By Brittany Prince
‘Why me?’ is a question that Charles Karstadt asked himself for years.
On June 15, 1994 Karstadt, a husband and a father from Richmond Hill, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease.
After finding a lump on the side of his neck, he saw a doctor who assumed it was a swollen gland and put him on antibiotics. After a couple of weeks on the medication, Karstadt realized that the lump wasn’t going away, had a biopsy done and waited for the results.
“A couple weeks later, a doctor whose name I don’t remember…opened the file in front of me and said ‘You’ve got Hodgkin’s disease, it’s a form of cancer, I don’t know much about it,’” Karstadt said.
After the shock wore off he saw another doctor for a second opinion. She sent him to the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH).
He became more aware of what the disease he had, was.
Hodgkin’s disease, according to WebMD.com, is a type of lymphoma, which is a cancer of the lymphatic system. Lymph nodes in your body help fight off bacteria and infection but when the lymphatic cells multiply ‘uncontrollably’ cancer happens.
The cancer can spread throughout the body if it is not caught and treated at an early stage.
Karstadt was diagnosed with stage 2A of the disease, which means it was localized just in his neck. The cancer was treatable and so came the radiation therapy.
This is when, he says, the odyssey started.
“I don’t remember much,” he said. “It’s a blur, I look back and don’t remember chunks of time.”
Karstadt does however remember how he felt when he was given the news.
“I knew I was confused and I knew I wasn’t afraid for me,” he said. “I had a one year old child and I was more afraid for her…I didn’t want her to have to grow up without me.”
And she didn’t.
Now, after a short battle, Karstadt is in good health and has the PMH to thank.
He wanted to give back to the PMH, so in June 2008 he participated in the Ride to Conquer Cancer, a fundraising event put on by the hospital. Cyclists, including Karstadt, raised money and rode from Toronto to Niagara Falls, Ont.
Last year Karstadt rode by himself to prove he could. And by this time last year he has raised about $5,000.
He enjoyed the experience and will be riding again June 13, but this time with team Hammerhead. Their combined goal is $80,000, between 24 people.
Unfortunately in these harsh economic times, he has only raised a quarter of what he did last year. His original goal was to raise $3,600, but now he says he’ll be happy if he raises $2,500.
He isn’t training as much as he did last year and says an ideal way of finishing the ride would be upright.
He’ll be happy to ride under the banner that says finish, and to see his family waiting for him.
His 15-year-old daughter wanted to ride this year but missed the age requirement. In order to ride you must be 16, so she’ll be volunteering as a crewmember.
She wants to ride next June, but will be doing it without her dad.
Karstadt says he probably will not be riding a third time.
“I want to make room for somebody else,” he said.
He said he will most likely volunteer and will be there to proudly support his daughter like any dad would.
And, like any dad would be, he’s concerned about his kids. He worries his cancer will come back and maybe they’ll get it too.
“I always worry about everything with them, one of the things that this has taught me is there are things that are in my control and there are things that are out of my control,” he said, “and I can do only so much to protect them.”
If it happens to his kids, he says, instead of ‘Why me?’ it will just be ‘Why them?’