When the helper needs help
By Denise Baran-UnLand For The Herald-News May 10, 2012 1:14PM
Jackie and Paul Zimniarski pose with their children Jake, 8, and Cara, 5. | submitted photo
How to help
What: Paul Ziemniarski Benefit
When: 6–11 p.m. May 18
Where: Bourbon Street, 3359 W. 115th St., Merrionette Park
What: Food, drinks, raffle, silent auction, music
Tickets: $30 in advance. $35 at the door.
Etc: Over 21 event.
Visit: www.zfrf.net and Benefit Paulz on Facebook.
Contact: Jessica Fulwiler at 708-407-0670, Scott Fulwiler at 708-514-1467 or email@example.com.
Updated: June 12, 2012 8:10AM
PLAINFIELD — Cara Ziemniarski, 5, is the Ziemniarski Family Resource Foundation’s best salesman, or so says Cara’s father, Paul Ziemniarski.
“We bring our kids along to events,” Ziemniarski said, “and she talks about what I went through and how we help people buy groceries.”
Ziemniarski, who is battling acute promyelocytic leukemia for the third time, began the foundation to financially help other cancer patients and their families.
However, on May 18, it’s Ziemniarski, now recovering from his second stem cell transplant, who will be experiencing that comfort and care. His friends have organized a benefit to help him and his family.
“We always hear of someone who has cancer,” said Tim Deflize of Joliet, one of the fundraiser coordinators, “but we don’t usually know about their financial hardships and how they get through another day.”
Helping Ziemniarski is easy, Deflize said, because Ziemniarski is generous to others and maintains a positive attitude about warring against a disease that won’t back down.
“Paul gives and gives,” Deflize said. “His kids are fantastic; his wife is gracious. Cancer is so manipulative, even with modern medicine, but Paul inspires me. I’d give him the shirt off my back.”
Ziemniarski, a construction worker accustomed to bumps and scrapes, had first noticed some unexplained bruising in early 2010, while he was on vacation. Soon afterward, when back at work, Ziemniarski’s nose began bleeding uncontrollably, so he went to the hospital. That’s where Ziemniarski received the diagnosis and began an intense, 30-day, in-hospital, chemotherapy treatment.
“It wiped out my immune system,” Ziemniarski said.
After two additional, weeklong treatments, one at home and one in the hospital, Ziemniarksi’s bone marrow biopsy revealed he was in remission, until June 2011 when additional tests showed the cancer cells had returned.
Ziemniarski had a choice: more chemotherapy or a stem cell transplant from Ziemniarski’s own stem cells. The latter was his best bet for a cure. Ziemniarski had the procedure on Sept. 19.
“The chemotherapy for it was brutal,” Ziemniarski said. “The skin in my mouth was sloughing off, as if someone had taken a blow torch to it.”
For a time, the procedure appeared successful. Ziemniarski was feeling stronger and more positive. Then cancer cells were discovered in the bone marrow removed from his hip.
On April 24, after Ziemniarski completed another three-week round of chemotherapy and his hair was starting to grow back, he received an allogeneic stem cell (donor cells from a sibling or genetically similar match) transplant. Despite Ziemniarski’s setback, the foundation works continues.
In addition to providing some financial relief, the foundation distributes “comfort care packages.” These include a blanket, small cooler, skin care products, puzzles, books, and other items to help cancer patients pass the time and experience solace while enduring treatment.
For more information on the foundation, visit www.zfrf.net.