Michael “Mikey” Jeffrey Friedman
When Mikey was born I used to tell how lucky he was because he had so many people to love him. His older brothers, Brian and Peter, helped guide him through his first years of school, camp, friends, playing Little League, skiing, swimming, tennis, video games and more. But two days after his 15th birthday, Mikey would be leading us on an entirely new adventure, pediatric cancer.
As most families, we never gave much thought to childhood cancer until we were thrust into the ugly beast. Michael was diagnosed with DSRCT, a rare and aggressive soft tissue sarcoma. After two debulking surgeries, numerous rounds of chemo, an analogous stem cell transplant, and 22 rounds of radiation, Mikey almost died of VOD, veno-occlusive disease of the liver, because of all the toxic treatments. Through the use of an experimental compassionate care drug from Italy, Mikey recovered and was in remission for nine months.
During his remission, Mikey was offered a Make-a-Wish. He chose a shopping spree, but not for himself. He went to a local electronics store, bought $5,000 worth of gifts and distributed them to other children in the hospital going through long-term cancer treatment. Mikey saw the need to help kids “in the moment” of treatment cope with anxiety, boredom, and fear. Thus, the Mikey’s Way Foundation was formed. He attended 17 Mikey’s Way Days and gave kids, and their families, some comfort during incredibly scary times.
After Mikey relapsed, his cancer was controlled by several levels of clinical trials and a third surgery. He was able to graduate high school as valedictorian, learn to drive, fall in love, travel, and complete his freshman year at Harvard. Mikey was exceptionally bright, insatiably curious, loving, compassionate, and brave, and he carried his family through his illness with grace and humor.
It was a year after Mikey died that we, as his family, found the strength to carry on his legacy. Now with advancement of technology, everything on the Mikey’s Way Connection Cart is WIFI ready and helps kids in long term treatment connected to their family and friends. We sometimes feel that Mikey left the Foundation for us to carry on, to give us a purpose in life.
If you or a loved one has been impacted by sarcoma cancer, we encourage you to share your story. Sharing your story can be such an inspiration to others who are dealing with sarcoma in their own life and remind us all of the urgency to find better treatments in order to make an impact on the devastation that sarcoma cancer brings. Let your experiences help others become involved with raising awareness!