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Inspiration: Mike Cyrus

 

This photographer has no stomach. But he’s got guts. Here he shares his cancer journey and the incredible power of community support.

My name is Mike Cyrus. I know only one speed, and that is go go go—pedal to the floor. Never stop working. As a professional photographer, if I’m not shooting weddings, senior photos, family photos, or headshots, then it is professional sports college, NFL, even the MLB. They say do what you love, and I am living the dream every day.

I was living go go go until one day while celebrating at a local restaurant with my business partner, Chris Marshall, I began to regurgitate for no reason. This happened a few more times in the next coming days.

I reached out to a good friend, Dr. Brian Smith. He felt I might have an issue in my stomach, thinking maybe an issue with my gallbladder. He sent me to see a gastrula specialist named Dr. Woolfolk on August 18th, the day that changed my whole life.

I was just getting home when the call came in. My daughter was with me, and I had the doctor on speaker, thinking he was going to tell me I had a gallbladder problem or an ulcer. He explained to me that in fact, I had stomach cancer; it was in the lining along with a mass on my stomach.

I felt myself almost having an out-of-body experience, thinking this was a mistake or he called the wrong person. I looked at my daughter and saw the shock on her face. I thought to myself, “I have to be strong, I have to beat this; I have three daughters and a wife. I will not let this be how they remember me. They will see me grow old, I will see my grandchildren, and this will not be the end, but just a challenge—a test!”

As I hung up the phone with Dr. Woolfolk, I said, “This is not a problem. I WILL BEAT THIS WITH GOD’S HELP.” Filled with a sense of peace and strength, knowing that I will fight this with everything I have...

But I knew that first, I had to tell my wife. She is a sweet lady that holds her heart on her sleeve. I knew telling her, I would have to be soft and strong for her. I just told her point-blank, didn’t pull any punches: “Baby, I have stomach cancer.” She thought I was mistaken or playing a silly game. My serious look told the real story. I was not kidding or playing. She quickly said, “We will beat this.”

Fast forward a couple months. I’m now at one of the best cancer teams in the world: The Markey Cancer Center here in Lexington, Ky has become the gold standard in cancer care. My doctor, Dr. Pendalai, has become a strong friend in my world.

“There is no saving your stomach; it will have to be fully removed.” I was thinking something like gastric bypass. No. This is literally a total removal. Total removal means there is nothing from my esophagus to my small intestine. I’ll never eat a normal meal again. No more sugar, steak, hamburgers, pizza, or tacos. I am relegated to small handful meals every 2 hours from now on.

After two months of very strong chemotherapy, the time to have my stomach removed was coming. I spent time enjoying my last days of eating normally while starting the process of training my body for the new life that was coming.

December 15th was the day of my stomach removal. People asked if I was scared or nervous. Of course, but the one thing I didn’t feel was alone. With all the prayers coming in over the months from family, friends, all the support from the updates on Facebook, I knew I was in great hands. I would not only survive the surgery, but champion it.

The day after surgery, I was in pain like nothing I’ve ever felt before in my life. I spent so much time looking at the ceiling, just begging for the pain to be over. My wife could see the agonizing pain I was in, and she began making posts on my status. Two thousand people sending me love motivated me to push even harder to get better. I was in extreme pain, but my smile was much bigger than the pain. The next day, I was up on my feet and walking up and down the hallway.

Like I said I only know one speed... go go go.

I have a company that my business partner and I have put too much time and effort into building. I have family and friends that count on me. And, most importantly, I want my daughters to see that anything can be overcome. I had so many prayers going up, cancer was not even a thought in my head anymore. All I could think about for the first time since the journey started was, “what does the future hold, because we aren’t on hold anymore.”

Looking toward the future has given me more hope than you can imagine. Because of my cancer, I now take time out to appreciate the little things we take for granted every day. Things like holding my wife’s hand and looking into my kids’ eyes each day is my whole world. I thank God now for every minute I get to spend with them.

The road to recovery will be long but with God’s help and the close friends that push and support me every day, I know this will be a walk in the park. I thank everyone that has taken the time to send even just the simplest message, email, text, or comment. I may have gotten medicine and surgery to fix me, but it was this support that made it possible for me to smile each day and say, “I will beat this.” •