Fr. Ryan’s Story

Site created on May 13, 2019

This page is intended to give accurate and updated information about my heath. I will also include some thoughts and reflections as time permits.

 Some History:

In December 2009 I was diagnosed with a sarcoma (muscle tissue cancer) located in my right hip. I received chemotherapy and radiation treatments and in September 2010 my surgeon resected the tumor with clear margins. My life regained some normalcy as I finished my 3 remaining semesters at Texas A&M University (Whoop!) and shortly after I entered diocesan seminary. While in seminary, I observed routine checkups and scans and remained in good health.

 Recent Diagnosis:

A few days after Easter, on April 23, 2019 I woke up in the middle of the night trying to catch my breath. Over the next two days, this symptom began to worsen, leading me to see my family doctor on April 26. A chest X-ray showed a mass, approximately 3.5 cm, in my right lung along with considerable fluid. Over the next few days, I consulted with the doctors who had treated me for the sarcoma years before. On May 2, I had the fluid withdrawn from around my lung and a needle biopsy which later confirmed that the tumor was malignant and was indeed a recurrence of the spindle cell sarcoma.

Response:

Since personally sharing the news with the seminary community, and my family and friends asking for prayers, I have received an incredible outpouring of love, concern, and compassion from, well, everywhere! Receiving your messages has been a little overwhelming but has made me think: Isn’t this just a fraction of the love that God holds for each and every one of us? Might this be a sign of how much the church yearns for more priests? Was I, and am I now, living my life in a manner worthy of the Cross? As my priestly ordination approaches on June 1, I have more reason than ever to trust in God’s providence and to commit my life entirely to Him. Thank you for witnessing God’s love to me and I hope to do the same for a long time to come!

 Treatment Plan:

Scans have shown that there are cancer cells in the membrane surrounding the lung called the pleura. Therefore, at this moment, surgery is not an option because the tumor is not contained to the single mass inside my lung. Currently, I am scheduled to begin chemotherapy on May 15. I will receive the same regimen that was effective against the sarcoma back in 2010. After each 3 week cycle the care team will evaluate the situation and determine how to best move forward.

 Again, thank you so much for all the prayers and the support offered for me and my family! I remain hopeful and I unite any suffering that I endure with the Cross for those who are ill and for the future of the Church. I praise God through this and ask for healing in accordance with His will.

The Lord bless you and keep you! 
The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace                                   (Numbers 6:24-26)

Deacon Ryan Stawaisz


Newest Update

Journal entry by Fr. Ryan Stawaisz

Hello everyone,

I hope this message finds you well. 
I enjoyed compiling all the name suggestions that came in for my oxygen tank. Thanks for your humorous and profound responses. Any nickname that makes someone smile, or raises one’s thoughts in prayer, is a gift.

I have also enjoyed listening to your personal stories about why you’ve suggested a name. I haven’t really decided on one, except maybe 02 (short for 02-D2) because it requires no explanation in the hospital and I like the Star Wars reference to R2-D2. (Names compiled on picture below)

In general, a lot has happened in the last few weeks. I didn’t stay on the immunotherapy long because there came a point in time when the complications and the uncertainly of the effectiveness of the treatment led us to stop. 

We feel like the Holy Spirit was guiding the decision in how quickly it was made and the immediate option it provided to start a different chemotherapy. 

Right now I am in the 2nd week of a 3 week cycle. It is pretty comparable to my last chemo regimens in that it wipes my energy out. I’m watching blood levels to evaluate my immune system and to keep me safe and stable. The big difference this go around is that the cancer is bigger in my right lung and it is pushing on all kinds of things causing little complications. 

For instance, right now I don’t have much of a voice because we suspect the tumor is pushing on my vocal chords (more investigation to do there). It is also pressing on my shoulder causes muscle pain and tightness. But, little my little we are addressing things and we are hopeful and in good spirits. 

As far as spiritual reflection, I will say I have had a much greater appreciation for those in pain. To be honest, being in my 30’s I have not yet experienced that much physical pain in my life. Most of my joints work, I haven’t had severe injuries or accidents. Even in my past treatments, I have dealt mostly with fatigue and nausea, and temporary pain after surgeries. 

Seeing the effect that all types of pain can have on the body has given me a deeper desire to acknowledge what others are going through and to be compassionate to them.

Does it change things if we realize that people sometimes act out of their pain? That it can alters the way we think? That it can make one bitter and standoffish? (The exact same person, just one extra ingredient) 

 St. John Paul II said in Salvifici Dolores, that the purpose of suffering, as unfortunate and difficult as it is, is to bring forth compassion and a different type of love into the world. 

In other words, we can’t do away with pain completely in this broken and fallen world, but we can strive to draw some thing good out of it - love.

It’s not my first choice of things to do, but I believe God is calling more and more to this type of compassion in our daily lives. To look for those who are hurt, and like the Good Samaritan, try to bind them up. 

Thanks you for the video messages, the prayers and support. Much love!

Fr. Ryan 
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