Everyone that gets to know Michael says the same thing: “Oh my gosh, what a sweetheart, I just love him so much!” Given his humor, wit, compassion, and wonderful personality, you’d never guess at the tough road he’s been down. When he was first diagnosed with Infant ALL (a relatively uncommon form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia) at 6 months old, we feared he might not make it through the night. He turns 9 years old in June.
Initially Michael was prescribed a 48 week high-dose chemo regimen and he spent more time in the hospital than at home that year. The first time he sat up on his own was in a hospital crib with tubes running out of him. My wife and I would help him practice walking up and down the halls of the Oncology wing; one of our hands holding his, and the other on the rolling IV pole connected to him.
A few months after transitioning to maintenance treatments, a test found leukemia cells in Michael’s spinal fluid indicating a central nervous system relapse. Treatment consisted of more high-dose chemo, followed by total body and whole brain radiation, followed by a stem cell transplant. No one in our family was a match, but luckily a donor was found through the National Marrow Donor Program. An anonymous and amazing 24 year old man made a decision that saved our son’s life.
Michael’s transplant went very well. His team of nurses and doctors called him a “Transplant Rockstar” because of his positive response. We spent a month in an isolation clean room, then another eight days in a half-way house for transplant patients, and finally home. Seven months after his transplant, Michael had an isolated testicular relapse. More radiation and two more years of chemo.
This summer will be 4 years since the end of his last course of treatments. In the time since he was diagnosed, he’s endured so many thousands of needle pokes, over 100 spinal taps, 6 PICC lines, 2 chest implanted ports, 1 central line, surgeries, biopsies, chemo, radiation, steroids, treatment sicknesses, fevers, months away from home, family, and friends, and so much more. Despite all of this, the only clues you’d ever get to what he’s been through are from the scars he carries on his body. You’ll never see it on his face or in his heart. Through everything, and still today, Michael shares his smile and love with everyone he meets.