Adam Kielbasa was diagnosed with Stage III Epithelioid Sarcoma on February 22nd, 2011 and after metastasis were confirmed after a short time, his diseased progressed to Stage IV. This remains one of the rarest forms of Sarcoma Cancers accounting for less than 1% of all soft tissue sarcomas and at the time of diagnosis, and still to this day, is incurable. Sarcoma cancers are made up of over 30 varying subtypes, making this diagnosis one of extreme rarity. This diagnosis happened after 8 months of ongoing pain in Adam’s left calf, where the sarcoma was first identified. Adam and his wife Lauren remember this as the worst day of their lives up until that point, but merely the beginning of a long, hard fight.
After diagnosis, Adam underwent surgery to remove the original tumor, eight months of chemotherapy treatments and simultaneous radiation. After the initial eight rounds of chemotherapy, it was discovered that Adam had tested positive for lung metastasis. Later on in 2011, Adam received two thoracotomies followed by another in 2012 due to further metastasis. He proposed to his wife Lauren on October 8, 2011. He proposed on a Saturday, and went in for lung surgery two days later on Monday.
In early 2012, Adam started his initial clinical trials, which showed promise for helping with the lung metastasis, taking a break to celebrate their marriage, but eventually, the side effects proved too harsh to tolerate, making him no longer eligible for that trial. Adam and Lauren exchanged vows on June 9th in 2012, on a beautiful, warm summer day at St. Bruno’s Parish in Chicago. They celebrated with loved ones at County Line Orchard later that day in Hobart, IN. In lieu of favors, Adam and Lauren made a donation in honor of their guests to the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative, to further support for sarcoma research. On Lauren’s bridal bouquet there was a charm that read: “Team Adam. Conquer. Hope. Pray. Love.”
On to clinical trial #2. A recurrence in Adam’s leg in late 2012 was followed by a tumor discovered in his shoulder. Upon discovery of this, a resection was performed to remove the recurrent tumor in his calf and Adam was started on brachytherapy into 2013. Also in 2013, Adam was placed on a clinical trial at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. For the next six months, Adam and Lauren would travel back and forth between Chicago and New York for treatment, making the most of their visits to the big city: Christmastime in NYC, Times Square, local eateries and food trucks, Broadway, and their favorite, quiet escapes to Central Park.
In 2014, Adam was transitioned to a new oncology team from University of Chicago to Northwestern. He also started another clinical trial, which would last about one year. In May of 2014, Adam accomplished a huge life goal in his graduation from pharmacy school. Accomplishing that is a feat in and of itself, but Adam graduating in spite of his surgeries, treatments, trials, and ongoing fight made this an even more meaningful milestone. Adam would then soon begin his career as a pharmacist by working for Walgreens Pharmacy in July of 2014.
For the next two years, Adam’s disease would continue to progress, and he would continue on clinical trials. As with any trial, the research just isn’t there and there was little evidence of success. Despite this, Adam continued to fight the ravages of his illness, and fight back at the ongoing progression. During these years of lots of treatment with little success, Adam and Lauren celebrated the weddings of friends and family members, visited the Smokey Mountains, bought their first home, and enjoyed watching their families grow by in-laws and babies. They also adopted their beloved puppy Tucker in April of 2015.
To celebrate his 30th birthday, Lauren planned and surprised a trip to Hawaii in May 2016. Together they navigated the breath-taking views and pristine Maui beaches and both called it “the trip of a lifetime.” Shortly after turning 30, Adam’s career shifted to working as a Clinical Pharmacist at Joliet Oncology Hematology Associates, in 2016, with a special focus in oncology. He started on yet another clinical trial and yet his disease showed further progression that year. On November 2nd, 2016, with millions of other fans, Adam cheered on his beloved Chicago Cubs in Game 7 of the World Series, where they would go on to defeat the Cleveland Indians, 8-7. In Adam’s words, he would always remember the feelings and emotions of that night, having grown up a Cubs fan all his life, all because of his dad.
2017 brought about a new FDA-approved therapy via “compassionate use” which, roughly translated, means treating a seriously ill patient where no other treatments are available. Treatment on this therapy would continue, leading to little success, more disease progression, to eventually another therapy in late 2017. On June 9th, 2017, Adam and Lauren celebrated five years of marriage. In Lauren’s words, “5 years ago today I married this handsome man! We've been together for double that time. Adam Kielbasa -- You are an example of everything that every husband should be. You've taught me to believe in love. To trust. To be patient and kind. To understand. To forgive. To love with all my heart without a doubt no matter what the future might hold. I love you and I love our life together. Cheers to 5, but thank you for these 10! Happy Anniversary!”
To celebrate 5 years of marriage, Lauren and Adam renewed their vows on a beach in Mexico. They reaffirmed the promises made to each other five years earlier, only this time their love for each other had grown deeper with each passing year. Together, they tied a cord of three strands, representing their relationship and faith in God. This is a visual representation of the verse in Ecclesiastes chapter four verse 12 that reads, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a cord of three strands is not easily broken.”
February 2018 began another clinical trial, as well as nerve block performed for pain management. Unfortunately, and despite constant attention to managing the pain that consumes Adam’s day-to-day life, he has had little to no relief. This would also mean seven years since Adam’s journey and fight against Epithelioid Sarcoma began. Adam’s oncologist confirmed further rapid progression of the disease, and a serious concern for Adam’s current state. Most recently, Adam has switched to an oral chemotherapy, and will not explore any further therapy options.
While overwhelming to some, this summary of the past seven years is merely a snapshot in comparison to the full seven years, or 2,555 days since his diagnosis. Adam went into this a fighter, determined, strong, and brave. His smile, laughter, and compassion for others would make anyone question if he was even sick at all sometimes. He hardly ever shows it, and he lives life fully. Adam once referred to his illness as his “cross to bear” and he does so with grace. Even in the darkest moments, Adam pressed onward, bearing his cross, finding the good in each day, keeping his loved ones close, and being a true example of a fighter.
In Adam’s own words, “It all ends the same for everyone, but it is not the end that makes you who you are. It is the journey that shapes us. The love we share and the relationships we nurture along the way are what make this life worth living.”
With Adam’s condition worsening with time, we are doing what we can do as Adam and Lauren’s loved ones, and asking for your help as we come alongside them. Any and all financial contributions will go directly to Adam and Lauren to help ease their financial situation, as well as to help fund Adam’s “bucket list” and last wishes. While Adam and Lauren would never ask for financial assistance of any kind, we are reaching out as we know there are so many who love them, and want to do something to show them love at this time.
Your generosity helps more than you know – we thank you from the bottom of our hearts, not just for giving, but for the impact you’ve had on Adam, Lauren, and our families. We are overwhelmed, but not at all surprised, at how many people care for Adam, and have prayed for, and supported him over the years. Despite everything that he has gone through, he would be the first to say how blessed of a man he is, because as mentioned before, Adam is so much more than a cancer patient. He is a loving and devoted husband, a cherished son, a kind and caring brother, a fun-loving and adored uncle, a true and loyal friend to so many, a hard-worker, a passionate fan of the Chicago Cubs, Duke University basketball, and the Chicago Bears, the best dog dad to Tucker, a fan of hunting and fishing trips, golf days, pick-up basketball games, family time, enjoying life, and above all, he is a man of integrity, strength, and character. To those of us who know and love Adam, he is a fearless fighter, and he is our hero. And to have known Adam during this time is to know that Lauren has never been far from his side through it all.
- Kevin O'Connor
- Sarah Cotey
- Heather Szymusiak
- Bob Kocolowski
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