I’ve been thinking about this for weeks. Trying to come up with the right words, the right thing to say or do, some way to help or cope, and I’ve been at a total loss. Today, I found my solution. A lot of you have been asking what has been going on with my family, so here is our story. For those of you who are already aware of our situation, here is the absolute best way to help, along with your continued prayers.
March 2013, my Uncle Mike was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hurthle Cell Carcinoma, which invaded his tracheal cartilage. To give some perspective to this particular disease, there are 4 main types of thyroid cancer and this one is a distinct type that makes up only 3% of all thyroid cancers. In only around 10% of those cases does it invade the lymph nodes, and in only a handful of those does it affect the trachea. So, to say that this was a rare, complicated and downright scary circumstance would be quite the understatement. However, in typical Mike fashion, he managed to come out from it even stronger than before. In fact, just six weeks after having a radical neck surgery (we’re talking complete reconstruction of his trachea/neck area), he was back to playing his trombone with the band. After a long road to recovery, filled with hormone injections, strict diets, iodine treatments, and quite a bit of radiation, Mike was cleared of all cancer by February 2014. He truly is incredible.
June 2014 we had another scare. The cancer had come back. Luckily, the doctors were able to hit it quickly with some radiation and things seemed to head in a better direction.
Fast forward to November 7th, which also happened to be Mike’s 47th birthday. Karen found Mike collapsed on the floor, nauseous, dizzy and numb. Some birthday present, right? After a myriad of tests and quite a few insurance issues, we soon found out that Mike has brain cancer. But, again in typical Mike fashion, it isn’t just any type of brain cancer. Not only is the cancer in an inoperable area of the brain (his brain stem to be exact), but there is only ONE other case study where a patient with thyroid cancer later presents with metastatic thyroid cancer in the brain. This makes Mike the SECOND case where this has ever happened, which means we really have no idea what the road to potential recovery will even look like. Mike’s, in fact, is even more complicated and rare in that the tumor is located in the brain stem, whereas the only other case was in an operable area of the brain. The doctors performed a Gamma Knife procedure just two weeks ago, in the hopes that the radiation would be able to break apart the cancer cells, kill them, and get it out of Mike’s body. Since the area of the brain where the cancer is located is completely inoperable, this is really our only hope for any sort of treatment. Unfortunately, two weeks post-op and we don’t have good news to report. In fact, things have gotten worse.
Mike is completely numb on the right side of his body, which means he can’t walk on his own, eat on his own, or even go to the bathroom on his own. Mike is also suffering from severe double vision, which means that even if he could walk on his own, he wouldn’t be able to get from point A to point B easily and it is also causing debilitating headaches. He also has a constant ringing in his ears, to the point where he can’t sleep, and without sleep, it’s hard to heal the body. This incredible, strong-willed, independent man went from conditioning for a triathlon to practically immobile in a matter of weeks. He is unable to take care of his own kids, let alone himself. However, the thing is, this isn’t just about Mike. This is so much bigger than Mike. WE are Team Turnbull. WE are in this together. WE are fighting this awful disease. Unfortunately, it’s his body that has to take the hardest hits.
However, that doesn’t make this any easier on anyone else. For those of you who know Karen and Mike, you know that money is the last thing on their mind, and always has been. Karen still to this day doesn’t know how to balance a checkbook! They’re both firm believers in the philosophy that love is all you need, and they practice what they preach every single day. And you know what? When your best friend is battling every single day for his life, I can’t help but think there is no better way to live life - enjoying every single moment you have together, good or bad. However, the more rational side of me also realizes that fighting for your life comes at a high price…
It goes without saying that Mike is unable to work, and with no immediate family in the area, Karen is on her own to manage the household. She has the ability to go on Family Medical Leave, however it is unpaid, which leaves them with no income for the foreseeable future. Since Mike is unable to take care of himself or the kids, someone has to be home to do both; it is literally a full time job taking care of two kids and an immobile husband fighting brain cancer. There has to be a better solution, and I think this could be it.
A lot of you have been asking us how you can help. You can help by spreading the word. You can tell others of Team Turnbull’s battle. You can donate money so that Karen will have the opportunity to stay at home and take care of her family. You can donate money so that the boys (ages 3 and 7) are able to have some sort or normalcy in their lives. I know it’s a lot to ask, and there are so many worthy causes out there that it can be hard to choose where to put your time and money. But I’m begging you to choose us. If you’ve ever met anyone in my family, you know that we love hard. We love harder than most. But with that love comes great pain, and nothing pains us more than to see one of our own go through something so horrific and not be able to help. This is our opportunity, and we’re asking you to join us!
We want nothing more than for Mike to overcome this battle, except for Karen to be right by his side while he does it. Please consider supporting Team Turnbull during this excruciatingly difficult time.
Believe it or not, I gave you the shortened version of Team Turnbull’s journey the past year. If you want to read more about it, you can get the full version here: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/michaelturnbull