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Our lives changed in an instant on August 19, 2011. Please remember to love each other deeply, hug your kids like you mean it and don't sweat the small stuff!
The outpouring of support from our friends and my family have helped Mike and my family through this journey. As I write his story, it brings tears to my eyes as I realize friends were there from the moment we got to the ER ready to help and support us. We love you!
It was a perfect August night, not to hot and not to cold, we went as a family to watch Jack play in a football scrimmage. Mike was running around with the kids during warm up and you could just see him having such a great time being their coach. The next morning I received a call from Mike on my way to work. He told me his back was hurting. I told him to take something when he got to work. An hour later he called me again, this time complaining of a fever. Once again, told him to drink lots of water and take an aspirin. Another hour passed and he called me a third time, this time I knew something was wrong, he just did not sound right. So I headed out of my office and went to his job site. He was working at one of my clients sites so I knew exactly where he was. When I got to him, he was passed out in his work truck. I felt his forehead, he was burning up. I had to shake him to wake him and he was in so much pain he could not sit up without using the steering wheel to pull himself up.
I got him in my car and drove him to Morristown's Emergency Room. I knew something was wrong when he agreed that is where he needs to go an ER. They ran numerous tests including a cat scan and blood work and within hours he was being admitted. All we knew is that he had an infection and his cat scan showed thickening and suspect maglignacy in his rectum. I remember sitting with Kelly in the ER reading the CT results and saying there is no way its a malignancy, he just has an infection. Mike remained in the hospital all weekend and was feeling better by Sunday. On Monday morning, we thought he was going home after he had a simple colonoscopy. After his procedure, I was called to see him in recovery and met with his doctor. She was the one that broke the news to us. Mike was diagnosed with a very large tumor in his rectum. Stage III rectal cancer.
The next few days seemed like a blur as we went from shock of hearing this diagnosis to a full on press on how do we beat it. Mike remained in the hospital as we met and assembled a team of doctors to guide us into his cancer battle. Mike needed 7 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation to reduce the size of the tumor prior to surgery to remove. Finally, Mike would need to complete 6 months of chemotherapy. That was the plan.
Mike came home the next day and we began a series of PET Scans and MRI's to enable is radiation treatment to begin. Starting on August 30, Mike began 7 weeks (5 treatments per week) of radiation treatment and 7 weeks of chemo (5-FU). These treatments were done in Morristown and so many of our friends and family helped us by driving him to and from these treatments and the meal train was full steam ahead as we made our way through this first stage of his treatment. On November 14, 2011, Mike had a 10 hour surgery to remove the tumor. He stayed in the hospital for 5 days. Within days of being home, we knew something was wrong. On November 24, 2011 (Thanksgiving), Mike was admitted to the hospital with a postoperative infection and treated with 5 days of IV antibiotics and direct washing. Mike remained in terrible pain for over 10 weeks including back pain and rectal pain from the surgery/infection.
On January 16, 2012, Mike began his chemotherapy (Oxaly, foulfox and 5-FU). He would go every other week for treatment for a total of 9 cycles. During this entire time, Mike still experienced side effects from surgery that effected his quality of life and had constant back pain. On May 21, 2012, we met with Mike's oncologist to discuss all of his side effects and it was decided additional rounds were not needed due to the toxicity effects Mike was feeling.
On May 31, 2012, we went to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) to get a second opinion on Mike's final surgery. It was at MSKCC were were told that Mike was suffering from a chronic infection dating back to his November 2011 surgery. On June 12, 2012, Mike had his first surgery to begin treatment to heal his infection. Biopsy's of the material found within his infected abscess revealed there was still cancer present. Mike had surgeries twice a week at MSKCC for the next two weeks....this is where our caring bridge begins....