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Putting A Face To Cancer

February 23, 2014, 10:15 PM by Angela Kennecke

Putting A Face To Cancer

Cancer is never an easy diagnosis, but when it strikes someone in the prime of their life; it's especially hard to take.
A 38-year-old Sioux Falls man is battling leukemia, but he's not doing it alone. He's taken his daily fight to social media and has developed a huge following.
He's hoping the power of social media will also help him find a bone marrow match. 

Four nearly four months, 38-year-old Andy Kontz has been in and out of the hospital battling leukemia. It was a shocking diagnosis for anyone who knows him. Kontz is about the last person you'd expect to get sick. 

"I'd been working out six days a week for the last two years; I was also working really hard on my nutrition. My goal before I turned 38 was to see my abs. So I got my body fat down to 12 percent--I was all excited," Kontz said.

But having accomplished his goal didn't leave him feeling well at all. 

"Thought I had the flu, came back; stepped on the scale and realized I'd dropped 17 pounds in a month without trying," Kontz said.

24 hours after a trip to the emergency room, Kontz got his diagnosis and soon posted his first video on his Facebook page.

"About a week ago, I came into the ER and found out I had leukemia," Kontz said in a Facebook Video.

While his friends were reeling from the news, Kontz wasn't. 

"I wasn't totally overwhelmed by it. The way I looked at it, the last two years of me getting ready for what I'd been doing, kind of put me in the position to be in the best fight for this," Kontz said.

He continued his near-daily Facebook video posts.

“I found out I do need to have a bone marrow transplant. I have to try a second chemo drug cocktail," Kontz said in a Facebook Video

"I have a ton of friends on Facebook and I figured it would just be the easiest way to let people know. And it kind of took on a life of its own. And if I didn't put a video up, people would wonder if something happened to me that day," Kontz said.

"Today is day two of my second cycle of chemo," Kontz said in a Facebook Video

"So many people comment on that. They are so impressed by his spirit. It just makes me very proud," Mother Ardyce Kontz said.

"I'm doing day 17 of my 90 day challenge to beat leukemia," Kontz said in a Facebook Video

Kontz says he just wanted to put a face on "cancer." 

"For me it's unfiltered, saying what I think, right or wrong, this is what cancer feels like and how I'm handling it today," Kontz said.

"The last couple of days have been kind of tough on me. I have no energy," Kontz said in a Facebook Video

Kontz appearance changes dramatically with each passing Facebook post. 

"It's been a long day, a long couple two or three days," Kontz said in a Facebook Video

"There have been a couple of times when I got not so great news and I still shot a video within 20 minutes, just because I want it to be raw and this is what it felt like," Kontz said.

Like when he found out his best chance for a bone marrow match didn't work out.

"I got the results back form my siblings and none of them are a match," Kontz said in a Facebook Video

"And I was hoping I would be his perfect match, but I'm not," Andy's Sister Jennie Thompson said.

Andy's search for a bone marrow match has also taken on a life of its own on social media.

"It just turns out I'm a very special person and there are not a lot of 'mes' out there," Kontz said.

Avera McKennan's Bone Marrow Transplant program's next step was to search bone marrow banks world-wide.

"And with Andy, we've done that and have not come up with anything and that's just the function of Andy's particular DNA and the fact that really we're all very unique," Dr. Kelly McCaul said.

"We just are always wondering. There's got to be somebody. It's hard waiting," Andy's Mother Ardyce Kontz said. 

Kontz doesn't have a lot of time to wait; he needs a bone marrow transplant in the next couple of months. But he's getting through the unknown, by focusing on all he has to live for, like his fiancé and two young sons, ages 8 and 11. 

"My boys were up here for the last three hours," Kontz said in a Facebook Video

"I've always been one to swing for the fences. There are millions of things I want to do. I have a big live list of things I want to finish before I leave this world. I don't know how much time I've got," Kontz said.

He's accomplished some of those things while in the hospital.

"One of the people I had on my live-list to meet was John Thune and he stopped up here a couple of months ago.  Now I've got to get to Tom Brady to get him here... but I'll make that happen," Kontz said.

He also hopes to travel the world, try things like scuba diving and have his dream wedding. 

"I still have total faith I'm going to get through this. I've never waivered on that. There are too many things I have to accomplish in my life; with my kids," Kontz said in a Facebook Video

And Andy's the first one to admit, while he hopes to educate people on cancer, he also benefits from the outpouring of support he finds as his videos continue to get more and more views on Facebook. 

"I think by doing this it sets the tone, 'yeah, cancer sucks, but it can be beat and I'm going to beat it.' This is the positive energy I'm going to have and the faith I'm going to have. This is going to get me through it," Kontz said.

And he's positive that the right bone marrow match will turn up before it's too late.

Kontz was an instructor at Farrell's Extreme Bodyshaping before he got sick.  Farrell's has passed out bone marrow donor kits to its members and at least 100 people have been added to the bone marrow database.

More information on becoming a donor.

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