Brian Kozera: From Survivor to Thriver
How the Power of Yet transformed crises into opportunities for change.
Meet the Kozeras. Brian is a police officer, triathlete, father of three, and a cancer survivor. Life had been great for him and his wife, Kristin, a part-time chemist. But in 2014, they received a pair of dire diagnoses for Brian and their newborn daughter. "I didn't want to survive," Brian reflects in this inspirational new video. "I want to thrive in this life, and I want that same thing for my family."
A YEAR OF HARDSHIPS
Soon after the birth of their third child, Avery, she began having seizures. A few months later, she was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called CDKL5-Deficiency Disorder. Brian recalls the pediatrician telling them, "'She'll probably never walk or talk or sit up or be able communicate. She's going to have her own story to write, but she's going to be severely disabled.'"
Meanwhile, Brian's successful hernia surgery led to a surprising finding: He had a tumor that would be diagnosed as lymphocyte-depleted Hodgkin's lymphoma. "'You have cancer everywhere,'" he heard. "I started doing outpatient chemotherapy every other week."
That was followed by a third blow: Brian's father died suddenly. As the Dean of Temple Medical School, "he was pivotal for us at that time, guiding us through not one but two rare medical issues.
"It was really a hard year," Brian sums up.
Doctors advised Brian Kozera to stay as active as possible through his cancer recovery. He responded by committing to the IRONMAN World Championships! He'll compete on behalf of Team in Training, a fundraising arm of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
ADAPTING AND THRIVING
Brian believes that we have two choices in this life: "Get busy living or get busy dying."
He put that ethos into action when their health crises began. "I went through a bone marrow transplant, and the only thing they told me to do is to keep staying active." Brain thought to himself, "OK, I'm not feeling good, but if I to exercise, possibly this can help me win. And I have to win. I have three daughters and a wife who need me. I have to win."
As he resumed his triathlon training, "I set a goal for myself to qualify for the IRONMAN® World Championship." To his delight, he was selected for Team in Training, a group that uses endurance athletics to fundraise for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Team in Training would be sending him to Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, for the Championship!
During his treatments, Brian recalls, "I couldn't run. I could barely sometimes walk or even stand up. But I didn't want to survive – I wanted to thrive in this life, and I want that same thing for my family." Among the significant adaptations and life changes that Brian's commitment led to, he notes, "That's why we got this pool."
The pool is the Endless Pools® Performance model. To accommodate the family of five for playtime and Avery's aquatic therapy, they customized their Original Series pool to eight feet by 15 feet, with a 54-inch depth. Brian added our underwater swim mirrors to help him monitor and improve his swimming technique.
"We just had to adapt," he says now. He and Kristin take all three kids along for family activities … and they're a very active family! "However much time we get with her," he says of Avery, "how do we make the best life she can have?"
DISCOVERING THE POWER OF YET
There's a quote from Brian that Kristian loves: "In our family, we believe in the Power of Yet. We never say, 'We can't.' We may simply not have done it yet." Brian elaborates, "As long as you believe in that Power of Yet, you have hope, and hope is the best of things."
Brian and Kristin have always stayed active, even with their first two daughters. After Avery's diagnosis with a rare genetic disorder, they decided to adapt their activities to include her every step of the way.