Strive with Michael

In February 2017, Michael Preston, a then healthy, thirty year old, collapsed while on an afternoon bike ride. After a fruitless trip to the ER, he spent the next month enduring symptoms of fatigue, headache, confusion, and fogginess until he returned to the ER where a large tumor was found on his frontal lobe.  He immediately underwent surgery, and after a lengthy pathology analysis was diagnosed with a meningeal sarcoma, an extremely aggressive and rare cancer-- so rare, in fact, that the oncologists in his hometown of Lynchburg had never encountered one-- and was immediately referred to experts at Duke University.

There he underwent several months of radiation, commuting from Lynchburg to Durham on a weekly basis through July. The few months following his radiation were relatively calm.  His scans showed no evidence of tumor, and he returned to life with few side-effects and hopes that the worst was behind him.

Late November 2017, Michael began showing subtle changes, a slight drooping in one eye, losing a word here and there. Thanksgiving day aroused his family's fears as he drifted in and out of sleep during conversation. They restlessly endured the week between the holiday and his scheduled three month scan where the doctors would find yet another mass at the resection area. One of Duke's best neurosurgeons performed Michael's second surgery in mid December.  Despite the doctors' suspicions, the growth resected this time was found to be benign, dead tissue from the radiation. Yet again, Michael recovered quickly and spent the next few months trying to live as normally as possible until a lump began to protrude from his forehead.  In March 2018, a biopsy brought fears to fruition once again as the tumor had returned and begun to come through his skull.

After one more unsuccessful trial with a non-chemo IV treatment, oncologists finally prescribed chemotherapy. In the midst of treatment, however, Michael began to have seizures, which took about a week in the hospital to contain. Then only about a week after his discharge, he was hospitalized again for a staph infection in his chemo port. 

Up until this point, Michael has functioned remarkably.  With the help of family, friends, and employers, he has worked, maintained his energy, met his responsibilities, and kept an admirable sense of hope. While he retains hope, Michael's cognition and basic abilities have been severely reduced by the seizure medication and the effect of the cancer on his brain.  He has been in the hospital for the last two weeks with hope of transferring to in-patient rehab, but he since has had his first seizure in two months, and they've discovered the cancer spreading to the lining of his brain and brain stem.  He started a new treatment this week, and we're reaching out to any and all experts for input. I still believe that his will and spirit are strong but are being suppressed by the medication and circumstances.

My name is Lindsay, and I'm writing as Michael's fiancé, advocate, and caregiver. By divine provisions and the generosity of others, we've kept afloat until this point, but on his, mine, and his family's behalf, I must ask for help. In addition to Michael's fight, his father is also battling cancer, leaving energy and resources from his family very strained. Michael's future is so unsure, but his obligations, medical expenses, care expenses, student loans, etc. remain.  Also, if the potential arises to be transferred to Johns Hopkins, funds would be needed for travel and subsistence while I or his family may be out of work to travel with him. If the option arises, that may also mean greater out-of-pocket expenses with insurance, and our need would become more immediate. 

I wish that everyone reading or thinking of giving could know the person Michael is.  He has a reputation.  He is good, kind, and giving to all people indiscriminately-- family, friends, strangers, and I would suspect enemies, though I've never known him to have one. Michael is not a talker (sometimes to a fault) but expresses his intentions by doing. He's a lover of God and man, and he needs no dogmas or isms to do so; it flows from his spirit. Some may even criticize his unquestioning giving, but he does so knowing he is only responsible for his willingness and not for the recipients' intentions. Michael works hard to meet his needs and is no stranger to struggle, but he will extend any resource he has to meet the needs of others. The night I took Michael to the ER where we discovered the tumor, I briefly stepped out to find food for both of us.  As I pulled into the parking lot of the Subway by the hospital, a familiar woman approached me asking for money for something to eat.  I had encountered this woman a number of times stopping people on the street for help.  I recalled the first time I saw her one evening with Michael.  Though skeptical of her story, Michael stopped by the ATM machine to retrieve a little bit of cash for the lady and then went out of his way to be sure she made it where she was going and insisted on walking her to the door, as she was feeble. I bought her some food that night, reflecting on how I had seen his goodness extended to her and how much my heart hurt that such a good man was suffering.  One evening in July, he was particularly concerned about his grandparents as they were forced to move from independent living to assisted living. He sat sorting his work and chemo schedule in his mind to find a time to help them move. He remarked "I don't want them to have to lift a finger." That was the last day he was fully himself.  He had his first seizure that night, leaving him with no memory of the week prior and sparking his decline up to this point. 

I know not everyone has the means to give, but a share can still reach someone who can. Know that everything received will be used in Michael's interest and care. To anyone with the time or the ability to give, share, and pray we hope your goodness is returned tenfold.
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Organizer and beneficiary

Lindsay Suzanne Kirkland 
Lynchburg, VA
Susan Preston 

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