My Friend “The Cancer Fighter”

My friend, Mike Hauenstein, is currently fighting a war against an intruder in his body … cancer.  Over a year and a half ago, he was diagnosed with mesenchymal chondrosarcoma (a fast-growing cancer of the cartilage) at Stage 4.  He had most of his right quad muscle removed due to a tumor the size of two grapefruits.  All this occurred when he was only 25 years old.

At 26, Mike is still fighting the battle with ongoing chemotheropy and also undergoing radiation.  The cancer had spread to his lungs and under his collarbones.  The lastest news was that the cancer in his lungs has not grown, but the cancer under his collarbone had and would require radiation.

I’m writing this because of questions that I get when I let people know about Mike and his journal.  People are curious about what it is like, how I interact with Mike, and what Mike is really like.  His journal is a really good place to get an idea of what he is going through.  I know that some people are scared to start talking and seeing Mike.  I know this because at one time I was also.  Maybe he wants his privacy to spend with his close family, how do you talk about what’s going on with him, is there things that shouldn’t be brought up, and what about …?

About 3 months ago I graduated from college, and what I really wanted to do was spend some time with some friends I haven’t been able to see in a long time.  Around that time, Mike had started an online blog.  For the life of me I could not remember the URL or his email address.  I decided that I would register a domain for him,, and host it on my server with the rest of my personal domains.  He had already started his blog, but I thought that he could link to it from the easier to remember domain name.  I had also added a nice photo program which would make it easy for him and Ann to add photos for their friends to see.  I really hoped that it would cheer him up.  I never imagined it would cheer him up and inspire him as much as it did.  I managed to get a hold of him and showed up at his parents (where he was living at the time) to share with him the surprise. 

After spending part of that day with him, everything I was worried about went away.  It was great to see him and start spending time with him again.  We talked about everything that was going on, good and bad.  It was the same old Mike, just a bit more open about bodily functions emoticon than usual.  Since then it’s been really great spending time with my old friend.  One thing is that at times you have to be a bit more patient than usual, but nothing major.  As I said earlier, he is pretty open about everything that is going on with him and you  can ask him anything you want.  He’s even invited me to join him downtown while he was getting chemo, but I have not been able to make it yet, but would like to when his appointment is early enough.

Medication and chemotheropy play nasty tricks on his mind, causing what he calls "Chemo Brain".  The closer it is to when he has chemotheropy, the worse it is.  "Chemo Brain" is basically this:  He is not able to remember things that well, gets confused very easy, can only focus on things for a certain amount of time, and at times can change moods very rapidly.  Seeing that I have ADD, it’s pretty much at my level (thought you’d like that Mike emoticon).  Just requires reminding him sometimes what the conversation was about, but it’s nothing major.  You can tell it bothers him having the "Chemo Brain" but it has yet to bother me at all.

 There is a bit of a routine with spending time and talking with Mike.  It basically revolves around his chemotheropy.  As I’ve only been spending time with him the last three months, this is just my impression of it. 

Mike usually gets chemo on Fridays around 8:00 am to 9:00 am.  After chemo, he usually gets a steriod injection of some kind that will keep him up until 5am – 9am the next morning.  I’m usually at work until 6 or 7 then I spend some time with the family.  Something that I try really hard to do every Friday night is spend time with Mike on xbox live (thanks again Mike for the free account).  Two more of his very close friends, B and Phil, also try to be online with him also.   We usually play Halo 2 together as a party of 4 against another team.  We all have head sets and a lot of the time between games we spend talking about everything going on.  One major note, just cause he had chemo, don’t play easy against him.  He’s pretty good and usually beats me in scores every time.  We try to stay up playing with Mike as long as possible.   Some times B, Phil, and I get too tired and end up going to bed.  Unfortunatly, Mike never goes to bed when we do.  Other times all the medicine going through him starts messing with his mind and he can’t focus on the screen anymore and usually gets emotion.  At these times it’s good to be around him and really show him the support that he has from his friends.

On Saturday and Sunday I usually try not to call and usually text message his phone to talk to him.  From my experience he is trying to sleep or his throat is hurting him from chemo so I try just talk through text messaging to let him rest his throat.  Sometimes he’s feeling better and he gives me a call and we talk on the phone a bit.  We usually don’t play games online because he has "Chemo Brain" which makes playing the games nearly impossible for him.

Mondays and Tuesday I might text message him or try calling him.  Recently I’ve been talking with Ann when I call because Mike is not feeling so hot still.  When I do talk to him, his "Chemo Brain" is mediocre, but is still present.  He’s usually just getting over the worst part of the chemo effects at this point but not a lot better.

Wensdays and Thursdays are the best days.  He’s usually feeling a lot better and has a lot more energy to spend.  Sometimes we will play online with friends or he will work on his RC plane or his website.  You will also notice on his journal that his typing skills are getting better and more words are spelled correctly.  This is because the "Chemo Brain" is at the lowest point.  Then on Friday the routine starts all over for him.

I hope this answers a few questions about spending time with Mike.  I hope that this would help people that are afraid to call Mike or visit him.  He loves the support that all his friends and family give him.  You will never know how much it really cheers him up hearing from a friend and spending time with his friends.  He’s the same old Mike, just a bit ditzier at times  emoticon.  If you have an xbox live account, look for Phil, B, Mike, and me.  Mike’s gamer tag is L1VESTRONG and mine is LargestTripod.

 I would also like to include this one quote from Mike when we were talking one night after he read this article I wrote:

"I loved it, I wish my other friends would be that open, not including Phil, and B. I have just lost so many friends, because they are scared of me. I am the same old Mike, just a little bit more of a biohazard lol"

  1. I just want Mike to know that just because some friends are scared of talking to him, that they are still his friends and supporting him. If more of your scared friends read this article James wrote, it might make them feel less scared to call you.

  2. Mike is blessed to have you for a friend:) I’m sure you feel you are blessed too, having Mike for a friend.Everyone needs a friend to walk life’s journey with.
    Mike’s website was quite a gift, not only for Mike but for all of us who would have never known of Mike and the inspiration that he is:)
    God bless you and your friend. Im praying!

  3. Debbie (Mike's mom)

    James – what an awesome, awesome understanding you have! This is exactly what Mike is going through. Thank you for being there. The longer an illness lasts, the more people tend to go on with their lives and not stay in touch as much. Mike needs to talk with his friends – even if it is through email. He needs to know they haven’t forgotten him. thank you for being there for him!

  4. James you are such a GREAT person! Mike is lucky to have a friend like you who ISN’T scared to talk to him and openly show your support! That’s what real friends do and you and your heart show it! Thanks so much for being there it really does mean ALOT!!!! Tell Kristin I said hey! Talk to you later, Ann

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