June 15, 2024


Food & Travel Enthusiast

I have obtained terminal cancer. Here is why I am prioritizing journey

(CNN) — Kris Sokolowski has constantly been energetic, paying his cost-free time mountain climbing, functioning and practising martial arts.

And at each opportunity, he could be observed boarding a airplane, en route to examine the environment. On his initial formal date with his now wife, Sokolowski booked flights to South Africa for two months. The pair have a son, now 11, who also joins them on their adventures.

Sokolowski’s outdoor pursuits have aided preserve him wholesome. At his past annually physical checkup in December 2020, his doctor called him “Iron Male.”

But about six months after that appointment, Sokolowski started out enduring what he describes as an “odd sensation” in his belly.

“It was form of like a gurgling, like you’re hungry. And it just wasn’t heading absent for a few of times,” he tells CNN Travel now.

Sokolowski went to get checked out and was instructed it was probably acid reflux. He was offered some capsules and despatched home. A few days afterwards, the gurgling feeling was however there, so he sought additional health-related assistance and a scan, after which he was told to see a gastro expert right absent.

Sokolowski’s health practitioner informed him there was a “major mass” on his colon and liver and he suspected late phase-4 cancer. Stage four is the most innovative phase of cancer and ordinarily means it has unfold from its origin.

“My first response was, ‘How can this happen? I have under no circumstances skipped an appointment,'” Sokolowski recalls.

But at 48, Sokolowski hadn’t been outdated adequate for advised regular colonoscopies in the United States (the age has due to the fact lowered to 45). And until eventually the gurgling feeling, he hadn’t professional any indications.

An MRI scan, colonoscopy and tissue sample verified the worst: Sokolowski experienced phase 4 colon cancer.

“The MRI confirmed it in 6 places on my overall body,” claims Sokolowski. “So it was my colon, my liver, my sternum, my backbone, my lymph nodes, and the walls of my abdomen.”

Oncologists informed him there was no get rid of for his issue.

“They gave me a lifespan in between two and a fifty percent and five many years to live,” he states.

Appreciate of journey


The Sokolowskis traveled to China in 2015, right here they are on the Fantastic Wall.

courtesy Kris Sokolowski

Atlanta-based mostly Sokolowski is the first-era American son of two Polish immigrants. He claims his really like of journey stems from the many childhood summers he invested again in Poland. In his 20s, he begun traveling whenever he could, consistently discovering Europe.

When Sokolowski achieved his wife Elizabeth in his thirties, the two recognized they had been united in a thirst to see the entire world. That initially day in South Africa sealed the deal, and the couple were married six months later on.

“When our son was born a calendar year later on in 2010, we produced a dedication that each individual 12 months, we would acquire him out of the state,” says Sokolowski.

It can be essential to the pair to introduce their son to cultures and encounters exterior of the US.

Due to the fact he was born, the loved ones has been to 19 nations and counting.

“We equally function for corporate The united states, but we save up all yr, and commonly take about a few months to journey, whether it’s Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, anywhere we can go.”

Solowski suggests he and his wife usually search forward. They hardly ever return to the exact area, and focus on how they can make the ideal of their recent circumstances and system one thing interesting for the potential.


Here’s the loved ones in Seoul, South Korea.

courtesy Kris Sokolowski

It really is that perspective that Sokolowski introduced to his terminal cancer prognosis.

He states he’s on the optimum dosage of chemotherapy accessible. He was warned by medical doctors of side effects of fatigue, vomiting, hair decline and weight decline.

“I stated, Appear, I am a youthful man, I am 48 a long time aged, I have a 10-year-previous at property. Throw every thing you acquired at me now although I am young and sturdy,” remembers Sokolowski.

So much, facet consequences have been nominal and he is ongoing to work out and operate on a regular basis.

“I’ve under no circumstances been sick a working day from it,” Sokolowski says. “Fatigue kicked in a minor bit, but I was able to get over it. So every little thing they explained to me was heading to occur, did not happen with me.”

Sokolowski and his relatives canceled a prepared trip to Iceland in summer 2021, but as the months rolled on, he was recommended that, versus the odds, his tumors have been shrinking, and he was well adequate to afford to pay for to skip 1 of his chemo treatments — which take place each two months — to go on family vacation overseas.

Even catching Covid-19 in November 2021 did not put a quit to plans — the good news is Sokolowski was vaccinated and only mildly sick with the virus.


The Sokolowskis adore to get exterior on their holidays. Listed here they are exploring in Slovenia.

courtesy Kris Sokolowski

When he bought the go ahead to travel with his relatives over the Christmas time period, Sokolowski was thrilled.

“Even over my health and fitness, travel was even now a priority,” Sokolowski claims. “For the reason that it was a determination that we designed when we acquired married, it was a dedication that we designed to our son when he was born — that we would acquire him out of the nation every calendar year. So to me, that was normally priority number one particular.”

Sokolowski and his spouse Elizabeth and son Braden started scheduling a vacation for Christmas and New Year. They settled on a three-7 days experience in French Polynesia, heading to Bora Bora, Moorea and Tahiti.

Sokolowski traveled with his chemo supplements, as properly as a precautionary letter from his medical professional to assure he could get back again into the United States — “just in scenario there was some variety of lockdown since of Covid. And that letter fundamentally stipulated that ‘Kris has stage-4 cancer which is terminal, that he’s really dependent on his chemo.'”

When Sokolowski experienced avoided many side consequences of his treatment, when departure day rolled close to he was struggling from a ailment named hand-foot syndrome, which can trigger the bottom of your ft to turn into seriously tender and inclined to blistering and swelling.


The Sokolowskis not often go to the exact put 2 times. Here’s the spouse and children on a past journey to Malta.

courtesy Kris Sokolowski

“When I was jogging before our excursion, it triggered me to have blisters on both of those of my toes, I assume I had four on just about every foot and it was incredibly tough to wander — it was nearly like going for walks on razor blades,” he suggests.

“So the working day we ended up leaving for French Polynesia, we went via a few diverse airports. We went by way of Atlanta airport, LAX and then in Tahiti, and in all three airports, I experienced to be in a wheelchair mainly because I couldn’t stroll, and that was sort of tough.”

But Sokolowski claims arriving in Bora Bora and diving into the turquoise waters was just about promptly therapeutic.

That was very likely the salt water at perform, he says. But Sokolowski also thinks the happiness and delight he felt at becoming on family vacation in a attractive spot with his liked kinds lifted his spirits, supplying priceless palliative care.

Beneath warm blue skies, the loved ones enjoyed swimming with black tip sharks, jet skiing, discovering volcanic landscapes and stress-free.

“We put in an monumental time out on the h2o. I imply, how can you not? It can be crystal apparent. It can be a turquoise color that you have under no circumstances observed ahead of. You know, you could see suitable down to the bottom exactly where the fish are swimming. And it truly is just pretty tranquil and relaxful.”

Dwelling for the moment


Kris, Elizabeth and Braden Sokolowski, pictured here on the island of Moorea, fell in appreciate with French Polynesia during their trip at the end of 2021.

courtesy Kris Sokolowski

For Sokolowski and his spouse, it was vital to be candid with Braden about his father’s cancer, even though also easing him into this new reality and supporting him by way of it.

Sokolowski says the family’s focus is on earning recollections, and continuing to encourage their kid to embrace new options and adventures.

Just one of Sokolowski’s favored times from the 2021 French Polynesia journey was seeing Braden diving with sharks for the 1st time.

“He was a minor apprehensive about having into drinking water with sharks. But then he noticed us performing it. So he jumped in,” states Sokolowski. “And the first time a shark came up to his deal with and then turned all around and just remaining — I was underwater with him and the appear on his confront, it was just — it was pure exhilaration, adrenaline and pleasure. And I saw how much he loved it and he couldn’t get out of the h2o, I indicate, it was amazing.”


Diving with sharks in French Polynesia in 2021 was a highlight for the family.

courtesy Kris Sokolowski

Sokolowski has yet to consider his son to Poland, but he states which is on the agenda for long run travels. He’d desired to wait until eventually Braden was aged ample to understand and entirely enjoy the vacation.

Though the family are at this time based in Atlanta, the Sokolowskis are also severely thinking about shifting to French Polynesia, if they can make it doable with remote performing and health care.

“For 15 days, I had a smile on my encounter, ear to ear,” Sokolowski claims of the family’s time there. “I honestly consider if there’s something which is likely to cure my most cancers, it can be going to be residing a life of positivity and contentment.”

Wherever they are based, travel will continue being a precedence. In 2022, the loved ones hope to travel to Pamplona, Spain to observe the once-a-year jogging of the bulls pageant — a longtime desire of Sokolowski’s.

Prioritizing wellbeing and vacation

Sokolowski hopes to defy expectations and stats to recuperate from his ailment. Having said that much time he has left, he’s vowed to invest as a great deal of it as he can discovering the entire world with his liked ones.

“I never know how prolonged I have still left on this earth, but I want to leave at the rear of fond recollections of journey and a legacy where my son can make our planet just a bit greater,” he suggests.

Sokolowski has a site exactly where he recaps his individual ordeals with cancer. He’s develop into passionate about encouraging people today with illness to journey if they can, and he’s similarly dedicated to encouraging individuals in their 40s to get a colonoscopy.

When he acquired his diagnosis, Sokolowski asked his gastroenterologist what the outlook would have been if he’d had a colonoscopy three many years earlier.

“Ahead of I even completed my sentence, he goes, ‘I would have pulled out a few of polyps, and you wouldn’t even be sitting down in this article, we would not be owning this discussion.’ And that genuinely struck me tricky.”

Sokolowski suggests dwelling on this “what if” isn’t valuable for him.

“I do not glance in the rearview mirror,” he says. “That isn’t going to aid me at all. It is what it is. And I only glance ahead, the only time that I seem back again is to notify individuals my tale and say, ‘This is what transpired to me. Do not enable it materialize to you.'”

Alternatively, Sokolowski’s concentrate is on staying as healthier as doable, and hunting forward to upcoming adventures with his household.

His wife Elizabeth tells CNN Vacation she has the exact outlook.

“You need to have to reside your daily life, you only get just one everyday living,” she states. “The reminiscences is truly what is heading to make you happy in the conclusion.”

Sokolowski adds: “The a single issue I’ve often instructed men and women is get out of your bubble, get out of your metropolis and go see the globe.”

“It amazes me how lots of people today are not intrigued in traveling — or intrigued and they notify me ‘Well, we are not able to do this’ and they make excuses. End with the excuses and do it.”

Major picture: the Sokolowski spouse and children in Padar, Indonesia. Courtesy Kris Sokolowski