Run Like a Girl!

a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…

John Kark: The Rematch December 23, 2009

Filed under: john kark,Uncategorized — Malia Yoshioka @ 8:04 am

While I’m sad that John has to go through this yet again, I’m still inspired by his fighting spirit… everyone please keep him in your thoughts and prayers…

I was hoping to get everyone something a little better for the holidays but I got the results back from my bone marrow tap and am sorry to say that they were not what I expected. It seems that the AML is pretty embarrassed from the ass whipping that I gave it this summer and wants a rematch, which I confidently accept.

The tests showed a 20% blast rate as of last week so we plan to hit it hard with heavy chemo immediately. Basically, we are gonna come out swinging. The blast rate is the percentage of my bone marrow that is cancerous right now. That will change. I am battle ready and have plenty of fight left in me.

I was admitted back into the hospital today and received two blood transfusions and will start chemo tomorrow. I do not know how long I will be in the hospital but have done hard time before so I will be fine. I am ready to go as many rounds as it takes.

People should not feel sorry for me, they should actually be a little jealous. I have lived, laughed and loved more in the last two months than some people have in the last in the last 20 years of their lives. I have a lot of living left to do and so many good reasons to stick around. It is easy to get caught up in the routine of life and not appreciate your days and what you truly have in your life. I have become very in touch with what I have. I have everything that I ever wanted. I have been blessed to make so many good friends in my life and am fortunate for the family I was given. I have not suffered as much as I have lived. So please, do not worry or feel sorry for me in any way. I plan to keep on living and will never stop fighting.

This is my fight.

– Kark

“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”

Margaret Thatcher


John Kark – Better Than Expected November 12, 2009

Filed under: john kark,Uncategorized — Malia Yoshioka @ 8:28 am

The latest from my friend John… (Sorry I’m a few days late!) Also, since he posted this update the results came back from the Mayo clinic: he is 100% cancer free right now!! YAYYYYYYYY John!!!! =)

A lot of people have been asking me how things are going so I thought I would write a quick update. It has been about a month since I got out of the hospital and things are going better than expected. I am recovering faster than they see most patients recover with my situation and have been very active. I have my aches and pains, but nothing to complain about in comparison to earlier this summer. I have been doing a lot of hiking with my dog Otto and we are going on our first hunt of the season this Sunday.

I continue to visit the hospital every week for blood draws and testing. My blood counts were heading in the wrong direction a few weeks ago so they performed a bone marrow tap last week to see if the cancer was returning. The preliminary results came back showing no sign of cancer once again. They sent samples of my bone barrow to Mayo clinic for further testing. One test is to determine if there is any indication of cancer based on a chromosomal level. The other test is to measure the percentage of my stem cells still left in my body versus my brothers. The hope is that all of my stem cells are gone and my brothers remain. They expect those tests to come back with good results based on everything else.

I am still on a lot of medications but they are cutting down on the dosage as the weeks go by. I am experiencing some (GVHD) Graft Versus Host Disease. A rebel detachment of my brothers stem cells have decided to attack my eyes making it feel like I have pink eye. I called him yesterday and told him to radio his troops and tell them to lay off the friendly fire….so I expect things to clear up soon.

I have built back enough strength to where I feel that I am ready to walk back into the boxing gym and start moving around and throwing some punches. There is no better place to acquire the attitude that it takes to fight the challenges that life presents you. It is like a church. Round after round of hitting the bags can be therapeutic and reminds you that you can always fight back no matter what the situation.

Thank you all for your continued support, positive thoughts and encouraging words. Everyone’s encouragement has definitely helped me maintain my attitude throughout this fight. Put on whatever attitude it takes to face life’s challenges and appreciate every one of your days. Today, I am putting on the gloves and going to church.

– Kark


john kark: post transplant October 9, 2009

Filed under: john kark,Uncategorized — Malia Yoshioka @ 8:03 am

GREAT NEWS!!! this is the latest from my friend john kark, after his stem cell transplant…

johns message to the rest of his hospital ward...

john's message to the rest of his hospital ward...

I got released from the hospital a little over a week ago and everything is going better than expected. The stem cell transplant went pretty smooth. The transplant itself probably only took about 40 minutes. The transplant team came into the room with a bag of frozen stem cells, thawed them out in warm water and transfused them into me. The process was very basic like receiving a bag of blood. They just hang it, wait and watch. An interesting side note is that everyone’s stem cells smell exactly like cream corn. I would smell it coming out of people’s rooms as I would walk the halls. I always loved cream corn but don’t know if I will ever eat it again.

The day of the transplant is called day zero. From day zero they want the blood counts to continue downward which eliminates the current immune system. As those counts proceed down towards zero, the new stem cells start replacing what is no longer there. The counts rise and when they reach fairly safe levels then the doctors are willing to discharge the patient.

I told my doctors that I would be discharged on Day 15 and they laughed at me and told me not to get my hopes up because I could be in there a lot longer. Only one person has ever been discharged on Day 15 and he was his own donor which presents much fewer complications than my transplant.

I had good and bad days after the transplant. When my counts dropped I contracted mucositis in my throat which is an extreme inflation that makes it impossible to eat and difficult to even drink water or talk. They had to switch all of my medications from pill form to IV or liquid. I had a suction tube attached to my bed for when I would wake up in the night because it was hard to breathe, I would stick the tube down my throat to clear the passage. As bad as that sucked, no pun intended, I would always remember the smell of cream corn coming out of the other rooms and know how rough some of those people had it. Someone always has it worse than you.

I was lucky because I was younger and went into the hospital strong and in good shape except for the whole Leukemia thing. The extra weight that I put on right before going in for the transplant helped too. I was committed to staying active on a daily basis walking a mile around the chemo ward every morning and hitting the bike sometimes at night. I tied power bands to a body crain that hung above the bed and created a makeshift home gym to do a full body workout and preserve what little muscle mass I had left. I am a firm believer that when you feel bad the best thing that you can do is change your physiology by getting active. It works. I did not get released on Day 15 but did get my walking papers on Day 19 which was more than acceptable.

So now I have just been taking a lot of meds, eating, sleeping and hiking with my dog. I take a pile of pills everyday to primarily prevent graft vs. host disease. I go to the hospital once a week for tests and have a home nurse that comes and takes blood during the week. I just had my pic line removed from my arm on Tuesday. Now I can lift real weights and start hitting the bags to rebuild what I lost. They said the next 100 days are the “critical days” that will show whether the transplant is a success. I expect it to be. Time for the comeback.

I want to thank everyone for your positive thoughts. They are obviously working.

Thank You,



John Kark: National Lymphoma Awareness Day September 15, 2009

Filed under: john kark,Uncategorized — Malia Yoshioka @ 6:31 am

John recently had his stem cell transplant and I’ve been thinking about him on my runs, trying to send positive vibes his way… He’s still got as much fighting spirit as ever, and took the time to write this note today:

I would first like to thank everyone for supporting Chicago Fight Club and Joe Massow in our effort to raise money for the Walter Payton Cancer Fund. Joe Ran the race in about 1 hour and 16 minutes and we raised over $1000 in just 4 days. Your contributions are much appreciated and made a difference.

I would also like everyone to recognize that today is National Lymphoma Awareness Day. Lymphoma is a blood cancer that affects the lymphatic system and was my first opponent in fighting cancer. I was diagnosed in the year 2000 with Stage 4 Hodgkins Lymphoma and had an inoperable tumor in the upper part of my spine. I received 6 months of intensive chemotherapy and a month of radiation through my throat to reach the tumor. I have been in remission ever since.

The AML leukemia that I fight today is a side effect of the treatment that I had for the lymphoma. It is the result of great research that is developing new treatments and drugs to avoid such side effects when treating lymphoma and some of my close friends have successfully received such treatments. As many of you know, I have benefited during my fight with AML from an experimental drug that was the direct result of research dollars relieved through donations. Without such treatment, I would not be here today to write this letter.

If you did not have a chance to donate to the Walter Payton Cancer Fund last week I encourage you to give what you can to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. They are a great organization that accounts for much of the funding that has led to ground breaking developments in fighting leukemia and lymphoma.

The ladies of Chicago Fight Club: Mindy Birdsell, Iris Davis, Jackie Christian and Gretchen Wroblewski and others that they have recruited, will be representing Chicago Fight Club in raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by participating this weekend in the NW Indiana Light The Night Walk at Lake County Fair Grounds on September 20, 2009.

Please donate whatever you can to support their effort to fight blood cancers by visiting their donation page:

Give what you can, no matter how small makes a big difference!

Thank You For Your Support,

John Kark


John Kark: Operation Transplant – First Force Recon September 10, 2009

Filed under: john kark — Malia Yoshioka @ 8:21 am
Tags: , ,

September 10, 2009

John Kark sent a message to the members of John Kark is going to kick cancer’s ass!!!

Subject: Operation Transplant – First Force Recon

Round 3 of chemo was a high dose treatment that was predicted to be the toughest round of all. I am thrilled to report that I floated through the round effortlessly like Mohammad Ali when he would be way up on the score cards. I experienced no fevers, rigors, tremors, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, dehydration, mouth sores, infections, drug rashes, bone pain, congestion, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, weight loss or seizures.

I had two days of rest after the high dose chemo and the stem cell transplant is scheduled for today. The doctors tell me that this will be the most risky and challenging stage of the treatment but I fear not. My brothers USMC combat trained stem cells have been frozen waiting to be deployed and called into action. My brother Frank said to give him a call when they start the transfusion so he can give the battle order to fix bayonets and attack!

The whole process is actually pretty tricky. Once the donor cells are in my body they will “engraft” and turn into white and red blood cells and platelets. These cells may recognize my body as being foreign and start to attack my vital organs. This is called Graft Versus Host Diseases (GVHD) and happens about 50% of the time. They will be administering medications to help prevent this dangerous process and try to protect my vital organs.

As bad as that sounds there is a positive side to the aggressiveness of my brothers hardcore Marine stem cells. It is called Graft Versus Tumor (GVT) effect, or in my case Graft Versus Leukemia. If my brothers cells are aggressive enough to attack me, then they will also recognize the cancer cells as being foreign and attack them also. In cases where GVHD doesn’t occur, neither does GVT, which results in an unsuccessful treatment. So the bottom line is we can’t have a bunch of peace loving hippie stem cells floating around my body with no purpose. I am confident that my brothers USMC stem cells of First Force Recon will be aggressive and get the job done. Semper Fi!

After the transplant I could be out the hospital in weeks or months depending on how this internal battle plays out. It is all about managing the side effects of the GVHD which will be similar to those that were expected with the high dose chemo. Once again, my immune system and counts will be wiped out for some time limiting visitors and they must recover again before I can go home. But I do expect to finish this battle in weeks rather than months.

Expect good things,

– Kark

“You know, I am sure, that not numbers or strength brings victory in war; but whichever army goes into battle stronger in soul, their enemies generally cannot withstand them.”

– Xenophon (430 – 355 B.C.)


round 3 – john kark’s fight August 25, 2009

Filed under: john kark — Malia Yoshioka @ 6:18 am
Tags: ,

this is the latest from my friend john… please keep him in your thoughts and prayers this week!!

It has been just over two weeks since I was released from the hospital and I have probably gained 15 pounds. I started lifting weights and hitting the bags to rebuild lost muscle and prepare for the next round. I actually felt pretty good working out, especially hitting the bags. It is interesting that no matter how much muscle mass your body looses it still has the ability to punch with power.

My brother Frank flew in from New Jersey last week to donate his stem cells for me. They ran him through a host of tests to medically qualify him as a donor. He passed all tests with flying colors. It is a miracle not just that he passed, but also that he is even alive to donate his stem cells to me. My brother is 21 years older then me, fought in Viet Nam as a United States Marine with First Force Recon, contracted malaria while there (both kinds), has two purple hearts and a silver star and should have died 20 times since serving his country. This is probably not the typical profile of the average stem cell donor.



positive thoughts rock August 10, 2009

Filed under: john kark — Malia Yoshioka @ 12:36 pm
Tags: , ,

the latest from john kark!

Subject: Positve Thoughts Rock

A lot has changed since last week. On Friday the oral surgeons at the hospital cut open at the site of my wisdom tooth extraction and removed a piece of bone the size of a finger nail that was likely to have been causing the infection. They also cut away all the scar tissue and scraped away the jagged infected surface of the jaw. They packed it with a dissolvable antibiotic sponge and stitched me up. Since then my jaw has almost returned to normal. Also, the reaction that I had to the antibiotics leaving a drug rash is completely resolved.

I had been riding a stationary bike in the hospital that faces lake Shore Drive and I have always been a big fan of visualization as a healing therapy. So I came up with one using cars at night driving up and down LSD. I needed all of my white cells, red cells and neutrophils to go up so I could have an immune system and leave the hospital. As I rode the bike each night I would stare at the lights of the cars and imagine them all being new blood cells that my body was creating. The red tail lights were red blood cells, the white headlights were white blood cells and the big white ad signs on top of cabs represented neutrophils. Neutrophils are like super white blood cells that patrol the blood and kill anything that looks shady. Any time there was lightning it represented a radiation like effect and would also instantly kill everything bad in the blood. When there would be a traffic jam that was always because my body was producing so many healthy cells that things would just have to back up for a few minutes. I never thought a traffic jam could be a good thing.

Whether it was the visualization, the treatment or all of the positive thoughts from everyone… worked. My counts from Thursday until Sunday increased so drastically that the doctors surprisingly sent me home Sunday afternoon.

When I first got diagnosed my good friend Pete Bottini asked me if I was going to be like his mother who bravely fought breast and bone caner for many years. Before she sadly passed away last year after a long battle, his mother would make it a point to uplift the spirits of other people taking treatment. He wanted to know if I would rally the other patients on my floor and work on their attitudes. I told Pete that I had planned on being selfish and focusing on my own battle while I was in there, but of coarse I would do my part when I got out.

When I was leaving on Sunday the nurse told me not to forget the sign that I had hung on the door almost two months ago. I told her that I had traded it to one of my doctors in exchange for early release and was obviously glad to make good on the trade. She promised to get it to him and told me that my sign had started a trend. Signs started popping up on other doors throughout the chemo ward. I took one last lap around the floor to say my goodbyes and took a picture of one of those sign. I guess the lesson is that positive messages breed positive thoughts which breed positive outcomes. I thought of Pete’s mother when I saw the sign and thought maybe that is her way of saying that sometimes it doesn’t take much.

positve thoughts

When I got out of the hospital and smelled the air I could not believe it. It really felt like I was dreaming and I waited for a nurse to come wake me up and ruin my dream by taking my vitals or drawing blood. It was so crazy that she never came and I wasn’t dreaming. When we were driving on Lake Shore Drive, I said “I can’t believe it. Look at me. I am a big white blood cell driving on LSD.”