(Mike’s story is shared by his mom.) My name is Susan. I am a mom of two beautiful sons, Michael and Chris. I’m a wife and my husband is a medical researcher. I’m a registered nurse. I’m an artist. I have a wonderful daughter-in-law Michele and four amazing grandchildren.
Mike called me on a Sunday morning complaining about chest pain. He thought it was likely a pulled muscle from playing sports and horsing around with his children. He was specific about the location of the pain (right-upper chest) and said physical activity did not make it worse. He had no cough. He had no fever. He had no other symptoms. I advised him to see his doctor ASAP, and what followed seems unreal.
In the fall of 2015, my oldest son Mike Burke was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at the age of 37. This is the hardest news for any parent. How could this be? He was healthy, active, and a never-smoker. We scrambled to find information about lung cancer, and to this day we spend hours everyday researching lung cancer. While Mike awaited his molecular test results, he started an organic diet and eliminated sugar. His house became a haven, free of chemicals. Mike’s doctor informed him that he was “fortunate” that they had found a mutation. Specifically, Mike’s tumor had the EGFR mutation, exon 19. He loves family time with his precious 4 children and coaching soccer. His wife spends much of her time in the kitchen cooking organic healthy meals, and they continually reassess their lives.
Aside from the initial pain he felt in his chest (no cough), he might have ignored this symptom as a muscle pull. Thankfully, he was diagnosed when he was; however, at this point, the cancer had spread from his lung to his lymph and hip. Now, life will never be the same. But with hope, research, and the belief in miracles life may prove to be better. Sharing Michael’s story is important. There is much to tell.
Update to Mike’s story (2017):
Since Michael’s diagnosis in 2015, much has happened. The ups and downs of lung cancer are at times rather harsh. No one person can easily manage this disease alone – advocacy is key. A positive attitude and loving family help greatly.
Mike has since gone through targeted therapy treatment and chemotherapy. He is hoping to enter an interesting clinical trial soon. This brings more hope.
But it must be said that lung cancer is always there. You are always looking over your shoulder for what may come next. Where will it spread? What will I do? The most important trait of a lung cancer survivor is flexibility.
Mike has had three hospitalization, but he has never lost hope. He continues to work (a flexible schedule) and coaches soccer and basketball.
Cancer requires full-time attention every single day. Some days, his energy may be zapped. However, he is the most driven person I have ever known, and he never stops working at being as well as he can be.
We hope his drive and persistence pays off and that medical science stays a step ahead of Mike. We want him here for a very long time.