Packers fan with months to live sees game with aid from hospice, diocese

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass

By Sam Lucero

ALLOUEZ,
Wis. (CNS) — When David Marosek, who had been battling stage 4 rectal cancer
since July 2016, got the news in April his cancer had returned and spread into
his lungs and spine, it was a depressing time.

“I was
told that it was terminal and they gave me like six months to a year” to live,
he told The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay, in a telephone
interview from his Oshkosh apartment. Rather than begin new treatments, Marosek
chose to enter hospice.

“I’ve
been in hospice now for a few months,” he said. With the assistance of Aurora
at Home Hospice, Marosek receives medical care and home visits from hospice
staff, including Jayne Syrjamaki, Aurora at Home volunteer coordinator.

When
hospice staff met Marosek in July, they asked him, “If you had one wish, what
would it be?” It’s part of the hospice program’s “Drop in the Bucket”
initiative to grant small wishes to patients. The wish was then turned over to
Syrjamaki. “He said he had always wanted to go to a Packer game,” she said.

“I’ve
been a Packer fan all my life,” Marosek, 52, told The Compass. “I can remember,
back when I was 5 or 6, watching Packer games on TV with my father — or
listening to the game on the car radio after church on Sunday, waiting for Mom
to get groceries.”

The
chance to watch a Green Bay Packers game live at Lambeau Field would be a dream
come true, Marosek told Syrjamaki. She set out to make it happen, but got no
replies after sending messages to Oshkosh-area businesses.

“I
wasn’t about to give up because I had the exact same diagnosis,” Syrjamaki said.
“I went through colon cancer treatment four years ago. I’m a survivor, but I
knew David wasn’t going to have the tomorrows that I have. That’s why it was a
little more important to me.”

Syrjamaki
decided to contact the Diocese of Green Bay.

“I grew
up at St. Joseph Parish in Kellnersville and I remember reading things in the
bulletin about how the diocese helped people,” she said. Her email request was
given to Ted Phernetton, executive director of Catholic Charities in Green Bay.
“Within a day, I heard back from Ted and that he was going to put out a
request. About two days later he had tickets.”

In her
email to the diocese, Syrjamaki explained that she wanted to grant the final
wish of a hospice patient. “I am hoping you can help this gentleman or lead me
in the right direction,” she wrote.

For Phernetton,
the request — like it had for Syrjamaki — struck a personal chord.

“For
some reason this touched my heart immediately,” he told The Compass. “Maybe, in
part, because I was lucky. I am a cancer survivor and he will not be.”

Phernetton
explained that Catholic Charities receives many requests each day. “We work
hard to bring the Gospel to life and to help where we can,” he said. “Life can
get so very messy and folks typically turn to us when things are very dark in
their lives.”

With
terminal cancer, Marosek “has no real control over what comes next,” said
Phernetton. “His wish is a way for him to pursue just a little bit of power and
influence over what remains of his life.”

Phernetton’s
first step was to email members of the diocesan staff, explaining the request
and seeking help with tickets. “Within minutes, I began receiving responses
from folks wanting to help or pointing me in specific directions,” he said.

Employees
of the diocese contributed donations and procured two tickets for the Sept. 9 season
opener between the Packers and the Chicago Bears. Their financial donations — along
with a few cash donations from Syrjamaki’s friends — also provided funds for a
Packers Pro Shop gift card and concessions.

In a
surprise visit Aug. 30, Syrjamaki informed Marosek that he would be attending
the game.

“I said
I was there to do a volunteer supervisory visit,” she said. “We started talking
about all the Packers posters on his walls and then he said, ‘l love the
Packers.’ So I pulled out a fleece Packer blanket and said to David, ‘I would
like you take this blanket and use it to cover up your legs when go to the
Packers-Bears game.’ He cried, I cried. All tears of joy.”

“Health-wise,
I know I’m dying. I understand that,” said Marosek. “I have some problems
getting around. That’s why I got a wheelchair to go to the game. Otherwise, I’m
in pretty good spirits, I guess, considering all of this,” noting he had been given
the sacrament of anointing from a visiting priest in early September.

His
spirits were raised as he entered Lambeau Field to witness the Packers roar
back from a 20-0, third-quarter deficit to defeat the Bears, 24-23. After posing
for a photo before the game, Marosek said another set of tickets was donated to
him by the diocese for the Oct. 15 Packers-San Francisco 49ers game, but he
declined.

“I told
them my dream was just to go to one Packer game,” he said. “I wasn’t going to
be greedy. I am hoping somebody else (in hospice) will enjoy them and get to
have the same experience I am having tonight.”

– – –

Lucero
is news and information manager for The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of
Green Bay.

– – –

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