Mike Thompson is a 25-year-old avid triathlete who recently completed his first Ironman, the Ironman Texas on 5-21-11. Mike is also a four-time survivor of blood cancer. Mike has dedicated his life to fighting blood cancers and competing in endurance sports because of his love of the sport, his dedication to the cause and simply to inspire others.
Mike first found out he had Acute Myeloid Leukemia when he was 10 years old; ALS is a rare cancer for children to get. Because of the cancer, Mike got a fungal nasal infection that almost took his life. However, he was able to kick the infection and cancer within a year. That same year, a post-treatment checkup found active cancer cells and a bone marrow transplant was called for by his doctors. Mike was able to find 32 perfect matches (some blood marrow patients never even find one match) and had a successful surgery, although the recovery process was very painful and a 107-degree temperature nearly killed him one night.
Yet again, he was able to recover and fight back.
However, Mike ended up with active cancer cells within a few months of the surgery and another bone marrow transplant was scheduled. Luckily, Mike had bone marrow still on reserve from his previous procedure and the next operation was a success and Mike recovered a little quicker this time. The news was bad though in November of 1999; a small mass was discovered on the lower right side of Mike’s jaw. Extensive biopsies showed that it was a tumor of osteosarcoma, a malignant bone cancer. It is believed that the radiation from the first bone marrow transplant caused this cancer.
After two more intense rounds of chemotherapy, in March of 2000, three of the world’s best surgeons in Houston successfully removed the tumor along with the lower portion of Mike’s mandible, and reconstructed it using the fibula from his left leg. The operation took 12.5 hours, over 40 staples and 30 stitches. After a week in ICU, a small infection, and a few complications with a feeding tube and breathing apparatus, the reconstruction was declared a success. It took 6 months for the swelling around Mike’s face to subside, and almost a year to walk without pain in his left leg.
Mike kept pushing though; he went back to school and graduated, began working and playing sports and living a normal life once again. Mike was able to meet his bone marrow donor, Steve Gerding and begin training for endurance sports with Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team In Training Program. Team In Training guides athletes to the finish line of marathons, triathlons, century cycle rides, and hikes while raising money for cancer research and patient care. Since Mike started training for endurance events, he has completed a marathon, two half Ironman races, an Ironman and numerous smaller triathlons.
“The friendships that have been forged through this team will last a lifetime and will keep bringing me back long after we have found a cure,” said Mike recently. “Through my IMTX training, I have also been able to raise money through the LLS for the Go Mitch Go Foundation. Go Mitch Go was founded by John and Tracy Whitaker, honoring their son, Mitchell, who lost his battle with Leukemia on September 27, 2007. You can learn more about Team Whitaker, and join us in the fight against blood cancers by going to http://www.gomitchgo.com.”
Mike says his mission now to continue to serve as an “honored teammate” with TNT and to keep training and fundraising. Mike wants to inspire not only participants to reach their goals and cross their own finish lines, but to show those that are currently fighting for their lives that they do, in fact, have a bright future ahead of them.
“My family and I were told a number of times that my life would be cut short, that I would not make it very far, but we fought through it. I wanted to live, wanted to grow old and start a family, wanted to change lives,” says Mike. “I want to use my story to inspire those around me to live life to the fullest. It truly is a gift, and even after all I’ve been through I still forget it from time to time.”
Mike-you inspire us daily with your amazing story! Keep on showing us that anything is possible and that all it takes to make it in life is a burning desire, drive and dedication to put one foot in front of the other and keep fighting the good fight. You are our hero and we thank you for that.
To read more about Mike and support his cause, visit his website at http://ironmikey.com.