January 27th, 2019, just five days after his wedding, Michael age 35 from New Jersey, USA, passed away from osteosarcoma. Cheryl, Michael’s wife has kindly shared her story about a man that she says lifted her up when she fell, loved her when no one else did and showed her how much someone could love a person.
Michael was always outgoing, on the move, and hard working. Well that’s putting it mildly work was all he did, from completing roof jobs in two days, cut and removing large trees to removing debris from fully furnished homes.
He couldn’t be stopped, but then 6 months from when the pain began, life as we knew it was about to change.
In late June, Michael started having back pain that he originally thought was sciatic nerve pain, even the hospital thought it was too. In July 2018, we went into the ER at our Community Medical Center and we were seen by a nurse practitioner. They did not order any testing, although he did have some swelling in the right leg only. She examined him in the room had him lift his leg and touch a few areas only to tell him it was indeed his sciatic nerve. She prescribed him with Flexeril, Prednisone, and Ibuprofen and then referred him for physical therapy.
He went home and began going to a chiropractor for a few weeks and self-medicating since not much was done for him when he went to the hospital. The prescribed Prednisone helped at the beginning but seemed to bring on intense pain when he was out of the prescription. He then went to see his primary doctor that he was referred to from ER once the scripts were gone. He was told the same, that it was believed to be a very bad sciatic nerve problem, and he would need to see orthopedics, physical therapist and maybe a surgeon. He was given the same prescriptions as before plus one Gabapentin for nerve pain.
He continued seeing his chiropractor throughout this whole ordeal as well. Even with all the treatments he had going on the pain just seemed to get worse and worse, which seemed too stump everyone since he should have been getting better.
August 11th, he noticed his upper groin/thigh felt very sore his right leg (the leg with the sciatica issue) started swelling and it got harder and harder for him to walk. He then waited until Monday the 13th August and called his doctor they said go to the Emergency Room again because they don’t have a sonogram. At the hospital he was found to have 3 blood clots, 2 by his knee and 1 in his femoral vein near his groin. During surgery for the blood clots they noticed he was unable to lay his right leg flat for them to insert the catheter behind his knee, for the TPA drip to try to dissolve the clots. They removed the clot from his femoral vein over the course of 2 operations. He was then sent for an MRI, which led them to believe something wasn’t right, so they also ordered a CT scan, on the CT scan, they thought they found osteomyelitis a bone infection in his hip.
They did further tests then finally; a bone biopsy was sent to Cleveland. While reviewing findings from the biopsy the lab told doctors that they had found Spindle Cells which were normally only found where there was cancer, but he had originally tested negative for cancer.
This led them to send it out for further review in Cleveland. They confirmed there was indeed cancer. On the 18th September we were contacted by the doctor she advised him that the pathology report from Cleveland came back and that they found sarcoma in the hip bone from the biopsy they reviewed. We weren’t even sure if the diagnosis was Spindle Cell sarcoma or another kind.
He had a very tough time over the next few weeks, whether it be from the physical pain or mental torture he put himself through. He became very sick and was unable to eat and walk, he was just a shell of himself. He did not have insurance, so we had to wait for an opening with an oncologist which could not be given until October over a month after we found out!
I couldn’t wait! I rounded him up for another hospital stay back at our Community Medical Center, on the 25th September. The oncologist came in and told us that he has stage 4 cancer, osteosarcoma. It was in both his iliac bone/hip as well as both of his lungs. It had metastasized quickly.
We knew they had taken images of the modules on his lungs before he left his first month stay, and as soon as he returned after his 2 weeks at home and the modules had doubled in size.
We were then told it is rapidly progressing and that chemotherapy is the only treatment that can be done. The doctor was very hesitant and did not want to tell us too much too quickly, but she did let us know that this was going to be super aggressive and she was doubtful of what the chemotherapy would be able to help, since we were so far into this at the time of diagnosis. They gave him a 60-80% chance that the chemo would not work but advised that there was nothing to lose only to gain time if it was able to help. This treatment was only to be for palliative measures and to offer some comfort for the pain.
Michael began his first treatment of chemotherapy 2nd October and it took a lot of out him and made him very weak but hoped this would give him the extra time that we need with him and he needs with us. Without the chemo he would only have months left to live so we needed to begin ASAP, which we did. We were also told that the chemo could not cure him but just manage it and give him extra time and hopefully slow down how quickly it was spreading and possibly shrinking some of the inflammation in his back. At this point his right leg is almost immobile, so we hoped the chemo did what it was supposed to, and he would get some mobility back.
On the 23rd October, Michael had his 2nd session of chemotherapy. It wiped him out again however it seems like he did do a little better this time. We were still in the hospital, but they were working on trying to get him home soon. He went home with a wheelchair because the oncologist decided it is unsafe for him to try to walk with the size of the tumor and how fragile he was and that this could cause his hip to break.
This was the start of a whole new way of life for him. We knew he could not be cured but any amount of extra time it could give us, we were hoping for, just to make sure we didn’t miss out on having him with us.
Michael was sent home on hospice care due to insurance reasons, which in the end helped get him comfortable and out of pain so that he could get the time that he desperately needed with us. I had to stop working to stay home and take care of him because I was his main caregiver! I did my best and gave my all into taking care of him because that’s what people that love people, do! The hospice nurses came out 2 times a week and I just watched over him for any changes. He then had another lump grow on the back of his neck a week after he came home. The nurses decided to keep it tight lipped, so we worried less but we were all pretty sure that the cancer began spreading rapidly! He became unaware of what was going on around him and who people were. His left leg then started to swell, which had doctors believe the cancer was spreading to that side.
As that began to swell it also began to be very heavy from the fluid making him unable to walk, he was unable to understand that he could not walk so he had fallen a few times. Also, another lump on the back of his neck developed and doctors now believed it was another tumor. It had travelled up his spine to his brain.
Over the weekend things took a turn for the worse. Whilst his hospice nurses and doctor were here checking on him, we were told they believe he may only have 30 days left to live. They told him if there’s anything you want to do then make sure you do it which led to the most positive thing that could have happened to either of us we got married, paid for by the hospice. It was unbelievable and breath-taking.
After, due to extreme pain, we had to begin to sedate him, which were his wishes. This went on until about 5 days later when our worst fears came true. He was actively dying and myself his mother and his children as well as a neighbor and the hospice staff showered him with love and whatever comfort we could. Michael’s death was a painful one because he basically drowned in his fluids.
We watched him all day fight to stay with us but on January 27th, 2019, 8.44pm Michael peacefully went to god, just 5 days after our wedding. That night, I lost my husband, my best friend, the love of my life, as well as my children and step children lost their father and his mother lost her son. This is the hardest loss I have ever felt in my life.
It was unbelievable how fast the cancer had taken over his body... His life! He was only 35 years old and it took everything from him, his independence, manhood, body it was an evil disease!
He was a person who had his fair share of demons, but he also had the best heart I have ever know and turned his life totally around to be taken from us from a disease that took every part of himself that he loved. Cancer is a cruel disease that took him way too fast and soon.
I hope he knew how much I loved him and how much I appreciated all he did for me this man lifted me up when I fell, loved me when no one else did, cherished me even if I didn’t deserve it and showed me how much someone could love a person.
I have seen this man at his worst and at his best and I know how blessed I was to have gotten to spend the time I had with him. I hope he is at peace now because he didn’t deserve to suffer the way he did. I will always love him so much and now I know why we got blessed with getting pregnant when we did because I am so blessed to have been given a lil man who will continue to show the best part of Michael through him.
If I could leave you with a message it would be to never ignore what your feeling. Michael knew the pains he was having from the start and that something wasn’t right, but a lot of times doctors ignored or did not realize the severity of what’s going on until it was too late.
If me speaking up and you reading about your symptoms gives you extra knowledge, it’s worth it.