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Still Alive and Kicking…

1600parnassusThis last month has been a time of transitions. Some good, some not so good. Let’s start with the good, as I will ALWAYS be the optimist.

The week after Valentine’s Day was Winter Break/Presidents Week/Teachers Need a Week off at The Bush School. So we decided to take full advantage and headed down to San Diego for 3 nights. We had a great time. We bunkered down in the northern part of San Diego in Carlsbad. From 1994-1999, I actually lived in San Diego, in fact, I lived close to Carlsbad, and I was really excited to show the girls my old stomping grounds. We were only going to be there 3 days so we packed as much as we could into our time there.

The first day we went to the Wild Animal Park; Chartie had a great time getting to see all of the animals in their natural environments. That night we went to dinner with some of my favorite people in the whole wide world, Brenda and Virgil Thompson. In many respects, Virg and Bren are like my second parents. They are the parents of two of my best friends, Grant and Barry. Growing up, I almost spent more time at the Thompson house than my own. It had been at least 10 years since I’d seen them, and they had never met Jennie or Charlotte. We had a wonderful time catching up. As we were driving home that night, I realized how much I had missed them. It made me think about long-term relationships and how tentative they are. It was truly absurd that it had been 10 years since I had seen the Thompsons, and something like that will never happen again. Note to file.

Mike and Char on lapThe next day was Legoland. Charlotte had been holding her breath for this day to come. We had pre-scouted every step that we would take on the park map, and we were pretty much the first arrivals when the park opened its doors. Charlotte and Jen had a great time taking in all the rides and delights. Charlotte was the perfect age for the place, it’s really not for kids much past about 8, but 5-8 is the sweet spot, and she was right in it. Unfortunately, something was not right with me. A couple of days earlier, my ear had started to hurt and at Legoland it really started to kick into a bad gear. I left Legoland early and went back to the hotel to rest. I was able to keep it together for a wonderful visit from my high school basketball coach, Dave Blasquez and his wife Rae – again, a wonderful walk down memory lane. Coach B has recently retired and was living in southern Orange County (close to many golf courses). It was really great to see him and Rae after so many years. We promised to stay in better touch (actions will be louder than words) as we said our goodbyes.

We were up at the crack of dawn to catch our flight and my ear was killing me. It was Saturday morning and later that day it was my friend Kate’s memorial service in Santa Rosa. We had decided to attend the service so we met Nana and Papa at SFO, handed off Charlotte and headed up to Sonoma County for the night. Kate’s memorial service was a celebration of her amazing life. It was perfect, just like my dear friend. I miss her every day.

IMG_0909We got back from California and my ear had reached the point where I could no longer take the pain. I actually told Jen that the pain was worse than 4 thoracotomies combined, and that’s when we decided we better go see the doctor. Another good life lesson – don’t be a hero. If you have pain or are worried about something medically, go see the doctor; so on Friday, March 1st, we did. Just for context, I was scheduled to leave on Monday the 4th for 4 days of Cyberknife treatment to destroy butthead and his little tumor buddies, so I didn’t want anything to really disrupt this plan. However, within 5 minutes of my arrival at the Ear Nose and Throat Clinic, our plan had changed. From best they could tell I had a nasty ear infection that was causing the pain. Things were made markedly worse by the fact that my ear had been radiated 7 years prior and the bone was completely exposed, so our options for reducing the pain were extremely limited. But it was quickly explained to us that the bigger concern was the rapidly spreading infection that could be threatening my life by spreading to my brain. I was hastily wheeled away to the CT scanner (I think I’ve seen enough of these damn machines for any one’s lifetime) and a CT was performed on my eardrum to see if the infection had spread. Fortunately it had not and I was turned over to the head of infectious diseases to get his two-cents worth. Everyone agreed that we should get me on as powerful an antibiotic as we could find, so that’s what we did.

I was adamant that I didn’t want to jeopardize my Cyberknife treatments in San Francisco, so we had to make arrangements to continue the antibiotic treatments in the Bay Area. This is where we put ourselves in the angelic-like hands of Dr. Dormady and his amazing team. With a few phone calls, Dr. D’s team was able to fit me in for four straight days of IV antibiotic infusions in their infusion center. The ear pain had mitigated slightly when I boarded the plane on Monday afternoon, and 2 hours later William was pulling up his bazooka Joe of a car and whisking me away to my parents’ house. The week was relatively benign. Steve and William shuffled to my appointments for Cyberknife and the antibiotic. The car rides provided us some good quality time to catch up on each other’s lives. Maintaining friendships don’t require much work, but good friendships are one of the most important things anyone could ever have. And in required tradition, William and I topped the week off with lunch at Zuni Cafe.

IMG_0521I boarded my flight Saturday morning the 9th and headed home, but halfway through I knew something wasn’t right. I was having trouble breathing, and was getting a little scared. Through all of my trials and tribulations, shortness of breath had never happened to me on an airplane before, but I knew the air crew would have a solution so I called the flight attendant. I wasn’t gasping for air, just experiencing some shortness of breath and I was extremely calm. The flight attendants were amazing and within two minutes I was all set up on oxygen and back in the saddle for the rest of the flight. They arranged for a wheelchair whenever I needed it, and helped me determine if I needed a paramedic when we got to the gate. Fortunately I didn’t, my oxygen levels had stabilized, and I was ready to get in the car and get home. Somehow, someway, I knew my limit, and I knew that I wasn’t putting myself in jeopardy.

The rest of the weekend was uneventful – I didn’t feel very good, but I just chalked it up to fatigue from my buddy the Cyberknife. I was feeling some of the symptoms that I had experienced with my pleural effusion (fluid in the lungs) from about a year and half prior, so I made an appointment with Dr. Gordon to take a peek in my lungs to see if there was any fluid. Good news, no fluid, but still a noticeable increase in a shortness of breath.

On Wednesday, the “sh…te” hit the fan. The combination of CK radiation, the ear infection, and a possible local virus all converged at once on an immune system compromised man with stage 4 cancer…and guess who won? It wasn’t me :( After a dreadful morning, by midday I was in an ambulance on my way to Swedish hospital in downtown Seattle. As soon as I was admitted they started to run through the possible culprits and started to rule them out, a heart attack was a big checked box, and then they moved onto a pulmonary embolism which is essentially a stray blood clot that could lead to blockage of the main artery of the lung. After a series of tests within an hour, we were able to check that box, a big sigh of relief.

It is now 4 days later and I am wrapping up a beautiful day. Call it rather “sleepless” in Seattle, to say the least. They are still trying to figure out exactly what happened. I kind of dodged a bullet, but I’m still alive and kicking. I still have my girls, I can see them smile and I get to hear them laugh for another day. My writing project continues, and is getting very exciting. And this amazing thing called life rambles on!! I will update very soon when the new blog is ready…for a sneak preview check it out: www.possiblewithhope.com

Love, Mike, Jen and Charlotte

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2 Responses to “ “Still Alive and Kicking…”

  1. Chris Mihm says:

    Mike,

    Great entry. You have kept such a positive outlook over the years that it is easy to forget all the day-to-day struggles you are dealing with. This post gives us insight to all the highs and lows that you are dealing with in your amazing life.

    The new site/facebook page etc looks awesome. I cannot believe how many changes you implemented in such a short time. Cannot wait for your book!

    AKA Carlton

  2. Mike Dougherty says:

    Ok, Carlton, is this an official name change again? :) I really appreciate all of your positive feedback and support. Your earlier feedback was very helpful in creating this whole thing, so thank you. We’ve been talking about a DC trip, so batten down the hatches, here come the Griswolds!! Hugs to Wendy and the kiddos.

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