Help Mike Beat Stage 4 Cancer
I am happily married to my beautiful wife Michele and have four wonderful children - Brennan (12), Christian (12), Adam (10) and Lily (6). We reside in Westminster, MD and I have proudly worked for the Baltimore Ravens since 2000 and have been lucky enough to be part of two Super Bowl Championships. I also enjoy coaching youth soccer and basketball in the Carroll County area.
In September 2015 I began having pain on the right side of my chest. I assumed it was nothing major being that I am pretty active. I ended up seeing my primary care physician who ordered a chest x-ray to make sure I didn't unknowingly have a broken rib or something. It ended up that I had no broken bones however they did notice a shadow on my upper right lung. My doctor ordered a CT scan and put me on an antibiotic assuming I had an infection. The scan confirmed the mass on my lung and he sent me to a pulmonologist in early October. Because the antibiotic was not helping, the pulmonologist decided to do a biopsy to rule out cancer and confirm it was just an infection.
Well the next day changed my life. My biopsy results showed that there were cancer cells present and I was diagnosed with lung cancer, more specifically adenocarcinoma. This was completely shocking given my young age and the fact I have never smoked a day in my life. The next step was to have a PET scan to make sure my cancer had not metastasized or spread to other parts of my body. The hope was that if the cancer was isolated to my upper lobe of my right lung, they could cut it out via surgery and I should be fine. Unfortunately the scan showed that it had spread - to my lower right lung, lymph nodes in my chest, my liver and the bone in my left hip.
At this point I was considered to have stage 4 lung cancer. I was instructed to immediately find an oncologist. I was also advised not to look at survival rates online. Well of course with all this technology at our fingertips, I could not help myself and found that only 5-10% of stage 4 lung cancer patients survive 5 years. Being that I have four young children who need their father and the fact that I have always been very competitive, I refused to accept those statistics, kept a positive attitude and chose to fight back. In the coming weeks I scrambled through various connections to get in to see a great oncologist at Johns Hopkins. Because I was not showing any other major symptoms, my oncologist chose to do another biopsy to see if I had a mutation driver. The hope was that if I had a specific mutation, then I could go on a targeted medicine or pill rather than rushing into chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Targeted treatments have less side effects and do not cause as much damage to the rest of your body and immune system which is very important.
Two weeks later my doctor informed me that I was "fortunate" they had found a mutation. I have the EGFR mutation, exon 19. This meant that I could go on Afatinib which is a once a day pill targeted to stop the further spread of cancer for those with this particular mutation. The problem is that even with this newly approved targeted treatment, it is only effective in about 60% of patients. Furthermore, studies show that even if effective it will only last about two years or less before your body becomes resistant or the cancer mutates again theoretically rendering this medication useless. Plus it doesn't necessarily improve your overall chance of long-term survival. Again this wasn't and isn't okay with me. So in conjunction with this medicine we started doing a ton of research on other methods I can do to improve my chances of beating this.
We found that your diet is extremely important. I have since gone to a 100% organic diet with no dairy, gluten, red meat and almost no sugar. For those who know me, that was a huge adjustment. And who knew that eating healthy was so expensive! I am also taking daily supplements known to be helpful to cancer patients. But there had to be more out there. Through further research in cancer articles, studies, survivor videos, documentaries and more, we found that there are other alternative options out there that are completely non-toxic and natural that can be used in combination with your main treatment. Additionally there are adjustments you can make in your home and every day environment that can be helpful as well. We hope to eventually add more treatment modalities as we go.
A few weeks ago I received promising news after my most recent scan - the tumor in my lung is shrinking and everything I am doing seems to be helping! I need to continue this progress because I am trying to avoid going on chemotherapy or radiation. The only problem is that it is very costly for us to maintain my current diet as well as implement all of the changes we would like to make to create an environment and lifestyle that is conducive to healing. We are a single income family of six people. Even with a good insurance plan, my medical expenses from all the procedures, scans and bloodwork have started to mount. In addition, it is not cheap to eat organically.
My goal is to raise $75k which would help cover most of my medical expenses, alternative therapies and supplements, and assist with our ongoing grocery bills. If you are able to help out I would really appreciate it and if you know anyone else who may be interested in helping please feel free to share. Every little bit counts and my hope is to pay it forward after I get past this by spreading awareness and all the knowledge I have gained along this journey to others who either have or are affected by cancer.
My entire family thanks you from the bottom of our hearts!
First of all today is my 39th birthday and I thank god I am here to enjoy today with my family and friends! I also want to thank all of you because you all very much inspired me to fight this terrible cancer and make it to this point. Every day the sun is shining and I can take a deep breath of fresh air is a good day!!
Before I continue, I ask that you all say a prayer for the family of Chris Sabia. I met Chris early in my journey as he was diagnosed with lung cancer within a month of my diagnosis. We had the exact same mutation and were initially on the same medicines. We are also the exact same age and both never smoked. Chris is from Connecticut and has a beautiful wife and young son. Unfortunately Chris's cancer took a turn for the worse and he just passed away Thursday night. I had just texted with him last week and he seemed hopeful his new treatment was going to work. It is a painful reminder of how fast this disease can take the most brave and wonderful people which Chris certainly was. You can probably find Chris's story on google or Facebook but I will never forget him and will use him as additional motivation to find a way to beat this. Life sometimes isn't fair and I wish his wife and son the very best as they try to get through this.
My most recent scan wasn't the best and I have been in some pain recently. It showed that my lung, lymph nodes and hip were stable but I had progression with new nodules in the pleural space around my lung near some nerves. The tumors were fortunately too small to biopsy. This means the cancer is starting to become resistant to the Tagrisso I am taking. However rather than rushing into a new treatment, I took a consult with specialists at Mass General in Boston last week. That visit went well and they mapped out all the directions my cancer could go and what the treatments would potentially be (clinical trials requiring frequent travel or chemo). They also said that because my cancer is progressing on the slower side, let's squeeze as much time as possible out of my current treatment before re-biopsying and switching treatments because usually you can't go back. Cancer is a game of buying time so we are hoping to get a few more months before making a change. The doctors were also refreshingly in favor of me keeping my special diet, supplements, IV treatments, etc. They were surprised that I was still working full time and coaching. "If you are feeling good and the progression is slow, why change anything?" Unfortunately all these things coupled with medical bills are very expensive and we are spending more than I make but how do you choose what to pull out of my regimen?
Therefore we are moving to phase two of my go fund me campaign. I extended my goal to help get us through this next stretch. If you all can help me spread the word and click SHARE for people who may have missed it the first time I would appreciate any and all help. I may have to start traveling more as well. We are looking into a consult at Sloan Kettering in New York in a couple weeks and don't know if my next treatment will be here at Hopkins, in Boston or New York. We are trying to make as many connections as possible and stay on top of the latest in cancer treatement developments. I also continue to see my integrative doctor who brings new ideas to the table monthly.
I apologize for the long message but appreciate each and every one of you. The amount of love, support and true caring that has been shown is difficult to put into words. I promise you all that I will never give up the fight and remain positive!!
With peace and love,
Mike (and Michele)
For those who have been asking, Michael has been feeling really well. His next scan is scheduled in January.
If you haven't seen it yet, the Ravens did a nice article on Michael and how he's helping change the face of lung cancer. Check it out - http://www.baltimoreravens.com/news/article-1/Ravens-Employee-Is-Helping-To-Change-The-Face-Of-Lung-Cancer/4dc92fe5-6c27-4945-9156-f683df6347d9
Thank you for your continued prayers!! We wish everyone a Happy Holiday season:)
I wanted to post a quick update because a lot of things have changed since my last update. A couple weeks ago I started having a lot of pressure in my chest and was becoming a little short of breath. I ended up going to the ER to find out that my right lung was 50% filled with fluid (pleura effusion). I was in the hospital for three days and had a chest tube put in which drained over 3 liters of fluid. Thank goodness for my amazing wife Michele who was bringing me my organic food and kangen water to the hospital each day so I didn't have to eat the hospital food!
They tested the fluid to find out that my cancer had mutated to T790m and I had to switch treatments. I am now taking Tagrisso which is another targeted pill similar to Afatinib and if effective will control any spread of the cancer and hopefully fix the fluid building up in my lung. I had a pleurx catheter put in so I can now drain at home until I am healed. Our hope is that this medicine will work for a year (or more...fingers crossed) to buy me more time until the next best treatment option becomes available.
I am happy to be home and back going to work. Thank you to all who continue to pray for me and my family and send nice messages. We appreciate all the love and support!
My sister had a very similar diagnosis 26 yrs ago - adenocarcinoma, stage 4... The series from last fall "The Truth About Cancer" includes SO many Dr.s from around the world taking various approaches to supporting the body in healing from cancers. I remember that numerous of them help make the chemo stronger for the bad cells and lighter on the good cells. In order to find the BEST approaches for you - maybe you could have a loving friend review the 9 part series "The Truth About Cancer" by Ty Bollinger and present to you the parts most pertinent to YOUR case. May love and health abound in your beautiful family!
Hi Michael, Thank you for sharing your story. I will retweet! I also wanted to let you know if your ever looking for more resources and support to talk about your story and if you would share your story on our Patient Portal its a very inspiring story. I work for the Bonnie J Addario Lung Cancer Foundation. Here is a link to our Foundations website. http://www.lungcancerfoundation.org. We have a support group called The Living Room every third Tuesday of the month and we liveStream it so people all over the world can watch in real time and ask questions to the speakers/Doctors etc in real time. You can also go and watch any living room anytime and send us your questions. Wanted to pass this on so you and your wife have more support and resources. All my best, Michele
Yeah Melanie Smith! I was going to tell Michael about the Truth about Cancer and Global Quest for the Cure the 11 part documentary by Ty Bollinger. I hope he gets a chance to watch it and also go to CancerTutor.com. So much good info there. God bless, I will pray for you as well.
Praying for you. Also wanted to suggest you look up Optimal Terrain for excellent anti-cancer tips and definitely read the book The Metabolic Approach to Cancer by Dr Nasha Winters. It is by far the best book on tips for fighting cancer. Praying and Believing Big for you.
I have a personal request for anyone who may know an organic farmer near Westminster, or a co-op. Mike and Michele have spent an enormous amount of $$ on the special diet and water filtration system, aside from medical costs, and medical co-pays, and so much more. The generosity of everyone has made it all possible for them to choose a healthy diet and pure water. I am thinking of the future. This needs to be ongoing. Does anyone know a local organic farmer near Mike and Michele? Please contact them if you do. This would be awesome!! Thank you!!
I am so proud of you Mike and Michele and how well you are handling this very difficult situation. It is hard for me to see, and I simply cannot have anything less than the best. I research daily...and will learn more and more. We will find our way through this, and Michael, you are going to beat it. Love the update, however tricky this recent time has been. It will improve, and who knows, maybe we can buy years from Tagrisso. Some have now! Love you all very much!!
Hi Michael! Praying hard and Believing Big for you! Have you heard of Believe Big? I would like to give you a mug to encourage you as you face, fight and overcome this! My favorite anti-cancer books are: Radical Remission Cancer As a Turning Point Cancer Killers
Prayers coming your way. Having volunteered at the Wellness House in Annapolis a few years ago I too learned how clean, organic eating helps heal in the cancer process. As you mentioned supplements, I wanted to share this health survey (HIPAA complaint) and see what supplements the survey suggests you take. It is a one of a kind system that is based on over 7,000 peer reviewed studies, and the supplements are pharmaceutical grade. I would be happy to cover the cost of your supplements as my donation to support our journey. You can contact me through the website. Best of luck and health. https://idforyou.idlife.com/loginandsso/index.html
So close!! Yet, a wee bit away. WE ARE GETTING THERE!!! Many thanks to out friends for all of your help! This is amazing...people helping others to battle a deadly disease. I am so very grateful. The family is ever so grateful. It is a devastating diagnosis, filled with fear and sadness. Everyday more is learned, both good and bad. But this research leads to hope. ...and inevitably a cure. I like this. I believe this. People helping people...friends helping their friends. Family pulling together. Even strangers, who do not know Mike and the family care deeply about his plight. It is incredibly moving. Isn't this what it should be? Thank you all!
Hi Michael, I'm Dick Kotapish's 91 year old mother. I feel so sorry you are going through this at such a young age! It makes me realize how minor my complaints are in comparison. I'll surely include you in my prayers and will contribute to your fund. May God bless you and your family. Sincerely, BJ Kotapish
Dear Mike, Please look at Ayahuasca, a sacred plant medicine that have been healing people for thousands of years! Unfortunately it is illegal in westen countries but is available and sacred in the amazon jungle. I have contacts in Peru where i did 16 ceremonies myself and met people who got healed from cancer and other conditions and viruses. Feel free to contact me for further details. My facebook is: sovereign samia. Here is a link to give you an idea about ayahuasca: Watch "Maestro Don Howard Lawler Explains Ayahuasca" on YouTube https://youtu.be/JzYJnDrA35c Best to you!
Thank you all so very much for this outpouring of love and support for Michael. He is truly shocked at the moment, and very very grateful. This is still all very new to me, and hard to accept, but I know that Mike is the ultimate competitive guy...who will never stop..no matter what. His precious family makes this more important to him. Pretend you are shooting 3 point shots Mike... keep going. You will do well, and succeed. I know!! This is just a bump in the road, and you will be able to help so many others when you are well. Love you! XO
What a heartwarming story Michael. I wish I could help you in some way. I, myself, deal with 15 different health issues and like you are trying to stop them all from becoming worse than they are - but not as bad as what you are going through - My son, Brandon, is 30 years old and not long ago started having problems swallowing peanut butter which he eats on a regular basis (he has type 1 diabetes) as it seems to help but it gets stuck now. He went to the ER a month ago with stomach pains and when he went they did xrays to find a pocket of air which cleared eventually and they did a chest xray finding 3 nodules on the lung. He had a CT scan done and it showed them larger than they first thought and then did a dye test which in one spot he lit up. They found no cancer anywhere else in the body. They are doing a colonoscopy soon as he has blood in the stool. He went to see a pulmonologist last week, he said he thought it was a benign disease but was a bit puzzled about him lighting up in that area and was going to talk to his most reliable radiologist ordered a stress test (which he had yesterday and he had problems with his chest hurting when he had to do some of it) and blood work. We have a follow up appointment on the 12th to see what they find out. He is on many prayer lists in our community (he says he doesn't believe in that but I do). It is quite a time of worry. I hope your situation works out. My son has never found Ms Right so he is single with a cat and is already over $100,000 in debt with student and a new trailer he bought last year to live in and works 3 jobs to pay for them which Im sure isn't ideal for his lung problems. I will add you and your family onto my prayer list.
Sending love and strength to you and your beautiful family. It's been years, but I still remember your strength and kindness, as if high school was just yesterday. I live in Northern Virginia outside of DC and I work in the city often - not too far from you. Please keep us updated on anything at all that you need help with. Have you considered doing a "Meal Train" for the family? With planning your important diet and feeding those gorgeous kiddos, I am sure it is a lot - maybe neighbors and local friends can help take away some of that stress. Please don't hesitate if there is anything else I can do. Stay positive!!! Much love, faith and strength your way!