…and now, the rest of the story…
—The Late Paul Harvey
In 1994, at age 17, Mike was a freshman in high school–one of the oldest in his class. The next three years, I missed out on a lot of Mike’s life. I had graduated from high school and left home for college at Rose-Hulman. When I came home after 2 years, Mike had moved to the east side of Indy. My family tried to shield me from “the cancer curse” so I could concentrate on my studies. However, during my first year of college, cancer became an even greater influence in our lives. Mom, Mike and our grandmother all faced new battles with cancer at this time. Mike, was once again fighting colon cancer. Mom was facing her first bout with colon cancer. Grandma was dealing with breast cancer.
During Mike’s first bout with cancer, we all faced an uncertain future with him. Colon cancer treatment was in its infancy. Mike’s age made it even more challenging. That first year, the doctors used an experimental chemotherapy. The therapy had promise, but had never been tried on someone so young. So, the chemo brought him sometimes to the brink of death itself.
During the second bout (And first for mom), much more was known about colon cancer and treatment options. The same chemo from 8 years earlier was used, but on a much more refined scale. This time, the treatment was used one day a week every week for 6 months rather than 5 consecutive days once a month for a year. Therefore, the treatment was much easier on both of them. The major side effect Mike faced this time was sterility. Doctors told him that the 2 rounds of chemo and one of radiation had taken away his chance to have kids. (Just a few years later, Abby was born. He treated her like the daughter he could never have)
Mike graduated with the class he knew from 4th grade. He then went to ITT tech and graduated with honors! However, during his last year at ITT tech his cancer came back for a third time. Repeat the treatment/remission cycle. In April 2002, the cancer came back again–this time was different. This time the cancer was wrapped around the lumbar spine. Surgery was not an option. Doctors gave him 3 months max–the date: my birthday. “I will NOT die on or around your birthday–I PROMISE,” he said. Mike stayed true to his word.
He moved back home, and worked 40-50 hours a week at a job 50 miles from home fpr the next 4 months. Finally, in August, the doses of pain medication made driving impossible. A month later he could no longer stand. Shortly after that, he became confined to bed where he would spend the rest of his life. He only left that bed a few times but I remember October 26, 2002 when he drug himself out of bed, hobbled to the driveway and sat in my brand new truck. “I am proud of you big brother,” was his only response.
Over the course of the next few months, Mike made us many promises:
- To dad at Halloween: “I will not die on your birthday–I don’t want to ruin your birthday.” He kept his promise.
- To all of us on dad’s birthday (11/12): “I will not die on Thanksgiving, I want you to remember it as a happy time.” He kept his promise.
- On Thanksgiving: “I will not die in Christmas.” He kept his promise.
- New Year’s Day 2003: “I will not die on mom’s birthday (2/4).” We told him: “Mike, it’s time, your race is finished”. He held on.
Finally, on March 6, 2003 it was OUR turn. “Your fight is over. We love you! It is time for you to go home!” He held on…for an hour…I will never forget that next hour. You won’t find it here. Few will ever hear it. We don’t want him remembered like that. His last words were for my mom: “I am sorry…” he then crossed over into eternity, met our Lord and got his perfect holy body.
This blog is not to mourn him–but to remember him and celebrate his life!
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”
2 Timothy 4:7-8