Son’s cancer inspires area resident to relay
When Roberta Kranz attends this year’s Kaw Valley Relay For Life, both as a first-time participant and as a co-captain of her office’s relay team, she says she knows she will be starting an annual tradition.
The Overland Park resident’s family has had more than its fair share of brushes with cancer, as well as other life-threatening illnesses, but the reality of cancer first hit home when Kranz’s son, Billy, now 34, was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma six years ago. After overcoming his cancer and dealing with other family illnesses, Kranz said she made the decision to get involved and support the relay, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, as much as possible, beginning this year.
“Life is so important, and anything you can do to support it in any way is such a huge amount of help,” Kranz said.
Though he was diagnosed at age 26, Kranz’s son’s cancer is typically a childhood cancer and may have resulted from a car accident he survived at age 21. His legs and back were injured in the accident, requiring him to have a pin placed in one of his legs.
Kranz said in the five years following the accident, her son would go through bouts of debilitating pain in the leg that was pinned.
“The doctors always said that it was nerve pain that was from the trauma,” she said. “It was just a nerve damage type of thing.”
But when he returned home to Kansas City after a tour for his job as a drummer in a band and the pain started again, his mother insisted doctors do a more thorough check.
Thanks to Kranz’s persistence, doctors eventually discovered a tumor the size of a fist in her son’s leg. At first, they thought it was lymphoma, but a biopsy later revealed Ewing’s sarcoma — a cancer that was harder to treat and might require her son’s leg to be amputated.
Kranz’s son went through 13 rounds of chemotherapy in all. After his 10th round, an MRI showed that the tumor was shrinking, but Kranz had a bad feeling about discussing the results with the doctors.
“Something in my heart and my gut told me they were not going to be good,” Kranz said.
Again, her feelings proved true. Because Ewing’s sarcoma moves so deeply into bones, doctors told Kranz’s son his leg would have to be amputated just above his knee.
“This was very devastating to him, because he thought he was losing his career,” Kranz said.
Six weeks after the amputation, he was able to walk with a temporary prosthesis. Eventually, though it required the family to deplete their savings and rely on a fundraiser put together by friends, Kranz’s son was able to walk with a robotic, $60,000 prosthesis — allowing him to continue his career as a drummer in Nashville.
Kranz’s son will mark six years of being cancer-free in August, but the disease has hit her family in other ways. Her sister-in-law died from a rare form of kidney cancer five years ago; her brother also died from kidney cancer two years ago. Her mother-in-law is currently undergoing treatment for stage four breast cancer.
While Kranz has always donated funds to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer research and had heard of the Relay For Life before, it was only last year that she learned more about its true meaning after she spoke to a co-worker, Chad Chadwick, and his wife, Sheryl, who is co-founder of the Kaw Valley Relay For Life.
“They got it, they understood what it was like to have a child go through this horrible thing,” Kranz said. “So I knew I had to do everything I could to make a difference.”
Kranz said she is both excited and nervous for the event, set for June 10 at the Bonner Springs High School track, because she knows it will stir up a lot of emotions she faced during her son’s illness. But she said she knows it is worth it to help support those currently battling cancer and to help in any way she can to find a cure.
There is still time to contribute to the ninth annual Kaw Valley Relay For Life, which this year is trying to meet the goal of raising a cumulative total of $1 million in its nine years.
Sheryl Chadwick said the relay has 44 registered teams with more than 500 participants. In addition to attending the event, she said those looking to support the relay can volunteer or make donations. The relay also is looking for canned good donations for Vaughn-Trent Community Services, which will be used instead of sand to weigh down the luminaries this year. Food items can be taken to the Bonner Springs City Library or can be donated by contacting luminaria chair Katelyn Smith at 231-5518.
The relay also is still welcoming cancer survivors to take part in the pre-relay survivor dinner and first relay lap, which they can do at no charge. Survivors can register online at relayforlife.org/kawvalleyks or contact Linda Long at 441-1280.