Profile in Courage: Michael Kurdilla
In autumn, 2004, as she had every fall for the past eleven years, Roseann Kurdilla called Dr. Mark Urken’s office to make an appointment for her husband, Michael. To her surprise, Dr. Urken said that he no longer needed to see Michael for follow-up, as he was NED (showing “No Evidence of Disease.”) The Kurdillas were surprised, having assumed that visits to their physician would continue well into the future. Their relationship with Dr. Urken had grown close over the past decade.
Michael, who had suffered uncontrollable nosebleeds for a year, saw four different doctors before finally arriving at Dr. Urken’s office in October, 1993. He was diagnosed with mucoid epidermoid carcinoma of the right septum, and the Kurdillas’ life suddenly changed. “Roseann and I were very scared at that time. This was a first for us. I never had a serious health problem, and here it was: cancer, ‘the big C,’ and I had it. We did not know what to expect,” recalls Michael. “But I remember clearly when I asked Dr. Urken if I would survive, he replied, ‘absolutely!’” Michael underwent surgery within a week, and had seven others in the next six months.
Roseann felt her job was to be the family optimist. “I was scared on the inside at first, but I just had to stay focused on being positive for Michael.”
After a total of thirteen surgeries over two and a half years, Michael’s cancer was declared to be in remission in the fall of 1998, five years after his diagnosis. He and Roseann credit Dr. Urken and his team with saving Michael’s life.
Last year, Michael was promoted to the rank of Sergeant with the Westfield Police Department, where he has been an active part-time officer for twenty-six years. “This happened eleven years after my cancer diagnosis. It shows that you can survive and even thrive, with proper care.” Married for sixteen years, the Kurdillas have a message for people recently diagnosed with cancer. “Read as much information as you can, and stay positive,” advises Roseann. “Find support wherever you can—from spiritual sources, family, and friends.”
“Remember that help is out there, and there are people who care,” reassures Michael. “You are not alone. I always tell people, ‘I will pray for you.’”