A friend of mine passed away last month. I'd known Micheal about 10+ years now, but I'm not sure that I'd have called us close friends, but friends nonetheless. Micheal was a Mac professional from way back. He set up our first computers at the original design firm my brother and I worked for. He was always ready to help with his encyclopedic knowledge of the ins and outs of technology. Whether he was getting paid for it or not (and often he would argue against billing us because we were friends), he was never without a solution to a problem. He’d moved out to Texas years ago and we kept in contact sporadically. I found out back in June of last year that he had brain cancer and had had some surgery and chemo and it had gone into remission.
Then he called my brother and I on March 27 to tell us that his brain cancer had come back and the doctors gave him about a week. It was a strange conversation; evidently the tumor in his head was already affecting him because he went from laughing to crying to being perfectly normal in the space of seconds. His main concern was making sure that his 12-yr old autistic daughter would be taken care of as she was most likely going in to foster care. My brother and I made some inquiries here and there about legal trusts, but thankfully someone far more knowledgeable and capable stepped in and took care of it.
By April 4th, 8 days after he called me, he’d passed away. My brother is taking care of his online affairs [dismantling the websites he ran and such] and Micheal's wife wrote a heartfelt letter to circulate. In Honor of Micheal, I'm posting it:
"Ode to a Mac God
In late 2003, a mole that Michael had for some time on his left shoulder had turned ugly. Ugly enough that the doctors finally agreed that it didn’t look good. After waiting months the mole was removed and diagnosed as a stage 4 melanoma. In mid- April, 2004 a cut away surgery was done to remove what was believed to be the surrounding areas, root and lymph nodes.
The results were good. We were told no cancer cells were found in any of the tissue or nodes removed. No further treatment was necessary. The dermatologist monitored Michael closely for any signs of a melanoma showing up anywhere else. All was going well, and no signs of a melanoma showed up anywhere.
In May of 2007 Michael started having headaches and odd pains. We figured it was sinus problems since allergy season was in full swing for him. On May 31, 2007 Michael called me and told me he was feeling really bad, and was having some trouble remembering things. We figured it was just a bad sinus headache.
On June 1st I received a call from the Plano police department. Michael was at the bank and couldn’t remember who he was. He had gone in to report his cards lost, and to freeze his accounts. Thankfully an exceptional bank employee had enough information before the trouble started to be able to research bank records and names to get my contact information.
I went to the bank, which is across the street from my home. The paramedics were already there. They told me they believed he might have suffered a stroke, and thought he should go to the hospital. Michael didn’t want to go and they wouldn’t take him without his consent (the same people who thought he had a stroke said he was cognitive enough to make his own decisions). After convincing him to go, Sarah was dropped off at Grandma’s, and I went to take the insurance information to the hospital.
By the time I got to the hospital, they had already diagnosed a brain tumor. Surgery was scheduled for Monday. Once again everything looked good, and after radiation treatments Michael started a clinical trial for melanoma of the brain. Though the treatments left him tired and weak, he carried on the best he could spending the afternoons and weekends with Sarah and being an attentive dad.
In February, a PET scan showed no signs of any cancer and they started talking about doing gamma knife surgery to remove a small spot that had been on his lung. A CAT scan was done the end of February to determine placement of rods to be used for the surgery. On the scan they saw a few spots that looked odd on his brain and decided to do an MRI to check them out. Mid March the MRI was done.
Over the weekend Michael had said he wasn’t feeling well and his head and ear hurt. We thought, once again, “welcome to allergy season.” Monday, they called Michael and told him he needed to go back to the hospital. There he was told that the cancer was back and bigger than before. This time the prognosis wasn’t good even with surgery he might only get a few extra months. We were told he would have a few months.
After a lot of thought and it came down to he would rather have a few goods months than cut into his time with surgery that they couldn’t guarantee the out come of. There was a possibility since the tumor was bigger and deeper and had tripled in size in 3 weeks that he wouldn’t have any function afterwards, Michael opted not to have surgery and spend what he had left with his family. Things happened quickly from here.
Friday and Saturday all was good. Sunday Michael realized he was having trouble remembering things. Sunday night he was asking me to read e-mails to him.
Monday morning we went to the bank Michael was tired and weak and needed some help walking and balance was an issue. He wasn’t eating or drinking much. Monday night he needed a lot of help to get from bed to his chair and back again. He had stopped talking for the most part. Tuesday he slept most of the day and we had to struggle to get him to take his meds.
We realized we could not take care of him at home and started looking for a care facility. Wednesday we had his doctor come and look at him and we decided to have him re admitted to the hospital. He wasn’t responding much at all. He did look at the paramedics and smile but that was about it. That night they said he was in a comatose state.
Thursday his breathing was heavy. I went to visit at night and could tell he was struggling to hold on. True to his character he wasn’t going to stop fighting the battle until he knew his girls were going to be all right.
I told him that the girls knew he loved them and they loved him. I told him Sarah would be Ok she is a fighter. I told him it was all right to go every thing was taken care of and he was loved and would be missed. Shortly after that he started to shut down.
On April 4th 2008 Michael lost the battle he fought so hard to be the last year. He fought to be here for his girls he loved so very much and worried about them every day. He missed seeing his baby turn 13, and Emi walk the stage for high school graduation this year. In the end we lost a great father, friend and Mac God.
Michael we will miss you!!! Thanks for touching our lives.
Thanks of all the love and support. It is comforting to know how many lives he touched.
In addition to me, and his beautiful daughters, Emi and Sarah, Michael leaves behind his mother, Linda and two brothers, Dan and Patrick. Our youngest daughter Sarah has cerebral palsy and will always require some level of care. Michael's greatest concern was what would happen to Sarah if he weren't here to take care of her. A special needs trust has been set up for her to provide for her in the future. In honor of his last wish, the family is requesting donations be made to the "Sarah Marie Briney Special Needs Trust" in lieu of flowers.