EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — It was just a stomachache.
At least that’s what Jim Archacki thought. The 38 year-old custodian from Boston was an avid runner and had always been healthy, yet after a few weeks the painful stomachache just wouldn’t go away.
The only cure seemed to be more running — so outside he went, where he ran mile after mile, the October wind at his back. Yet soon after he finished, the pain would return.
After multiple trips to the doctor’s office where he was subject to CAT scans, he was told he needed to be operated on.
The operation confirmed what doctors thought was likely, Jim had a cancerous tumor in his stomach, and was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
But as he lay sedated in his hospital bed, Jim just didn’t know that yet.
John Archacki sat in the room with his twin brother Jim at the Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport, Massachusetts. He had just been told that his brother had cancer, and had been entrusted with the duty of telling him the diagnosis.
A Jimmy Buffett song playing on his cassette player, he couldn’t hold in the news, and blurted it out to Jim, who was more asleep than awake, thanks to his sedation.
Now aware he had cancer, one emotion dominated the others — relief.
“I was relieved that at least they found an answer,” Jim said.
He immediately fell back asleep, leaving John with the difficult task of calling their sisters and mother with the news.
“That was hard,” John said. “It was a short conversation; they felt how you’d expect them to.”
Every third Tuesday for the next five months, Jim received chemotherapy. It reduced the tumor immensely after the first treatment, allowing Jim to run 14 miles with his brother each Saturday.
He wasn’t about to let cancer get in the way of his love for running.
A sports fanatic and lover of Boston College football, he made a goal to be at the team’s home opener against USC in September 1988.
By the next summer, doctors announced that the cancer was in remission. However, in order to stay that way, Jim needed a bone-marrow transplant.
He didn’t need to look far for a donor.
“There was never any doubt that I was going to do it,” John said.
The harvest was performed at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and kept John in the hospital for a few days.
The transplant was done on July 3, 1986.
“The bone marrow transplant was definitely more challenging,” Jim said. “It took a lot more out of me.”
Jim stayed in the hospital until the end of August, and realized he had a problem as he was getting ready to leave.
“When I put my street clothes on to go home, they didn’t fit at all,” Jim said.
His stay at the Dana-Farber had made him lose 30 pounds, down to 130 from the time he entered.
His exit was short lived though, as an allergic reaction to sulfur caused him to return to the hospital until late September.
“Through the whole process I was never really afraid because I wasn’t married, I didn’t have any grandchildren, I didn’t have anything to lose,” Jim said.
It’s been 30 years since John donated bone marrow to his twin, and now the 69-year-old East Coasters live in Evansville, where they’ve been for four years.
Lifetime bachelors, the brothers have lived together for years — even sharing a car.
“Since we lived and worked in the same area, it was easy to share an automobile,” John said. “We’d just switch off.”
Family in Indiana convinced them to come to the state and try living in another area of the country.
“The winters are great,” Jim said. “I can take 12 inches of snow compared to 108.”
Three years ago, Jim discovered Chemo Buddies, an organization that aids patients going through chemotherapy in the Tri-State area. Every Friday for three hours, Jim volunteers at Oncology Hematology Associates and is there for anyone going through treatments.
“They seem to be interested in me being from Massachusetts because of the way I talk,” Jim said. “‘You’re not from around here are you?'”
He says it’s incredible how far medical technology has grown since his transplant, and how much more there is available.
“If you’re going to get chemotherapy for cancer, at least keep an open mind until you’ve had your first treatment,” Jim said. “I think in a lot of cases it gets better.”
To this day he remembers signing the consent form before any surgery was performed.
“I had the fear of God in me,” Jim said. “My hair stood up.”
Who knew less than a year after the transplant he’d be running 10-mile races?
The brothers continued that passion until six years ago, when hip arthritis forced them to use a stationary bike that resides in their living room. Jimmy Buffett is still a favorite to listen to while taking turns on the machine.
Not only were both brothers able to run long distances again, they did make it to that BC football game. It ended in a lopsided loss, but it left Jim with a mindset he would be able to hold forever.
“I never really worried about what if it came back,” Jim said. “I just felt so good that I could put it in the back of my mind.”