Two Stories, One Hopeful Message From Cancer Survivors

Created: 08/06/2014 7:20 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- Two cancer survivors were chosen as the honorary chairs for this Friday’s Freeborn County Relay For Life, and while they have very different stories, they both share the same message of hope.

About four years ago, Lynn Berven was diagnosed with cancer.

The disease runs in his family, so it was the kind of cancer that really surprised him.

"First I thought, that's impossible,” Berven said. “You know, just like all the other guys."

Berven was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Only about one in 1000 men get breast cancer, compared to around one in eight women, but that doesn't mean it's any less deadly.

"The problem a lot of times is when men do get it they figure I can't have that, it gets too far and then it's not a good outcome,” Berven said.

It took major surgery and months of chemo and radiation treatment, but Berven is now cancer free.

He said he's started acting in local theatre productions, something that was on his bucket list, and wants to help spread hope to others.

"I'm doing things that I wouldn't have ordinarily done,” Berven said. “I'm having fun and I'm enjoying myself."

The other honorary chair was certainly enjoying himself at a recent Relay event: 8-year-old Dacoda Malakowsky.

When he was just two years old, Dacoda was diagnosed with a form of cancer that used to be known as pre-leukemia, and doctors also found he was missing the chromosome to fight leukemia.

"They told us when he was first diagnosed that they didn't know if it would ever be leukemia or anything,” said Amanda Malakowsky, Dacoda’s mother. “So the best chance, being that he was so young, was just to do a bone marrow transplant."

Along with the bone marrow transplant, Dacoda also went through chemo and radiation treatment, as well as surgery for cataracts that developed as a side effect of his treatment.

"They taped my eyes shut,” Dacoda said. “It was not very fun."

With all of his treatment coming before the age of three, Dacoda is now cancer free and doing everything you'd expect from a happy 8-year-old.

"[I] play baseball, basketball…wrestle, play with my siblings," Dacoda said.

"When he looks at you and you say hi, he smiles. Whether you're a stranger or you know him, he smiles,” said Amanda Malakowsky. “It's not the cancer that's contagious, it's Dacoda's smile."

Photo: ABC 6 News