Receiving the news of an advanced stage cancer diagnosis can be devastating. Patients may feel like their lives are coming to an end—that they will not be able accomplish many goals they had. In this series, patients with late stage cancer diagnoses will offer their stories of hope and inspiration, proving that life does go on.
In this installment, Michael Moore shares his story of love and marriage after a stage IV lung cancer diagnosis.
Life goes on: Stories of hope after late stage cancer diagnoses
Receiving the news of an advanced stage cancer diagnosis can be devastating. Patients may feel like their lives are coming to an end-that they will not be able accomplish many goals they had. In this series patients with late stage cancer diagnoses will offer their stories of hope and inspiration, proving that life can go on.
In this installment Michael Moore shares his story of love and marriage after a stage IV lung cancer diagnosis.
For Michael Moore, a stage IV lung cancer patient, and a former coach himself, Lombardi’s words ring true and Moore keeps getting up. Michael, a Georgia native, made Colorado his home in 1999 when his brother married his sister-in-law in Pueblo.
“I remember he told me that Pueblo was just like Atlanta,” says Michael. “I had no idea how different the two cities actually are.”
Luckily, Colorado grew on him and Michael learned to love the hiking, camping, hunting, and fishing that the state had to offer him. There is only one thing missing; home-style southern cooking.
“I do miss the food in Georgia,” he says. “We like our food a little dirtier down south.”
Soon after his move Michael, who has a master’s degree in special education, was hired as a physical education and special education teacher at a local high school. He also coached sports after classes.
Michael and Erin
In 2007 Michael’s life would change forever when he saw Erin across the way at a restaurant.
“We are both pretty tall individuals,” says Erin. “I am six foot and he is six ‘six, so it was pretty easy for us to spot each other.”
After Michael made the first move, the couple took their time getting to know each other and discovered they had very similar backgrounds.
During his workout sessions Michael started to notice that he had troubles catching his breath. He had always been in good shape and never smoked, so to always be out of breath was very odd. Eventually he went to the doctor for some scans.
“The tests showed that there was fluid on my lungs, but no one thought that it could be cancer,” says Michael.
As a precaution the fluid around his lungs were biopsied. On his fortieth birthday in 2012, Michael got the news that he had could have never predicted. He had stage IV lung cancer.
“Everyone was stunned,” he says. “Not just my family and I, but also the doctors who had been taking care of me. No one saw it coming.”
Shortly after his diagnosis it was recommended that Michael set up an appointment with Ross Camidge, MD, PhD, Joyce Zeff Chair in Lung Cancer Research at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. Together they decided that Michael should go on a clinical trial rather than start chemotherapy.
“Michael was on a trial of an experimental EGFR inhibitor that became one of the first cancer drugs to receive FDA breakthrough status,” says Camidge. “Although the side effects were problematic, the drug worked and the goal was to do whatever was needed to keep Michael’s cancer at bay.”
During his treatment Michael had unfavorable side effects including cataracts in his eyes and drug induced diabetes.
“Although the side effects were not much fun the trial gave me a year of life that I would not have had if I done nothing,” says Michael. “For me, it was worth it.”
Last December Michael had to start traditional chemotherapy due to progression of the disease. He has had thirteen treatments since then.
“He is now on standard chemotherapy as his next line of defense, giving his cancer some time to forget how it got resistant to the first set of drugs in the hope we can go back to them again in the future,” explains Camidge. “As a high school sports coach, Michael knows better than most that sometimes in order to win you have to play the long game.”
Popping the Question
After seven years of dating Erin, and two years after his cancer diagnosis, Michael popped the question in 2014.
“At the time I was working night shifts as a medical surgical nurse. I came down wearing my scrubs to a candle-lit dinner,” says Erin. “He got down on one knee and popped the question right then.”
“The ring was burning a hole in my pocket,” says Michael. “I had been meaning to do it for a while but between her busy schedule and my treatment plan, life had gotten hectic. I knew I just had to do it.”
The couple was married in Destin, Florida earlier this year.
“The wedding was small and intimate on the beach,” says Erin. “It was like a little dream.”
It’s about getting back up
It has been nearly four years since Michael’s initial diagnosis. He will be the first to tell you that it has not been easy, but he refuses to give up.
“When I first found out I honestly did feel like things were coming to an end,” says Michael. “But I am a man of faith and truly believe that God will not give me more than I can handle. You have to keep living and going for your goals, no matter how grim things may seem. You can never give up hope.”
Erin has also learned that life continues even after an advanced stage cancer diagnosis.
“You have to keep a positive outlook on life, no matter what,” she says. “Take it month by month, or even day by day, and celebrate when you get to six months out, then a year, and so on. Make each moment count.”
The couple is hopeful that as research advances a cure may be found.
“We know that research is changing everything,” they say. “The longer Michael is stable, like he is now, the more time there is for a cure to be discovered.”