Mikey’s Wisdom – the voice of a pediatric cancer patient Blog Entries

  1. Coping With Cancer Emotionally

    Coping With a Cancer Diagnosis

    Coping with emotions when you or a loved one has cancer can be difficult. Every person’s situation and needs are different which makes the emotional challenges and the cancer journey an individual one. However, identifying and addressing feelings and emotions can help lower stress which in turn can foster improved mental and physical health.

    Recognize your Emotions

    According to the American Cancer Society, an important part of coping with a cancer diagnosis is recognizing emotions and feelings. Mikey knew this all too well which is documented in his very first journal entry chronicling his personal cancer journey.  In this entry Mikey describes how he dealt with his emotions:

    I’m frequently asked, “How do you feel?”, and my first impulse is to reply, “Fine I guess for cancer.” However, I don’t think people can see the humor in such a serious situation.  But, my approach has been to laugh. People say laughter is the best medicine. I disagree. Sure, laughter feels good and can brighten one’s mood, but I think I’ll stick with chemo for healing purposes. The way I look at it is a good attitude will make getting through such a difficult time much easier. The first reaction that most do have when dealt such a hard hand is to question. Why me? What did I say or do to deserve this? Who did I insult? Was it God? Has God willed this? I take back everything I ever did, just tell me why. I think I skipped that phase. I didn’t ask why for three very good reasons. First, it doesn’t matter why; it has happened and must be solved. Second, if I could answer the question why I got cancer, I wouldn’t be writing, I’d have someone writing for me as I sit on my own tropical island surrounded by gorgeous women. Third, and most sufficient, is the fact that it is a stupid question.  Why? Things happen that we can’t explain. Cards are dealt and you have to play the hand. Sounds like it’s tough luck but consider the alternative, folding in this game is not a smart move. I don’t like to dwell on the past. It is something I can’t change.  But the future is up for grabs. It’s anyone’s game, and a poker face won’t help.  read more →

  2. You Just Have To Be Uplifting

    In the Depths of Human Circumstances

    Michael wrote this piece when he was initially refused entry into the National Honor Society. He was told his grades were certainly good enough, but he lacked the necessary community service needed to be accepted. In true Mikey fashion he fought for what he believed in.

    Is the value of community service measured in time or in effect? Is leadership the governing of people during an event or helping those in need, inspiring them to follow your lead? Through my experiences, I have concluded that for both questions, the answer is the latter. I may be unable to fill out the sheets of community service and of leadership positions I’ve held in high school. But I am at no loss of inspiring others to follow my lead and providing an invaluable service to the community.

    Facing the Edge of Death and Back

    In the middle of my freshmen year of high school, I was diagnosed with an extremely rare and radically aggressive soft tissue sarcoma. A cancer known as Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumor, or DSRCT. A cancer whose prognosis is termed “grim” by experts in the field. In fact, the number of documented long-term survivors can be counted on one hand. I began my chemotherapy regimen. An aggressive cancer requires equally as aggressive treatment. The chemotherapy medicines I received are some of the strongest toxins known to man. After three rounds of high dose cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and vincristine, and one round of iphosphamide and etoposide, I was ready for a second surgery. A two-foot scar down the center of my stomach marks the entry of probably the most invasive surgery possible. After seven hours of debulking, two more iphosphamide and etoposide rounds, I was ready for what doctors and nurses have termed “the edge of death and back.” The high dose chemotherapy treatments I received before were about one-twentieth the strength of those I would soon receive. Eight days. Eight days of radical toxins that could kill a human coursed through my veins. Only by implanting stem cells that were extracted from my bone marrow months earlier was survival possible. For the sake of sparing inhumane details, I’ll only say I was released twenty years later. Or was it one month? I cannot tell.

    After the stem cell treatment was radiation. Not just normal radiation, but radiation that was spread over a notably wide field, for the diffuse nature of these particular cancer cells makes them impossible to pinpoint. The microscopic disease could be anywhere in the abdominal region. I did not know the worst was yet to come. A couple days before the holidays in December, disaster struck once more. I was diagnosed with V.O.D, Veno Occlusive Disease. Agonizing. Incurable. Highly fatal. The veins carrying oxygen-rich blood to my liver became occluded, choking my liver and damaging it severely. Since there is no cure, survival is left to luck. Either the condition slowly fades away, or it worsens, choking off kidneys, lungs, heart, and brain. A doctor said to my dad, “Despite everything he’s been through, he has never been as sick as he is now.” You never appreciate the functions your liver provides for you until it stops working. Most notable is the fluid buildup in the abdomen that requires draining by a needle over one foot long, long enough to penetrate through every layer of tissue into the peritoneal cavity. Over a month later I was released, but not without a tube in my stomach to continue to drain the fluid.

    Cancer is the Answer

    My approach to the entire situation has been humor. Believe it or not, I found light in the darkest depths of human circumstance. I was constantly uplifting. I had to be. I had to be me. While other patients lay sick in their beds, I chased family members around with the I.V. pole. I have seen the power of cancer. I saw my step-mom and my mom hug. That is power. And soon a sadly ironic, jokingly unfunny catch phrase emerged: “Cancer is the answer.”

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  3. The Voice of a Pediatric Cancer Patient – Mikey’s Wisdom

    Words of Wisdom For Patients and People Who Love Them

    by Les Friedman, Mikey’s Dad

    Mikey penned the bulk of his writing when he was 16 and 17. Two days after his 15th birthday, Mikey was diagnosed with cancer and began treatment shortly thereafter, so by the time he started writing, he was very well acquainted with the cancer treatment process.

    Mikey was a fast learner.  He understood cancer, he understood life.  Although the youngest in the family, Mikey quickly became an old soul in a young body.  He had tremendous insight and wisdom.  He had an amazing ability to put into words what so many of us take for granted, don’t appreciate or just plain don’t see.  One couldn’t help but be touched by his unparalleled giving nature, his unique sense of humor or his uncanny understanding of life, particularly in the last two or three years of his life.

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  4. Planting a Seed of Hope for Pediatric Cancer Patients

    “Every choice we make is a seed”

    Mikey’s words (at 16 years of age), his spirit and his attitude inspire us every day as we carry out the work that he began during his brief lifetime.  In his own words, he eloquently and profoundly captured what would ultimately reflect his legacy:

    “The choices we make dictate the lives we lead” (author unknown).  We might wish and hope that the world will prosper and grow to be a better place, but if our choices fail to reflect this ambition, our intentions will be rendered irrelevant.  Every choice we make is a seed.  A consequence sprouts from each of these seeds.  Ultimately, the consequence stands as the only indicator that a choice was ever made.  As thunder trails lightening, consequence is the great betrayer of choice.  For this reason, our intentions can only manifest themselves through the consequences of the choices we make.  Mikey Friedman

    The ripple effect and the intensity of the “choice” Mikey made to help children facing the emotional and physical hardships of long-term debilitating treatment resonates through all those touched by the very person that he was.

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