Mike's Ohana

Leukemia Journey

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you Strengh, while loving someone deeply gives you Courage."  Lao Tzu

n September 28th, 2009 Mike was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia - Our lives were forever changed.  He was lucky to make it through that first night, after finding a cerebral hemetoma and numerous complications.  Dr. Quan, who was his mother's oncologist, came to see him at Hoag.  She was a true blessing and changed our lives forever. The priest came and gave Mike an annointing of the sick, or as he called it, "his last rites."  It was a whirlwind of emotions, trying to understand what was happening and come to terms with such a serious disease.

We moved into his hospital room, I set up an office in the corner & was able to work remotely, while being part of his care team & his partner in AML. 100 total Nights at Hoag for Induction & Consolidation Chemotherapy.  The phlebotomist would get a scare when they came in at 3AM for his daily blood draw, and I popped out from under the blankets in the tiny hospital bed.  We were blessed with amazing sunsets and a view of the Newport Coast, but Mike felt like he was caged, not being able to leave the hospital floor due to risk of infection. After 1 month in, 1 month home and repeating the process 4 times, Mike was in remission!  We were so grateful & went back to our daily lives.

6 Months later, AML was back.  Devastated - back to Hoag for 2nd Induction (31 more days).  An ambulance trip to UCLA & start a clinical trial to get into remission which would allow him to get a stem cell transplant.  Dr. Schiller was amazing & a great man to have in your corner when in the "fight for your life"!  24 nights at Ronald Reagan Hospital, with a great view of the city and a glimpse of the ocean in the distance.  No luck, too many cancer blasts.  Went home for 7 days to build his strength, than back to the UCLA Reagan Hospital for 34 days - tried another type of chemo, very aggressive - still too many blasts - Damn now what?

Dr. Stein was conducting a clinical trial at City of Hope that would do the stem cell transplant, even if you weren't in remission - Our HAIL MARY PASS - It took a month to get accepted, but we finally were admitted: Aggressive Chemo, Radiation & Stem Cell Transplant - Mike's sister Susie was a perfect match for his transplant - truly blessed!  92 days later - Remission at last!  Check into the village for another 42 nights, where Mike finds peace in the beautiful Rose Garden, meditation with the statue of his favorite Pope and afternoons in the gorgeous Japanese Garden.

Mike gets back to the Woodshed, we go to Wisconsin to see his parents & siblings, and even take a cruise to the Caribbean...slowly returning to daily life.  Six months later, AML is back once again.  We're brokenhearted, but determined to fight!  Mike starts out-patient treatment at City of Hope, and is there every few days for transfusions and chemo. He keeps his sense of humor and makes many friends on his frequent visits.

Mike never lost his independence, 39 days after the AML returned, he drove to City of Hope for his chemo transfusion, rested the following day, built a beautiful fire of his favorite oak & pinion, we relaxed with our new puppy Lucky Girl and enjoyed the evening.  The next morning I called the ambulance when he was unresponsive.  He had developed pneumonia.  He gained consciousness that afternoon, I was able to tell him how much I love him, his voice was labored, when he answered he loved me too and tapped my palm 3 times. He said he was so sorry, "Sorry for what," I asked - "You are amazing - my handsome prince!"   I was able to see those beautiful eyes...I wasn't worried, we had been to ICU many times before and he always pulled through - this was no different.  The nurses comforted me as they explained they needed to put in a breathing tube, his body was working too hard.  No problem, this has happened twice before.  I pulled up a chair, held his hand and talked incessantly as I always did, while the sound of the ventilator pulsed in the background.  I didn't know at the time what he was sorry for, but he did...he always promised he would never give up, he no longer had a choice...

Our 21 year journey had come to an end, but I know we will meet again in heaven, until then my mission is to support LLS in their fight to find a cure & help those living with cancer!

for more of our story:
It was a journey of amazing love & determination - Our Caring Bridge
website was created when we fell out of remission the first time:

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