Andrew Mrkvicka’s Extraordinary Comeback
By: Hayley Woodward
Andrew Mrkvicka didn’t think he would still be here today after the news he was given five years ago. Mrkvicka is a 44-year-old licensed clinical social worker for Adams County human services from Westminster, Colo., who survived testicular cancer after being diagnosed in 2009. After feeling pain in his shoulder one day, he called his doctor. When his doctor told him it was probably nothing to worry about – that he likely slept on it wrong, Mrkvicka had an initial instinct to blow it off. When the pain persisted, however, he left work for the day to get it checked out, and didn’t return until five months later.
He not only had the confirmation he had testicular cancer, but the cancer had now spread to his abdomen and his lungs. The next four months were going to require an aggressive chemotherapy regiment, in order to save his life. The treatment included five hours a day, for five days a week, and two surgeries – one, to remove the testicle with the cancer, and the other to remove the growth that spread to his lungs.
How long have you been cancer free?
That’s an interesting question…Last October was the fifth year since when I was diagnosed. I have never had an official, ‘you don’t have cancer’ meeting with my doctor but I got to say that once I started treatment, I started beating it. I focus more on my diagnosis date than any other health dates.
So do you have to get regular check-ups just to be sure you don’t have the cancer, and how often do they do that?
I have to do it a couple of times a year as sort of a consequence of having cancer. I have a stage three kidney disease. So, once a year, they have to put a stint into my kidney. I see my same doc for that. I do that around the summertime and then in December of every year, I do blood work, X-rays and MRI’s.
Who were your biggest supporters?
I would say my wife and my family were huge, but really and truly, my job. I have been at Adams County for 13 years. I had been there for eight years when I got diagnosed. Luckily, I had not taken a lot of sick time so I had time approved to do the treatments. My whole department was like, ‘Do what you need to do, don’t think about us. Your job is secure, your job is safe.’ I owe a lot of my health to my job. They took one worry, something I didn’t have to worry about, which made it so much better.
How long have you been married?
Well, she is a champion. We started dating in 2008. We had been dating for barely a year when I got diagnosed. A t that time, she had a five-year-old daughter. So I told her, “No hard feelings. You can walk away. Go raise your family. If I live, I will give you a call.” She stayed. She spent every night in the hospital, attended every chemo session, and every doctor’s appointment. She was there every step of the way.
Who do you consider as your role model?
Lance Armstrong. He started Live Strong and regardless of what we want to say about his behavior on the bicycle, he is still a testicular cancer survivor. Lance Armstrong, not the cyclist but the survivor, I have a lot of admiration for, because he took his position and did something really powerful with it.
How do you inspire others to be involved with this?
I think through attitude and just talking about it. I have a puppet and his name is General Awareness and he is a cancer fighting superhero. He goes around to cancer events and he has business cards. On the back of cards it shows how to do self-exams. He talks to kids, teenagers and adults about the importance of taking care of themselves and I think that is a fun way to do it. He’s kind of a dopey guy but he’s fun. He shows up anywhere that there is going to be groups of people, spreading the word.