GODDARD: Karnstedt pulls through with help from friends
Hinsdale South JV badminton coach Dennis Karnstedt
Updated: April 22, 2013 10:52AM
Dennis Karnstedt went into the doctor’s office for a physical checkup recently and heard the magic words: “You’re free to go!”
His lung cancer was in remission. The elephant had left the room.
“It was the happiest day of my life,” said the retired 67-year-old who taught biology for 32 years at Hinsdale South, where he led the badminton teams to state titles in 1999, 2005 and 2006, coached cross-country, helped in basketball and was an assistant athletic director.
Did we mention landscaping on the side? That, too.
The scariest day of Karnstedt’s life was almost a year ago when he was wheeled into the surgery room of a Boston hospital with no assurances of coming out.
“If I hadn’t been in great shape I might not have survived,” he said.
Karnstedt has been in top condition for decades. He finished eighth in the 50-and-over division of the 1998 Boston Marathon, played basketball twice a week with pals at 5:30 a.m. and did strenuous exercises when he wasn’t teaching.
“I can’t do those things anymore, but I work out four times a week with a trainer, take five-mile walks, work a little with weights, jog on a treadmill and play golf as often as I can with a group of 10 or 15 guys,” said Karnstedt, who spends winter months in his Naples, Fla., condo.
Fortunately, Karnstedt’s strong network of friends lightened his mental loads before surgery and during rehabilitation with words of encouragement in e-mails and letters that have been lovingly preserved in a beautifully bound 100-page book.
Karnstedt credits wife Pam Baker, who is retiring from South’s drama department in three months, as being his rock.
“Pam’s incredible,” he said. “She says, ‘Never stop believing in yourself! You’re alive and getting better, and don’t you forget it.’ ”
Karnstedt knows it all too well.
“Denny is an amazing guy,” said former South track and cross-country coach Dave Jackson, who is making the most of his first year of retirement by traveling with his family to Ireland, West Coast states and Wisconsin. “If anyone could beat cancer, it’s Denny.”
Karnstedt keeps in touch with other South associates Bob Haisman, Jim Kirwan, Mike Yavorsky, Jerry Zelinski, John Charters and Dave Smith.
“Dave is really doing well,” Karnstedt said. “He has lost 93 pounds in less than a year and wants to lose more. That’s incredible.”
Karnstedt counts Mike and Paul Madsen, Ernie Howard, Tom Malloy, Pat McMahon, and next-door neighbor Sue Camasta among other “special” friends in his health journey.
“I’m blessed,” he said. “No one knows that better than me.”