25 Years of Hope: Daniel’s Story

Daniel W. — US Navy Veteran, New Dad, and Burkitt Lymphoma Survivor

Twenty-five-year-old US Navy Veteran and new dad, Daniel Wojciechowski, was busy welcoming his infant daughter when he noticed an unusual mass in his lower right abdomen.

After a night of sweating and intense abdominal pain, Daniel’s wife, Kim, made the executive decision to go immediately to the emergency room. “Man, I was way off. I thought I had appendicitis, at least that’s what WebMD told me!”

After 26 hours in the ER, a PET scan, and a new aversion to Crystal Light (if you know, you know), Daniel learned the cause of his symptoms: it was Burkitt Lymphoma.

“The doctor looked at the results and told me that I had tumors all over…multiple masses in my pelvic region that went up into my lungs and everywhere in my lymph nodes…I was like ‘Wait, I have cancer?!’.
Daniel, in treatment, and wife Kim

Due to COVID-19 restrictions on visitors, Daniel faced this news alone. In shock, he immediately thought of his daughter and wife — “how do I break it to them?”. Out of necessity, he called his wife over FaceTime to share the news of his diagnosis. “I said, hey look, I don’t want to tell you this way, but I have to. They just told me I have cancer. She just broke down.”

The Friday afternoon before his first chemotherapy treatment, Daniel’s doctor let him know that it could impact his fertility. Worse, there would not be enough time to go through the preservation process. “It’s either you start chemo on Monday, or your chances of living are not high.”

When his favorite nurse, “Dr. Pat”, heard this, she rejected it. She immediately developed a plan to ensure Daniel could preserve his fertility before undergoing treatment.

“She’s an angel. She said, this is the Livestrong Foundation — get online and fill out the forms. I got a call about four hours later to start the process.”

By the morning of his first treatment, Daniel’s sperm had been preserved. His focus could be where it was needed most: just getting through the next few months, which would consist of six surgeries, six spinal taps, and six rounds of chemotherapy.

“I walked in on my first day and was the youngest guy in the chemo room — everyone else was from the VA, mostly Vietnam veterans. It felt like my first day of school.”

The side effects were intense. “It [chemo] is like wrestling [your siblings] — just getting beat up and not being able to do anything about it. It would take seven or eight days just to recover from each round.”

Other side effects of his medication also caused mouth sores that prevented him from eating solid foods. “It was Jell-O and ramen noodles — so I won’t be having that for at least a couple of years!”

Daniel reached remission in January of this year (2022) and is due for a checkup early this summer. He and Kim are both excited for the next chapter in their lives and watching their daughter grow. “She’s the motivation for everything. Her little smile — her tooth is coming in on the top right now. She’s walking now — she’s a speed demon!”

“I’d like to say thank you to Livestrong for sponsoring me and helping me preserve my “swimmers”. During this hardship, Livestrong was able to ensure we could focus on the now and not have to worry about the future. Thank you.”

25 Years of…Giving Hope

Insurance providers often don’t cover the cost of expensive treatment and patients can be faced with starting cancer treatment right away which may impact their fertility.

Livestrong Fertility helps bridge this gap by offering access to discounted fertility preservation services and free medications, giving survivors the chance to build a family after cancer. Learn more at Livestrong.org.

25 Years of Hope: Daniel’s Story was originally published in Livestrong Voices on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.