Michael Anderson received his first chemotherapy treatment on Christmas Eve, 2010.
The Anderson family spent the holidays at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, their room decorated with lights, a tree and even a leg lamp like the one in A Christmas Story. Word about the festive display spread quickly, and visitors from other floors came to see. Donated holiday gifts were being given to patients and Michael’s mother, Kathleen, said this first stay at Mott immediately showed them the warmth and giving found in the hospital.
Michael had come to Mott because of severe chest pain after a hockey session just days before the holidays. After finding fluid in his lungs, subsequent tests revealed a larger problem. Doctors removed a large tumor and Michael was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft-tissue cancer of the muscles. The diagnosis was the start to their journey with the pediatric oncology team at the University of Michigan, with months of treatment ahead.
Just as they did during that first holiday experience, the Andersons continued to truly live their lives during Michael’s care. With the support of their oncologist, Dr. Lauren Nicholls, they were able to take a family trip out of state just months into Michael’s chemotherapy. Later, Dr. Nicholls arranged treatment plans so that Michael could attend a summer band camp, which is still a passion for the 16-year-old Hartland High School student. When Michael’s parents organized a limo ride and party for his final day of chemotherapy, Nicholls was waiting outside with Michael’s friends to spray him with silly string. When Michael, now cancer-free after a year of treatments, applied to be a student ambassador for the summer, Nicholls wrote him a personal recommendation. She cited his impressive courage, maturity and tenacity in facing his disease, as well as his commitment to enjoying his life despite his intense treatments. The Andersons said Dr. Nicholls’s willingness to go above and beyond for her patients really encouraged them to enjoy a normal life. For this reason and more, the Anderson family nominated Dr. Nicholls for a HOPE Award, an honor she was later selected as the winner of, which recognizes staff at Mott Children’s Hospital who show dedication to patient- and family-centered care principles.
At the same time they were building lifelong relationships with the care staff at Mott, the Andersons came to know many other patients and families dealing with their own illnesses and treatments. Often, the Andersons were humbled by the amount of support they were receiving from people in their community, while many families they met at Mott were in much greater need. The Andersons were surprised when the Kensington Valley Hockey Association, where Michael and his twin brother Sean were players, organized an annual All Star Game to raise funds in Michael’s honor. Inspired by the generosity of the organization and the potential to help others, the Anderson family joined the efforts for this year’s fundraiser game, devoting the proceeds to the other families who are battling cancer at Mott. From the perspective of Michael’s parents, the game was a way to help the youth of the hockey association become involved in activism, to increase visibility of pediatric cancer in the community, and to raise money for the cancer program at Mott.
In April, while fundraising money was still coming in, the Kensington Valley Hockey Association presented a check for more than $12,000 to Dr. Nicholls and Dr. Castle, chair of Department of Pediatrics at U-M and a committed leader in the fight against children’s cancers. The money was raised with the help of volunteer staff, referees, sponsors, and the more than 1,000 people who came out to the 2012 All-Star Game at the Kensington Valley Hockey Association.
Mott is very grateful for the support and awareness created by events like the All Star Game. There are many ways to support the “Little Victors” at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Learn more about how you can give to Mott.
Learn about pediatric cancer treatment available at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” including #3 in the country for heart and heart surgery. In November, the hospital moves to a new state-of-the-art facility that will be home to cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.