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Our Warrior Michael
9/22/2016 Latest post:
Michael was living in New Orleans, LA, living with his cousin Katie and working as a bartender in a famous restaurant in the city. Beginning in November 2015, Michael began having some discomfort in his abdomen and went to an urgent care. He was told it was gastritis and sent home with some pain meds. This continued through the holidays and in early 2016 he was told he had pancreatitis and, again, sent home. It wasn't until he collapsed at work that he was taken to the ER where a scan was done and they discovered he had a pseudo cyst on his pancreas. He was told that it would go away on it's own and that they see it all the time. Not only did the cyst remain, it grew to the size of a grapefruit. It was causing a lot of pain and Mike had to wait weeks for surgery. He was admitted to Tulane Medical Center on May 30th, 2016. He had surgery to drain the cyst on May 31st. Mike's gastroenterologist did a routine biopsy on his pancreas as a precaution, but never expected it to come back as cancer given Michael's age and overall health. On June 3rd, 2016, the doctor, along with a few of his residents, entered Michael's hospital room and delivered the news that he had pancreatic cancer.
Family began to fly in immediately to support Michael as they began the process of staging and prognosis. They biopsied his belly button and did a CT scan of his abdomen. The days following the diagnosis were filled with emotion as everyone, Michael especially, digested the news and waited patiently to get the full picture of what the road ahead looked like. On June 6th, a oncologist and Mike's surgeon laid out the full diagnosis and prognosis. We were told Michael had stage 4 metastatic pancreatic adenocarcinoma. The prognosis was that he had 10 months to live.
Many decisions had to be made very quickly. First, Michael had to decide where he wanted to receive treatment. We knew he would need to be near family for support. With advice from his doctors, he chose to receive treatment at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA and temporarily live with his sister, Elizabeth and her family. He had his 1st appointment with his new oncologist, Dr. Jennifer Chan, on June 20th and spent most of the week having tests to confirm his diagnosis and to determine what the care plan would be. It was decided he would begin a rigorous chemotherapy called Folfirinox immediately due to the aggressive nature of his cancer. We were told the metastasis was in his abdominal cavity and, according to the doctor, was "full of tumors, too many to count." They were growing at a rapid rate and Michael's cancer symptoms were worsening so he began his 1st round of chemo on July 1st. This was difficult because Mike's favorite holiday is 4th of July and we didn't know how he'd be feeling after his treatment. He had to go home with a pump that would deliver the last of 4 powerful drugs over the course of 48 hours. He was able to join in some 4th activities, but opted to watch the fireworks in the comfort of home.
Michael seemed to have done well with the 1st round of Folfirinox. He wasn't feeling well the first week with chemo symptoms, but turned a corner and had some great days in his second week. He did notice some increase in pain during that time. He had his second chemo on July 18th, but in addition to the chemo symptoms, his pain seemed to worsen and other symptoms related to his tumors were becoming more prominent. He didn't have good days as he had the first round. On July 30th, after having a few days where he was really sick, he spiked a fever of 103.8 late in the evening and had to be taken to a local hospital, then transferred to Brigham and Women's to be evaluated for infection. He spent the next 5 days there and had many different tests, including an updated CT scan. Fluid began to build in his abdomen. He lost almost 10 lbs. His 3rd round of chemo was put off due to this unknown infection. He was discharged and continued to build that fluid until he was so uncomfortable he could barely move. His follow up appointment with his DR was August 8th. It was at this appointment that we were told that the CT scan showed growth in the tumors in his abdominal cavity. It was determined that the current chemo wasn't working and the window was closing to switch treatment. The DR decided to begin a new chemo regimen Gemcitabine/Abraxane immediately. She told us the prognosis had changed and if this regimen worked he would have 6 months to live. If the chemo didn't work he was looking at a few months. The DR told Michael to get his affairs in order.
Over the next few weeks, Michael had 3 parenthesis, where they drained the fluid in his abdomen. He began his new treatment on 8/22. He began to feel better and the fluid stopped building up. He began to regain his appetite and started to gain back some weight. He was experiencing chemo side effects, but the cancer symptoms had gotten much better. Michael turned a corner and even his doctors were amazed! Finally some good news! He has since done 3 rounds of this new chemo and continues to do well.