COLUMBIA - Tom Sadowski, a former University of Missouri official and current Jefferson City resident, has beat all odds to survive brain cancer.
"We were at the spring training baseball game," Sadowski said. "I went to use the restroom and when I came back I couldn't figure out where my family was in the stands."
When he was diagnosed in 1999 with glioblastoma multiforme, a malignant and often lethal type of cancer, doctors only gave Sadowski a few months to live. It was April Fool's day.
"I thought I was going back to work, and then you get something like that, and you're told to go straight to the hospital... it was not what I was expecting," Sadowski's wife Jatha told KOMU 8.
But Sadowski persevered through multiple surgeries, rounds of chemotherapy, and the accompanying emotional stress along the way. Today, he is one of the longest living survivors of a brain tumor in the country; a symbol of hope in the cancer community.
Sadowski says his journey with cancer was just as spiritual as it was medical. Through the many trials he and his family faced, Sadowski says they came out on the other side as better people because of it, giving them a greater purpose and appreciation for life.
"You have a brain tumor but you still have a life to live, and that's what you need to focus on," Sadowski said.
Sadowski is set on his participation within the brain cancer community, actively pursuing current research into finding the cure for glioblastoma among other cancer forms.
The Head for the Cure Foundation, an organization founded in 2007 dedicated to raising money for brain cancer research and assistance, holds annual 5k races and walks across the country. The Head for the Cure 5k came to Columbia on Sunday, with Sadowski in attendance.
This year, the event had 300 people registered, all congregated in Stephen's Lake Park in support of assisting those with brain cancer. The event raised thousands of dollars for the foundation, and Sadowski says the support from the community is something he holds very near to his heart.
"I was just overwhelmed by it, that all these people who didn't know me, cared about me. And that's the thing you begin to learn is that there are a lot of people you may not even know them, but they know you and they care about you," Sadowski said.
A constant theme of this year's event was "keep the faith." Sadowski's wife Jatha said that this motto couldn't ring truer for those who understand what brain cancer survivors have been through.
"I mean it's just being hopeful, and just living every day as it came, and that's what we had to do," she said.
"And every day I was just so thankful he's still here with us."
Tom Sadowski told KOMU 8 there have been no signs of his tumor returning in the past 16 years.
Below is a KOMU 8 exclusive 360 degree video of the event, with fully rotatable videos and pictures of the race.
360 video courtesy of Rayna Sims, KOMU 8 Reporter.