Relay Chair Matt Kropf battled bladder disease 3 years ago
KABLETOWN – Matt Kropf has been named the honorary chair of Jefferson County Relay for Life this year. He will lead the first lap of the walk on June 22 at Charles Town Middleschool, which is set to begin at 2 p.m.
[cleeng_content id="493043052" description="Read it now!" price="0.15" t="article"]Kropf, who works in the IT industry, is a survivor of bladder cancer. He found out he would be chairing the event at a fundraiser in March.
“I was kind of humbled,” Kropf said “There are a lot of more deserving people.”
Kropf and his wife, DeDe, have been involved with Relay for Life for the past 11 years since its founding. Even before his diagnosis, they were intimately familiar with the toll that cancer can take on a family. His mother died of cancer, as did Dede’s father.
Both were also close friends of Washington High School coach Mike Grant, who died in September 2012.
Kropf was diagnosed with high-grade stage T2 muscle-invasive bladder cancer three years ago.
“It’s an older man’s cancer,” said Kropf, who was 44 when he was diagnosed and did not have any of the major risk factors, like exposure to industrial chemicals.
“After a lot of the crying and saying, ‘This can’t be happening,’ and all that, we finally said, ‘Screw it. We’re going to beating this thing. We are strong enough. We have a great support group.’”
“The best thing for me to do was to do chemotherapy before we went to surgery,” he said.
Kropf went through an 11-week cycle of intense chemotherapy.
“By Saturday, you felt like somebody beat you up and down with a baseball bat,” Kropf said. “All you could really do was watch TV.”
Unfortunately, after completing his round of chemotherapy, Kropf’s tumor had not shrunk significantly. His remaining options were a treatment that involved regular injections of tuberculosis bacteria into his bladder for the rest of his life or surgery.
He opted for a procedure called a radical cystectomy, which involved removing his bladder and replacing it with a length of intestine. He went into surgery in November 2010.
“It’s a pretty tough surgery. I was on the table for six hours,” he said, adding that he required a week of hospital recovery before he could return home.
Bladder cancer has a high risk of recurrence, but, so far, Kropf remains cancer-free.
“It will be three years this November. I went to see both of my oncologists and my urologist for the first year or so,” he said. “We were very lucky that it didn’t metastasize or go through the muscle lining.”
Kropf says the experience has left him grateful for the support that his family and his community gave him during his battle.
“It was a rough year,” he said. “I look back upon it now, and I know that I was just lucky. And lucky that I had such a great support group.”
He hopes that, as honorary chairman, he can hope to inspire those who are still battling cancer and remind the community of the importance of providing support for them.
“I try to relate my experience,” he said. “Whether you picked up the phone and called me, sent a letter, sent an email or even sent a prayer, it really helped out. Having that positive support system is so important.”
This support system is, Kropf says, the essence of the Relay for Life event.
“It’s about the togetherness of survivors, supporters, honorees raising awareness and raising money to help,” he said. “We’re walking until cancer can be cured.”
“If people can look at my recovery as a positive outlook for them, then maybe I’ve helped someone.”