Cancer shifts priorities, plansIt took a cancer diagnoses for Mitch Dzikonski to consider flying. The 30-year-old Superior man always had concerns regarding airplanes. According to him, it stems from his fear of death. But on Jan. 28, Dzikonski was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and his priorities shifted.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
It took a cancer diagnoses for Mitch Dzikonski to consider flying. The 30-year-old Superior man always had concerns regarding airplanes. According to him, it stems from his fear of death. But on Jan. 28, Dzikonski was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and his priorities shifted.
“I started looking at life differently. This has changed me a lot,” he said. “You start thinking about what you’ve done in life, what you wanted to do in life. Maybe I should fly.”
Although he had swollen lymph nodes and a dry cough for more than a year, Dzikonski was focused on work and buying a home in the country for his family. A month before the cancer diagnosis he changed jobs, leaving an afternoon shift job in Two Harbors for day shift work as a machinist at Northern Engineering in Superior. The move allowed him to spend more time with his wife, Ashley, and their 9-month-old son, Dylan.
But his health was deteriorating.
“It started getting worse and worse,” said Dzikonski, a 2000 Superior High School graduate. “Going up a flight of stairs I was getting shortness of breath … I knew I wasn’t going to make the four months for my insurance to kick in.”
Doctors at Essentia Health found he was down to basically one lung because the other was being crushed by a large tumor and fluid. They sent him to the hospital. When Dzikonski called his mother, Debbie, she thought at first it was a joke.
“He said ‘I’m on my way to the hospital.’ I did not believe him,” she said. “Because he does this stuff all the time.”
“He’s the boy who cried wolf,” Ashley said. And he loves to joke. This is the man who proposed to his bride-to-be by pulling a ring out of his pocket as they were gathering seashells at Cocoa Beach, Fla. He held it up and said “Well, what about this one?”
“And I thought he had found somebody’s ring on the beach,” said Ashley, a 2004 graduate of Northwestern High School. “I didn’t think he was proposing. I never thought it was going to happen.”
Although Northern Engineering has been very supportive, Dzikonski has only been able to work about nine hours every other week while undergoing chemotherapy treatments. And medical insurance through work hasn’t kicked in yet. The couple had money put aside for a down payment on a home in the country, but that is dwindling as medical bills pile up.
Family and friends are teaming up to hold a benefit for the family from 2-9 p.m. April 27 at the Parkland Town Hall, 6221 Veterans Drive. The event will feature a spaghetti dinner from 3-7 p.m., games for the kids, DJ music, a bake sale, silent auction, raffles and much more.
“Both of them will go out of their way to help everybody,” said Debbie, who lives in Oakland. Now is a chance for the community to give back.
The young couple is just starting out, said Ashley’s mother Pam Rabideaux of Lake Nebagamon.
“It seems unfair,” she said, but they are both upbeat and positive despite the diagnosis.
Dzikonski has a 90 percent chance of beating the cancer.
“The doctor came in and said there’s good news and bad news,” said Debbie, a breast cancer survivor “Bad news is you have cancer. Good news is you have the one that we can cure.”
Along with helping to support the family, Rabideaux said she hopes cancer survivors will attend the benefit to share their stories with her son-in-law. They plan to eat, play and dance until the DJ’s last tune.
“All our families are getting together, too,” Rabideaux said. “So it’ll be a big party.”
A $5 suggested donation is being requested for the spaghetti meal. Many great auction items have already come in, including a set of wooden planters, an Iron River cabin stay, a Packers football, $50 off a tattoo at Scaws Ink, a mani-pedi at Trends Salon and Spa and original 1998 Star Wars figures. Donations are still being accepted. For more information call Debbie at 218-393-4321, Pam at 715-364-2363, or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Everything happens for a reason, Dzikonski said. His cancer diagnosis has made him re-think his workaholic lifestyle. Ashley said he would work 12-hour shifts, 50 hours or more a week.
“I like to work a lot,” he said. “This thing came along and it made me realize that maybe, maybe work isn’t everything and I should spend more time with my family.”
And he’s thinking more about the places he’d like to see, like Yellowstone National Park. That could include flying.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii,” Dzikonski said. “That’s kind of a long road trip.”