circumstances been ill a working day from it,” Sokolowski says. “Tiredness kicked in a minor little bit, but I was equipped to defeat it. So everything they instructed me was going to take place, didn’t happen with me.”
Sokolowski and his family canceled a prepared vacation to Iceland in summer 2021, but as the months rolled on, he was encouraged that, from the odds, his tumors have been shrinking, and he was very well more than enough to afford to skip just one of his chemo solutions — which happen each two weeks — to go on trip overseas.
Even catching Covid-19 in November 2021 didn’t put a halt to strategies — fortuitously Sokolowski was vaccinated and only mildly sick with the virus.
The Sokolowskis really like to get outside on their holidays. Here they are exploring in Slovenia.
courtesy Kris Sokolowski
When he got the go ahead to travel with his loved ones in excess of the Christmas period, Sokolowski was thrilled.
“Even over my wellbeing, vacation was nevertheless a precedence,” Sokolowski suggests. “Due to the fact it was a motivation that we created when we acquired married, it was a commitment that we made to our son when he was born — that we would take him out of the country just about every calendar year. So to me, that was normally priority selection just one.”
Sokolowski and his spouse Elizabeth and son Braden begun planning a journey for Christmas and New Calendar year. They settled on a three-week journey in French Polynesia, heading to Bora Bora, Moorea and Tahiti.
Sokolowski traveled with his chemo pills, as nicely as a precautionary letter from his medical professional to make sure he could get back again into the United States — “just in case there was some kind of lockdown for the reason that of Covid. And that letter basically stipulated that ‘Kris has phase-four cancer which is terminal, that he is really dependent on his chemo.'”
While Sokolowski had prevented many aspect consequences of his treatment, when departure working day rolled around he was suffering from a issue termed hand-foot syndrome, which can cause the bottom of your ft to turn out to be seriously tender and prone to blistering and inflammation.
The Sokolowskis seldom go to the exact location 2 times. This is the family members on a previous journey to Malta.
courtesy Kris Sokolowski
“When I was operating prior to our journey, it triggered me to have blisters on both equally of my feet, I think I experienced four on each individual foot and it was particularly difficult to wander — it was almost like walking on razor blades,” he states.
“So the working day we ended up leaving for French Polynesia, we went via a few distinct airports. We went via Atlanta airport, LAX and then in Tahiti, and in all 3 airports, I experienced to be in a wheelchair since I couldn’t wander, and that was form of tricky.”
But Sokolowski claims arriving in Bora Bora and diving into the turquoise waters was almost quickly therapeutic.
That was probable the salt drinking water at work, he claims. But Sokolowski also thinks the happiness and delight he felt at currently being on holiday vacation in a lovely position with his beloved kinds lifted his spirits, furnishing invaluable palliative care.
Less than warm blue skies, the loved ones relished swimming with black suggestion sharks, jet skiing, checking out volcanic landscapes and stress-free.
“We used an massive time out on the water. I necessarily mean, how can you not? It is really crystal crystal clear. It really is a turquoise coloration that you have hardly ever witnessed right before. You know, you could see appropriate down to the bottom where by the fish are swimming. And it’s just pretty peaceful and relaxful.”
Dwelling for the minute
Kris, Elizabeth and Braden Sokolowski, pictured here on the island of Moorea, fell in love with French Polynesia all through their trip at the close of 2021.
courtesy Kris Sokolowski
For Sokolowski and his wife, it was essential to be candid with Braden about his father’s cancer, though also easing him into this new truth and supporting him by way of it.
Sokolowski states the family’s concentrate is on producing memories, and continuing to really encourage their little one to embrace new chances and adventures.
One particular of Sokolowski’s most loved times from the 2021 French Polynesia journey was seeing Braden diving with sharks for the very first time.
“He was a minor apprehensive about receiving into drinking water with sharks. But then he observed us accomplishing it. So he jumped in,” claims Sokolowski. “And the very first time a shark arrived up to his face and then turned all over and just remaining — I was underwater with him and the appear on his confront, it was just — it was pure enjoyment, adrenaline and joy. And I noticed how a lot he loved it and he couldn’t get out of the drinking water, I mean, it was fantastic.”
Diving with sharks in French Polynesia in 2021 was a spotlight for the family.
courtesy Kris Sokolowski
Sokolowski has nonetheless to take his son to Poland, but he suggests that is on the agenda for upcoming travels. He’d required to hold out until eventually Braden was previous sufficient to realize and totally respect the trip.
Although the household are at this time primarily based in Atlanta, the Sokolowskis are also significantly taking into consideration shifting to French Polynesia, if they can make it doable with remote doing work and health care.
“For 15 times, I had a smile on my encounter, ear to ear,” Sokolowski states of the family’s time there. “I actually imagine if you can find everything which is going to heal my cancer, it’s likely to be living a existence of positivity and contentment.”
Wherever they are based, vacation will continue being a priority. In 2022, the spouse and children hope to journey to Pamplona, Spain to watch the annual managing of the bulls competition — a longtime desire of Sokolowski’s.
Prioritizing wellbeing and journey
Sokolowski hopes to defy expectations and studies to recuperate from his health issues. However much time he has still left, he is vowed to commit as considerably of it as he can exploring the entire world with his liked types.
“I really don’t know how extensive I have left on this earth, but I want to leave behind fond recollections of vacation and a legacy where my son can make our world just a bit better,” he states.
When he obtained his prognosis, Sokolowski asked his gastroenterologist what the outlook would have been if he’d had a colonoscopy 3 years previously.
“Before I even completed my sentence, he goes, ‘I would have pulled out a pair of polyps, and you wouldn’t even be sitting listed here, we wouldn’t be possessing this dialogue.’ And that genuinely struck me hard.”
Sokolowski claims dwelling on this “what if” isn’t really beneficial for him.
“I do not appear in the rearview mirror,” he suggests. “That isn’t going to help me at all. It is what it is. And I only seem ahead, the only time that I appear back again is to convey to people my tale and say, ‘This is what transpired to me. Never allow it come about to you.'”
Alternatively, Sokolowski’s concentrate is on being as healthy as doable, and hunting ahead to future adventures with his household.
His spouse Elizabeth tells CNN Journey she has the very same outlook.
“You have to have to reside your existence, you only get one daily life,” she says. “The memories is seriously what is heading to make you satisfied in the close.”
Sokolowski provides: “The one particular factor I’ve constantly advised folks is get out of your bubble, get out of your town and go see the planet.”
“It amazes me how numerous persons are not intrigued in touring — or fascinated and they notify me ‘Well, we are unable to do this’ and they make excuses. Prevent with the excuses and do it.”
Prime photo: the Sokolowski loved ones in Padar, Indonesia. Courtesy Kris Sokolowski