John and Ann Pomranky
John Pomranky was born in Midland, Michigan. His forefathers were among
the first pioneers of Midland, their name gracing many streets and parks
in the area.
John was the second youngest of 10 children, eight boys and two girls.
The family remains extremely close. They are in constant contact and are
always available to lend a hand with the smallest project. The 10 children
were raised by parents who did not coddle them, but encouraged them to
fend for themselves, solve their own problems and be independent.
John and Ann Pomranky were married on October 21, 1967. They have two adult
children, Kara Malkowski, age 30, and Steven, 28, and four grandchildren.
They have struggled with cancer before. As a teenager, Steven was diagnosed
with non-hodgkin's lymphoma. Ten years ago he underwent a bone marrow
transplant. He has had two recurrences over the last several years. Despite
his troubles, Steven managed to become a police officer in Midland.
Tall, quiet and unassuming, John is an inventor and builder. His backyard
and large barn are cluttered with tossed-away items - wheels, frames,
fans, boxes, boards or broken equipment. He turns trash into "treasure."
A prime example is his renovation of a 100-year-old storage building that
had been rotting away for years in a corn field. John convinced the owner
to give him the old storage building and within days, John and his brothers
had the building jacked up and towed to his 10-acre hideaway, located
about 20 minutes from his home. John proceeded to refinish the building
into a comfortable cabin. He cut wood from his land, dried it out, planed
it and finished it. The once rotting building in the middle of a corn
field became John's getaway, known as the "Recycled Inn."
Behind the finished cabin is a garden, where John grows squash, pumpkins,
beets, corn, cherry, peach and apple trees. Every piece of the Inn comes
from recycled materials. An avid outdoors man, he hunts and traps on his
land and has several coyotes, fox and mink pelts hanging on the walls
of the Inn. As a fisherman, he favors walleye and perch. His love for
the outdoors comes a close second to his family.
John's backyard barn he built by hand.
John's troubles began in November, 2002. He and his son Steven were
deer hunting, and John shot a buck early that morning. When it came time
to leave, John was unable to help Steven drag the buck back to his truck.
He tried to carry the guns and other gear but found that he had to stop
to catch his breath every few yards.
John consulted with his doctor. In December he was diagnosed with bronchitis
and treated with antibiotics. In January, 2003, he was diagnosed as having
a bad sinus infection.
During the next few months, John pressed on with his daily chores, trying
to ignore his shortness of breath, weight loss, and fatigue. He began
to spend day after day just sitting in his chair. His wife and daughter
urged him to see a doctor. John finally agreed and contacted his doctor in May.
To reach a diagnosis, John's doctor ran a series of tests. A chest
film revealed the presence of a large pleural effusion and prompted a
CT scan and referral to a pulmonary specialist. The pulmonologist performed
a bronchoscopy along with a pleurocentesis during which 50 ml. of fluid
were removed. Cytological testing of the fluid was inconclusive. In early
June, a fine needle tissue biopsy was also attempted on a mass that had
been found during a previous CT scan, but this procedure was unsuccessful.
John's home away from home
The Recyled Inn - October, 2003
John continued to suffer through the summer with no confirmed diagnosis.
In late August, John was admitted to the MidMichigan Medical Center for
an exploratory right thoracotomy and biopsy of the pleural mass. The surgeon
entered his chest cavity through the bed of the fifth rib. The pleura
at that point was quite thick, approximately one centimeter. The lung,
which was enshrouded almost in its entirely by thick viseceral pleura,
was detached from the chest wall. The surgeon attempted to further decorticate
but the peel was very adherent and there was concern that any further
removal might result in significant air leaks. The chunks of the parietal
pleura were sent to Pathology and, on frozen section, were found to be
consistent with mesothelioma.
John remained hospitalized for eight days. Two drainage tubes inserted
for post-surgical drainage remained until August 26th. The excruciating
pain associated with both the invasive surgery and the cancer was controlled
with morphine. John described the surgical scar, located directly under
his right shoulder blade, as a foot long running from his backbone to
the right side of his chest.
After being told by his surgeon that he had mesothelioma, John was in a
state of shock. He had heard the word mesothelioma on television. Now
he was faced with the reality that he had a terminal disease. The doctors
suggested that he contact Dr. Harvey Pass at the Karmanos Cancer Clinic
in Detroit, Michigan. (Link to Pass).
John met with Dr. Pass on September 8, 2003. Dr. Pass ordered a number
of tests to determine his suitability for radical extra-pleural pneumonectomy
(EPP). Based upon his examination, and the review of the performed tests,
Dr. Pass recommended that John first receive chemotherapy followed by
a right-sided extra-pleural pneumonectomy (EPP) and adjuvant radiation
John's surgical scars
It was decided that John would receive what at that time was considered
the experimental chemotherapy combination of Alimta and Cisplatin. Prior
to its approval by the Food and Drug Administration on February 5, 2004,
Alimta was offered on a "compassionate use" basis only. Therefore,
John would have to travel from Midland to Detroit every three weeks for
administration of the chemotherapeutic agents.
In late September John and his wife Ann made the trip back to Detroit.
It took approximately one and one half hours to intravenously administer
the chemotherapy, which needed to remain in his body for 12 to 14 hours.
After the treatment period the drugs were flushed from his system. Each
treatment required an overnight stay at the hospital. With the first session
under his belt, John returned home. Three days later, John became so ill
with nausea and diarrhea that he ended up in the hospital emergency room.
There he was given fluids intravenously, anti-nausea medication and suppositories
to combat the diarrhea.
Three weeks later, John traveled to Detroit for his second treatment. This
time he was given more anti-nausea medication and OxyContin for pain.
After returning home, he did nothing but sleep for almost five days. When
he finally got up, he felt much better.
However, John again required emergency hospitalization, on October 20,
2003, for a blood clot in his left leg. He was treated with intravenous
heparin and Lovenox until his discharge on October 23. On October 24,
2003, a follow-up MRI revealed a blot clot near the left lung. John was
ordered to stay off his leg and self-injected Lovenox every 12 hours into
his stomach. This pushed back John's treatments by a week.
John received his last cocktail of Alimta and Cisplatin on November 25,
2003. A CT scan and other preoperative tests were conducted during the
next several weeks to determine if he remained a suitable candidate for
the EPP. It was Dr. Pass's recommendation, based partly on the lack
of other reasonable treatment options, that John proceed with surgery.
The surgery was scheduled for January 26, 2004.
Some of John's mesothelioma
At the time of the surgery, Dr. Pass chose not to enter through the previous
incision because it did not provide adequate access to the diaphragm.
Once inside, Dr. Pass found a very bulky tumor that was invading the last
layer of the inner chest wall, the diaphragm, heart sac, and the lung
itself. The pleura was incredibly hard and thickened in areas up to 1.5
cm. The tumor was stuck like "Crazy Glue" to the top of the
chest, making the dissection of the vena cava and the subclavian artery
difficult and tedious. The diaphragm was also completely involved with
the tumor and had to be resected en bloc with the lung. Dr. Pass had no
other alternative but to perform an extra-pleural pneumonectomy.
Fortunately, there was no invasion through the diaphragm into the abdomen
or the pericardium onto the heart. After removing the lung, pleura, diaphragm,
pericardium and lymph nodes, Dr. Pass used Gortex, a synthetic implant
material that does not dissolve, to reconstruct the diaphragm and the
pericardium. The surgery took approximately four hours to complete.
Since the surgery, John has been recuperating at his home in northern Michigan.
His recovery has been slow and painful. There was no deer hunting last
fall and no ice fishing this past winter. But John is hoping that as each
day passes and with the arrival of an early Spring he will be able to
return to the "Recycled Inn" to begin work in his garden. John
is determined to return to his cherished days of retirement, to camp on
the Upper Peninsula, to end the temporary "stay" enjoyed by
the walleyes and perch, and last but not least, return to his old hunting
grounds for another buck.
Kara Malkowski is John's daughter. Her thoughts follow:
I am the daughter of John Pomranky. His family is very proud of him for
taking on this challenge...he is a role model for us all. I just hope
that his story will encourage others who are faced with this disease.
There are so few survivors, which makes finding a glimmer of hope so important.
We never would have expected that eight months after diagnosis, and three
months after a extra-pleural pneumonectomy (EPP), my dad would be up and
around, puttering around his shop and occasionally going to Friday-night
fish fry with his wife, children and grandkids. He even went fishing two
times last week with his brothers and nephew, which he hasn't been
able to do for many, many months. Which is not to say he doesn't have
bad days. But the days that are good, he makes the best of. We give the
credit to God who has gifted my dad's doctors with their talents and
who has blessed us with strength and comfort, even on the worst days.
What you may not realize is that he is the best "papa" in the
world. Even during this illness, even when the disease was ravaging his
body, my dad always has a hug and a smile for his grandchildren. His twin
grandsons were born while he was in the hospital recovering from the EPP,
so we brought a laptop computer into his hospital room so he could see
the pictures of them. There were no words necessary as the tears of joy
ran down his face. He generously gives of his time every weekday afternoon
to care for his two granddaughters. There is nothing like seeing a little
four year old girl run up from the creek behind the house with a freshly
caught sucker hanging from the hook on her fishing pole -- all done with
the help of Papa. Papa's lap is the place for rides on his old Ford
garden tractor, softly told naptime stories and the gentle brushing of
curly blond hair. Now that I think about it, he is the best dad in the
world too, although to tell that story would be much longer than I can
We'll keep you posted on the progress of this determined, resourceful man.
*** POSTED APRIL 7, 2004 ***
Texas Courts Confirm Rights of Non-Texas Residents.
Mr. John Pomranky passed away on August 23, 2004