November 28, 2014

Mostly cloudy

Family battles cancer a second time

It has been said that cancer strikes with no rhyme or reason, afflicting the young and old alike.
But some families are dealt a harsher hand than others with cancer striking multiple family members, making for a sad family narrative. Such is the case with the Gawlik family of Avon Lake.
Ed Gawlik, a deputy with the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office and member of the Lorain County SWAT team with a 25-year career in law enforcement, can recite the painful tale about cancer.
In 1997, after just five years of marriage, Gawlik lost his wife, Jenny, to a 3-year battle with cervical cancer. Their only child, a bright-eyed little boy named Sean, was only 3.
This year, cancer has returned to the Gawlik family. Only now the diagnosis belongs to Sean. On March 22, the now-19-year-old was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He is currently going through a round of chemotherapy with the hopes that the harsh chemical drugs will rid his body of the cancer.
“Yeah, we can say it’s unfair, but Sean is an amazing young man,” said Ed’s sister, Shelly Gawlik. “He’s nothing but positive. In his mind, he’s beating this and everything will be fine.”
He also hasn’t let cancer stop his life.
The 2012 Avon High School graduate continues to work full time and is currently enrolled at Lorain County Community College, where he is studying criminal justice with dreams of going into law enforcement like his father.
Sean’s diagnosis probably came about because of the family’s history with cancer.
Ed’s girlfriend of four years, Rebecca Pearson, said Sean complained to his father about a pain in his shoulder. Ed took the complaint seriously and asked to see the area. That’s when he noticed the lymph nodes in his son’s neck were swollen. He was taken to the doctor within a few days.
“They almost diagnosed him on the spot,” Pearson said. “They still scheduled a biopsy right away, but the doctors could almost tell immediately just by looking at it was cancer. I guess it really just goes to show you that parents know when something is not right.”
Sean has been given more than a 90 percent survival rate. Just two spots in his chest area are cancerous and doctors are aggressively treating it to keep the cancer from spreading.
Despite the good prognosis, the news has been devastating for the family.
“Sean is trying to be strong and not tell his dad when he’s not feeling well because he doesn’t want to worry him,” Pearson said. “But I can see how it worries him more not knowing what Sean is going through.”
Shelly Gawlik said she sometimes see the same worried look on her brother’s face that he had so many years ago with is wife.
“When Jenny passed away, he remained by her side the entire time,” she said. “Hospice came to the house and he took care of everything for her. He’s already lived it and been through cancer once, but now this is his son so it’s a whole new kind of stress.”
Since March, the law enforcement community in Lorain County has rallied behind the Gawlik family. Pearson, who also works for the Sheriff’s Department and is the daughter of a former police chief in Grafton, said the support has been amazing.
“It’s like having a big family,” she said. “Everyone has stepped up. So many people know Ed and Sean. They know Ed is working 60 and 70 hours a week, sometimes going without sleep to take care of his family. They want to help any way they can. That support is really helping Ed and Sean get through this.”
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or

  • taxpayer89

    Stay strong Sean!!! The only way I’m getting through my cancer is staying positive and laughing alot. It also helps having a big support system. Big hugs to you Sean as you fight this battle and WIN!!!

  • Frank Siegfried

    So what is the big deal I lost my brother to brain cancer. He fought it and it came back after 7 years. I lost my mom to spinal cord cancer. Just last year my sister was taken by lung cancer. Both my remaning brother have fought and won a battle with prostate cancer. No tell me how sad their story is.

    • sueishere

      I am so sorry for your losses….

  • emily

    Frank shut up stop being so heartless sorry for your loss but your a real a~hole you want to be miserable and spiteful do it somewhere else….were you this big of a jerk when your family was going thru it and dying ? my family has died from cancer also but I would NEVER be that rude to somebody thats going thru it because I know how painful it is to watch. You must have a black hole where your heart is suppose to be and I feel very sorry for anyone related to you…weren’t you raised better than that to say stupid mean things to a suffering family. …you need help…or just keep your nasty messed up thoughts to yourself!!!!!

  • sueishere

    You are in my prayers!

  • Alvin

    I went to Elementary School with Jennifer. Every few years I think of her and try to locate her with no luck. Today I found her obit and this story.

    I only knew her for a short time but she touched my heart enough to keep me trying to locate her after 30+ years. I am sad to hear of her death and the cancer her son has. My heart goes out to the family.