Michael's parents Pam and John share his story
Michael bravely accepted this and was ready to take up the challenge and do everything he possibly could to beat this dreadful condition and return to his normal life as soon as possible.
What was normal life? Michael was a student at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design. He was a second year student with an ambition to become a designer in the world of fashion. He had a successful first year with a 2:1 grading. His other ambition was to show a dog at Crufts and, hopefully, have a Best in Show. Michael knew exactly what he was going to do but had to put the second ambition on hold while he was at University.
Now with the diagnosis of cancer his studies had to be put on hold too. Privately he was devastated but did not let this show to his family or friends.
Treatment began on November 2nd with chemotherapy. (He was to have fourteen sessions of four-day treatment). After only three sessions Mr Grimer decided to operate because they were not sure that the chemotherapy was actually reducing the size of the tumour. Again Michael took the news really well and decided he was going home to enjoy his Christmas.
The operation took place on the 6th January 1999 . The fibula, the nerve and much of the muscle were removed. He celebrated his 20th birthday on Ward 12 at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital. Chemotherapy resumed after three weeks convalescence and radiotherapy was introduced in March.
In June, between treatments, his dad took him to Rotherham to look at some black standard poodle puppies. Mr Rigsby (Tuscan Secret Raider at Dezimba) came home with them and the training began.
All seemed to be going well and finally, in September Michael was discharged from treatment. He decided during these months not to return to his university course. He thought that he might find the work difficult to resume after a year out. So he found an HND course at the local college and enrolled for that to refresh his skills. He would return to university after that.
Michael soon settled into his 'normal' life of sorts, his designing skills flourished, Mr Rigsby qualified for Crufts and his faith survived. In October he performed at the Church Variety Show and gave a memorable performance of 'Just One Look' from Sunset Boulevard with a final message that 'MICHAEL WAS BACK'.
His love of life was evident in all that he did but he would never accept second best and everything was done to his own very high standards.
Michael knew that the cancer could return at any time and although the regular visits to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for check-ups and x-rays were a bit of a nuisance he attended them. The change is his behaviour just before these visits was quite marked. As he walked out of the hospital the relief was quite evident.
Then came that day in June 2000 when he came out of Dr Peake's consulting room and said 'There's a shadow on my lung.' Stunned silence followed. No one said anything. No one could! The drive home was horrendous but as we approached the house Michael said that he was going to college. He must go to help with the preparations for the fashion show the following week. That was typical of him.
More tests and x-rays followed and then back to the Queen Elizabeth to be told the cancer was in his lung. Chemotherapy had to start straight away. Treatment this time was an overnight stay as long as his bloods were good. They were often not good and so he had to have an extra night receiving a blood transfusion.
In August an infection developed in his big toe. He had fallen over while out with Mr Rigsby and thought he must have hurt himself more than he realised. Wrong! An emergency admission to hospital told us the cancer had travelled to his big toe. Back to the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital for an amputation of that toe and the third toe. The following day Dr Peake came to see him and told him that a cure was impossible but they could try to control it. Dr Peake left the room. Michael and I both broke down and cried. The he said, 'Mum, I'm going to beat this!'
Chemotherapy continued at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital until December, when it was discussed that Michael might take a break from treatment in the New Year.
Michael did all his own Christmas shopping and bought very personal presents. He was determined to enjoy Christmas no matter what. Michael had always decorated the tree since he was very young and even this time he told me exactly where to put every single item. That was a very special time for me because we were the only ones in the house. We talked, we laughed and we cried. Michael had found great support from the members of his church and he was determined to attend Midnight Mass. He went in his wheelchair and to all enquiries about his health, his reply was, 'I'm fine, thanks.'
On the 27th December, Michael returned to hospital and for the first time admitted that he didn't 'feel too good' and had to accept help to get ready.
His blood results were low and he was put on a drip of potassium. He slept a lot and this became a concern to the medical staff and us. We were told he would probably need a brain scan. They would monitor him over the weekend. Sunday came, New Year's Eve and and he was no better so an emergency brain scan was requested.
Later that afternoon I was taken into an interview room and told that Michael had a brain tumour and probably had not long to live. (His dad was at the church, preparing for the New Year's Eve party. Michael had insisted that he should do this!)
Michael's struggle to live became increasingly more difficult. People came into his room, he would open his eyes and, sometimes, respond to their questions. A doctor came in and suggested a course of radiotherapy and he replied, 'I'll give it a try'. He was made comfortable from his pain and the palliative care was excellent. On Thursday he fell into a troubled deep sleep from which he never woke.