Mother Erin Ramczyk and big sister Coraline Rose each visit with Roman for the first time Tuesday. At one point last week, Erin, Roman and father Mike Ramczyk were in separate hospitals. (Photo by Mike Ramczyk)

My family endured a harrowing month and came out smiling

If it wasn’t enough to lose my mom and my job in a span of three months, the hits kept coming this past month.

It all started at the state baseball tournament back in early June, where both the Burlington Demons and Union Grove Broncos won a game and enjoyed two magical seasons.

      On a break from the action in Appleton, I get a call from my primary doctor, Melanie Smith of Aurora in Burlington, with troublesome news on my blood levels.

Sugar and lipids are a little high, Vitamin D is alarmingly low – but honestly, nothing to rush me into the emergency room that day.

For about two months leading up to this day, I had been experiencing irregular bowel movements, to put the most clean way possible, and finally in May got around to calling Dr. Smith for advice.

She wasn’t around that day, and a June 4 appointment for a gastro-intestinal doctor was eventually cancelled. Sectional baseball in Kenosha called.

The meeting was postponed until Aug. 28.

So my summer of fun and partying – Summerfest, Brewers, whatever the heck I want, was fully on.

But something changed that fateful, yet sunny and beautiful Tuesday in Appleton.

Per tradition (it was my fourth straight spring covering the Demons at state baseball), I headed over about three miles to Buffalo Wild Wings to kill time before Burlington’s 6 p.m. game.

An uncontrollable urge led me to the toilet before sitting down to indulge on my favorite wings, and my tone took a grim turn when I glanced in the bowl.

Bright red blood – a lot of it, filled the water – only the second time I’ve ever seen that, and it was panic time.

With the doctor’s number on speed dial, I immediately called to see what’s up.

This was serious.

After leaving a message, Smith’s response time let me know exactly how important this was.

As I was just about to crouch down behind home plate to catch a close-up photo of Demon pitcher Trent Turzenski, Smith called, after hours, at 7 p.m.

I told her I was working, she said to enjoy it but adamantly directed me to call her first thing Wednesday morning. She said bright red isn’t normal.

The next day, I called, and she rushed me into Burlington Memorial Hospital.

One look at photos of my stool, and she put in a stat order for a colonoscopy.

By the next week, I was in for the procedure, with a doctor reassuring me minutes before I went under.

“It’s probably just hemorrhoids, and we’ll get rid of them.”

The anesthesia had me joking around in a groggy state, and I knew nothing.

But Dr. Radke didn’t mince words, stating they found a tumor and in his 20 years of experience, it seems like it will be cancer.

The ‘C’ word ­– something many consider a death sentence.

My life would be forever changed.

The next day, the call came. It was cancer.

I wanted to scream until my lungs burst. I called my wife and cried. The sheer, haunting terror of that word is an evil force in itself, and I was spinning – two days after my 37th birthday.

Lots of opinions

That led to a CT scan, genetic testing, numerous hospital visits and endless phone calls from doctors, nurses, financial consultants, oncologists, you name it.

My world was suddenly flipped upside down, and I was scared. I had no idea what to do.

After what seemed like the longest couple of days of my life, we got some good news from the first surgeon we met.

“Good news!” was the first thing she said when my wife, Erin, mother-in-law Peg and I tried Elmbrook Hospital in Brookfield. “It hasn’t spread.”

Great news, but I still needed surgery. The 2- to 3-inch tumor was roughing up my colon and was dangerously close to my rectum.

The plan was to surgically remove the tumor, test it and the lymph nodes to see the stage of cancer, and go from there.

A second opinion at Froedtert confirmed the diagnosis, though Dr. Ludwig first ran a test to see if it was a rectal cancer, one that could’ve required chemotherapy and radiation before surgery and includes a high risk of return.

Thank the good, mighty Lord it was still in the sigmoid portion of the colon, and the plan remained the same.

Last Thursday, July 18, I reclined on a slab surrounded by a team of surgeons, staring up at a metal ceiling while anesthesia coursed through my veins and a mask covered my face.

Before I knew it, four hours had passed, and I woke up in a haze. I was in excruciating pain, so much so I literally didn’t know what to say or do. For a talkative guy like me, I was speechless.

All I could do was sleep, but by Thursday night, I turned a corner – laughing, talking, smiling and taking on a few visitors, despite throwing up something as simple as coffee based on my new, sore colon, a resected amalgamation of what I had my whole life.

The new anatomy still has me out of whack, and could for months.

After Erin and Peg didn’t leave my sight, sleeping alongside, they left at 8 p.m. for Burlington with a plan of bringing my daughter Coraline to visit Friday.

Things were on the up and up.

Get me out of this belly!

Correspondent Mike Ramczyk changes his newborn son’s diaper for the first time Tuesday.

Though the plan was an Aug. 20 due date for baby Ramczyk, Erin gave me a call Friday morning.

“My water broke!”

Pardon my French, but are you friggin’ kidding me?!?

Hey, God, can you slow down for one second, bro?

This is WAY too much. AHHHHHHHH!

With me not scheduled to leave the hospital until Sunday, Erin was rushed to Aurora Lakeland in Elkhorn, and the marathon was on. Pitocin was eventually turned up, and it wasn’t even until about 16 hours before Erin began to push.

Four hours of intense, stressful pushing later, vacuum attempts not working, and seemingly not much sign of success, it was time for a C-section.

Roman David Ramczyk came out not breathing or crying at 7:07 a.m. Saturday morning and was immediately intubated and given what grandma said looked like resuscitation.

The two women had already been awake 30 straight hours, and the trauma was overwhelming.

Roman was taken within the hour to the Women’s Pavillion, a neonatal special location in West Allis, and he has been there since.

That’s right, three different Ramczyks at three different hospitals, and I couldn’t do anything about seeing the birth of my baby.

Thankfully, Erin was OK and was released Monday, one day after I got back.

Tuesday was a major win.

Roman David Ramczyk remains in NICU in West Allis this week, but improvement has come each day.

I was able to meet Roman and hold him Sunday after leaving Froedtert, which was a mere four miles from the baby, but Tuesday was the biggie – the day mommy met baby.

We spent the day with the little chunk, a 9-pound, 8-ounce gentle monster of a gorgeous boy that could be destined for a powerhouse life of football or weightlifting.

His grabby cheeks and forehead suggest Ramczyk, along with our eyes and a butt-chin for extra character. But the good looks come from mom.

With my only brother, Steve, having two girls, the Ramczyk name will officially live on thanks to Roman, something that gave my family members big smiles.

He’s having trouble breathing, hasn’t yet eaten enough and suffered two partial collapsed lungs, so we’re not out of the woods by any means.

But he’s also stable, so signs point to him coming home, hopefully by next week.

Get a colonoscopy

All the bad we went through since Christmas is slowly, but surely becoming good news after good news.

By the weekend, I should know my battle plan moving forward, whether I need chemotherapy or if I’m already cancer-free.

I’m cautiously optimistic, hoping for the best while preparing for the worst.

Crying and talking to my late mom and God have become nightly routine, as it’s the uncertainty of cancer that is just as insidious as the disease.

Doctors continue to make progress, but even they don’t know everything.

My advice would be to call your doctor right now and schedule a colonoscopy.

Even if you’re 35 and not showing symptoms, call and get it done. I don’t care.

Get it done.

You will thank me later.

You’ll pay maybe $2,000 or $3,000, all out-of-pocket, but something as slow-moving as colon cancer could’ve been in my body for years, that’s right, YEARS.

How on earth is that possible, right?

Thank the Lord this was caught “early” and I have a fighter’s chance.

I’m young and strong, and I will beat this.

My family and friends need me, I need them and I want to live a long time, just like everyone else.

Pray for me, I’ll pray for you, and let’s love life and each other together.

I have a deeper appreciation for the little things: walking, breathing, talking, heck, even going to the bathroom.

You never know when change is going to come and smash your plans, so please do your best to be grateful and stay positive.

I’m getting there, little by little.

The next time you see your parents, tell them you love them, even if they don’t reply.

Hug your kids extra tight.

Lean on family and friends – mine have been overwhelmingly supportive, providing meals, mowing the lawn, sending care packages, hanging with Cora so we can rest and following up with encouraging calls and messages.

Thank you!

We will need more help, depending on my health and with baby Roman, so just know I don’t really want to ask, but there could be times where we don’t have a choice.

Tell those you care about exactly how they make you feel, and it will brighten their day.

Life is short, and we only have so much time to make an impact, to help and inspire others.

If you get nothing else from this column, just know that God is good.

The sun will eventually come out, you will smile after the darkest of storms and nothing lasts forever.

You are one in a million – strong, capable and brave enough to do anything.

The beautiful, kind-hearted spirit of my mom, Joni, lives on through baby Roman, and I truly believe she is an angel watching over me and protecting me during this tough time, along with everyone in my family, including my brothers and sisters and their families.

If you just so happen to get cancer, just know, it’s NOT a death sentence.

That’s what 53-year-old Janice, one of my Lakeland nurses, told me. She should know, after beating three different types of cancer already.

And seeing people at these cancer clinics in much worse shape has opened my eyes – if they can do it, so can I.

Live, work, laugh, love, go to the movies.

Thrive in the present.

We have no other choice.

We were given the most precious gift, life, and we must live it to the fullest.

Setbacks will come, but this, too, shall pass, which was ironically my mom’s favorite saying.