Less than one week after Mike’s 48 birthday, Oct 2013, he was diagnosis with stage IV colorectal cancer (CRC) that had spread to his liver. I remember the drive home after his colonoscopy so well, he was still loopy from the sedation and with tears in my eyes I asked him if he was ready to fight? The most confused look came across his face, “fight? Why do you want to fight?” You see Mike is the type of man that views the word fight as conferential/ negative, it now has such a new meaning. This occurred on a Friday, Sunday the hospital was calling to perform scans on Monday and by Wednesday Mikes had his chemotherapy port installed and first round of Chemo on Thursday. After our meeting with the oncologist we were told that the cancer had been there growing for at least five years. Five years, can you believe it? that means he was 43 when the cancer started. There were no signs that we knew of until I started doing more research. I will add signs to watch for at the end of Mikes story.
Mike did two years of standard chemo locally and continued to work. what does standard chemo mean for a CRC patient, Mike would go the hospital every two weeks, usually on aWednesday, and get an eight hour infusion through his port. After that the nurses would hook up a fanny pack that connected to his port, yep one of those wonderful purses that go around your waist from the 80’s, he would have to wear this for 48 hours. Then on Friday’s he would go in on his lunch break and have it removed. Mike did approximately 52 rounds of chemo before we decided to seek treatment in Houston at MD Anderson. Quick funny so you can see in my man…He had a work trip on one of his non-chemo weeks out to the USA, he was going through customs, shows his passport and the agent says “wow, you have lost some weight, may I ask how?” Mike’s response sure but I do not recommend it, cancer. He always has a positive outlook and sense of humor. I’m not sure how the agent reacted but you have to keep it light while dealing with an illness.
MD Anderson AKA Club Med; man, where do we even start? Mike was accepted in a phase 3 trial, a phase three is a trial that has shown some success with treatment but is not FDA approved but its close, Mike had to travel to Houston every month while doing this, no worries its only 450 miles one way. I drove for these trips, Mike no longer drivers as he says his reflexes are not a quick as they should be and does not want to endanger anyone. The phase 3 trial lasted about 6 months before it stopped working and the disease was progressing again. Next, he was accepted to a phase 1 trial. In the these we were required to go to our club med on a weekly basis. I could not safely work and make the drive this often so we started flying. I look at these for only the super brave, faithful and hopeful people, a phase one is completely experimental, they are looking a max dosage and if the cancer response in any way. Mike has participated in 3 of these so far, his statements “even it if doesn’t help me maybe someone in the future can benefit”.
On May 10, 2017, I came home from work and found Mike down and in extreme pain. He spent a week in the hospital, the cancer has spread to his lungs and has encompassed most of his liver. Now his liver is failing and can’t function as needed, the result of this Ascites. The best I can explain is that the water in blood cells is not being processed correctly and is pooling in his abdomen thus pressing on every organ and causing pain. He is now home and has a catheter in his abdomen that I drain on a daily basis. He has been unable to return to work, even though every night he says he’s going to work in the morning, he never gives up or in. As of right now he plans on getting stronger, actually making it in to work and back to our club med for more treatment. He has ran out of vacation and sick leave and as you can expect savings.
CRC is no longer an “old” persons disease, we have people in their 20’s getting this as a diagnosis. If you notice a change in your bowel habits (thin pencil like stools) or blood in your stools, Please seek medical attention. If you have flatulence that is excessive and beyond the normal foul smell please speak to your PCP. If you have even been to the eye Dr and told that you have a freckles behind your eyes please speak to your PCP. Had we known about this or our ophthalmologist enlightened us we could have caught it in 2010 before the stage IV diagnosis. Most insurance companies cover preventive colonoscopies at 100%.
Mike, Crystal and family
- Shane Marchand
Organizer and beneficiary
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