Earlier this year (2012), our friend and colleague, Mike Cruz, was suddenly diagnosed with head & neck cancer. This came as a shock as Mike does not fit any of the risk categories. He is athletic, a non-smoker and very health conscious. However, despite this turn of events, Mike has shown unsurpassed courage and determination in the way that he has fought to regain his health and strength. He inspires all of us as he continues to be a dedicated member of the Avoca team and a fabulous father to his three young children.
Many people have asked how they can help. As you can imagine, Mike now faces major out-of-pocket medical expenses, in excess of $75,000. We would be appreciative if you consider donating to this fund, which will be used to defray this tremendous burden. Any amount donated will be greatly appreciated. If you are unable to donate please take a moment to pass on information about this effort to others who may be able to do so. You can direct people to this link: http://www.gofundme.com/1c4swk.
Please note that all donations go directly to Mike. I do not have any access to the fund other than to help spread the word and share this information.
Here are some details about Mike's battle with cancer this year:
In early 2012 Mike was diagnosed with a Stage 4b head & neck cancer. In a very short time the cancer spread from the base of the tongue to the tonsil and lymph nodes in the neck. Mike underwent a 6 hour surgery in June where doctors removed a tumor from the tongue, the right tonsil and over 2 dozen lymph nodes from the neck. Chemotherapy and extensive radiation treatments were started in August, continuing into September. The intensity of the treatments caused complications leading to Mike having to spend the month of September in bed in the treatment center hospital away from his family. He was released at the end of September and is recuperating at home with his wife and children.
UPDATE: January 2014
It has been over a year since my colleague and friend Caryn Laermer posted to the GoFundMe website seeking assistance on my behalf. It has been just over 1 year since I left the hospital. During my month long stay there I deteriorated pretty quickly. I won't go into all the details but I will tell you I suffered from an overdose of my pain meds which was without a doubt the lowest point of my life, making the surgery, chemo treatments and radiation treatments seem like a walk in the park. Over the following months I recovered at home and by the end of 2012 I was able to have my feeding tube removed. January 2013 started well. I was able to even start to ride a few easy miles on my cycling trainer. I continued to recover and strengthen over the following months.
Unfortunately the spring of 2013 brought very bad news. My 3 1/2 year old son was diagnosed with an aggressive non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He was rushed into surgery within hours of his diagnosis. We spent the better part of the summer of 2013 at CHoP in Philadelphia where he underwent many treatments and several rounds of chemotherapy. Again, I won't go into all the details but I will tell you that seeing my child very close to death made my own experience seem like a walk in the park. It is even difficult to write about it now. Braden is only a few months off of treatment but is recovering quickly. He has a long road ahead of him with frequent visits to CHoP for testing. We are hoping he will make it through the next 3 years or so without incident at which point the doctors have indicated it would be unlikely for the cancer to return. Every day is now a stressful challenge and everything we once thought to be normal is no longer normal. At each sign of fever we go on high alert frequently rushing to Philadelphia to the ER for a thorough examination and testing with the oncology team. Braden has learned to accept as "˜normal' his new life of needles, medication, PET scans, CAT scans, ultrasounds, blood draws, hospitals, doctors and nurses. He even says he wants to be a doctor when he grows up.
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