Photography and other ways to win the fight against cancer
World Cancer Day
Mirek Krajewski wih his camera in the surgery ward - private archive
Hospital Photo Session_CC-BY Mirek Krajewski
Mirek Krajewski returned to his hospital in Leszno with a camera. This is how an album of unusual shots was created. He stood shoulder to shoulder with the doctors who once fought for him. “I already had one foot in the grave,” he reveals. He also talks about what allowed him to emerge victorious from the fight against cancer.
“No time is good to learn about one’s illness,” says Krajewski. In April 2022, when he was suddenly taken to hospital, he was in his prime: an active 54-year-old man of passion and plans for the future, surrounded by a loving family. As he recalls: “It was like an avalanche: first a less intense heart attack, then bacteria in the blood, and a powerful dose of antibiotics, and to top it all a tumor on the large intestine which proved malignant.” He had two surgeries and serious cardiological problems. The second surgery saved his life but resulted in all sorts of complications. As he himself admits, “At this point, I had one foot in the grave.”
However, Mirek does not want to talk at length about the illness. “I would like to focus on what allowed me to emerge victorious from this whole debacle,” he explains. He shares seven things that he considers to be key in his fight against the disease.
Mirek ranks positive thinking the highest. “I really, genuinely believed that I would overcome cancer”, he says. Fortunately, the tumour was discovered at an early stage and there had been no metastases. “I had my crisis when there were complications after the second surgery”, admits Krajewski. A meeting with the hospital psychologist was a great help; he admits: “Let us not be afraid to ask for such help in hospital as such a conversation is invaluable”.
Distractions and avoiding constant thoughts about his condition and what might come of it was a big help in overcoming his illness, he says: “It does help to have some passion, a neutral world in which to immerse yourself and you need to isolate yourself from negative stimuli”. For him, photography turned out to be such a safe haven. “I applied myself to it with a vengeance”, says Krajewski, “and, despite the troublesome stoma bag and being weakened by chemotherapy, I was constantly looking for opportunities to take pictures”.
Gestures of support
Another aspect that helped Mirek get back on his feet was all the gestures of support. “To this day, I am endlessly amazed by the response of the multitude of people concerned about my illness”, he confesses. Circumstances led his wife to act as an intermediary in passing them on. “The multitude of good words, hundreds of prayers, dozens of Masses all over the world surprised us both”, he confesses. Someone offered him St. Charbel’s oils, someone else the oils of the completely unknown St. Peregrine. What took him by complete surprise was an invitation from a total stranger to Iceland for an aurora borealis photography session; in this way he was able to fulfil his big dream as soon as his health improved.
Trust in doctors
Mirek believes that trust in physicians is of great importance. “I did what I was told without but a slightest protest, especially the things whose meaning I could not grasp at all”. He was treated in the Doctor Jan Jonston Hospital in Leszno. Some tried to persuade his family members that a larger hospital would be better, yet Krajewski is certain that the decision to remain in Leszno was the right one. He stresses the professionalism, commitment, communicativeness, and benevolence of the medical staff: “I was blessed to be surrounded by truly competent people”.
Krajewski indicates that little is said about it generally. He refers to the daily Eucharist, of great importance to a Christian. In hospital, he discovered the power of yet another sacrament: “The sacrament of the anointing of the sick is the great gift of the Church. My personal experience is that because of the anointing I received, never for a moment did I think about what would happen to me, I was incredibly calm”. He recalls that on that fateful night when his life was at stake, he was very anxious about the reaction of the nearest and dearest: “I even wanted to ask the nurse for a piece of paper and a pen to jot down a few words, partaking with those closest to me”.
Towards the end of his stay in hospital, another thought occurred to him: “As I lay one sleepless night in hospital, I thought about why all this had happened to me and what I could do about it”. The answer came in the morning: “I can turn my suffering into something good by offering all this mess in some intention. Like everyone else, I had such intentions and eagerly took the opportunity”. However, Mirek would not reveal what that intention was: “It’s my sweet secret”.
Although Mirek mentions this aspect at the end, he believes it is the most important one: the support of family and friends. According to him, this seems natural and obvious, but it is crucial in overcoming the illness and the recovery process. “However, I also want to stress that suffering brings the family together”, emphasises Krajewski.