Mike's Battle with Cancer

The whole story...

About 18 months ago, Mike reached 272 lbs. At 6' tall, he decided that was a bit much.

He was experiencing GERD (severe heartburn) and overall felt he had let himself get too heavy and it was making him miserable. He decided to lose weight, and set out on a sane adjustment to his diet and over time lost 5 - 10 lbs a month over the next 6 months without issue. He was feeling better, the GERD was backing off, he was doing well, was at his target weight (About 225) and he was feeling OK.

Then Mike started having problem swallowing sometime around November 2016. Food would get caught in his esophagus and sometimes it would have to come back up. He also kept losing weight beyond his control even though he was eating more again. At the time, he wrote this off as an effect of the GERD. See with GERD, sometimes you'll get scar tissues in the esophagus and it causes swallowing issues. He finally made an appointment to see a GI doctor and have it looked at. He first saw a doctor for this on May 2nd 2017.

Mike went in for an endoscopy a couple of weeks later, and they discovered a huge (10 cm) mass on his esophagus. They took a biopsy. It came back as malignant. Specifically, it was andenocarcinoma of the esophagus. To make a long story short (too late) after many CAT scans, PET scans, etc it was determined that the cancer is stage 4, as it had spread to the lymph nodes all over his body. Now if you know anything about this cancer (we didn't) or if you do the research, you'll find out that the prognosis for this is not good. Horrible in fact.

Mike's doctor send the biopsy in for some tests. Apparently his cancer has a specific marker called HER2. This is something that's been a big deal in breast cancer over the last few years, and apparently the cutting edge research says that it also applies to cancer of the esophagus. HER2-positive cancers tend to grow faster and are more likely to spread and come back compared to HER2-negative cancers.

All of this sounds like a disaster, except there are some targeted chemotherapy drugs that work very well against HER2-positive cancers.

So this means that Mike has a very, very aggressive cancer, that happens to have a flaw that makes it easier to treat.

To make it clear, Mike's cancer is not curable. It will likely never go away, and it will likely be the thing that ends his life. As for how much time he has, we really don't know. Untreated, the average survival time after diagnosis for this cancer is 6 to 9 months. Treated, well that's a bit more complicated. Even two years ago, with his current diagnosis, they would have told us "get your affairs in order, you'll probably not be around for next Christmas". However things have changed. The chemotherapy drugs Mike has been taking were in clinical trials only a year ago. This is all VERY new. That means there are no real statistics for people with his cancer that are getting the treatments he's getting. These treatments could drive it into remission. They could also stop working. The simple answer is, we just don't know. Mike is determined to fight this as long as he can maintain a quality of life that's worth living.

Back in July, Mike started treatment with a regimen of two weeks of intensive targeted radiation therapy, followed by a week off, and then chemotherapy every three weeks until either the cancer stops responding to the chemo or it goes into remission.

The radiation treatments were hell, and it didn't get any better after that. Mike had very severe reactions to the chemo, and he has had to stop several times to recover after the chemo treatments nearly killed him.

The encouraging news is that his last PET scan in November showed the tumor nearly completely gone, and the cancerous spots on in lymphnodes are, as the oncologist said, "nearly completely resolved."

However, Mike has continued to have severe problems swallowing, and he has continued to lose weight. Thus far, he has had two surgeries in the past two weeks to dilate his esophagus, which was swollen nearly completely shut. The irritation is due to radiation scarring, and residual effects of the chemo in general. He is going to need at least a few more of these surgeries, and will eventually resume chemo when he's feeling better.

The procedures he has been receiving are life-saving and improving the quality of his life. However, our insurance only covers 30% of the esophageal dilation surgeries. We're left paying over $400 for each one, and Mike needs at least a few more.

He has been to the ER three times in the past two months for severe dehydration and dangerously low potassium levels (another $150 in copays and prescriptions each time).

In the next month or so, Mike will resume weekly chemo treatments. That's another $50 in copays each time, plus lab tests per each chemo treatment, and their own associated fees.

Follow up visits with his oncologist are at least monthly. Another $50 copay. His prescriptions are running at about $50.

Copays and prescriptions don't count toward our yearly max out of pocket. We've used all of our savings and maxed out our credit cards to pay for his treatments.

Furthermore, we need to buy Mike some new clothes. What fit him a year ago doesn't fit him now that he's lost almost 150 pounds.

Throughout all of this, he's continued working and has continued being a stubborn buttface (I'm pretty sure his stubbornness has been what's saved him). He's been pretty loathe to ask for help, but with 2018 upon us and our max-out-of-pocket resetting, we're kind of out of options. We're in the middle of trying to refinance our house, and that will help pay for 2017's bills, but we're facing more for 2018 in pretty short order. Mike knows I've started this GoFundMe, and while he's not happy we have to resort to it, he knows we don't have much of a choice at this point.

While we can't promise that every single cent will go toward medical bills specifically, the donations will be spend on necessary expenses.

Anything you can offer will be so helpful and we will be immensely grateful.

I am offering art goodies in exchange for donations, so I feel more like we've earned the money.

For art examples, my website is http://www.dreamertheresa.com

$15 - 8.5x11" current or future art print

$50 - 5"x5" black and white drawing/portrait

$100 - 8"x10" black and white portrait

$250 - logo design
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Theresa Donohue 
Woodstock, GA
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