Miami Dolphins

After the cancer diagnosis came the truly life-changing news for this DCC participant

Mike Dzioba is a dad-to-be. He is also a cancer survivor running in Saturday’s Dolphins Cancer Challenge.
Mike Dzioba is a dad-to-be. He is also a cancer survivor running in Saturday’s Dolphins Cancer Challenge. Courtesy of the Miami Dolphins

Parents know the feeling like they know their own face.

Excitement. Joy. Anxiety. More than a little fear.

News that a baby is on the way can’t help but trigger a unique mix of emotions.

Now imagine dealing with all of that when, on a semi-regular basis, medical professionals pump your blood full of chemicals to kill the cancer that’s trying to kill you.

Mike Dzioba does not need to play make-believe. That was his 2017 summer.

The 29-year-old manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers learned that his wife, Kelly, was expecting not long after chemotherapy had begun for his Stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Some eight months later, Dzioba’s cancer is in remission, Kelly is about to pop and Mike is feeling well enough to run a 5K.

So he will do that just that Saturday — for a great cause.

Dzioba, of Miami, is one of about 2,700 participants in the eighth-annual Dolphins Cancer Challenge, a mega-event that has raised more than $22 million for the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. The DCC began as a cycling challenge but has since expanded to a road run and a concert, this year featuring the Goo Goo Dolls and Big Head Todd and the Monsters. (To donate to Dzioba’s team, click here.)

Crossing the finish line will be an emotional climax to a life-changing year for Dzioba, who has always been active and drawn to causes that support men’s health.

“I think this one really, really hit close to home,” he said. “I was looking at some of my friends, just finishing up my chemo in late October, early November. Friends were starting Movember [a fundraiser where men grow mustaches to raise awareness for prostate cancer], but I couldn’t grow any facial hair. It meant something to me in the past. Now it means so much more.”

Mike and Kelly, who moved to Miami from the Northeast a few years back, were generally healthy people before his diagnosis.

But toward the end of 2016, he noticed a change. His lymph nodes had become pea-sized. He got really alarmed when they grew to the size of a ping-pong ball.

His blood work seemed fine and he had no weight loss or night sweats, but Dzioba’s primary care doctor insisted he get a biopsy.

That’s when the news came: On June 1, he was diagnosed with a form of blood cancer, a highly treatable, but still serious disease.

“For me, it was a complete shock,” he said. “I was saying, ‘I feel perfectly fine. I haven’t been sick in months.’ To get that news was tough at first. Took a week to embrace what was going on. Then I started realizing it was just another step in life.”

Complicating matters: The diagnosis collided with the couple’s life plan. They had wanted to start trying to expand their family in the middle of last year. Should they stick to their schedule or wait for the all-clear?

They decided to try in the month between the diagnosis and the first of eight rounds of chemo. The Dziobas weren’t overly optimistic — Who gets pregnant right away? they thought.

They thought wrong.

“The week before chemo, my wife sat me down and said, ‘I don’t know what to say to you. We’re pregnant.’ ” he recalled. “At that point, we were just blown away. Such a miracle, with all the stress we had going on in life. We were really able to put that aside and focus on what was truly important to us. Everyone I tell this story to, I get choked up a little bit. All the cards fell into place. When I found that out, it gave me the drive the entire time.”

On Saturday, that same drive will power Dzioba through 3.1 miles.

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

If you go

DCC VIII weekend will commence with the Kickoff Party on Friday. This will be followed by the DCC signature event on Saturday.

The race will include five bike routes through South Florida, a run/walk 5K and a finish line celebration concert by the Goo Goo Dolls with Big Head Todd and The Monsters — extending the opportunity for cancer fighters to be of all ages and all capabilities.