Get Mike's Tumor Surgically Removed
I would like to introduce you to my daughter, Stephanie and her husband, Mike. We are creating this account to help cover uninsured surgical and medical expenses for a tumor that has been found in Mike's abdomen.
Mike was a paramedic for 10 years and moved from Minnesota to Boise in 2008 where he met Steph about 7 years ago. Steph is a graduate of Boise State University and worked as a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurse in Boise.
In June they moved to Washington for Mike to attend Physician Assistant School at University of Washington (Medex NW) in Tacoma. Stephanie is working as a travel nurse at NICUs in the Seattle-Tacoma area. Stephanie and Mike are happy newlyweds of two years. They are one great couple! As medical professionals, they love taking care of people, family and friends and their patients.
I will always remember that phone call from my daughter when in tears, barely able to talk, she told me they were afraid that Mike, might have cancer. This has been devastating news. It is made worse because Mike is currently uninsured due to extenuating circumstances stemming from his prior insurance's end date, mail being delivered to their permanent mailing address in Idaho, and Stephanie and Mike missing the qualifying event time period. Stephanie and Mike also could not afford to put Mike onto Stephanie's travel nurse insurance due the monthly expense of $650.00 - $750.00 per month.
With expenses from a costly PA program, and only Stephanie working, there is no room in their budget for these medical surgical expenses. They have had to cut back; sold Steph's truck and very much limit their expenses to be able to afford to have Mike in school.
(Above photo provided by and permission obtained to use from the parents of this patient)
Mike has recently been diagnosed with a large mass (7 x 7 x 7 cm ) in his abdomen. Extensive abdominal surgery to remove this tumor is required to obtain the final diagnosis; which is speculated to be either a lipoma (benign) or liposarcoma (cancerious). Due to the location of Mike's tumor this surgery will require 2 surgeons: a skilled urology oncologist and a general surgeon. It is unknown how extensive the surgery will have to be until it occurs, so it is impossible to determine the actual cost for this surgical hospitalization, but will likely surpass $100,000.
With an ER visit, imaging studies, labs and specialist appointments, the medical bills are already accumulating. Due to being uninsured, we will be required to place a substantial deposit down before having the surgery completed. The urologist is consulting with multiple general surgeons at this time and we are waiting to hear back to confirm who all is needed and if they are all available on November 30th. We also have the billing department working on a rough estimate for surgery and the amount we would have to provide upfront.
The surgeons are working together to get him into surgery; tentitively scheduled for November 30th. This is the best timing for his health and for his school, since he will be on break. Mike is an excellent student and really enjoys his studies and his fellow classmates. Ultimately, when he graduates, Mike will be an excellent Physician Assistant and will help many other people during his career. We are hoping to have the surgery as soon as possible to prevent further growth and damage, and avoiding missing as much school as possible to keep him on track to graduate in 2017.
We want to thank you in advance for your caring and your generosity. We appreciate anything you are .able to contribute to help with the expensive medical bills. We are grateful for your thoughts and prayers, and look forward to giving you an exciting report once Mike is recovering from his surgery.
Mike and Stephanie and their entire family
Dearest Family and Friends,
Mike and I have sat down on several occasions in an attempt to write a Thank You to all of you. We have struggled because nothing seems to come close to expressing how grateful we are to each of you. The end of last year was without a question, one of the most challenging times in our lives; with the recent move to Washington, Mike’s intense schooling, adjusting to my new travel nurse job, and of course “Harry” announcing his presence in the absence of Mike having insurance.
Thanks to all of the prayers and generous donations, Mike was able to have “Harry” removed on December 21st, 2015. His surgery was about 4 hours long from start to finish and went “as best it could have gone”, per Dr. Schade, the primary surgeon's report. Mike spent two nights in the hospital and was discharged home to recover the rest of the way. The final pathology report came back 4 weeks after surgery as an atypical lipomatous tumor mixed with a low grade liposarcoma. It weighed 10 ounces or 0.7 pounds and was 7.5 X 7 X 6.5 cm. Dr. Schade and the Sarcoma team at the University of Washington were able to remove the entire tumor and therefore feel confident that Chemotherapy or Radiation isn’t needed at this time. Moving forward, Mike will have imagining done 6 months from now and then yearly to monitor for recurrence, as this tumor has about a 20% recurrence rate. Mike will be getting his first follow up CT scan in Boise after our move back next month.
Mike is doing very well and is fully insured! Mike had two weeks to recover before school started up again and the Medex faculty was very supportive, allowing him to ease back into school. He just finished finals and now has the summer off before starting his clinical rotations in the Fall. He will be able to do the majority of his clinical rotations in Idaho, so Mike and I will be returning to our home in Boise! He continues to have intermittent abdominal tenderness/pain, especially after a full day of school and studying, but is otherwise healthy.
As you all know we had a very difficult time figuring out how to fund this surgery and make the surgery happen without insurance. Mike and I applied for compassionate care, despite being told we didn’t qualify. A week or so prior to surgery we received a phone call from the financial department at UW saying they had approved us for financial assistance and would use the money raised by all of you in our “GoFundMe” as payment for Mike’s medical expenses. Mike and I were speechless and continue to find ourselves overwhelmed by the sheer goodness of the people in our lives. Thank you doesn't seem to even come close to being enough, but it's a start.
Mike and I wanted to acknowledge everyone that supported us during this difficult time and express our sincere gratitude. We thank you all from the very bottom of our hearts for the prayers, positive thoughts, cards, texts, phone calls, packages, spreading the word, and donating. It is because of each and every one of you that this surgery was made possible. We are now healthy and looking forward to our bright future.
Sending all our thanks and love to you,
Stephanie, Mike, and Josie Hallstrom
This GoFundMe Goal is now complete!!!
We want to express our sincere gratitude for all your support: your prayers, your contributions, your love! Without each of you, we would have been unable to get Mike his needed surgery. We will always remember your generosity and support.
As was updated earlier Mike was able to have his surgery last December and have “Harry” removed completely. Mike did return to school in January. The Medic faculty helped him to transition back to full time status and his fellow PA students have always been very helpful and supportive. Mike finished his finals and is now on summer break. Once again, he has done remarkably and is on the Dean’s List.
In the fall Mike will start his PA clinical rotations and will be done with the PA program in a year.
Currently, they are working at finishing up Stephanie’s final NICU travel nursing contract and packing to prepare for their move back to Boise in July. He will have his first follow up CT scan once they are back in Boise.
Mike and Stephanie have written a letter of gratitude which will be posted next.
Diane, Dale, Mike, Stephanie and the entire family
Mike and Steph met with Dr Schade on Friday, and he had the final path report. This tumor is being called an atypical lipomatous tumor/well-differentiated liposarcoma. He said some people consider it a benign/malignant tumor while others consider it a sarcoma. These tumors are extremely rare. These tumors have about a 20% chance of recurrence and can reoccur anywhere in the body.
The current follow-up is to do a CT scan in 6 months and then yearly if all good.
Dr Shade still has a consult into the sarcoma clinic since the final report is now in. However, he doubts anything will change and feels they will agree with the current plan.
Also, Mike’s case is also being presented to a monthly pathology panel to see if they think differently.
So, I guess that's all good news. Although I, (Diane) still have some unanswered questions regarding how they will keep track of these possible repeated tumors that can reoccur anywhere in the body, and they don't elevate cancer lab markers and are not seen by body scans like the “PET scan”. Since you can't CT scan the whole body, I'm not sure how they will be following potential growth, at least in other parts of the body.
I wanted to get more information before posting but with our different and busy schedules have been unable to do so and I wanted to get this posted. When more information is available, I will update you all again.
Mike is continuing to recover slowly but is still attending PA school and is back to full time attendance. It's an incredible amount of work and he's very sore and tired at the end of the day. However, he is keeping up and conquering school too! He has some periodic ongoing pain at the old tumor site. All in all, his recovery and school are both going well.
Thanks again to all of our supporters.
Please continue to keep them in your thoughts and prayers.
Diane and Dale Janzen
Mike and Steph are doing as well as can be expected after an open abdominal surgery of 5+ hours. Also, weighing heavily on them emotionally is it that there is still not a FINAL pathology report. They have spoken with Dr. Shade just today again and so far there are parts of his tumor that have benign (non-cancerous) cells but there are also areas of “spindled cells” or cancerous. I am recommending that they request another specialized sarcoma lab to give a second opinion due to the difficulty and long period of time to get a final pathology report. At this point it would seem that a liposarcoma diagnosis is only reasonable with some cancer cells and hopefully still low grade. We want to ensure that Mike is eligible for the very best follow-up with doctor checkups and appropriate scans to verify ongoing reoccurrence covered by insurance.
Mike started back to school last week slowly, only doing half days. This week he started going full days with help from other students and Steph. He can’t be carrying his backpack and having to take lots of stairs etc. He is off his narcotic pain meds now. Postoperatively, he has been dealing with right leg nerve pain which is improved some but his sensation isn’t back to normal yet. He also has some ongoing groin pain and the incision is tender without the dressing or steri-strips.
We would still appreciate prayers for the final pathology report and an appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan. Also, prayers that Mike is able to continue to recover and still keep up in his school work.
Thanks so much to each and every one of you special people. Without you we would not be on the other side of this surgical hurdle!
Dano, thank you for your comment. I am one of Mike's friends and have been involved in this with him and Steph since he first discovered the lump. We have thoroughly examined several options, spoken with the insurance companies in both Idaho and Washington. We have spoken with his medical team, colleagues and all our networks of health care professionals throughout the country to examine all possible options. One of which is certainly what you mentioned, the ACA. Unfortunately, no matter how we try to manipulate it, he would not be eligible for benefits until January at the earliest. While the ACA does preclude pre-existing conditions (PEC), it does not preclude the standard insurance review process, for obtaining prior authorization for both inpatient admission and surgical intervention. The approval and prior authorization process can be timely depending on the circumstances and procedures needed (I do these daily for work, and am very well versed in them). All being said putting off this surgical treatment until the mid to end of January could have life changing consequences. The mass has been evaluated by several physician's, surgeons, specialists, radiologists, etc and all are concerned about the shape, size, location, other organ systems involved and its growth. Additionally, they are unable to determine if it is benign or not. Malignant tumors, need to be treated somewhat aggressively. Giving it another 3 months to grow and potentially spread is not a great option at this point. I encourage everyone to support Mike and Steph. They have been through a lot in the past couple months and I can assure you all of the factors in this decision have been considered and this has not been made in haste.
I want to thank everyone for the generosity for Mike and Steph. The donations keep coming in and the prayers keep being said. We will get this done I strongly believe it. But I would also like to thank an extra special lady for all her hard work on this site - Diane, Steph's mother. This was a great idea and the results are overwhelming! THANK YOU DIANE!!
$21,495!!! We are so grateful for the generous donations and amount of support that everyone has shown Mike and Steph. Every donation, share, like and message helps and all are incredibly appreciated! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!! Heather Bregier (Mike's sister)
Hi Jennifer, thank you very much for the suggestion. We have explored that option and it is a great one! Unfortunately, right now Steph's income with the travel nursing contract exceeds the limit for financial assistance. That being said, the medical field works backwards from what seems logical. Indigent fund and assistance programs are designed around "after the fact" aid. Unfortunately, we have to incur the expenses before we can apply for those programs. The "catch 22" is that, as Steph's mom alluded to in the summary, a large down payment has to be made prior to them being able to schedule the surgery and inpatient admission. While this is an urgent situation it is not considered and "emergency condition" by definition. We are examining some other support avenues through the University and other networks. Right now the main objective is to work on getting treatment started to prevent further spread, growth, and damage. We continue to work in tandem, exploring all options. Additionally, so far this has been planned on the best case scenario (surgical intervention and treatment for the benign mass). The worst case scenario is that this is malignant and he is going to require not only more aggressive surgical intervention and treatment, but subsequent oncology treatment. Unfortunately, due to the location, size and involvement of this mass, they are unable to successfully perform a biopsy, with any certainty of the results. The surgeons and radiologists have reviewed the various imaging studies that have been completed. They are not completely certain which of the organ systems and structures are involved. We have to wait until they perform the surgery to learn more about what is all involved. They will not be able to completely determine what organ(s), structures, etc have to completely or partially resected, until they are "in." Once they remove the mass, the surgeons and oncologist will evaluate it, during the surgery, and then a pathologist will formally examine it determining if it is benign or malignant. I know I speak for Mike and Steph and their entirely family and friends in expressing their sincere gratitude to everyone for their thoughts, prayers and support.
Thanks for love, support, and donations. It means the world to steph, mike and family. The generosity is greatly appreciated more then words can ever say. You all get lots of big hugs helping us out. The stress is over flowing but this helps a ton and more!! Love,thanks and blessings to all!!!
I'm sure you've explored this option but just in case, can you work with the indigent fund and/or receive financial assistance at least through the hospital expense? If you haven't already, a medical social worker can help with these. Keeping you all on my heart!
Thank you Scott for letting Dano know that all avenues have been checked out, and waiting is not an option for Mike. I was not sure how to respond and you did a wonderful job!! By the way I am Mike's mother so THANK YOU!! (facebook botched my name Vant Hof)
Because of the affordable health care act he can get insurance with a pre existing condition and it's open enrollment so he can get on something. May not help in the immediate future but going forward. I would try and have someone who can reach out to him and make sure he knows he can get on major medical.
Hey..thanks for the update..just a quick question: did they say if an mri would be possible instead of the CT? If he needs yearly testing...radiation might cumulate...he is too young for that...all the best. Mri is better in showing soft tissue anyway...but I am no expert.
Thinking of you Mike! Sending prayers for a speedy recovery!!