‘I’ve obtained terminal most cancers. Here’s why I am prioritizing travel’

(CNN) — Kris Sokolowski has always been energetic, investing his totally free time mountain climbing, operating and practicing martial arts.

And at each and every opportunity, he could be located boarding a plane, en route to check out the environment. On his to start with official date with his now spouse, Sokolowski booked flights to South Africa for two weeks. The few have a son, now 11, who also joins them on their adventures.

Sokolowski’s outdoor pursuits have aided keep him wholesome. At his final yearly actual physical checkup in December 2020, his medical doctor named him “Iron Guy.”

But around six months soon after that appointment, Sokolowski started off suffering from what he describes as an “odd emotion” in his abdomen.

“It was variety of like a gurgling, like you are hungry. And it just was not going absent for a pair of days,” he tells CNN Vacation today.

Sokolowski went to get checked out and was advised it was possible acid reflux. He was presented some capsules and despatched residence. A couple days afterwards, the gurgling sensation was however there, so he sought further more clinical information and a scan, just after which he was instructed to see a gastro specialist appropriate absent.

Sokolowski’s health care provider instructed him there was a “large mass” on his colon and liver and he suspected late phase-four cancer. Phase four is the most innovative stage of cancer and ordinarily means it has unfold from its origin.

“My first response was, ‘How can this happen? I’ve never ever missed an appointment,'” Sokolowski remembers.

But at 48, Sokolowski hadn’t been old more than enough for suggested common colonoscopies in the United States (the age has considering that reduced to 45). And right up until the gurgling feeling, he hadn’t professional any indications.

An MRI scan, colonoscopy and tissue sample confirmed the worst: Sokolowski had stage 4 colon most cancers.

“The MRI showed it in six places on my body,” claims Sokolowski. “So it was my colon, my liver, my sternum, my spine, my lymph nodes, and the walls of my stomach.”

Oncologists informed him there was no treatment for his ailment.

“They gave me a lifespan between two and a 50 percent and 5 many years to live,” he claims.

Enjoy of journey

The Sokolowskis traveled to China in 2015, below they are on the Great Wall.

courtesy Kris Sokolowski

Atlanta-based Sokolowski is the initial-generation American son of two Polish immigrants. He suggests his adore of travel stems from the numerous childhood summers he invested back again in Poland. In his 20s, he started off touring anytime he could, often exploring Europe.

When Sokolowski fulfilled his wife Elizabeth in his thirties, the two recognized they were being united in a thirst to see the globe. That initially date in South Africa sealed the deal, and the pair have been married 6 months later on.

“When our son was born a 12 months later on in 2010, we built a determination that every single year, we would acquire him out of the place,” states Sokolowski.

It’s vital to the few to introduce their son to cultures and encounters outside the house of the US.

Because he was born, the relatives has been to 19 nations around the world and counting.

“We equally operate for corporate America, but we help save up all 12 months, and typically get about 3 months to travel, regardless of whether it really is Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, where ever we can go.”

Solowski claims he and his spouse always seem ahead. They not often return to the very same spot, and concentration on how they can make the very best of their existing situations and approach a little something interesting for the long run.


Here’s the family in Seoul, South Korea.

courtesy Kris Sokolowski

It really is that frame of mind that Sokolowski introduced to his terminal cancer diagnosis.

He suggests he’s on the best dosage of chemotherapy accessible. He was warned by medical doctors of aspect consequences of tiredness, vomiting, hair decline and pounds decline.

“I explained, Seem, I’m a younger dude, I’m 48 a long time old, I have a 10-calendar year-aged at household. Throw almost everything you obtained at me now even though I’m youthful and powerful,” remembers Sokolowski.

So significantly, facet consequences have been minimum and he’s continued to training and run routinely.

“I’ve never been sick a day from it,” Sokolowski claims. “Fatigue kicked in a tiny little bit, but I was equipped to get over it. So almost everything they informed me was going to take place, didn’t occur with me.”

Sokolowski and his relatives canceled a planned excursion to Iceland in summertime 2021, but as the months rolled on, he was recommended that, from the odds, his tumors have been shrinking, and he was very well plenty of to afford to skip one of his chemo solutions — which come about every two months — to go on holiday vacation abroad.

Even catching Covid-19 in November 2021 didn’t place a prevent to designs — fortunately Sokolowski was vaccinated and only mildly ill with the virus.


The Sokolowskis enjoy to get outside on their vacations. Here they are discovering in Slovenia.

courtesy Kris Sokolowski

When he received the go ahead to journey with his loved ones in excess of the Christmas interval, Sokolowski was thrilled.

“Even previously mentioned my wellbeing, journey was nonetheless a precedence,” Sokolowski says. “Due to the fact it was a determination that we created when we got married, it was a dedication that we created to our son when he was born — that we would just take him out of the nation each and every yr. So to me, that was constantly priority selection one particular.”

Sokolowski and his spouse Elizabeth and son Braden began preparing a trip for Xmas and New 12 months. They settled on a three-7 days adventure in French Polynesia, heading to Bora Bora, Moorea and Tahiti.

Sokolowski traveled with his chemo tablets, as well as a precautionary letter from his medical professional to guarantee he could get back into the United States — “just in case there was some kind of lockdown for the reason that of Covid. And that letter generally stipulated that ‘Kris has stage-four most cancers which is terminal, that he is really dependent on his chemo.'”

When Sokolowski had averted numerous aspect effects of his cure, when departure day rolled close to he was struggling from a problem named hand-foot syndrome, which can trigger the base of your ft to develop into truly tender and vulnerable to blistering and inflammation.


The Sokolowskis hardly ever go to the exact same area two times. This is the family members on a earlier trip to Malta.

courtesy Kris Sokolowski

“When I was functioning just before our journey, it caused me to have blisters on both of those of my feet, I think I had four on just about every foot and it was particularly hard to wander — it was nearly like strolling on razor blades,” he claims.

“So the day we had been leaving for French Polynesia, we went by 3 unique airports. We went by means of Atlanta airport, LAX and then in Tahiti, and in all a few airports, I experienced to be in a wheelchair simply because I could not walk, and that was form of difficult.”

But Sokolowski states arriving in Bora Bora and diving into the turquoise waters was pretty much right away healing.

That was likely the salt h2o at operate, he says. But Sokolowski also thinks the pleasure and delight he felt at staying on getaway in a gorgeous spot with his liked types lifted his spirits, supplying priceless palliative care.

Below heat blue skies, the loved ones loved swimming with black suggestion sharks, jet skiing, discovering volcanic landscapes and comforting.

“We used an tremendous time out on the water. I necessarily mean, how can you not? It truly is crystal obvious. It’s a turquoise shade that you’ve by no means noticed prior to. You know, you could see correct down to the base where by the fish are swimming. And it’s just quite peaceful and relaxful.”

Residing for the minute


Kris, Elizabeth and Braden Sokolowski, pictured below on the island of Moorea, fell in adore with French Polynesia all through their excursion at the close of 2021.

courtesy Kris Sokolowski

For Sokolowski and his wife, it was critical to be candid with Braden about his father’s most cancers, whilst also easing him into this new fact and supporting him by it.

Sokolowski states the family’s focus is on producing reminiscences, and continuing to really encourage their boy or girl to embrace new prospects and adventures.

1 of Sokolowski’s favourite moments from the 2021 French Polynesia excursion was observing Braden diving with sharks for the to start with time.

“He was a minimal apprehensive about getting into drinking water with sharks. But then he noticed us executing it. So he jumped in,” says Sokolowski. “And the very first time a shark arrived up to his deal with and then turned all over and just still left — I was underwater with him and the appear on his experience, it was just — it was pure pleasure, adrenaline and pleasure. And I saw how considerably he savored it and he couldn’t get out of the water, I indicate, it was excellent.”


Diving with sharks in French Polynesia in 2021 was a emphasize for the spouse and children.

courtesy Kris Sokolowski

Sokolowski has however to take his son to Poland, but he claims that is on the agenda for potential travels. He’d needed to wait around right until Braden was previous more than enough to have an understanding of and fully appreciate the excursion.

While the loved ones are presently centered in Atlanta, the Sokolowskis are also significantly contemplating relocating to French Polynesia, if they can make it doable with remote functioning and health care.

“For 15 times, I had a smile on my confront, ear to ear,” Sokolowski suggests of the family’s time there. “I truthfully think if there is something that is likely to remedy my cancer, it’s likely to be living a existence of positivity and pleasure.”

Anywhere they’re dependent, vacation will keep on being a precedence. In 2022, the relatives hope to journey to Pamplona, Spain to check out the once-a-year managing of the bulls pageant — a longtime aspiration of Sokolowski’s.

Prioritizing health and fitness and vacation

Sokolowski hopes to defy expectations and statistics to get better from his disease. Nevertheless a great deal time he has remaining, he’s vowed to shell out as a lot of it as he can checking out the environment with his beloved kinds.

“I will not know how extended I have left on this earth, but I want to depart powering fond reminiscences of journey and a legacy wherever my son can make our earth just a bit greater,” he states.

Sokolowski has a weblog where by he recaps his individual encounters with most cancers. He’s turn out to be passionate about encouraging men and women with illness to travel if they can, and he is similarly committed to encouraging people today in their 40s to get a colonoscopy.

When he obtained his prognosis, Sokolowski questioned his gastroenterologist what the outlook would have been if he’d experienced a colonoscopy a few several years earlier.

“Prior to I even completed my sentence, he goes, ‘I would have pulled out a few of polyps, and you would not even be sitting listed here, we would not be possessing this dialogue.’ And that actually struck me difficult.”

Sokolowski claims dwelling on this “what if” isn’t helpful for him.

“I do not glance in the rearview mirror,” he states. “That doesn’t aid me at all. It is what it is. And I only glimpse forward, the only time that I look back is to tell persons my tale and say, ‘This is what happened to me. You should not let it come about to you.'”

Instead, Sokolowski’s focus is on remaining as healthful as possible, and wanting ahead to long run adventures with his family.

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

“You need to have to dwell your existence, you only get just one daily life,” she suggests. “The memories is actually what is going to make you happy in the conclusion.”

Sokolowski provides: “The one particular issue I have always told persons is get out of your bubble, get out of your metropolis and go see the world.”

“It amazes me how quite a few persons are not interested in traveling — or fascinated and they notify me ‘Well, we won’t be able to do this’ and they make excuses. Prevent with the excuses and do it.”

Leading picture: the Sokolowski family in Padar, Indonesia. Courtesy Kris Sokolowski