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Life Connected: Inspired by Cancer Patient, "Bucket List Helps People Live Better"

Terminally ill, Ken Kozikowski created a bucket list while undergoing treatment at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. The hospital is in the process of making "The Bucket List Project" a permanent part of its program.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Terminally ill, Ken Kozikowski created a bucket list while undergoing treatment at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. The hospital is in the process of making "The Bucket List Project" a permanent part of its program. John Cadiz Klemack reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Dec. 18, 2012. (Published Wednesday, Dec 19, 2012)

    If the Beatles were right about the love you take being equal to the love you make in the end, Long Beach resident Ken Kozikowski may soon take with him the love of thousands.

    Kozikowski has stage four colon cancer and knows he doesn’t have much time left.

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    "I know what the reality is," the 48-year-old said recently. "I’m not happy with the prospects of what will happen to me, what is happening to me. But some things in life, you have to roll with it and keep going."

    And Kozikowski is doing just that. With the recommendation of his doctor, he’s written a bucket list that has now become the springboard for a broader bucket list program at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. It may well be Kozikowski's lasting legacy.

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    Oncologist Dr. Nilesh Vora, director of the Palliative Care program at the hospital, said he offered the idea to Kozikowski just a few months ago, during what he called a "honeymoon" period of his treatments.

    "He was getting better," Vora said. "I told him at that point that I thought it was really important to make a list of things he wanted to do because this response was great, but it wasn’t going to be forever."

    So Kozikowski published his bucket list on Facebook, and included items that ranged from trips up the California coast to sitting in the audience of the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

    Because the chemotherapy treatments have made him so weak, the travel options dwindled. But one item on the list was something he thought was very important.

    "He wants an iconic portrait of himself," said Kristi Sutton Elias, a Long Beach photographer who offered her services for free. "I thought it was amazing how it gives you something to look forward to."

    The now iconic black-and-white photo of Apple guru Steve Jobs – that’s what Kozikowski was going for. Elias was making it happen.

    "It’s very important to me to have some kind of image that will remind people of where I was and that I was here, and that’s the most important thing to me," Kozikowski said.

    Just about everyone who was contacted to help Kozikowski fulfill his bucket list said yes without hesitation, according to a hospital social worker helping him.

    The list will connect help the Palliative Care program fulfill its mission, Vora said.

    "This bucket list helps people live better," Vora said.

    Long Beach Memorial is in the process of making "The Bucket List Project" a permanent part of its Palliative Care program, funded through the philanthropic arm of the hospital and by community donations.

    For more information about the Bucket List Project, call 562-933-GIVE.

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