‘I’ve got terminal most cancers. Here’s why I am prioritizing travel’

Versie Dortch

(CNN) — Kris Sokolowski has normally been lively, expending his totally free time mountain climbing, running and practicing martial arts.

And at each individual prospect, he could be located boarding a plane, en route to take a look at the earth. On his initial formal day with his now spouse, Sokolowski booked flights to South Africa for two weeks. The few have a son, now 11, who also joins them on their adventures.

Sokolowski’s out of doors pursuits have served preserve him wholesome. At his previous annually actual physical checkup in December 2020, his health care provider termed him “Iron Guy.”

But all around 6 months following that appointment, Sokolowski began experiencing what he describes as an “odd feeling” in his belly.

“It was variety of like a gurgling, like you are hungry. And it just was not heading away for a few of days,” he tells CNN Journey these days.

Sokolowski went to get checked out and was told it was probable acid reflux. He was specified some tablets and despatched household. A pair days later on, the gurgling feeling was nevertheless there, so he sought even further health-related information and a scan, soon after which he was informed to see a gastro expert appropriate away.

Sokolowski’s doctor instructed him there was a “large mass” on his colon and liver and he suspected late phase-four cancer. Phase 4 is the most highly developed stage of cancer and commonly indicates it has distribute from its origin.

“My first reaction was, ‘How can this materialize? I’ve hardly ever skipped an appointment,'” Sokolowski recollects.

But at 48, Sokolowski hadn’t been old sufficient for proposed standard colonoscopies in the United States (the age has given that decreased to 45). And until the gurgling sensation, he hadn’t experienced any signs and symptoms.

An MRI scan, colonoscopy and tissue sample verified the worst: Sokolowski had stage four colon cancer.

“The MRI showed it in six areas on my system,” says Sokolowski. “So it was my colon, my liver, my sternum, my spine, my lymph nodes, and the partitions of my stomach.”

Oncologists instructed him there was no treatment for his affliction.

“They gave me a lifespan between two and a fifty percent and 5 years to reside,” he suggests.

Adore of journey


The Sokolowskis traveled to China in 2015, right here they are on the Excellent Wall.

courtesy Kris Sokolowski

Atlanta-based Sokolowski is the first-technology American son of two Polish immigrants. He states his love of journey stems from the numerous childhood summers he spent back again in Poland. In his 20s, he begun touring whenever he could, on a regular basis discovering Europe.

When Sokolowski achieved his spouse Elizabeth in his thirties, the two recognized they had been united in a thirst to see the environment. That initially day in South Africa sealed the offer, and the pair were being married six months later on.

“When our son was born a calendar year afterwards in 2010, we created a commitment that just about every year, we would take him out of the nation,” suggests Sokolowski.

It’s critical to the couple to introduce their son to cultures and activities exterior of the US.

Considering the fact that he was born, the relatives has been to 19 nations around the world and counting.

“We each function for corporate The usa, but we conserve up all year, and normally acquire about a few months to travel, regardless of whether it really is Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, wherever we can go.”

Solowski states he and his wife often search forward. They seldom return to the exact position, and concentration on how they can make the best of their present-day instances and system something thrilling for the potential.


Here’s the household in Seoul, South Korea.

courtesy Kris Sokolowski

It is that mind-set that Sokolowski introduced to his terminal cancer diagnosis.

He states he is on the best dosage of chemotherapy out there. He was warned by medical doctors of facet effects of tiredness, vomiting, hair decline and excess weight decline.

“I explained, Search, I am a younger guy, I am 48 yrs previous, I have a 10-12 months-aged at property. Toss every thing you acquired at me now while I am youthful and sturdy,” recalls Sokolowski.

So considerably, aspect effects have been nominal and he is continued to exercising and operate regularly.

“I’ve never ever been sick a day from it,” Sokolowski states. “Exhaustion kicked in a minimal bit, but I was capable to defeat it. So every thing they told me was going to occur, did not happen with me.”

Sokolowski and his household canceled a prepared excursion to Iceland in summer season 2021, but as the months rolled on, he was recommended that, towards the odds, his tumors were shrinking, and he was perfectly enough to find the money for to skip one of his chemo treatments — which come about each two months — to go on trip overseas.

Even catching Covid-19 in November 2021 failed to put a cease to programs — fortuitously Sokolowski was vaccinated and only mildly ill with the virus.


The Sokolowskis appreciate to get outside on their holidays. Below they are discovering in Slovenia.

courtesy Kris Sokolowski

When he got the go ahead to vacation with his spouse and children around the Christmas period of time, Sokolowski was thrilled.

“Even over my overall health, vacation was still a priority,” Sokolowski suggests. “Simply because it was a dedication that we created when we obtained married, it was a dedication that we manufactured to our son when he was born — that we would get him out of the region just about every year. So to me, that was always priority number 1.”

Sokolowski and his spouse Elizabeth and son Braden started setting up a journey for Christmas and New Yr. They settled on a three-week experience in French Polynesia, heading to Bora Bora, Moorea and Tahiti.

Sokolowski traveled with his chemo supplements, as properly as a precautionary letter from his health care provider to guarantee he could get again into the United States — “just in case there was some form of lockdown due to the fact of Covid. And that letter generally stipulated that ‘Kris has phase-four most cancers that’s terminal, that he’s really dependent on his chemo.'”

Whilst Sokolowski had prevented a lot of side outcomes of his therapy, when departure working day rolled around he was struggling from a issue referred to as hand-foot syndrome, which can lead to the bottom of your toes to turn into genuinely tender and vulnerable to blistering and inflammation.


The Sokolowskis almost never go to the exact spot two times. This is the family on a past journey to Malta.

courtesy Kris Sokolowski

“When I was working ahead of our excursion, it brought on me to have blisters on both of my ft, I imagine I experienced four on every single foot and it was really hard to wander — it was pretty much like going for walks on razor blades,” he says.

“So the working day we were leaving for French Polynesia, we went as a result of a few different airports. We went as a result of Atlanta airport, LAX and then in Tahiti, and in all three airports, I experienced to be in a wheelchair simply because I couldn’t walk, and that was type of tough.”

But Sokolowski claims arriving in Bora Bora and diving into the turquoise waters was nearly right away healing.

That was most likely the salt h2o at get the job done, he states. But Sokolowski also thinks the happiness and delight he felt at remaining on holiday vacation in a wonderful place with his loved types lifted his spirits, offering priceless palliative care.

Under heat blue skies, the family liked swimming with black tip sharks, jet snowboarding, discovering volcanic landscapes and enjoyable.

“We put in an enormous time out on the drinking water. I mean, how can you not? It truly is crystal apparent. It’s a turquoise color that you’ve under no circumstances viewed right before. You know, you could see proper down to the base exactly where the fish are swimming. And it really is just really peaceful and relaxful.”

Living for the moment


Kris, Elizabeth and Braden Sokolowski, pictured listed here on the island of Moorea, fell in like with French Polynesia through their journey at the finish of 2021.

courtesy Kris Sokolowski

For Sokolowski and his wife, it was vital to be candid with Braden about his father’s most cancers, though also easing him into this new truth and supporting him via it.

Sokolowski says the family’s target is on creating recollections, and continuing to persuade their kid to embrace new chances and adventures.

One particular of Sokolowski’s favorite moments from the 2021 French Polynesia vacation was looking at Braden diving with sharks for the initially time.

“He was a tiny apprehensive about acquiring into water with sharks. But then he observed us performing it. So he jumped in,” suggests Sokolowski. “And the to start with time a shark arrived up to his face and then turned about and just still left — I was underwater with him and the appear on his experience, it was just — it was pure enjoyment, adrenaline and joy. And I noticed how a lot he loved it and he could not get out of the h2o, I imply, it was great.”


Diving with sharks in French Polynesia in 2021 was a spotlight for the spouse and children.

courtesy Kris Sokolowski

Sokolowski has still to take his son to Poland, but he suggests that is on the agenda for long run travels. He’d needed to wait right up until Braden was previous sufficient to comprehend and entirely respect the trip.

When the family members are at this time primarily based in Atlanta, the Sokolowskis are also seriously taking into consideration transferring to French Polynesia, if they can make it doable with remote doing the job and healthcare.

“For 15 times, I experienced a smile on my deal with, ear to ear,” Sokolowski suggests of the family’s time there. “I honestly believe that if there’s something that is going to heal my most cancers, it is likely to be dwelling a lifestyle of positivity and joy.”

Where ever they are primarily based, travel will continue being a priority. In 2022, the loved ones hope to journey to Pamplona, Spain to watch the annual working of the bulls competition — a longtime dream of Sokolowski’s.

Prioritizing health and journey

Sokolowski hopes to defy anticipations and statistics to get well from his disease. On the other hand much time he has still left, he is vowed to devote as much of it as he can discovering the planet with his loved kinds.

“I don’t know how extensive I have remaining on this earth, but I want to depart powering fond memories of vacation and a legacy wherever my son can make our earth just a bit far better,” he states.

Sokolowski has a blog the place he recaps his have ordeals with most cancers. He is turn into passionate about encouraging folks with health issues to travel if they can, and he’s equally fully commited to encouraging folks in their 40s to get a colonoscopy.

When he bought his diagnosis, Sokolowski questioned his gastroenterologist what the outlook would have been if he’d experienced a colonoscopy three years previously.

“Before I even concluded my sentence, he goes, ‘I would have pulled out a few of polyps, and you would not even be sitting listed here, we wouldn’t be getting this discussion.’ And that actually struck me difficult.”

Sokolowski claims dwelling on this “what if” isn’t handy for him.

“I do not glance in the rearview mirror,” he claims. “That does not aid me at all. It is what it is. And I only glance ahead, the only time that I look again is to tell folks my tale and say, ‘This is what transpired to me. Do not let it occur to you.'”

As an alternative, Sokolowski’s focus is on keeping as nutritious as achievable, and hunting forward to upcoming adventures with his spouse and children.

His wife Elizabeth tells CNN Vacation she has the exact outlook.

“You have to have to are living your lifetime, you only get just one lifestyle,” she claims. “The recollections is really what is likely to make you pleased in the stop.”

Sokolowski adds: “The a single thing I have normally explained to folks is get out of your bubble, get out of your city and go see the planet.”

“It amazes me how several men and women are not interested in touring — or interested and they convey to me ‘Well, we can not do this’ and they make excuses. Quit with the excuses and do it.”

Top rated image: the Sokolowski loved ones in Padar, Indonesia. Courtesy Kris Sokolowski

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