MICHAEL “MIKE” SUMPTER
On October 30th, 2017 my wonderful husband, Mike, was diagnosed with melanoma cancer by his ENT (ears, nose and throat) doctor in Stillwater, OK, where we live. Three days later he had his first appointment with a head, neck and chest oncologist at Stephenson Cancer Center in Oklahoma City, OK. After a punch biopsy, a PET scan, a brain MRI, and many other tests, we found out on November 10th, 2017, that he had Malignant Melanoma Cancer (Stage 4). The cancer had spread to his lymph nodes on the right side of his neck and collar bone area where he had well over twenty tumors ranging in size and you could see and/or feel most of them, a few lesions on his lungs, liver and a small spot on his T-12 vertebrae. His head, neck and chest oncologist sent him to the Hematology Oncology Clinic at Stephenson Cancer Center to see an oncologist who specialized in Melanoma Cancer, and from there he was tested for the Braf inhibitor gene. There was a trial treatment program for immunotherapy for people who carry the Braf inhibitor gene. If he carried the gene, then he could be a part of the trial since he didn't have active brain cancer. He tested positive for the gene! We were excited because that meant he would be able to go on immunotherapy treatment which we had heard and read miraculous recovery for many people who had the Braf inhibitor gene who went on immunotherapy treatment. After undergoing multiple baseline testing’s on his heart, vitals, even his eyes, he began immunotherapy treatment on December 22, 2017. That was the very best Christmas present we could've received!!! The computer randomized him to take the pill form of the treatment instead of the IV infusion treatments. Which meant he would come see his Oncologist and cancer team (the best cancer team in the world in our books) every six weeks and get new trial meds and then have new CT scans on his neck, chest, abdomen and pelvis and new echocardiogram every 12 weeks. Mike had huge tumors on the right side of his neck that were very visible by the time he started treatment. It seemed like we were seeing or feeling new tumors every single day. They had become so painful that he couldn't even do his job as a sanitation driver, a job he loved because of all of his wonderful customers and being able to be outdoors, and so he had to take a leave of absence on November 16, 2017. When he was finally able to start treatment, we visibly saw the tumors start to shrink within three days into his treatment! Mike was excited because he thought that meant he would be returning back to work very soon. That didn't happen! The meds made him pretty weak most days and he had severe leg cramps often, and he had lost a lot of weight which he really couldn’t spare due to the fact he was already a very thin man before cancer, so his doctor and cancer team thought it would be in his best interest for him to stay on his leave of absence from work. Every twelve weeks we all were seeing the tumors and cancer leave his body and the CT scans were getting clearer and clearer. Then one day, very early in May of 2018, he began to have this burning, tingling sensation go up the left side of his arm from his wrist to his elbow and eventually to his shoulder area and other parts of his torso and would last anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 or 4 minutes. He would have a couple episodes a day to going several days without having any at all. We contacted his Oncology Nurse who told us she wanted us to start recording these episodes and bring it with him to his next appointment, which was about 4½ to 5 weeks away, but he was due for new CT scans at that appointment. With each episode, the sensations he was feeling became more widespread and painful. On June 6, 2018, it was time for new twelve week CT scans and an echocardiogram. They threw in a last minute head and brain CT scan, just to check! He saw his doctors’ Physician’s assistant (PA) the very next morning on June 7, 2018. Our youngest son (age 16) and I joined him at his appointment, like one or more of our kids and I normally did. I recall it was a very stormy, rainy, windy day. In spite of the awful weather, we were so happy because we just knew we were going in to be told that my husband and father to our three beautiful kids, was finally in remission! As the three of us set in the exam room, it wasn't long before the PA and oncology nurse came in to see my husband. But we knew by the look on their faces there was something very wrong. The PA began to tell us that the CT scan from the day before that was taken of my wonderful husband’s brain was positive for innumerable lesions. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach! I couldn't breathe! Our baby boy fell out of his chair onto the floor onto his knees and buried his head into his chair and began to cry and plead with God! “There was no way,” I kept thinking...”no way this day is real!” I kept trying to wake up because this was our worst nightmare, but I was very much awake! This was even worse than the initial diagnosis of cancer! My husband just set in silence for a moment and stared down at the floor. That's when the floor fell out of the sky it seemed like because it began to rain and storm, and the outside became as dark as night and the trees were swaying so hard they could break! All the Heavens were crying, I felt it, we all did. As it stormed outside, we were told my husband was no longer eligible for the trial meds and would have to be taken off the trial completely because they consider that a progression and you couldn't have active brain cancer while on this trial. The PA and nurse began to tell us that they weren't giving up on him, they were still going to fight for him! They were going to do what they could to get him qualified for IV infusions of the immunotherapy drugs and hopefully he could start treatment within 2 to 3 weeks. We went home to break the news to our other two kids and the rest of our families, none of who took the news well at all, of course. We had three more days of pretty good communication with my husband before he slipped into a coma due to the swelling of his brain. Mike never got to start IV infusion immunotherapy treatment because there was already too much swelling on his brain. He was hospitalized in ICU for five days at OU Medical in Edmond. They tried giving him high doses of steroids and nutrition by IV to get the swelling down to where he would wake up and be himself again. He woke up off and on for a couple of days and would even smile at you with a lot of effort and squeeze your hand with his left hand at times, but he never spoke again. The swelling was so bad that he slipped right back into a deep coma even on the highest dosage of steroids they could give him. I had to sign DNR papers on the night of June 14th. That was the very hardest thing to that point I had to do. It took me several tries before I could actually sign my name. Our three kids stood around me as I did it. We had talked and chose not to put him on life support. I felt like I was giving up on him, like I was killing him myself. But if I hadn't signed those DNR papers, the medical staff could not have legally given him the meds he needed to control his pain and he evidently was having horrific headaches due to the swelling of his brain, and I didn't want him suffering in pain. So I signed the papers. The next night, June 15, 2018 around 7pm, he was transported back to Stillwater to our home. He was on the very best hospice care in the world, as far as I'm concerned. He spent 4½ days on comfort care at home. Early morning on June 20th, 2018, Heaven gained another beautiful angel when he passed away with all three of our kids and myself and many other loved ones all around him. Mike was 45 years and 20 days young. He was the most wonderful and involved father and the best husband a woman could ever dream of having! He was loved by so many and never met a stranger! There was standing room only in the chapel at the funeral home that spilled out into the lobby, and it was a big chapel! I knew there would be, because he was just that wonderful of a man! Mike loved the outdoors and worked most of his life outside, using sunscreen on occasions. Melanoma is not above anyone! So those of you who think, "That won't happen to me...," well, our family thought the same thing. It's very important to use sunscreen daily several times per day, even when it's cloudy outside. And it’s very important to stay out of tanning devices and please get regular skin checks, because our story could easily be your story! Mike left behind myself, his wife, three kids (1 daughter age 20; and 2 son’s ages 16 and 17), his parents and three siblings (a brother and two sisters) all younger than him, along with many, many other loved ones. We miss him more and more every single day!