Being diagnosed with an unsuspected case of cancer would be enough to send most people out for a stiff drink. But Jeff Krulik, 30, a producer from Bowie, vowed he would beat the disease first and have the drink afterward.
Afterward came last Friday.
With his cancer in remission for nearly six months, Krulik called his celebration "The Survivor's Ball" and sent out 500 invitations bearing the bywords of television's old Six Million Dollar Man: "We can rebuild him. We have the technology . . . . "
"I invited everyone I've ever met in my entire life," he said.
Krulik's fight for that life started last summer.
"I was having a good year. I was on a roll," he recalled. "I had put together a film festival at the Kennedy Center. I had a documentary on old movie houses of Washington on TV. I was promoting a friend's movie. It was a pretty full slate."
Then a biopsy determined that a lump in his neck was Hodgkin's disease, a cancer that attacks the lymphatic system, but is curable.
"It plunged me into the world of cancer -- the one you only hear about," he said. That world revolved around the National Institutes of Health.
"Until then, I thought NIH was the building on Wisconsin Avenue," Krulik said. "It's really a massive sprawl in Bethesda, an indescribable facility. They saved my life."
Krulik, a program evaluator at the Discovery Channel the past two years, had his spleen removed and began seven months of chemotherapy.
Through it all, he stayed upbeat, his family said.
Krulik said he had a lot of help: from his family, from his girlfriend, from his friends at work, all of whom gathered around him last week. "My boss, Mark Kozaki, gave me all the time I needed. I used to take naps at work."
So Krulik swore he would have a huge party when he was well, and he renewed that promise to himself when he was released from the hospital the day after his 30th birthday in March.
Krulik said he spent about $3,500 for refreshments and performers, including two balloon sculptors, a sword swallower, a fire eater and a local 20-piece band.
"I just wanted to have fun. Celebrate my 30th birthday a little late. Just celebrate that I'm here," Krulik said.
Guests were asked for a $15 donation to be given to the NIH Patient Emergency Fund to assist patients and families who are strapped for money. But NIH staffers were admitted free.