Michael had gotten sick with what we thought was just a stomach bug that he assured me he gets at least once a month. He explained that it hurts so bad and he vomits often but it is typically only a duration of one day and he is able to get up and go to work the next. This time it was different. This time it had lasted him three days. Michael was severely dehydrated and couldn’t keep anything down. On the third day he had made the decision that enough was enough and he needed to go in and be seen. It was a work day, I had called in sick and took him directly to his doctors. We made it to the local clinic and his doctor took one look at him and said he couldn’t do anything for him and he needed to go straight to the emergency room as they have much more available to them to help.
We quickly drove to Oregon City and made it to the emergency room. We hadn’t the slightest idea that the moment we walked into those doors was a moment that was going to change the next few months for us, forever. The doctors and nurses quickly got him into an emergency room and hooked him up to an IV to make up for the fluids he hadn’t been able to keep down for the past three days. The doctor knew that the IV fluids would help him feel better but he still wanted to find the reason for this pain and the once a month sickness that Michael was getting. The doctor order a CT scan. We waited for what seemed to be hours for the scan to come back and they informed us after a long wait that Michael had a mass on his pancreas. They had also done blood work that diagnosed Michael with MEN 1 disease, this means that Michael is prone to tumors. The emergency room made the decision to admit him and Michael stayed in the hospital this time around for about three days. This is when Michael had to call his employer and let him know it would be awhile before he would be able to go back to work. I had called his boss and let him know what was going on and he was extremely understanding. The doctors made referrals for Michael to see endocrinologists and many other specialist. Michael left that hospital stay with a long list of appointments.
The next step was for Michael to have a scope go down his throat to the mass on his pancreas and get a sample of the mass in order to send it off to pathology in hopes that it would come back benign. This appointment was scheduled a few weeks after the ER stay. Michael got sick a few more times in between then and we had to go back into the ER a few times for him to receive IV fluids. This entailed that I was having to call in sick to work while Michael was not able to work at all. After a miscommunication between hospitals and a week after Michael’s original biopsy was scheduled he finally got the biopsy done. It took a few days for the results to come back and they informed us that the biopsy was inconclusive and regardless of what the mass was, it needed to be removed. Michael’s surgery was then scheduled for a few weeks later. Michael got sick a few more times between this waiting period which meant we had to go into the ER a few more times for him to receive more IV fluids. We asked if there was anything that we could be doing at home to prevent us from having to go into the ER and they told us that the most preventive thing we will be able to do is the surgery that we had scheduled for Michael.
The much anticipated day of surgery came. It was early in the day and a long drive into Portland Providence from Molalla to Glissan St. in downtown Portland. Michael stayed with his mom in Vancouver, Washington that night. The drive by myself consisted of tears and prayers for the surgeons and for Michael’s healing and strength.
We all made it to the hospital and the nurses quickly prepped him for surgery. Michael was in great spirits and being goofy. This put a smile on my face and put me in a good place while watching him be rolled back to the operation room. We were told that this surgery would take up to 7 hours. I was ready and prepared for a long day at the hospital. Michael’s extended family was there and this gave me peace and kept my mind off things, at times. It was getting close to 7 hours and they informed us that the doctors were halfway through the surgery.
I quickly panicked. I took a walk by myself and found a bench to sit on that faced the parking lot in front of the hospital. I watched as others were going through their day; walking to their car, walking with their family members, and doctors and nurses leaving and going to work. All I could think was the fact that the only person, the only one that I wanted to hug me and tell me everything was going to be okay was laying in an operation room.
After a long 14 hours Michael made it out of his surgery. He was in severe pain as they had made an incision down the middle of his abdomen from the bottom of his chest down to his belly button. Michael spent a long 13 days in the hospital. Each day he strived to walk further and eventually was able to walk without a walker. While Michael was in hospital his daughter had her third birthday. We had a birthday celebration for her in the hospital with close family. I brought his daughter to him countless times to visit him while he was in the hospital recovering. He even watched the eclipse while at the hospital during his recovery. During this time the pathology report came back for the mass that was the size of a golf ball on his pancreas and it had come back cancerous. The doctors said that it was two different types of cancer.
The next step was to speak with an oncologist about what treatment would look like. After an appointment with this doctor it was decided that Michael’s long 14 hour surgery to remove the mass was the best treatment he could receive. This, however, means a lifetime of scans and monitoring to assure it does not come back.
There was one more procedure that had been scheduled for Michael as the doctors were concerned with his calcium levels. Part of Michael’s MEN 1 disease can affect the parathyroids which produce calcium. The doctors saw fit to have multiple of his parathyroids removed. After Michael’s 14 hour surgery this procedure went much faster. The incision was also much smaller as they had to remove the parathyroids from his neck. The doctors removed 3 ½ out of 4 of his parathyroids.
One would think that we are in the clear now and there are no other surgeries scheduled, however, because Michael has only half of a parathyroid left and it is taking a lot more effort to help his body produce the calcium it needs. He is experiencing tingling and the day after he had come home he wasn’t able to move. He woke up and couldn’t get up from bed. His calcium was so low that his bones were in severe pain. We are now doing daily calcium infusions and Michael is taking calcium supplements every four hours at home. The infusions take place at Portland Providence.
Michael has more recently had an appointment and the news wasn’t the greatest. The cancer has come back with two tumors this time in the small portion of his pancreas that is left. At this time we are not sure what will be the next steps, another surgery, treatment, or travel out of state for further treatments.
In short the last few months have been a long and stressful time for us and we are coming to the end of our available income. Michael has had to make the decision to cut back on certain bills to not pay them and I have become the primary financial provider. Michael has still not been able to go back to work as he has his infusions so often and he has a PT scan scheduled as well. At this time we are unsure when he is going back to work and I have made the decision to take another position at my place of employment for 4-6 weeks in order to make additional income.
We haven’t done any other fundraising. So we finally decided we would attempt a GoFundMe account. We have asked the social worker at the hospital about any grants or help they have to offer but there hasn’t been anything that applies to Michael. We have asked the nurses about gas vouchers to help us get to his infusions but they have said that they don’t offer those.
He has had a great attitude throughout all of his health issues. He has not given up and he continues to see the light at the end of it all. I would love for him to know that he does not have financial burdens. I know that he stresses about it daily but he does a great job of not letting it get to him. He is pushing to get back to work and it seems that all the appointments, procedures, and recent news of the cancer coming back just continue to be an obstacle in order for him to do this. Michael is a typical man in a sense that he doesn’t like asking for help but he deserves this, more than anyone I know.
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