Doug & Jessie Miller Doug’s Fight for His Life

First post: May 4, 2018 Latest post: May 14, 2018
Some of you may be wondering how Doug's cancer diagnosis and immediate battle came about. I can tell you that it has only been two and a half weeks since Doug was first admitted to the hospital. Everything is happening so fast. The days are whizzing by and yet there have been moments where I feel like we are trapped in water and everything is moving in slow motion. I wish to share the timeline below in hopes that this might explain things, but also so I don't have to only keep this timeline in my head anymore. 

During the first two weeks of April, Doug was playing Rosse in Great Lakes Theater's production of Macbeth. Right around the Easter holiday, he started to experience pain in his left hip. He thought he must've done something to tweak it in the show. He sought out physical therapy over the course of the run, but it didn't really help. At the start of the second week, he expressed great concern about his energy level through out the day, but particularly having enough stamina to get through the show. By April 12th, on top of the hip pain and the fatigue he started experiencing some abdominal pain and with the help and guidance of the Stage Manager, they agreed it was okay to pull him from the show. One evening's performance turned into missing the last four performances of the run. This is extremely hard for an actor to miss a show. The support from our cast family was nothing short of incredible  even then. 

In the meantime, Doug first visited his cardiologist. He had a quadruple bi-pass surgery last January so we have always monitored his heart condition very closely and he thought the fatigue was related to that. His resting heart rate had also increased over the last couple weeks.  On Friday, April 13th all the initial tests taken by the cardiologist came back normal. His discomfort continued and so we went to an urgent care facility of Saturday, April 14th. They drew some samples and did a regular X-ray which showed possible swelling in the hip (thought to be bursitis) but nothing else. 

On Monday, April 16th, we finally got him in to see his PCP where they took blood tests, samples and an MRI. Two days later,  the results showed his white blood cell count was low and some other concerning signs and they told him to go to the ER immediately. Doug checked into the Lake Health West ER on Wednesday, April18th and was admitted later that day for observation and more testing. They ordered a CT scan, a liver biopsy and a slew of other tests. Between April 18th and April 20th, we met with a team of oncology specialists who determined that Doug's liver was basically engulfed in tumors that seemed to be growing at an extremely fast pace. They still did not have a lot of answers at this point and were waiting for more test results, but the initial diagnosis was some type of small cell cancer. Small cell cancer is commonly found in the lungs. It is very aggressive, but we were told that because of the behavior of the tumors they would respond well to chemotherapy. 

He was discharged from the hospital on Saturday, April 21st. Life at home over the weekend was physically excruciating for Doug and emotionally straining on all of us. Sleeping at night was almost impossible. He paced and moved from room to room, bed to chair to try to find comfort. His pain level was at a constant high even with medication. As this point, he wasn't eating very much and so I tried to make smaller meals, fix smoothies and small pieces of fruit. He ate less and less each day expressing to me that he felt like he had no room for food. Using a cane to walk at this point, getting around and supporting himself became a real challenge. On top of all of this, awaiting the final test results was the most frustrating. 

On Tuesday, April 24th, we went to the oncologist's office and it didn't take them very long at all to look Doug over,  talk to us briefly and send us straight to the UH Sideman Cancer Center where a room was waiting for Doug in hopes that he might receive treatment as soon as the end of the week. Once he was admitted there, they decided to begin his first chemo treatment as soon as possible which was Wednesday, April 25th. With all medications and treatments as most of you may be aware, the chemotherapy posed risks that Doug might get worse in hopes that he would then get better. He was also diagnosed with tumor lysis syndrome which is a metabolic abnormality that can occur during treatment where as the large amounts of tumor cells are killed off they also release their contents into the bloodstream. Not good. 

However he did look much better the next day! He was talking, laughing and joking, even though he was still in a lot of pain.  This past weekend I believe we started to see some very serious signs of the poor liver function and other complications of this disease. Through out his time at UH, he has been moved between the inpatient floors and the ICU for closer monitoring. The liver has put pressure on his lungs comprising his breathing at times. Without going into too much further detail, we are in a very delicate balance right now. His body is trying to figure out the equilibrium of fluid and oxygen. 

As his body fights, he is even more fatigued and disoriented, but his mind is still strong and his heart steadfast as ever. 

I hope this is as helpful for all of you as it is for me. I want to remember it all and not forget one piece of this story, no matter tragic it is. Your stories, kind words and  powerful affirmations for Doug's healing reflect so much of his effect on everyone he has ever met. I'm so insanely proud of him and proud to be his wife. We are all in this fight together.