Prostate cancer, leukemia won’t stop this marathoner

Hardly anything can get in the way of John Kosmatka’s passion for running. Even after he underwent prostate cancer surgery in March 2015, the avid runner competed in the Boston Marathon one month later.  “My doctor said, ‘Why’d you run Boston? I told you not to,’ and I said, ‘It’s what a runner does when he’s that dedicated to his sport,’” John recalls. Until last year, John participated in four marathons and at least 15 half-marathons each year. Then he noticed a sudden change. Just a few weeks after beating his personal record in a 20K Independence Day race, John couldn’t run more than 2 miles. “I’m very lucky I’ve been a runner,” he says. “If I’d been a couch potato, I’d be sitting there thinking, well, I think I feel bad because of old age, not knowing that I had leukemia.” Seeking second opinions for acute myeloid leukemia John, then age 67, had actually become suspicious about his health after blood work taken during an annual physical revealed his abnormally low white blood cell count. A hematologist repeated the blood test twice and ordered a bone marrow biopsy when he got the same results. In October 2016, John found out he had acute myeloid leukemia. “The doctor didn’t even tell me to come in. He said, ‘I hate to tell you this, but I’ll admit: we can’t handle this diagnosis. I suggest you go to a place that specializes in your disease,’” John recalls. So the Valparaiso, Indiana, resident drove 40 miles east to a Chicago hospital and started chemotherapy. But during his second round of treatment, John...