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Bryan Jurgovan has always loved fishing.
It was a passion that began when the Frankfort Square resident was a young boy growing up in Posen. He would accompany his father, Ron, and his brother Kevin out to the lake, and when he became a father, he continued the tradition with his own children.
“It wasn’t about the catching — it was about the memories,” Bryan said. “That’s what Dad taught us ... He’d fish, he’d pull out a fish, and then he’d cast back, and then I’d cast a foot away from him. He’d say, ‘There’s all this lake, and you’ve got to fish right there.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, that’s where you showed me where the fish were.’”
Since he was diagnosed with Stage 3 rectal cancer in July 2018, Bryan’s fishing trips have been far and few between. This week, Bryan’s family is planning a special fishing-themed benefit to raise money for his treatment and recovery.
The Fishing for a Cure Benefit 4 Bryan, scheduled from 3-8 p.m. Saturday, June 29, will be held at the American Legion Post 474, 3539 214th St. in Matteson, and feature food, music, raffles, fishing-themed games and activities and more.
“It has been in the works for a while,” said Jennifer Jurgovan, Bryan’s wife. “...We’ve used all of our savings, pretty much maxed out all of our credit cards. We’ve cashed out stocks. We’ve kind of run the gamut of all the available funds that we could pull from.”
Everything changed for the Jurgovans after Bryan’s diagnosis.
“They discovered the tumor, and in September, he had to have 28 consecutive days of chemotherapy and radiation, which he completed in October,” Jennifer said. “Then, they let him recover, and in November, he went in to have the tumor removed. They did remove the tumor and then they stitched him all back together and said that it was actually a textbook surgery, everything went great, and he would just need to heal and he could do his last round of chemo and that would be it.”
Unfortunately, there were complications with the surgery. Bryan noticed that the right side of his pelvis was numb, and in January, following a CT scan, doctors discovered his tailbone had become infected. Treating the problem required a permanent colostomy bag and daily antibiotics, delaying his chemotherapy treatment plan. A second infection led to another stay in the hospital.
Bryan has been unable to work since September 2018, but he hopes to return to work in the fall. In the meantime, Jennifer is supporting the family on her salary and donations from family and friends.
“With the radiation and the chemo, he just couldn’t physically keep up with his job,” Jennifer said. “And then, with all the complications, it just made it that it was just impossible for him to go back.”
The fishing fundraiser is the latest in a series of efforts to help Bryan and the Jurgovan family get back on their feet. In March, a small benefit in Lockport brought in about $1,800, Jennifer said, and a GoFundMe page set up on behalf of the family, https://www.gofundme.com/helping-hands-for-the-jurgovans, raised an additional $1,680 by mid-June.
Community members have generously donated raffle prizes for the fishing benefit, including four tickets and parking passes to the Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds game on July 15, four tickets to see the Smashing Pumpkins and Noel Gallagher on Aug. 15, fishing equipment and gift cards to the Bass Pro Shop and various restaurants.
Bryan said he owes the strength he has found to continue his fight against cancer to the ongoing support of his wife, family, neighbors and friends.
“I know I wouldn’t have made it through my hardest times; I would have just gave up,” he said. “But I have so much support. I’ve got a friend who calls me every day during the week. He calls on his way home. And he knows I probably won’t answer because either I don’t feel well or I might not be in the mood to talk. But he calls every day, just in case. He’s there.”
If you go...
What: Fishing for a Cure Benefit 4 Bryan
When: 3-8 p.m. Saturday, June 29
Where: American Legion Post 474, 3539 214th St. in Matteson
How to purchase tickets: Tickets will be sold at the door ($30 for adults 21 and up, $15 for children and young adults aged 6-20 and free for children under 6) and discounted entry tickets are available at www.benefit4bryan.com ($20 for adults 21 and up, $10 for children and young adults aged 6-20 and free for children under 6).