It's been 10 years since I was diagnosed with Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma... cancer. I started this blog to share the many emotions, fears, experiences and, hopefully, triumphs that I will face throughout this journey. I have two goals for this blog, 1. To gain some degree of personal therapeutic benefit and, 2. To help others who may one day face a similar struggle by detailing the process of diagnosis, treatment and recovery so that they may know what to expect.

Friday, October 07, 2011

5 Years

October 5, 2011 - So today represents a rather important milestone in my life.  It is the 5 year anniversary since my last treatment for cancer.  I celebrated by seeing Dr. Tonnessen for what should be the last time, at least in a clinical setting.  He gave me the normal once over, said that everything looked great and officially declared me cured, at least to the extent that any doctor would make such a definitive statement. 

We spent the rest of the time just talking about what has transpired over these past five years and I thanked him for not only believing that I could be cured but for making ME believe that I could be cured because without that faith, I don't think it would have happened. 

I've spent the better part of the past few hours reading this blog from the beginning.  It's been a long time since I've looked at it and even longer since I've posted.  I've mentioned this before but there comes a time in this process when you just want to put it behind you and move on.  Slowly but surely,  mundane routine takes over once again and you no longer want cancer to be the underlying theme of life.  It's somewhat hard for me to believe that I was once that person.  Although it's familiar, I have trouble recognizing the voice.

So now I don't really know how I'm supposed to feel.  Closure?  Not really.  Relief?  Sure but I somehow was hoping for more.  Gratitude?  Undoubtedly.  I'm thankful for the amazing care I received from my doctors, Tonnessen, Califano, Dar and Hermansen.  I'm thankful for all of the love and support I've received from friends, family and total strangers.  I'm thankful for the good people at Tomotherapy who developed the technology that not only helped save my life but my quality of life.  Mostly I'm thankful for my little boy (who's not so little any more!) for giving me the motivation I needed to beat this disease.  A most sincere thank you to all. 

This seems like an appropriate point to end this blog.  It's time to finally close this chapter of my life and move on.  I hope someone has found something of value in these pages.  Whether it be advice on treatment options, insight on what to expect, someone to commiserate with or most importantly, FAITH that they can beat this disease, whatever you may take from this, I hope I've been able to help.  For anyone just starting this journey, the best advice that I can give you is to own the process.  Don't be a passive participant but an active decision maker.  If you don't like a doctor or what they might be telling you, go find another one.  Educate yourself. Ask questions.  Challenge.  Do not be intimidated.  The more you control the situation the less you will be controlled by it.  Most importantly, there IS life after cancer.  You can beat this disease and I'm living proof of that.  Find the thing that gives you the greatest will to live and stay focused on it.

Here's to good health.


Blogger Chris Collins said...

You are one of my heroes. As you blog well, I hope you find a way to start a different blog, one that represents the vibrant life of a cancer-beater.

6:17 AM

Anonymous Kevin said...

Incredibly happy for you, Mike. On behalf of all us in Madison.

- Kevin O'Malley
Accuray (formerly TomoTherapy)

1:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Great to hear Mike, Kevin shared your email to us all at Tomo and you provided us a wonderful reminder of why we work here. Go Terps!!!!

3:53 PM

Blogger deborah d. lattimore said...

Mike, Kevin O'Malley introduced me to your amazing blog today. I'm also a former TomoTherapy patient and filled with gratitude for my treatment and the people who made it possible. It's wonderful to read about your five-year celebration. Here's to many more!


4:47 PM

Anonymous Jessica Schafer said...

Mike, words cannot express how incredibly proud I am to call you my big brother. I have always admired you, and looked up to you, but now even more so than ever. I will always remember our trip to Hershey Park, and thinking that it was the first time, in a while, I'd seen you smile so much. Mason is so lucky to have such an amazing Dad, and I am so lucky to have such an amazing brother. I love you both so much, and will always be here for you. Happy 5 years, and here's to MANY more! Love ALWAYS, your little sis, Jess

4:13 PM

Anonymous Cancer treatment Florida said...

So Great to hear Mike, Kevin shared your email to us all.Really nice........unbelivable...

7:22 AM

Blogger Tim C said...


Sad that you closed your blog. So many questions since I have just finsihed treatments for stage III base of tongue cancer with one lymph node involved. I too had radiation and Erbitux .....

I found your blog so wonderfully educational and so "hey that's me" ....

Congrats on your five years. My prayer is that I too will join that club + 30 years! :)

Tim Cogdill / father of five young children ages 21 monhts to 13 years and blessed to be married to the perfect wife!
McCall, Idaho

1:58 PM

Blogger Tim C said...

Hi Mike.

You may never see this since you closed your blog..but congrats on the five years!

I am sad I was not able to email and blog with you. I too just finished base of tongue cancer treatments (with one lymph node)Stage III.

So many questions for you. But too I found your blog wonderful.

If you sign in and see my post, shoot me an email.

I too have kids, five of them ages 21 months to 13 years old, and a wife that is a Godsend.

Thanks Mike.

Tim Cogdill
McCall, Idaho

2:03 PM

Anonymous Dr. G said...

Congratulations on your victory. You are proof that oral cancer, like many cancers, is not a death sentence.

10:25 PM

Blogger Jesse White said...

It is extremely inspiring to people like me to hear stories like this. My mother has cancer and it is tearing the whole family up. It is super said to see, but i know that miracles can happen like they did with you! Thanks for your inspiring journey!
-Jesse White|

1:33 PM

Blogger Val Ewing said...

Thank you for this.

9:18 PM

Blogger Bill Stroh said...

The fight continues for some of us. Thank You for your inspirational blog.

11:01 PM

Blogger roberto varchetta said...

Hi Tim
I just saw your blog and wanted to know if your cancer was HPV 16 positive.
Please write back

10:05 PM

Blogger Samia Nash said...

Mike, I need your help. My friend Niki's young brother Lou is battling squamous cell carcinoma . He has a 4 year old daughter and he the chemo he's been taking didnt take. Please email me as soon as possible to please help us find any national expert in this as he is not getting the treatment he needs in Colorado. My email is -Thank you, Samia Nash

1:10 PM


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