Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fred Wojciechowski

My next door neighbor, Fred Wojciechowski, died in his sleep this morning at 2 am. He was 35 years old.

Last year, he started having headaches that aspirin would not alleviate. They became stronger and stronger, to the point of being unbearable. Our local hospital diagnosed them as "cluster headaches".

Some time after, he felt a swelling in his neck area. He went back to the hospital for an MRI, where they found a mass the size of a beer can (!) in his throat, wrapped around all of the major arteries and so forth.

They performed an immediate biopsy. This was a case where the doctors were actually hopeful that the mass was cancerous, so that they could treat it with radiation and/or chemo. The alternative would have been going in and removing it - something extremely difficult because of its proximity to all the important stuff in the neck.

biopsy came back - it was cancer - specifically a form of lymphoma. They treated it aggressively. Fred responded very well to chemotherapy (probably due to his youth and good heath) - and they stepped up his treatments again and again. At one point, there were giving him a continuous chemo drip for 5 days straight, then 3 weeks off, then 5 more days.

Sometime in May, the doctors took an MRI and found no "hot spots". They declared him officially in remission, and told him he could start working again as soon as he felt strong enough.

One week after he started working, a neighbor was driving by and found him lying in a heap on his driveway, passed out.

More tests. The doctors were wrong before - he was not cancer free. There was cancer in the fluid lining around his brain (nobody at this time ever said "in his brain", though) - and it was causing pressure. He was now popping in and out of consciousness - of lucidity. When lucid, he was depressed and openly said he was giving up. It was too hard -fighting your ass off and being told you had licked cancer, only to find out all the tears and nausea and life upheaval had so far gotten you nowhere.

Yesterday afternoon, he had a new MRI so they could see changes from a few weeks ago. The news was bad - the cancer was all through his brain. They gave him "between 2 days and 2 weeks" to live.

I got this news around 6pm last evening. The neighborhood couples got into cars and trucked the 40 miles to the Cleveland Clinic for a last visit. Fred was awake and lucid, though he had some difficulty communicating. We were all upbeat and got him to laugh a few times at some raunchy humor. I said goodbye around 10pm - thinking that I would probably go visit him one last time in hospice sometime later in the week once he got settled.

Fred didn't make it to hospice. He died peacefully in his sleep in the hospital, 4 hours after I saw him.

I cannot hope to commemorate my friend with this shitty blog entry. He was a hard working, tough-as-a-brick concrete finisher for a small, local company. They did driveways and small parking lots, as well as home waterproofing. He had been a loyal employee for something like 8 years. In the summer months, he worked six 12-14 hour days, and took Sunday off. From November to March - he was laid off, but still worked as many hours in his nine months that we desk shlubs work in 12.

He was a hunter. He freaked out our little suburban community one day by hanging a freshly killed doe carcass from a bicycle hook in his garage. He was partial owner of a cabin up in Wolverine, Michigan, and took myself and the other neighborhood goofballs up there 2 Januarys ago for a weekend of man stuff. (poker, drinking, shooting).

He was a good father. His current marriage to Patti was her second - she had 3 grown children that took turns living with them as they tried to get their own lives up and running. Fred never complained about the stepkids moving in - one with a baby at one point. He gave them money for insurance and new tires and to cover the gaps when the bills were due. He had
full custody of his 11 year old daughter from his own first marriage, and a six year old daughter from his current marriage.

He was an awful poker player. Fred's favorite Texas hold-em hand was 3-4 suited, and would play it every time it was dealt to him. Every time I was in a hand with Fred and the board came full of threes and fours, I would just laugh and fold. I probably paid him off numerous times when he had nothing but the threat of holding 3-4.

He was my


Memphis MOJO said...

I'm sorry for your loss. Life's not fair.

I disagree with one thing you said:

"I cannot hope to commemorate my friend with this shitty blog entry."

If Fred is reading this, I'm sure he would enjoy what you've said.

bastinptc said...

Sad for you Matt.

Norris said...


I'm so sorry to hear about Fred. I was really good friends with him growing up in Avon--he lived down the road from me. Another buddy of mine just told me about Fred's throat cancer last night and I was in the process of trying to track down where Fred was, when I just got the update about an hour ago that he passed. If/when you find out any information on viewing/funeral, if you'd be able to pass it along to me, I'd greatly appreciate it.

Norris Pyle

Anonymous said...

Matt, I'm the daughter of one of the men Fred worked with. He was like part of our family and we will miss him so much. I am so thankful for this entry you wrote. For whatever reason, after I found out he passed away this morning, I googled his name and ran across your entry. It saved me this morning from not being able to make it through the day. He was a wonderful man and we should all be so grateful to have known him as a friend and to be part of his life as he passed through with such humor and love.
-Sarah Scott

Anonymous said...

I am so very sorry to hear about Fred's death. He was a great guy! We went to high school together in Avon and he never, ever failed to make me laugh! I will keep his family & friends in my prayers at this very difficult time. -Jennifer Miller

matt tag said...


Hope you get this - I have no other way to reach you:

Friends will be received Thursday, June 11, 2009 from 4 to 9 P.M. at the Misencik Funeral Home, 36363 Detroit Rd., Avon.

Norris said...


Thank you for the info, I did receive it and will be there tomorrow night. Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

One year later this post is still true. One hell of a guy. My best friend. Today is about Fred. We miss you.