Welcome to our CaringBridge website for Michael, which we will use to keep everyone informed on Michael's progress. So many of you have communciated your love, support and insights, which we greatly appreciate; and this site will allow us to keep everyone informed while maintaining our focus on Michael's ongoing care. While we hope to also address your many questions and suggestions that will likely come up in the coming weeks, we may not be able to do so with the time and attention we'd otherwise hope for, so please bear with us. Please check on the site for any new informaiton, and use it to communicate with us.
Many of you know the story to date, but some of you are learning of Michael's condition for the first time, so I will start from the beginning...
After a wonderful summer, which included a trip to the Northeast to visit friends and family - on Lake Champlain, Lake Sunapee, Watch Hill, RI and my childhood home town of Bronxville, NY - we returned to the lake house on Allatoona with the intention to begin the exciting renovations we'd been mapping out for some time. Not long after our return and settling back into a routine, Michael began noticing a pain in his chest and trouble breathing, which seemed to worsen every day. We initially went to the VA hospital (as Michael is a veteran) and they diagnosed pneumonia with pleural effusion. He had accumulated a lot of fluid in his lungs, which they drained. We went home loaded up with antibiotics and the belief that things would improve, though we were forewarned that it could be a few months before he felt fully recovered.
When he did not improve, and his pain and shortness of breath increased, and with no good response from the VA, we went to Cartersville Medical Center ER. This was really the start of our long and often frustrating journey to determine the cause of the pain and plueral effusion. During what became a three week stay in 2 different hospitals, he had a second thoracentisis (draining); a fluid biopsy, multiple chest x-rays, CT scans and ever-increasing medication for pain management. On December 1, he underwent a VATS procedure - video-assisted thoracic surgery - which allowed them to further diagnose his condition and take a tissue biopsy of a small mass located in his right lung. The surgeon informed us that he was suspiscious of mesothelioma - resulting from asbestos exposure (likely during his time in the Navy), and that he felt that it was likely malignant. However, an an accurate diagnosis would not be made definitively until the biopsy has been processed by a lab specializing in mesothelioma based in Michigan. Michael was discharged on December 5th, and we entered into a very long waiting period. We have come to understand that Mesothelioma diagnosis is very complicated, and extremely hard to diagnose definitvely. And the timeframe was significantly impacted by the holidays. We finally got the call with the definitive results - malignant mesothelioma, of the desmoplastic type - on December 20th.
The good news is that we now have a confirmed diagnosis and we have met with the oncologist, Dr. Uppalapati (she goes by "Dr. U") at The Hope Center to discuss the option of chemotherapy to slow down the progress. We like Dr U very much and feel that Michael will be in good care going forward, so that was good. Since his fluid has re-accumulated, the focus for this week is to manage his pain and breathing, so Dr U had him admitted to the Cartersville hospital to undergo another thoracentesis procedure (this time leaving in a tube for continued drainage to improve his comfort). At this point, his breathing and pain is under better control and we are awaiting the thoracentesis. He will also have a PET scan later this week to help Dr U determine the stage of the cancer. Our followup with her is next Thursday; she wanted to start chemo as soon as possible so I would imagine that would be during the week of January 9th.
Not having a definitive diagnosis and prognosis until now really prohibited us from reaching out to many of you news of his condition. We apologize for not doing so earlier, but as you can see from this story, it has all been in flux and changing rapidly. Please stay tuned to this site for further updates.
Many of you have expressed an interest in visiting Michael, which we appreciate. Much as I know he would love to see everyone, we will need to manage this carefully to ensure he does not get tired out. We'll figure this out as we move forward. For now, keep him in your thoughts and prayers.