When Mark Krick was pursuing a turfgrass degree at Michigan State University, he remembers professor Trey Rogers telling students that, in the grand scheme of things, “It’s just grass.” Krick, like most turf students, really didn’t buy it. He was not too far from embarking on a career as a golf course superintendent. There would be no dead grass.
In a few days, Mark, his wife Sarah and their sons Myles and Ben will pack up and fly to North Dakota to celebrate Thanksgiving.
The operative words are “celebrate” and “Thanksgiving.”
It was just under seven years ago when the Kricks made the same trek for the Christmas holiday break. While on that particular visit, Myles, at the age of 6, strapped on the skates and headed down to the frozen outdoor skating rink. But, once on the ice, he slipped and fell, hitting his head. Everything appeared to check out fine until a few days later when he complained about having double vision. The Kricks decided to take him to the doctor, thinking the fall might have been the cause.
A CT scan revealed something much more serious – medulloblastoma. Myles had a malignant tumor near the brain stem at the base of the skull. An MRI the next day revealed the cancer had spread down the spine. For Mark, the words of Trey Rogers were now front and center.
“We knew it was serious,” Sarah said. “But we didn’t want to hear about percentages of cure or prognosis. We just wanted to get the best treatment and rely on our faith to get through it. Myles was so young; he didn’t know the gravity of the situation.”
There was surgery, then radiation, followed by chemotherapy. The treatment from the doctors at the Children’s Hospital Colorado was deemed a success. But three days before Christmas in 2010, almost two years to the date when he was first diagnosed, the cancer reappeared. The percentages for recovery from a second occurrence were less than 20 percent. Doctors made use of Myles’ own stem cells along with high-dose chemotherapy, but to no avail. After a third relapse, doctors turned their strategy to immuno-drug therapy. Thanks to excellent medical care and their Catholic faith, Team Krick received good news in the summer of 2012 that the cancer was gone.
Mark was the golf course superintendent at The Homestead, a municipal golf course in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, when Myles was first diagnosed. He had come from neighboring Fox Hollow Golf Course, another municipal course in Lakewood, where he served as an assistant and was mentored by the highly respected Bruce Nelson. The two courses share the same maintenance facility.
“I can remember the day I called Bruce about Myles,” Mark says. “I was crying, and I know Bruce was too. I could not have made it without the staff. I had to be gone for family, and they told me not to worry. I am so thankful for them.”
His chapter also came through in a big way. The Rocky Mountain Golf Course Superintendents Association put on a hockey fundraiser and other activities that raised $18,000. In addition, the Kricks were buoyed by the prayers and support received from their church and school, Our Lady of Fatima. Mark, who does not consider himself a “Bible beater,” found particular solace in his men’s church group.
“One’s faith is very personal,” Mark says. “But for me, it was important then and is important now. It helps you focus what is important, and what we are called to do.”
Because of the extensive treatment, Myles has significant hearing loss and there was some pituitary gland damage that has stunted his growth. He wears hearing aids and is taking growth hormones. He repeated sixth grade because he missed a considerable amount of school. In spite of those setbacks, Myles has made tremendous progress, Sarah says. He is caught up in school and beginning to get back into physical activities.
Through it all, both Sarah and Mark say the experience has had a profound effect on them.
“We take nothing for granted,” Sarah says. “We appreciate the small stuff. We are also so thankful for the support and prayers from others. We could not have gotten through it without them.”
Life is good for the Kricks. Nelson retired and Mark was promoted to superintendent over both courses. Myles has had yearly scans for three years and he remains cancer free. But the Kricks really aren’t concerned about what lies in the distant future. For now, they are just looking forward to a Thanksgiving holiday and celebrating all that is good.
PHOTO: MARK KRICK