Beating the Odds

Road to Wellness

Dec 29, 2004 at 2:06 pm

Mike Fraley, 57, is an artist, painting landscapes in acrylic and oil in Studio 610 at the Pendleton Art Center. About two years ago, he was having sinus problems and decided to have surgery to relieve his condition. He went for pretests and was found to be anemic. Within a week he had a blood transfusion; following a colonoscopy, colon cancer was diagnosed and surgery performed.

Mike says that he'd never been sick in his life; this was the first time he'd ever entered a hospital other than for the birth of his children. The cancer diagnosis happened so quickly he didn't really have time to dwell on it, so he had to "get prepared to do this." He had mentally prepared himself one other time in his life, when he was in Vietnam, and told himself then that he was "tough enough to deal with this."

So he accepted his diagnosis. Mike reasoned that he'd a good life, a long, happy marriage, children, grandchildren. He would just try to get well; no pity party here.

Fortunately, he was surrounded by positive support from family, friends, nurses and his wonderful doctor, who told him, "I'm going to keep you alive." When Mike began chemo sessions, he met a lady sitting next to him with two little children. She'd had cancer from the age of 16 and she told Mike's wife, Debbie, that "he can beat this."

There were about 20 people receiving chemo at the same time, and Mike said he never heard one of them complain. So if he felt ill from the chemo, he'd tell himself that he would feel better tomorrow. Even at his lowest point, when he was spending most of his time in bed and couldn't eat, he never let himself become overwhelmed.

If he could get up and walk, he would walk half a block. He'd sit up when he could, eat when he could. By mentally accepting this situation, the simple things became more important, like just feeling the sun on his face and appreciating his family.

Mike had retired in 1998 and began painting then. Since he couldn't do strenuous physical things now, this gave him something to do that he truly enjoyed and was able to do well. This occupied him and kept him positive.

Mike says of his experience, "Something good always comes from something bad. Just be positive. It's not easy, but just take one day at a time." He made wonderful friends. He had a lot of people praying for him, and he saw so much good in others.

"Every day is a good day," he says. "It really makes you appreciate your life."

Mike awakens early every day now to watch the beauty of the sunrise. He doesn't want to miss anything. By the way, Debbie introduced their son to one of Mike's nurses, and they're now engaged to be married in April.

CONTACT JANET BERG via her Web site,