JEFF’S STORY

JEFF KUBALA

My name is Becky Kubala and I am Jeff’s wife of 33 years. I am sharing Jeff’s story because he cannot as he passed away on April 16th of 2024. I am sharing the nightmare that our family endured for two and half years, to honor Jeff’s service to his country and to support the outstanding work done by the Torchlight Initiative. It is my hope that Jeff’s ultimate sacrifice will not have been in vain and that future missileers will not suffer the same fate.

 

Diagnosis

In Oct of 2021, Jeff had started to have subtle issues with his fine motor skills in his left hand but he attributed it to some previous carpel tunnel issues. In Nov of 2021, he began to have trouble with increased oral secretions but again, he had some dental surgery and it was thought he had a minor infection. The final symptom presented itself on Dec 21st. We were at a Christmas party and I noticed a slight drooping in his left eye. I immediately took him to be evaluated at our local hospital and a CT scan confirmed our worst nightmare, Jeff had a brain tumor.

Jeff was immediately admitted to University of Colorado hospital and MRI confirmed that the tumor was malignant. From there our lives fell apart. We were told that he had not one but three tumors located in the right side of his brain. With this type of cancer, biopsy is generally not done due to the risks involved.

Jeff underwent an awake craniotomy, where they were able to remove 100% of the tumors. However, we were told that there was no cure for this aggressive brain cancer and that only 25% of people live two years post diagnosis and only 5% survive to five years. Jeff had 33 focused radiation treatments to the surgical area, to further kill undetected cancer cells that are left behind. He then had six months of chemotherapy (Temodor) which is an extremely toxic chemo drug that carries a multitude of debilitating side effects. In addition, Jeff enrolled in a clinical trial for a new chemo drug that was designed to starve cancer cells of nutrients. Three months into the trial, Jeff’s brain swelled and he was life- flighted back to University Hospital were I was told by his surgeon that he may not survive. Fortunately, the swelling was responsive to steroids and he was discharged home. Throughout his treatment, Jeff had extensive occupational and physical rehabilitation in an effort to regain the function of the left side of his body. He suffered from debilitating fatigue, radiation necrosis of the brain, seizures, and blood clots. The drugs used to treat these issues devastated his body almost as much as the cancer itself. He continued on the trial until his cancer returned in August of 2024. The new tumor was not operable, so Jeff underwent five very large radiation treatments to the tumor site. He was started on another chemo drug but the tumor did not show a response.

As a final effort, Jeff was given an monoclonal antibody infusion called Avastin to attempt to slow the growth of the tumor. It did not have the desired response and was discontinued. In Nov of 2024, Jeff began to rapidly loose control of the left side of his body. By February, he was completely bed bound requiring 24 -hour care. Fortunately, I have been an RN for 30 years and with the help of my daughter and son-in-law, was able to take care of him in our home. Jeff was admitted to Hospice Care and passed away three weeks later, in our home, on April 16th surrounded by his loving family.

WHY WE ARE TELLING OUR STORY

Capt Jeff Kubala was an amazing father and husband, but he also served his country as a Missile Combat Crew Commander in the 320th Missile Squadron, FE Warren AFB.  In his neurologist’s expert opinion, his brain tumor was due to exposure to carcinogenic compounds most likely during his ICBM service in the 320 MS.  He died from wounds received as a missile combat crew commander 24 years ago.   It is my hope that sharing our tragic story will build awareness of the hazards in the missile community.  I also hope it leads to the mitigation of risks, which will save other families from this tragedy and this preventable death.

1 Comment

  1. Beverly Sloan

    I have no words that can compare to your grief. As a missileer, all I can say is I am so, so sorry. I hope you received the blanket that I sent. It is nothing compared to your loss, but you and your family are thought about and prayed for 🙏

    Reply

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