Mike's Lung Cancer Chronicle

Good CT-scan

On Wednesday, April 17, I  had my first CT-scan since completing my cancer treatment in December. I am happy to report that the scan was good and shows no evidence of disease. This is great news and I am one happy camper. (A certain Nurse Susan is quite happy as well!) I will be getting regular CT-scans every 6 months for 2 years then once every year for the rest of my life.


Mike is Back. Really, Really (mostly) Back!

Hello friends, Nurse Susan here.  I commandeered the opening paragraph to give you a subjective-objective view of Michael’s progress and current status.  Michael is back.  I know this because this evening as I sipped a glass of chardonnay from a hot bath, Michael was preparing a much-anticipated dinner of steaks, french oven-fried potatoes, and green salad.  Smooth Jazz from Brian Culbertson is wending its way through the house.  A lovely 2005 A. Rafanelli cab is on stand-by.  We haven’t seen an evening like this since before June 2012.  Dear friends and family, the guy we all know as Michael, Mike, Mikey, Uncle Michael, The Mikester, or Mason is back.

Hey everyone, Mike here.  Nurse Susan is right, I’m in the kitchen again and it feels good.  I’m still drinking Gatorade instead of martinis, but you can’t have everything immediately, right?  My walking improves every day.  I clocked 279 miles from July 1 to January 1 (while undergoing chemo, radiation, surgery, and more chemo).  Last week, Nurse Susan and I did the Lafayette Reservoir (first time in many months), and today I did a 3 miler in the neighborhood.  Get ready hiking group (you know who you are!).  I’m thinking Yosemite, Glacier Point, the 11 mile hike down to the floor in September.  Who’s in?

As for my status, I’m great.  I feel good.  The docs view me as cancer-free.  There are no appointments until an April cat scan.  I’m at recess and it feels REALLY, REALLY GOOD!  Plus, the Niners are looking pretty darn good so what’s not to like?

A final note from Mike and his Nurse Susan sidekick:
Thank you. Simple words to be sure, but heartfelt. Thank you for the cards, and the calls, and the visits.  Thank you for the soup and the cookies (yep, BIG thanks for the cookies!). Thank you for the hand-holding. Thank you for the texts and the comments on this blog.  Thank you for the prayer groups, the encouragement, the suggestions, and the good wishes.  Thank you for the hugs and the jokes (love ’em).  But above all, thank you for thinking of us.  We love and appreciate each one of you.

Wishing you — and us — a new year full of love, inspiration, joy, friendship, adventure, peace, and happiness.



Recovery Take Two

Today is my birthday and I am feeling good.  So good, in fact, that I am getting ready to head into S.F. to see The Nutcracker with Nurse Susan.  It is an annual tradition for us; one I thought might have to be cancelled.  It’s our first “date night” in months and both of us are REALLY looking forward to it.

So what’s been happening?  I sent an email reply to many of you on Thursday Dec 6 following my LAST! day of chemo. I said I was doing well, and I was. Truly. At least I thought I was. Things turned iffy that Friday, and by Saturday  food, water, and meds were challenging.  By Sunday last week, all bets were off.  We knew that because I fainted, hit the wall, slid to the floor, and gave Nurse Susan a bit of a scare as she tried to bring me back to “this” world.  We spent Sunday night in ER; diagnosis: severe dehydration.  I spent much of last week getting fluids my least favorite way — sitting in a chair at Kaiser with an IV pumping it in.  2 liters on Sunday. 2 liters on Monday. 2 liters on Tuesday.

Last Wednesday evening I started to turn a corner.  I’m still getting “insurance” hydration (got 2 bags yesterday and have a couple of sessions lined up for next week).  Whew!  I am feeling much better.

Thank you once again for your prayers, your friendship, and your support.  I try to send a note in response to the comments you post, but I think I may have missed a few.  If I missed yours, my apologies!

I am now CANCER FREE and I feel blessed to have friends and family such as yourselves.  Have a fun week!

Oh, now you tell me!

Nurse Susan and I met with my oncologist on Tuesday, 11/27, and we asked him why the last chemo cycle (3 days) was SO HARD compared to the previous two (6 days each) that I tolerated so well. We figured fewer days meant fewer side effects. Not so (as we now know only too well).  It turns out that with concurrent radiation, my chemo drugs (cisplatin, aka “Mr. Nasty” and etoposide) are administered over a longer window of time.  On their own, the full punch is packed into 3 days.  Oh.  Moving on to question 2 then: what the hell can we do about the negative impact????!!!!  More meds! I have been taking meds for a week to prepare my body for the next onslaught of toxic chemicals on Monday, 12/3. Hopefully, these medical jewels will work wonders and I can sail right thru it — then, Nurse Susan and I can be on our way in life.

A side note here:  This month we had to wish our cat, Jeff, a good journey as he headed off to become an angel cat. We lost him much too early, but we sure enjoyed the last 8 years with this guy.  He greeted us at the door. He responded to a whistle. He left his toys as gifts at our bedroom door. We will miss him.

Have a fun week everyone, and thanks once again (and again) for your kind thoughts, prayers and support.


The Week That Was

Hi all, Nurse Susan here.  As MM’s “full service” nurse (DO NOT even go there!), I have added blog updates to my service portfolio.  This time around, you will get the latest news from my perspective.

Our number one patient and amazing responder to this cancer journey started his “insurance” chemo last Monday.  He (we, actually) viewed the impending three days of chemo as a no-brainer, a walk-in-the-park, a small inconvenience.  Michael rallied so well during the July/August sessions (SIX days!) that we thought all he had to do was roll up his sleeves (figuratively … but literally as well), get focused, and tough it out.  No big D, right?  Wrong!  Simply put dear friends, our boy got his butt kicked.

Michael had three days of chemo.  By Thursday morning, it was clear that food & water would be significant challenges.  As a result, he  required three days of hydration sessions — the Kaiser team pumped our guy full of nausea meds and water (5 liters over 3 days).  Our boy had a very rough week.

Today, however, there is good news. This morning (Sunday) Michael turned a corner and had his biggest meal in a week: a small bowl of  honey-nut cherrios.  That was followed by day 3 of 5 receiving a booster shot to increase white blood cells and the immune system, and THAT was followed by a slow, but steady short walk at the Lafayette Reservoir in the beautiful autumn sunshine.  Our boy is back.

The next two to three weeks will be spent hydrating, hydrating, hydrating (in the words of the Nutritionist, Joey), as well as getting strength back in mind, body, and soul. We are thankful for our medical team. We are thankful for Michael’s ability to bounce back. And, we are VERY thankful for your continued friendship and support.

We hope you enjoy a very Happy Thanksgiving. And, we hope you feel blessed as you recall, and savor, the people and events in your life that spark your interest, bring you joy, feed your soul, and surround you with love.  That’s what we are going to do.

Michael will catch up with you later in the month.

Love to all,
— Nurse Susan


Good News And Bad News

I had follow-up appointments this week with my surgeon and oncologist. The doctors tell me they see no evidence of cancer (GOOD!). I responded extremely well to the triple whammy: chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery (REALLY GOOD!). The post-surgery pathology report showed that the tumor had shrunk significantly and 90% of the cancer cells in the tumor and the 3 cancerous lymph nodes were dead (ALL GOOD!).

However, both doctors suggest I have 2 more rounds of chemotherapy just to be sure that any microscopic cancer cells that may be lurking in my body are destroyed. They pointed out that no data is available showing more chemotherapy would result in a better longevity outcome, plus I am considered “cancer free,” so an argument can be  made for not having any more chemo. On the other hand, since I “tolerate chemotherapy so well,” I should consider it. I guess then that the good news is I tolerate chemo well, and the bad news is that I tolerate chemo well. Hahahahaha!

So…on Monday, November 5 I will start the first of two chemo cycles. I will have infusions for 3 consecutive  days ( 4 hours each day), followed by 25 “non” infusion days. Then, I do the same cycle again.  Then, stick a fork in me – I’m really done!  Yay!!!

Okay, Williams, we’ll vote . . . how many here say the heart has four chambers?

Workin’ On The 5 Rs

Hello Everyone!  I’m Back!

As Nurse Susan told you, my focus for the weeks ahead are the five R’s: Relax, Recuperate, Recover, Refresh, and Rebound.  I am happy to report that since arriving home from the hospital last Sunday, I have completed R #1 (Relax), I am fully engaged in R #2 (Recuperate), and I have launched R #3 (Recover).  Not to put too fine a point on it, but I sort of think that R’s 4 and 5 are starting to kick in as well.  Lucky for me this is not necessarily a sequential process.

The week’s highlights:

  • Started walking on Monday (2/10 of a mile).
  • Have been walking every day this week.  I am up to longer walks of 1.25 miles.
  • Coughing (not uncommon after a lobectomy) is decreasing; today was a fairly quiet one (if you’ll pardon the expression).
  • We are cheering on the A’s and the Giants.  A Bay Bridge series would be really cool.
  • My sister-in-law (aka Nurse Stephanie) asked me today how I was feeling.  My response?  Peachy!

The plan for the week is REPEAT week one.  (Get it?  Another “R”…ha! ha!).

As always, THANK YOU!  For the support, the prayers, and the good tidings.

Nurse Susan and her patient.
The Rez 10-7-12

Cut It Out

It’s hard to believe, but it has been 34 days since my last chemo/radiation treatment (not that I’m counting). The past several weeks have been a nice break from the treatment grind. Nurse Susan and I spent a fun 2 days in Tahoe with the family last weekend, and then a very relaxing 2 days at the Ventana Inn in Big Sur this week. Perfect weather in both locales provided a “late summer groovy” ambiance to the week.

McWay Falls – Big Sur 9-21-12

Last Monday, (9/17) I had a CT Scan. Good news! The tumor and lymph nodes have shrunk considerably. My surgeon says the Scan “looked great” and it was “a wonderful response” to treatment. This is REALLY good news because the affected lymph nodes and the tumor need to go. We have discussed the worst-case possibility of a cancerous lymph node being fused to a blood vessel feeding the lower lobe of the left lung — in that case, the recommended scenario is removal of the entire left lung.  We are counting on a continued good response and the likely outcome that only the upper lobe of my left lung will be removed. This is The Plan and we are sticking to it! So on Tuesday 9/25 this nastiness will be cut out of me for good.

I can expect to be hospitalized for 5 or 6 days. Nurse Susan will send an update to let you know how I’m doing.

Your insurance only allots you 90 minutes for this surgery. Anything over that is $250 an hour, on the spot.

Have a fun week and as always thanks so much for your thoughts, prayers and support.  I’ll catch ya on the flip side!


Emerging From The Fog

I completed chemo and radiation therapy on Tuesday and I am finally (Sunday) emerging from the fog created by dexamethasone, a steroid often used with chemo to combat cancer cells and to control nausea.  There’s a flip side to this “wonder” drug — it has a list of side-effects as long as your arm, not the least of which is depression.  Just what I need, right?  Cut me some slack, Jack!!!  On my last day of chemo I got the “Dex” along with Zoloft, an anti-depressant (that should be a clue).  For the last 4-5 days, I felt like a nut. Whew! I sure am glad that’s behind me.

Now, we move on to Phase 2 — surgery.  On September 25 the upper left lobe of my left lung will be removed.  Before then, Nurse Susan and I will enjoy a long weekend at Lake Tahoe with the family.  The week before my surgery, the two of us will sneak off to the Ventana Inn at Big Sur for a couple of days. We are holding off on Hawaii until my recovery is well underway.

Many of you have requested a “nose hair” update.  Sadly I must report that those pesky nose hairs continue to occupy my daily hygiene.  That is becoming less of an issue with my head hair, however.  A member of my cancer support group said she knew it was time to shave her head when her hair “looked like a foreclosure lawn.”  I wasn’t sure what that meant exactly until recently. Now I know so next week I will have my barber, Carl, give me the “buzz” cut.

Have a fun week everybody and thanks for your thoughts and support.






Brain Work

Last Monday morning, prior to starting chemo cycle 2, I had to have an MRI of my brain.  Whoa!  Are you kidding me?  Not kidding. Apparently, in some cases, lung cancer will metastasize to the brain.  After spending 2 days on pins and needles, I am happy to report there is no lung cancer in my gray matter. Whew! What a bummer that would be!

Nurse Susan attended a women’s health conference on Saturday and brought back a timely joke. It seems after having an MRI, a guy learned he needed to have a brain transplant.  The doctor told the poor guy he just happened to have 2 brains available. One was from a man and it would cost $100,000 for the brain and the surgical procedure. The other brain was from a woman and the cost would only be $10,000 for everything. Of course the guy was puzzled by the huge difference in cost.  “Why does the woman’s brain cost so much less than the man’s?”  he asked.  His doctor replied, “Oh, it’s because the woman’s brain is used.”

Tomorrow, Monday August 20,  is my last day of  chemo.  Tuesday is my last day of radiation treatment. It can’t end soon enough!

Have a great week everybody and thanks again for your support.