“It’s strange to say, but I had a fantastic experience. Everyone at Goshen was so congenial, friendly and positive.” – Mike
A fortunate journey
Mike Drexler from La Porte, Indiana knows most people aren’t euphoric about their cancer treatment. It’s the only way he can describe his experience.
Mike’s journey started while he and his wife, Paula, were watching “Wheel of Fortune” on TV. His gastroenterologist called with good and bad news about results from a recent endoscopy. Mike had a malignancy on his esophagus, which probably caused his trouble with swallowing. Fortunately, the biopsy report showed the disease was in an early stage and treatable.
The news – good and bad – took some time to sink in for both Mike and Paula.
Inspired by another direction
Mike knew his doctor wanted him to drive to Chicago for treatment, a thought that filled Mike with dread. When a friend from church told Paula about Goshen Center for Cancer Care, the couple had the inspiration they needed to begin their journey.
They called Goshen for a second opinion about Mike’s diagnosis and treatment options. The following week, Mike and Paula traveled to Goshen where they first met Ebenezer Kio, MD, medical oncologist at the Cancer Center.
“I felt great about everything Dr. Kio talked about,” Mike said. Dr. Kio put together an oncology team and mapped out a sequence of treatments that best fit the characteristics of Mike’s cancer.
Two weeks later, Mike started chemotherapy at the Cancer Center.
Navigating the road to health
“I can’t explain why, but I would feel euphoric many times,” Mike said. “It’s 60 miles from door to door, and we didn’t mind the trip at all.”
Mike’s euphoria was contagious. Even Paula felt better about his disease. They would sing hymns in the car as they traveled back and forth for treatments. The car rides gave them a chance to talk about their three children and eight grandchildren. And they looked forward to upcoming house projects and trips in the spring.
They also marveled at their good fortune with the weather. Only one snow day interfered with Mike’s treatment regimen – remarkable given northern Indiana’s average snowfall predictions.
When Mike had back-to-back appointments scheduled, he and Paula took advantage of the overnight accommodations at the Marian Hoogenboom CARE House close to the Cancer Center. The “home away from home” was another blessing along Mike’s journey and gave the couple welcome relief from the round-trip travel.
Defying the averages
A sense of peace and good fortune continued to surround Mike. The prescription for nausea that the doctors prescribed remained untouched, except for one pill Mike took after he began chemotherapy. Even though everyone warned him about side effects from radiation, he never experienced pain and discomfort.
Mike doesn’t remember much about his surgery – the last hurdle in his treatment plan. He does know that the oncology team told him to expect a 10-day hospital stay. Paula took him home after only six.
A feeding tube 12 hours a day helped Mike keep up his nutritional intake while he recovered. By the sixth day, he convinced his oncology dietitian and doctors that he felt strong enough to stop feeding through the pump. Within five weeks, he was eating regular meals – and feeling better every day.
“Quality of life for our patients is one of the most important goals,” explained Dr. Kio. “We want to support patients in all aspects of their lives, not just the treatment of cancer.”
Mike’s biggest side effect from the aggressive treatments was weight loss. After years of obesity, he considers it more of a gain for his overall health.
“It’s the best I’ve felt in years,” he said.
Lives touched with purpose
When Mike talks about his cancer journey, he starts mentioning all the people who have touched his life along the way. It’s a long list, beginning with the oncologists at the Cancer Center. And the naturopathic medicine experts. Plus the nurses at the hospital. And the ones in the infusion center. And the technicians in Radiology. Of course, the list includes Paula and his family as well as the prayer warriors at his church. He even mentions other patients who Mike and Paula met during his treatment at Goshen. Each one has made a difference in Mike’s attitude.
“I wasn’t going to let cancer get me down,” he said.
Mike continues to be filled with a spirit of peace about his cancer journey. With a one-year post-surgery anniversary approaching in February, he has turned his prayers and support to others still fighting the disease. He hopes they will have an experience like his – filled with optimism, compassion and healing.
“It was a fantastic experience,” he says. “That’s the only way I can say it.”