Community continues support of St. Joe County officer battling rare cancer

Published: Aug. 7, 2017 at 12:24 AM EDT
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A St. Joe County cop has been battling a rare cancer on his spinal cord for eight months now, and the community support along the way has been incredible.

Corporal Kyle Stopczynski was diagnosed with myxopapillary ependymoma in December of 2016. It's a cancer so rare that he needed treatment in Houston.

A bed opened on New Year's Eve and he stayed there for three months, now he's been home for five.

This weekend friends and family hosted a cookout benefit for Kyle which is when NewsCenter 16 caught up with him to see how he's doing now.

"The support is just unreal," said Kyle. "There's no words to explain it and we've said it before, how do you thank people? Thank you doesn't seem like enough."

"It's crazy that everybody wants to still come out here, even after all of the benefits that we've had and all of the money that everybody's helped us raise," said Amber Stopczynski, Kyle's wife.

Since Kyle returned home from treatment, he's been progressing well.

"It's getting to the point where I can walk comfortably now where before I couldn't," Kyle said. "So I mean it's a big difference."

When he came back home he struggled to walk and used a wheel chair and walker a lot to get around.

"The mass has only picked up a small part of the contrast now around the edges and it looks like it's dead on the inside," Amber said. "So it should hopefully start folding in on itself and then hopefully he'll get some pain relief after that."

"It's a slow-growing tumor so it's also a slow-dying tumor as well, so kind of take it as it goes," Kyle said.

Right now he's back at work part time doing background checks for new hires. Prior to his diagnosis, Kyle served for six years with the St. Joseph County Police. Now, he can't wait to get back out there.

"It's not out chasing bad guys but it's still work," Kyle said. "I have a purpose now and it feels good to get out of the house. There's only so much Netflix and TV you can watch after a while."

Tragically, Kyle's mom Renee passed away since his return home. She, too, was battling cancer and lost the battle.

"I mean how strong she was, she would want you to be strong and move on and keep going and fighting," Kyle said. "I think that's the biggest thing I've taken away is keep fighting for her, that's what she would want."

He says no one fights alone.

"His fellow brothers on the force have been with him all the time and done a great job, it's been a big help to the family," said David Stopczynski, Kyle's uncle who hosted the most recent benefit.

While the journey hasn't been easy, Kyle has kept a positive mind through it all.

"You don't sweat the little stuff," he said ."It doesn't mean anything I mean it's pointless, like before all the little fights we used to have and worry about stupid stuff and it's just not worth it anymore."

Kyle says even when he wasn't strong, Amber was always by his side encouraging him to keep going.

Doctors say he should be better in eight to 18 months. He hopes to be back out on the force next summer.

Kyle's next follow-up is next month in Houston.