WHS grad in midst of tough cancer fight

Joel Roschnafsky

When a trip to the emergency room changed Joel Roschnafsky’s life in an instant, friends and family in Monroe County mobilized to help this native son and friend tackle his toughest battle yet.

Roschnafsky, 33, had noticed some belly problems that intensified while he was on a trip with this wife, Sasha, celebrating their first wedding anniversary. Neither expected his diagnosis — Stage IV gastric cancer that had spread to his lymph nodes and beyond.

Gastric cancer forms in tissues lining the stomach. Approximately 1 in 116 men and women — most of them older than 65 — will be diagnosed with stomach cancer during their lifetimes.

“He was one of my best buddies in high school and one of the best people I’ve ever known,” said Breeyn Latchem Lane, who is organizing a soccer fundraiser for Roschnafsky to be held this weekend in Waterloo.

Since graduating from Waterloo High School in 1998, where he was a standout soccer player, Roschnafsky played soccer for Maryville University and studied to become a physical therapist.

He is currently on temporary leave from his job as a physical therapist at ProRehab and as the assistant girls soccer coach at Maryville.

“He’s going for another round of chemotherapy next Tuesday,” said his mom, Becky Roschnafsky. “It pretty much wipes him out for that week.”

Sasha and Joel Roschnafsky

And he will return to Texas in August, where his treatment is being coordinated at MD Anderson Cancer Center, to see if the tumor has shrunk, Becky said.

“Joel has a great outlook about this,” Becky said. “He’s taking it day by day and enjoying every day.”

To help offset the mounting bills associated with intensive cancer treatments, traveling, and loss of work, friends of Roschnafsky have rallied to his aid.

A website, www.GoFundMe.com/3f7c9s has already surpassed its goal of $20,000 raised in just 25 days. More than 280 donations have been made so far, ranging from $10 to $1,000. Givers can remain anonymous or leave a message of support for the Roschnafsky family.

And this Sunday, Lane and the MoCo United Soccer Club will put on a three-on-three soccer tournament for kids in kindergarten through high school. It will get started at 5 p.m., at the Gardner Elementary School soccer field.

“It’s very friendly, non-competitive,” Lane said.

Those wishing to play can register individually by calling 618-210-4159. Organizers will put together teams of mixed ages and abilities.

“It’ll be very laid back,” she said.

The cost to participate is $10, and can be paid at the event. Thanks to generous donors, hot dogs and t-shirts for participants are free, so all of the money raised will go to Roschnafsky.

The event will also include a raffle and auction, and items are welcome.

His health permitting, Roschnafsky plans to attend Sunday’s event.

“Joel Roschnafsky has spent most of his adult life helping people,” said his friend Adam Embick on GoFundMe.com.

Now, friends and family are looking forward to being able to give some of that generosity back.

“I just want to thank all the contributors,” Becky said. “It’s overwhelming.”

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