It has been said that cancer strikes with no rhyme or reason, afflicting the young and old alike.
But some families are dealt a harsher hand than others with cancer striking multiple family members, making for a sad family narrative. Such is the case with the Gawlik family of Avon Lake.
Ed Gawlik, a deputy with the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office and member of the Lorain County SWAT team with a 25-year career in law enforcement, can recite the painful tale about cancer.
In 1997, after just five years of marriage, Gawlik lost his wife, Jenny, to a 3-year battle with cervical cancer. Their only child, a bright-eyed little boy named Sean, was only 3.
This year, cancer has returned to the Gawlik family. Only now the diagnosis belongs to Sean. On March 22, the now-19-year-old was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He is currently going through a round of chemotherapy with the hopes that the harsh chemical drugs will rid his body of the cancer.
“Yeah, we can say it’s unfair, but Sean is an amazing young man,” said Ed’s sister, Shelly Gawlik. “He’s nothing but positive. In his mind, he’s beating this and everything will be fine.”
He also hasn’t let cancer stop his life.
The 2012 Avon High School graduate continues to work full time and is currently enrolled at Lorain County Community College, where he is studying criminal justice with dreams of going into law enforcement like his father.
Sean’s diagnosis probably came about because of the family’s history with cancer.
Ed’s girlfriend of four years, Rebecca Pearson, said Sean complained to his father about a pain in his shoulder. Ed took the complaint seriously and asked to see the area. That’s when he noticed the lymph nodes in his son’s neck were swollen. He was taken to the doctor within a few days.
“They almost diagnosed him on the spot,” Pearson said. “They still scheduled a biopsy right away, but the doctors could almost tell immediately just by looking at it was cancer. I guess it really just goes to show you that parents know when something is not right.”
Sean has been given more than a 90 percent survival rate. Just two spots in his chest area are cancerous and doctors are aggressively treating it to keep the cancer from spreading.
Despite the good prognosis, the news has been devastating for the family.
“Sean is trying to be strong and not tell his dad when he’s not feeling well because he doesn’t want to worry him,” Pearson said. “But I can see how it worries him more not knowing what Sean is going through.”
Shelly Gawlik said she sometimes see the same worried look on her brother’s face that he had so many years ago with is wife.
“When Jenny passed away, he remained by her side the entire time,” she said. “Hospice came to the house and he took care of everything for her. He’s already lived it and been through cancer once, but now this is his son so it’s a whole new kind of stress.”
Since March, the law enforcement community in Lorain County has rallied behind the Gawlik family. Pearson, who also works for the Sheriff’s Department and is the daughter of a former police chief in Grafton, said the support has been amazing.
“It’s like having a big family,” she said. “Everyone has stepped up. So many people know Ed and Sean. They know Ed is working 60 and 70 hours a week, sometimes going without sleep to take care of his family. They want to help any way they can. That support is really helping Ed and Sean get through this.”
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.