Saturday, November 29, 2008

Web MD Health Hero 2008

Well, here it is....just announced in the November/December 2008 Web MD Magazine.  Winter is the youngest recipient in the history of Health Heros.  You can also go online to see the online article about her recognition-see right column and click on picture.  As you can imagine we are so incredibly proud (an understatement) of what Winter and her brothers are doing.  This award has already made 2 million viewers online aware of what Team Winter  stands for.  One small baby step towards Winter's goal of having a blue ribbon (prostate cancer) to match every pink ribbon (the oh, so visible breast cancer).  To see her state her goal in front of 250 of the leading Prostate Cancer Researchers at Lake Tahoe, go to the video 
For those who wish to follow Team Winter in more detail (which so many of you have already done) go and join Facebook.  There you will find Winter Vinecki, Group- Team Winter and Fan Page- Team Winter.  This is where everything related to Team Winter will be published, including upcoming events.  You can also get there thru and clicking on facebook.

Michael had his tube in the liver replaced with a larger tube last week to help drain the liver better, which has caused great discomfort as one can imagine.  His energy level is wiped out and he has only a few good hours a day right now.  We are able to get care for some of these issues nearby so we don't have to run back to Mayo right now.  

Our Love,
Dawn, Michael & Kids


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Adding Tubes

Well.... Mayo went well a week and a half ago.  As well as can be expected. The liver abscess seemed to be healing well so they decided to pull the final remaining tube Michael had. (that was short lived..)  CT didn't show any  new tumor, which is a welcome comfort to Michael for the time being.  There is a new spot, very small- 5-6mm, on the lung that they aren't quite sure about.  It is too deep to biopsy so they are just going to watch it.  Last Friday Michael started to have a lot of pain in his liver again so I had a CT done which showed his cavity in the liver that previously had the tube in it, had filled back up with "yucky" stuff.  It was significant enough that the Dr's at Mayo thought it would be best to reinsert the tube.  Luckily for us it could be done locally so we didn't have to travel back to Mayo.  It was a rough weekend for Michael, the tube causes a lot of irritation and pain.  NO hunting for Michael.  Guess the wife has hunting duties to fill the freezer for the family.  And this snowplowing thing should be easy... just drop the blade and go like h----, at least that's what it looked like Michael did last year.  These hallucinations Michael has on pain medicine are getting pretty good....who needs late night TV!!
Sorry about the humor, but sometimes that is all you are left with to deal with the day to day.

We are holding off on any reattempts at Chemo at this point.  His liver is not healthy enough to be tortured by that and neither is Michael.  The kids are doing great.  Swim season has started and it is so exciting watching the boys tackle this new adventure this year.  All four kids are swimming, including their 2 cousins.  Between them, they can almost completely make up their own relay teams.  Soon all four kids will be either skiing or swimming every night and every Sat/Sun.  How fun is that as a parent??

Team Winter is up and running.  Incredible things have happened in the last month which I will post soon (yeah, I know....define soon-----soon in my book is "when I get to it").

I just wanted to briefly take 10 minutes out of my sleep to update you on Michael's status.  He is sleeping as we speak and probably wishes I would get off the computer.  I have had many requests recently to update the blog so here I am.  WE appreciate the huge volume of prayers that are going out, the homemade healthy food people are sharing with us and the love that surrounds us on a daily basis.  We are grateful for every day.

Dawn, Michael & Kids

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Back To Mayo For Check Up

Sorry About the "Lost Month"!

Time flies when you are trying to get the kids in a routine for school and with after-school activities, trying to hold a full time job down and oh yes, helping a husband recover and battle metastatic prostate cancer.  That is all in a day at the Estelle/Vinecki home.  No news is good new they always say and is pretty much where we are at right now.

Michael has spent the last month training himself to void all over again, so yes we have potty training going on in our house once again (I thought we were done with that after Ruger). Michael did not like the idea of cathing himself 6 times a day, so he has managed to get his bladder working again.  This is an amazing feat if you consider how much damage was done to the area around his bladder.  It may take him ten minutes to  empty his bladder, but hey it beats the alternative way of emptying the bladder.

The last several weeks have been the best weeks for Michael since before surgery.  He is finally able to get off the couch and move around and do small tasks around the house.  The hair started growing back in since he is off chemo right now but he got too many comments about his hair looking like goose dander so he shaved it off again.  Michael was able to get some much needed R&R in Las Vegas last week for a few days.  He managed to survive being dragged up and down the strip numerous times.  The highlight was seeing Elton John live in concert.

Michael is back out at Mayo this week getting more follow-up CT Scans done to look for recurrence of tumor.  They were able to pull his drain from his liver this morning so he no longer has any drains.  He only has his colostomy and a PICC line (for medications when needed) left.  We stopped his daily antibiotics last week since his liver infection and blood infection seem to be resolved. 

Winter has managed to round up some of the best researchers in the world for prostate cancer after her recent trip to Lake Tahoe.  She was a special guest at the 15th Annual Prostate Cancer Foundation Scientific Retreat.  She presented them with a check for prostate cancer research and gave a brief speech to all of them after they all watched her video from the Florida triathlon.  It was a very powerful day for prostate cancer research.  A video of this event is available at  These researchers are committed to trying to help Winter's Dad anyway possible.  We will be looking into clinic trials and newer up and coming treatments depending on the results of his CT scans.

Michael will be starting to put some entries on the blog.  It will be good to start hearing things from his prospective.  Much of the activities of Team Winter can be tracked thru 

Winter can also be found on facebook and under "groups",  Team Winter can be found and you can join as a "fan" to view what is up and coming for Team Winter.

We thank all of you for your continued thoughts and prayers,

Dawn & Kids

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Winter and Scott Zagarino,
Founder Athletes for a Cure

September 27th 2008

To everyone involved with the 2008 Inaugural Athletes for a Cure Triathlon:

Winter and her family would like to personally thank everyone for making this event such a success in so many ways, but most importantly by helping raise awareness for prostate cancer. Winter cannot tackle prostate cancer awareness alone but through Team Winter and Athletes for a Cure, the possibilities are endless. The outpouring of love to her and our family has been beyond belief. Throughout the race individuals were introducing themselves to Winter, Michael and myself and telling their stories of how prostate cancer had affected their lives. This event is not just a race; it is so much more than that. It is about making a difference, not setting limits on oneself, giving unconditionally and having a passion for a great cause.

The staff at Disney, the race volunteers, race directors and organizers, race participants and spectators showed incredible compassion and support throughout the entire weekend. We could not even begin to thank everyone; especially those who could not be there at the race in person, but so graciously gave donations and words of encouragement. Most importantly, none of this would have been possible without the founder of Athletes for a Cure, Scott Zagarino.

So many new people have come into our lives from this one single event. We will continue our passion (the multisport life) in support of Athletes for a Cure and the Prostate Cancer Foundation each and everyday. We can’t wait until the 2009 2nd annual AFAC Triathlon. A special thanks goes out to all the athletes who raced under Team Winter. We hope all of you will be back next year to help Team Winter grow in both numbers and fundraising.

I want all of you to know that Michael smiled more during that one weekend then in the entire last four months since being diagnosed and treated for metastatic prostate cancer. That is something only all of you could accomplish and we are thankful for that.

Who do you race for?

Thanks a Million,

Dawn Estelle
Michael Vinecki
Winter, Yukon, Magnum and Ruger

*We send our Love and we will stay strong to help Michael fight the fight. will be up and running soon.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Post Race Update

Photo shoot on location at Disney Before Surgery on Sept 24th 2008 at Mayo Clinic

What at whirlwind of a week. I know one thing, I don't want to be a truck driver when I grow up! Yes after an amazing week in Florida for Michael, Winter and Team Winter we are safely back at Mayo. Michael underwent surgery on his liver yesterday to go after two more metastatic lesions. The procedure went well with no complications. He is a little sore as usual but will be released from the hospital later today. He is having more tests done today to see if any of the drains he has in can come out. He has appointments tomorrow to discuss what to do about future chemo. Hopefully we will be home by the end of the weekend.

Now about Prostate Cancer Awareness. The rippling effect has been created by Winter's accomplishments both physically and financially! She had an unbelievable weekend of racing. She, along with her brother Ruger (6) took first place in the kids Dualthlon (run-bike-run) on Saturday. Yukon (11) and Magnum (7) took fifth place and team-mate Gabby Rose from Gaylord took sixth place. On Sunday Winter was able to put together an amazing day. Michael was given Race #1 despite not being able to race. Winter received Race #2. (Historically low race numbers are given to professional and top athletes) The symbolic emptiness of Race #1 said it all. Winter raced for her dad and did a .9 mile swim in 48 mins., a 24 mile bike averaging 14mph and at the end ran in a 10K (6.2 mile run) in 1hr 10mins. On the run she was joined by pro-triathletes, Simon Lessing and Karen Smyers. Michael was escorted around on a golf cart through-out the race and had a great view of his daughter, the entire day. Her overall time was under 4 hours and equally impressive is the over $32,000.00 (actually $64,000 since the Safeway Foundation is matching her fundraising efforts) that Team Winter has generated thanks to many of you!! Michael smiled more in the last week than he has smiled in the last 4 months thanks to Athletes for a Cure. He met so many people either fighting the disease, survivors of the disease or families who lost members to the disease. Michael and the family were touched by over a 1,000 new friends at the Inaugral Athletes for a Cure Triathlon and can hardly wait to return in 2009. In the mean time Team Winter has a lot of ground to cover. Amazing avenues are being created to allow a 9 y/o girl from Gaylord to make a difference in the Prostate Cancer World. Winter will be telling her story over and over to many reporters this week. We will provide links to all the different artcles and videos that are being published. Please contine to spread the word about prostate cancer! Tell us your stories if you have family or friends affected by prostate cancer. Michael would love to hear them.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Michael's With Mickey

After 5 long days of travel and no internet capabilities, we have finally landed the RV at Fort Wilderness Campground at Disney in Florida. I must say it was not an easy journey getting here. The kids and I left last Thursday morning with the RV and trailer with bikes in-tow and headed to Mayo to try and bail Michael out of the Hospital for a little R&R. Michael's blood infection is doing well and we think we found the source. On CT he was found to have a liver abscess (infection) from an old ablation site measuring about 6 cm. They then placed a tube into the liver to drain the abscess, which now puts him up to 5 tubes and drains. He has to flush his liver 3 times a day, no not with beer, with saline although he has been tempted. While finding the abscess they also found 3 areas of recurrence of cancer off of the previous ablation sites. He will have surgery a week from now back at Mayo on the liver. Hopefully, if all goes well, he will only be in the hospital for a few days and head back to Gaylord. The Doctors all thought it would be good for Michael to get away for a week to forget about hospitals. His antibiotics are being shipped to the campground here at Disney by UPS and I give them to him daily. Our RV is like a little hospital on wheels, fully stocked with all the supplies Michael needs or could possibly need. Internet has been a royal pain in the butt, just like the drain that Michael has in his butt. It took Yukon, my 11 y/o son to finally find us access. I tried updating the blog on my i-phone and that didn't go to well. The tube in Michael's liver has really put a damper on his mobility. Athletes for a Cure has provided a golf cart down here for Michael to get around and to be able to keep track of the kids on race day. Winter is training hard in the early morning heat to aclimate to the high humidity. She will do the kids race on Saturday with her brothers (1 mile run- 6mile bike- 1 mile run) and will be the "featured athlete" on Sundays big race with a 1,000 other competitors. She will swim- .9miles, bike 24 miles and run 6.2 miles. Some pro triathletes will be on hand to lend her support. Winter's only concern about the whole race is "ALLIGATORS". She has already touched base with pest control asking them to get the gators out of the swim course! She was assured that she will be well protected. She also has heard of some large snakes (poisonous water moccasins) seen around the campground which should make her run splint darn fast.
Michael is finding all the shade possible to keep his head from sweating and getting sun burnt. A friend graciously gave him a Greenbay Packers hat which is working well.

Hopefully, we will keep everyone a little more updated over the next week, if internet doesn't fail us. Right now I have to sit outside in one particular spot to get connection.

We Are Holding Up Well,
Dawn, Michael & Kids

Saturday, September 6, 2008

New Family Photo

Hospitalized at Mayo

Where do I start.... It seems like several steps forward and a half mile backwards. Michael was taken last Sunday (Aug 31st) back to Mayo by my parents to be admitted to the hospital for treatment or a blood infection. He is growing a species of Clostridium in his blood that they have been unable to identify yet. He has been on antibiotics for a week and had no fever or chills up until this evening. Know we are taking steps backward once again. We thought he would be coming home in the morning but looks like he bought himself a CT in the am and at least a few more days in the hospital. He feels pretty good and has little discomfort. He is just bored with the hospital and its food. His 3rd dose of chemo will be put on hold until this blood infection gets cleared up. We are still uncertain how he got the infection in his blood and are still searching for a source. I am home getting the kids back into a routine with school. My brother, Jay, is getting first hand experience of what raising four kids entails. He has been summoned on numerous occasions to take kids to school, pick them up from the bus and babysit while I catch babies. He's probably thinking he didn't move back to Gaylord for this. That's what he gets for living across the field from his big sister. We continue to take one day and sometimes one hour at a time. The kids are holding up very well.

Winter was able to make in out to Colorado Springs, CO for Nationals in triathlon. She got to spend three days at the Olympic Training Center. Winter placed 10th in the United States in triathlon for 9-10 year olds. Not bad for a nine year old from Gaylord, MI. The boys and Winter are getting geared up for a huge race at Disney in two weeks. Many of you know they have teamed up with Athletes for a Cure and are the host family at the Inaugural Triathlon for prostate cancer. The race is held at Fort Wilderness Campground on Disney property. Several families from Gaylord will be attending the event to help support Team Winter, including the Butka's (YEAH!) Besides myself and the kids, Chris Dandeneau, Gabby Rose and Lisa Tobin will be racing under Team Winter in support of Michael. Michael should be well enough to travel we hope!!! He has alot of supporters he needs to meet and thank down in Florida. The event will have about 1000 athletes racing for one cause "Team Winter" and Prostate Cancer awareness. If you have not seen the website, go to They have created a guest book for Michael and we would like as many people as possible to sign it. Team Winter has raised over $10,000 to date. The Safeway Foundation is matching our amount so it is actually $20,000. Thanks to all those who have so graciously donated to Winter and the boys (Yukon, Magnum, Ruger) and me. We are continuing to collect donations, especially since Sept. is prostate cancer awareness month. Any amount you donate will be matched by the Safeway Foundation Let's try and get Team Winter to $15,000 over the next 2 weeks. To donate, go to the website and click on Join Team Winter. You can then click on any of the kids names which will bring up their donation page. Michael is so proud of what the kids have done for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. This is one of the only ways the kids feel they can have a direct impact and can help fight their dad's cancer. Team Winter is working, people came up to Winter in Colorado because they recognized her name and what she was doing for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, especially thanks to the you tube video put out by Athletes for a Cure. More people are aware of prostate cancer and that 40 year olds can be afflicted, thanks to just four short months Team Winter has been around. What possible impact will Team Winter have 10 years from now!!! Stay-tuned.

Michael has not given up and neither has Team Winter!
Support Team Winter
Dawn & Kids

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Well, it is time to update the blog. We have started to hear rumors like "he is cancer free" etc. so it is important to keep everyone up to date. We just returned from Mayo clinic on Saturday morning after having to extend our stay at Mayo by a few unexpected days. Michael had more CT's and the liver looks "stable" at this point. No new areas have developed on the liver over the last three weeks but we have to be cautiously optimistic and only after a year of no new lesions would we even consider saying he is in remission or cancer free. We are uncertain at this time if the chemo is having any affect but with no new lesions found at this point we will continue chemo for a total of 6 doses. He got his 2nd dose last week at Mayo. They attempted to take the catheter out of his bladder on Wednesday and he did well for about 12 hours, then urine started coming out places it wasn't suppose to (like his rectum). That is when they decided to take him back to surgery and put a camera in the bladder on Thursday to see if they could visualize the hole. After several hours of looking they were unsuccessful and just assume the hole is there but very small. The catheter went back in the bladder and will stay for at least 2 more weeks. The hole in the rectum is slow at healing due to the chemo, so the butt drain stays in.

Although the CT findings were good, Michael still has more tubes then he would like. He is tolerating the chemo extremely well despite fatigue and exhaustion. He still has an appetite. He craves chocolate right now so chocolate chip cookies, and hot fudge sundaes are a hit.

With school starting in just over a week, a whole new routine will have to set in at home. I am not sure if it will be harder or easier.

Hanging Tough
Dawn & Kids

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Home, Home, Home

Sorry about all the long awaited anticipation of announcing Michael's return home. He got home late last week and needed some time to adjust to the surroundings. He is very fatigued but tolerating his first round of chemo very well. Mild nausea, no vomiting and still has an appetite. The entire family has been working on getting into a daily routine that works for everyone including the kids. He still has daily antibiotics that need to be given and too many tubes and drains. He will be returning in two weeks back out to Mayo for more tests and more chemo. He promises he will be on the blog soon. I have been overwhelmed both a work and home and will try and get caught up on pictures for the blog soon. My family and patients come first. Incredible friends have been taking good care of us and treating us to great meals and companionship (although I must say most of the male company has been "without hair", so they fit right in).

Lots of Love to All,
Dawn & Kids

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Monday was the start of chemotherapy. Michael is starting to clash. He has pink toe nails and red urine. The chemo instantly turned his urine red which a normal side effect of the drugs. He did great, no significant nausea or vomiting. Hair loss will occur within 4 days they say, must be some toxic drugs to occur that fast! They will make sure Michael has no significant side effects from the chemo before he travels home by the weekend. Michael is calling all his bald friends to rally together with him. Some of them already have spoke up on the blog which is great to see. Michael wants to thank the other families that have visited him in Mayo (ie Walther's, Schaedig's) , it brought great joy to him. Thanks to all the new names that continue to surface. We are obviously making a difference in prostate cancer awareness! Michael is accepting "dew rags" to sport his new look. Any bets on the color and texture of his hair when it grows back in? I have heard all kinds of stories about hair after chemo. Guys, atleast he will get his back. They even said his hair on his legs will fall off. I guess he won't be making fun of all the shaved triathletes anymore.

We will keep the blog updated once or twice a week. That is all the time we can muster up at this point. The kids are learning new skills (lawn, cooking, cleaning) to do their part during this overwhelming time.

Good Night
Dawn & Kids

Friday, July 25, 2008

Liver Ablation #3

Well here are the pictures from a day at the spa! Yes those are the pink toenails you were hoping for. And the horrified look on Michael's face is one of concern since his mom has not cut his hair since he was a teenager. Well, the hair cut won't last long since Monday will be the start of some very nasty chemo. It will erase any bad hair cut. It is all good as long as it works against ridding his body of cancer.
Today he had another ablation on the liver. This time they used the latest technology using microwave energy. He tolerated the procedure well. Monday will be the start of the first round of chemo. The chemo will be every three weeks as long as he tolerates it. Hopefully by the end of next week Michael will be able to travel home.
Take Care,
Dawn & Kids
PS Mail for Michael can be sent to 514 Camp Ten Road
Gaylord, MI 49735
Ironman Lake Placid Update Coming Soon. All 3 Athletes for a Cure are an "IRONMAN".

Saturday, July 19, 2008

HD #16

Well, all is stable at Mayo.  Michael will be able to get a minute by minute race report tomorrow for his Athletes for a Cure Team (Team Winter).  Thanks to modern day technology, his three athletes will be test marketing a new device to track athletes by satellite.  They will be 3 of the 40 racers at Ironman Lake Placid to be tracked for the entire portion of the bike and run (it's not water proof enough for the swim yet).  Anyone can go to and select track athlete.  The username and password are ma3 for both for Dawn and Chris and ma4 for Ollie.  Then select their name (Dawn #178, Chris #179, Ollie #186) and follow along.

Athletes for a Cure has also put out an inspiring video on "youtube" featuring Michael & Team Winter.  They have not publicly released the video since they need to make a few minor changes but I will give you a glimpse of what they have done!  Go to the website listed in the right column. (If for some reason it doesn't come up, type Athletes for a Cure Team Winter in the search area of youtube and it will pop up.  I haven't quite mastered computers yet!)

We are determined to make a difference and lift Michael from this horrible disease and tomorrow is just one small step in doing that!

Special Thanks to Scott Zagarino and wife Greta at Athletes for a Cure
Dawn & Kids

Friday, July 18, 2008

HD #15

Two Weeks and Counting

Hard to believe another two weeks have gone by since Michael returned to Mayo.  Michael doesn't have to worry about buying reading material, he's got the Blog.  It continues to get more and more entertaining!  I love all the humor that is surfacing, because laughing has tremendous healing power.  Michael continues to improve.  He is now up walking on a regular basis and eating a more regular diet.   The big wait is now for next week when he will undergo a repeat CT of the liver to see how the treated liver lesions are doing.  The fistulas will be reassessed to see if they are getting smaller and hopefully going to heal on their own.
Winter continues to spread the word about prostate cancer.  Today she ran a 1/2 mile race at Lake Placid, NY and sported her new Athletes for a Cure triathlon uniform in honor of the prostate cancer foundation.  She took 1st in her age group and was only beat by one boy overall!  The team  uniform she is wearing (pictures coming soon) will be worn by Michael's brother-in-law, Chris Dandeneau, Michael's friend, Glen "Ollie" Oliver and myself at Sunday's Ironman Lake Placid event.  We have dedicated this race to Michael and prostate cancer awareness.  For more information go to the Herald Times article on the right side.  For those who want to follow the race on Sunday go to the ironman website posted in the right column. 

God's Speed
Dawn & Kids

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

HD #12

Up And At 'Em

Dr. Commando is back in town and in charge (although I know there wasn't a day that went by that he didn't think about Michael or touch base with colleagues about his status) . The phrase of the day is "get up and get moving". Today he will challenge his legs to a walk. Soon they will recheck the status of the fistulas (holes in places they don't belong) to determine if more surgery is needed or not. It looks like Michael will stay parked out at Mayo at least through all of next week with no sign of returning to Gaylord yet.

Michael continues to have a class-reunion of his own going on (minus the beer). Eric Heidel stopped in yesterday for a visit! Hopefully Michael has a picture of the visit to post, this could start to get quite entertaining. Michael is in the Francis Building at St. Mary's Hospital on the 6th floor. Every nurse on that floor can direct you to his room for those wishing to come visit. Rochester is a really neat place to visit. New names continue to surface on the blog. I am going to start checking off names from our class list and see how well we do at making everyone aware of Michael's journey. I bet we can do better than our last class-reunion at finding lost classmates! Many of you are following but haven't figured out the log in process to leave comments, just ask any kindergartner and they can help you out, they know more about computers than we do.

Michael has been gone so long that he is once again an uncle. His brother brought a new little girl into the world last week, yes, just days after he was on a plane transporting Michael out to Mayo. What a brother!

I must say, yesterday while reading the amazing number of blog comments, I was brought to tears by Barb's entry. I hope many of you caught her entry. She is the nurse that is caring for Michael and to Michael she is an angel that has been sent to care for him. Reading her entry made tears stream down my face. There still are compassionate and caring people in this world who love what they do and who want to make a difference in this big world.

Eric, you are the Hero of the Day!
Dawn & Kids

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Hospital Day #9

Michael had company yesterday! Craig Soderberg, a classmate from Gaylord High, stopped in to visit. Michael is two days out from his latest ablation on the liver. As you can see the tube is out of his nose and he is drinking broth. This week Commando is back in town so some decisions will be made as to where we go from here. Michael is down to 125#.
Let Michael know we have not forgotten about him! If you haven't said hi in awhile, type a few lines. He has a computer and reads the blog daily. Cancer is evil in that it creates isolation for its victims.
Dawn & Kids

Thursday, July 10, 2008

HD #7

Michael has asked to post this picture because he wants people to know the reality of Cancer. (not to show you his new talent as a trapezist) Today Michael underwent a 4 hour surgery to ablate the liver lesions. The probes are stuck through the skin so there are no big incisions made, making recovery a lot easier. Surgery went well with no problems and now we can only pray that this will destroy all the cancer cells.
Some of you are asking the best way to get in touch and possibly visit Michael. Please put a phone number on the blog (if you don't mind) and I will contact you. Michael is always up for visitors. Ten minutes of your time can mean the word to those in Michael's situation. Please continue to spread Michael's blog address to those who have crossed Michael's path in life. Over the last several days, a whole new channel of people have opened up across the WORLD. Spread this website to friends and family you might know who have had prostate cancer.
Michael will rest well tonight knowing he is continuing to eradicate his cancer, even if it is just one cell at a time.
Dawn & Kids

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hospital Day #6

Tubes & More Tubes

Sorry about the days without blog updates. As many of you know I am back to work in Gaylord trying to hold the fort together while Michael is back at Mayo with his parents. Unfortunately, for many of us life has to go on despite this nasty cancer. Keeping up on everything including the blog has been almost impossible. I will try and provide updates every couple days and Michael states he is determined to start writing a few little lines on the blog from his bed. What a treat that will be for many of you. (just remember, you asked for Michael on Morphine)

Tomorrow Michael is scheduled to undergo the second round of radio frequency ablation (RFA) on his liver. The second liver lesion needs to be ablated as well as a new area growing off the old ablation site. Michael has 2 areas that have not healed well down by the bladder and rectum creating holes (fistulas) between structures that don't belong, which is what sent him back to Mayo in the first place. They stuck a drain tube thru his butt check into his lower pelvis to drain an abscess (pocket of pus). The infection has created abscesses also on his kidneys. He is now receiving nutrition thru his Pic Line ( IV going into the heart) for the time being and is not allowed to eat anything to rest his bowels.

Michael will most likely be at Mayo for several weeks. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, as one friend is, Michael is welcoming any new faces for company.
I have plenty of new pictures to post in the near future. Michael is stable for now and more comfortable than he has been in the past.

Any comments on how to beat this tumor are welcome by us and Mayo!
Dawn & Kids

Saturday, July 5, 2008


This was, unfortunately, the scene the morning of July 4th. Michael has suffered some significant complications from his surgery and had to be rushed back to Mayo Clinic. The hours leading up to his transfer required labor-intensive efforts from friends and family, many of which stayed up all night to help keep Michael as comfortable as possible and as stable as possible. All of these individuals involved follow the blog and need to be thanked over and over for their incredible compassion. From helping stabilize Michael, to those helping care for our kids, to those helping arrange his flight and to his brother for traveling with him, Thanks, Thanks, Thanks!

Michael's complications are not the fault of anyone or anything. It's just one of the things that can happen when you try and preserve organs at all expense and have a 12 hour surgery. This is just a setback that we will overcome. Michael is comfortable now and in good hands. We anticipate at least a week back out at Mayo Clinic.

Good Night,

Dawn & Kids

PS. check out the links to some of the amazing articles that have been released through out the United States! Team Winter is making a difference in the field of prostate cancer already!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Survivor Week #4

Dr. Commando

Well, here is the picture you have all been waiting for. Michael and his hero.

Things are starting to settle into a routine here at home. Michael is finishing up his IV antibiotics. Hopefully if the infection in his blood has cleared, he will return to Mayo next week to have the second liver lesion ablated. The blog will always continue but will only be daily when there are significant changes occurring. Michael is ready to make his appearance on the blog, so expect a word or two from him soon.

Have a Great 4th of July!

Dawn & Kids

Sunday, June 29, 2008


You got it, we are finally back home. How great it will be to sleep in our own beds after over three weeks, especially for Michael. It has been a whirlwind since leaving Rochester, MN. Our trip through Chicago was an unforgettable event. Spinning Nation was a great success. We have lots of info to share about the event, the total amount Team Winter was able to generate in a single 24 hour period of time, and much, much more. We have some incredible photos to share. I am sure many of you read Saturday's article in the Hearld Times about Team Winter, if not we will provide a link soon.

But for now, it is lights out. We are all exhausted mentally and physically.

Our Love,
Dawn & Kids (and Michael!)

Friday, June 27, 2008

POD #16


Plans are underway for finally discharging Michael!! The discharge could come late tonight or in the morning. There will be a lot of follow-up appointments in the near future since the second liver ablation has not been done yet.

Team Winter (the kids and Michael) have been contacted by Athletes for a Cure (AFAC) and have been invited to make a one-hour guest appearance at a fundraising event in Chicago Saturday evening. Spinning Nations is a fundraising event sponsored by Fran Drescher (The Nanny) and her Cancer Foundation (Cancer Schmancer Movement) as well as AFAC and the AIDS Research Alliance. The event is held nation wide on this Saturday. Winter and the boys will be spinning (riding stationary bike) for one hour with hundreds of other people. I am quite certain Michael's presence at this event will inspire many people and validate the reason they are taking part in such an event. Winter has been asked to tell her story in efforts to help promote national exposure about Prostate Cancer. There is talk that every dollar that the kids earn spinning will be matched by another corporation. By giving just $5.00 your gift will be doubled. Go to

There are so many ways that all of you can help to give exposure to prostate cancer. More men die of prostate cancer than women do of breast cancer. Yet, there is more exposure and awareness to breast cancer. Many of you are helping in such small ways that speak so loudly such as the blue ribbons so visible around Gaylord now. Thanks, Thanks, Thanks!

What is Spinning Nation? Go to

See You All Soon,
Dawn & Kids

Thursday, June 26, 2008

POD #15


No new changes to report on today. Michael underwent a liver biopsy on the new lesion and results are pending. The procedure was quick and easy with no complications. He is still on IV antibiotics. Life in Marriott Room #107 continues to provide all the comforts at home other than space.

Our thoughts turn to Grandma Estelle as she has a cardiac stent placed tomorrow down in Lakeland, FL. Word has it strawberries will be ready next week at the Estelle patch. The kids will be back just in time for shortcake!

Sweat Dreams,
Dawn & Kids

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

POD #14

Great Grandma Estelle & Kids

E. Coli Urine/Blood

Well, we now know what caused the fevers. He grew e. coli in the urine and now in the blood. So what does that mean? Well, he needs to be on IV
antibiotics for 10 days through a pic-line. No ablation on the liver until the infection has cleared. Tomorrow they will do a liver biopsy just to confirm the lesion is metastasis of the same tumor. We have to wait another day or two before they can place the pic-line (IV in the arm that goes all the way into the heart). Plans are still to be home sometime over the weekend. He will return the middle of July for additional tests and the ablation if all goes well. As you have seen, nothing is ever set in stone. Michael's spirits are up despite having feet that look like an elephant (it puts my patient's feet to shame). (hey that might be a good photo op).
The kids continue to do well. They are members of the Rochester Athletic Club and spend their days there. Pretty sad when my kids have become active citizens of the community. This will be their 2nd home for the rest of their life in one way or another. The assistant manager at our hotel , known to the kids as "Uncle Bill" (not to be confused with Uncle Buck) has become family.

Our love goes out to Florida where my grandma Estelle is hospitalized after having a heart attack yesterday. She is in her 90's and is one tough woman. Her cardiac cath went well and she is recovering. I told my two private nurses I might need to dispatch them to florida. (unbelievable, they would go in a heart beat if needed--as I have said over and over I am so fortunate to have such devoted friends).

Dawn & Kids

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

POD #13


Michael has been dealing with fevers the last couple mornings. Hopefully they will go away or else the liver ablation may have to be postponed. We will know more tomorrow. Michael's case has now been presented at Mayo Urology Tumor Board on two occasions. Part of the tumor stains positive for testosterone so he will be on hormone therapy in addition to chemo (yes, Depo Lupron). So don't mind his "PMS"! (ha ha)

We are all getting a little exhausted so it is to bed early tonight.

Good Night,
Dawn & Kids

Monday, June 23, 2008

POD #12

Fresh Air

Today was a day of fresh air for Michael. He made the long journey to the courtyard for sun and fresh air for the first time since being admitted to the hospital. Yesterday was a day off from the blog. The video sums it up and I couldn't think of anything to top that video. If it wasn't for the liver lesion, we would be on our way home. The new lesion that hasn't been treated yet is scheduled for ablation on Thursday. They stick a needle thru the skin so no major surgery is required.

Yesterday was a 5K race to benefit the Ronald McDonald House. Myself and the kids participated. Winter took first in her age group with a 24:31 (watch out Ethan, she says you're on for the Boyne City 4th of July 5k). Ruger finished with a strong 36:00. Yukon and Magnum also ran a great race.

Team Winter is growing strong! Sounds like Meri-Jo needs a swimmer, I hope Dr "Joe" has been practicing in Naples. What better motivation to train for a triathlon than a trip to Disney. Kids and adults of all ages can participate. You don't even have to be able to do all three events. I'm thinking the Butka's better start training, they have 2/3 of a relay team. Athletes for a Cure has already contacted us trying to help us in any way possible. They are an amazing organization that will someday be as big as the Komen Foundation (breast cancer).

Back to Michael, all is stable. His chin is up, maybe by some reinforcement from friends, family and nurses (and duct tape). He is still not up to phone calls, not even from his best friends. However, he did say he is going to be calling on them when he gets home for some delivered lunches! So don't call him, he'll call you. (ha ha)

Until Tomorrow

Dawn & Kids

Sunday, June 22, 2008

POD #11

Help Fight the Fight

Start out your Sunday with this inspirational video!

Help us Fight
Dawn & Kids

Saturday, June 21, 2008

POD #10

Pain Management Day

Today brought a consult from the pain management team (anesthesia team). Pain comes in many forms, some stronger and more painful in so many different ways both emotionally and physically. Musculoskeletal back pain was the emotional and physical breaking point today for Michael. The day was extremely long and painful for Michael but things have calmed down this evening. We have a pain management plan in place for now and the future. Bowels are less swollen and discharge home is in the near future however it won't be long and we will be back out here to have a second go at the new liver metastasis that was found.

No one can say it better than Patrick, "Keep fighting...... never let your guard down.... cancer likes to sneak up on you.......until you whip it". Spoken like a true survivor.

As also said today "time to dig deep!"

Until tomorrow,
Dawn & Kids

Friday, June 20, 2008

POD #9

Delay in Discharge

Last night was the first night Michael actually got 5 hours of sleep in a row. Hurray! His pain is under much better control. Everything was set from urology's standpoint for discharge on Saturday morning, then in walked the colo-rectal fellows. They proceeded to explain the CT findings of inflamed and swollen bowel causing problems with the ostomy and said it could take 3 plus days to resolve. That really deflated our thoughts of being home by Monday. I guess that spaghetti bezor (look it up ie. fur ball) needs to come out before he is discharged home. Probably a pretty good idea. I saw intra-operative pictures of the tumor today (that were taken during his surgery 9 days ago) which gave alot of clarity and closure for me. I always like to see what I am facing. The kids will actually get to see what their dad's cancer looks like (they have been asking that question alot). Ruger's daily question is "how do you get cancer?" Know matter how many times and ways I explain it, he always keeps asking. When Michael came out of surgery the first evening he still had green dye on his skin and Rugers first response was " he still has cancer on him!" We had to explain that it was just dye to clean his skin. Michael and the night nurses have been enjoying jello shots of gatorade in the evenings. Tonight was rootbeer float night.

As for me and the kids, we are exhausted. My parents went up with us to Mall of America today. So much for any shopping. I sat and watched my kids go up, down, round and round and upside down all day until late in the evening. I think we maybe hit 10 stores total. I couldn't get Yukon out of the Apple store. It was great to see the kids so lost in fun in their own little world. Oh, to be a kid again~My kids met a great shoe salesman today at one of the stores, hopefully he is reading the blog. He was an incredible young man with a great knack to entertain kids. Who else could entertain my kids in a shoe store for 20 minutes. If you are out there "K" thanks for making my kids laugh!

I feel for my patients who are awaiting my delayed return and most importantly my partner who has picked up my slack and held the fort down for me with endless call. It is so hard for me not to be working. I am soaking in this whole mayo system of health care though. What a novel concept of health care out here amongst the corn fields. "Build it and they will come" is so true.

Michael has had his first access at the blog last night and stayed up til 1 am reading it. Need I say more.

Don't let the bed bugs bite!
Dawn & Kids

Thursday, June 19, 2008

POD #8

Spaghetti or Not, Here He Comes!

Michael is back on track! Not sure what the big set back was last night (liver or bowels), but it is gone for the time being. He ate for the first time tonight in over 24 hours. Just some chicken noodle soup and mashed potatoes (gotta support those potato farmers).

As for the CT, the GOOD = no cause for the pain; the Bad= expected bowel swelling and inflammation; the UGLY= a new liver lesion in the opposite lobe was identified (will have to wait a month to reassess it and possible ablate that lesion like the previous lesion).

New names and faces continue to crop up on the blog. I have no idea how I can possibly thank each and every person who is contributing to our journey. I know one thing, each and every one of you will never be forgotten. The outpouring of hearts from the faculty and families of the kids' school (Boyne Falls) has brought so many smiles to Yukon, Winter, Mag and Ruger's faces. Athletes for a Cure and the Prostate Cancer Foundation have contacted us to help pool our resources to help Michael and the kids fight this tough battle together as a team. We will keep you informed on all their efforts.

The OB nurses can make sure Della L. has read the blog because we will be needing here help when we return. If all goes well I will be back to work first thing next week to take off where I left off. That includes my Friday lunch with the OB girls.

The Mall of America is a promised trip to the kids that will happen tomorrow. They have patiently been waiting to check it out. Now that all is stable with Michael , we can venture out a little.

Hugs & Kisses,
Dawn & Kids

POD #7 (A day late)

"Houston, We have a Problem"

You can assume that when the blog is not posted between 9pm and midnight something is up. I spent the whole night at Michael's bedside dealing with pain issues. I felt like I was back in residency again. They were unsuccessful in putting his NG tube back in to control pain and nausea. He is on his way back into the CT Scanner as we speak. They want to check the biliary tree (gallbladder and liver) as well as look for small bowel obstruction (which can be common after such major surgery). Most likely the treatment is all the same "a tincture of time".

I will update you all later today on the CT findings. For now nothing is going in Michael's mouth. And yes, the spaghetti did stay down but I'm not sure when it is going to come out.

Sending our Love,
Dawn & Kids

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

POD #6

Spaghetti, Spaghetti, Spaghetti

We are testing the bowels tonight with good ole hospital spaghetti. I hope it stays down because it won't be pretty coming back up! This is the first real test of solid foods. Forget the toast, bananas, applesauce etc, here at Mayo they jump right to spaghetti. Nine out of 10 doctors here recommend spaghetti after bowel surgery.

Michael is walking 4 walks a day. Burping--yes Farting--no (for those keeping track like Renee'). Today may be the turn in the road that we were looking for. Still alot of unexplained pain so the gallbladder is still under close scrutiny.

It has been a long week-plus some so I am going to keep it short tonight. We are so blessed to have such a strong support system in place and I am sure that is why we were chosen to go thru this.

Dawn & Kids

Monday, June 16, 2008

POD #5

Bowel Strike Continues

No new news from Rochester this evening. Bowels are still on strike. Kidney function is improving after a little hiatus (Creatinine 2.5 for those interested, down from 2.8). The gallbladder looks like it may have some sludge, unsure if that might be the problem. (I knew all those useless organs should have been removed ie, gallbladder, appendix, tonsils). His spirits are still pretty low right now, I'm certain he hasn't realized how fortunate he is yet, especially when he looks around and all he sees is lines (down to 6 now) and bags. More reinforcements from Michigan will be headed in tomorrow on my side to help with morale and child-rearing. Today was "tour Toys r us" day. If someone could keep the driveway plowed of snow that would be nice! No snow here. Just 70's and flooding to the south. Anyone coming the southern route needs to think twice. Many major roads closed down around Chicago. Last group that left here ended up in Kentucky before they could get back to southern Michigan!

Hopefully I will get some new photos on the blog soon. This whole computer stuff is new to me as my friends and co=workers will attest.

We hope to blow this "Popsicle stand" by the weekend, but time will only tell.
I am still amazed the new people that this blog is finding its way to. Michael will have a chapter book to read soon.

Night' Night'
Dawn & Kids

Sunday, June 15, 2008

POD #4

Father's Day

The best part about Father's Day was, "seeing daddy" said Ruger.
The best part about Father's Day was, "seeing dad sit up, open his eyes and talk to us" said Winter.
The best part about Father'Day was, "seeing him and giving him a present" said Magnum.
The best part about Father's Day was, "seeing him smile" said Yukon.

Today was "no-jello" Sunday. He is still unable to keep any clear liquids down. The dry heaves are no fun. Jaundice (yellow color to skin) is setting in due to the ablation on the liver which is normal to see. (I wonder if they make adult size bili-blankets--a little humor aimed at my medical friends). This set-back is to be expected after someone handling his bowels for 12 hours.

I'm not sure Michael actually wished his Father a "Happy Father's Day" today. I'm sure he wanted to say it but might not have had the energy. So just in case, "Happy Father's Day". Virgil is the definition of D-A-D.

As for my Father, he was too busy working on the farm as usually, and the day slipped by without us connecting. So here it is, "I have the best dad in the whole wide world!"

Happy Father's Day Dad!
I Love You,

Dawn & Kids

Saturday, June 14, 2008

POD #3


Today was that one step back. Still unable to take anything more than just sips of water, some nausea and intestinal cramps are creeping in. He is able to walk the halls with assistance. He is getting a lot of brotherly love from his brother Rick. His sister, Brenda took the initial first few days but now returned to her family. The kids have some cousins in town to hang with, which gives them some companionship. Virgil (Michael's dad) turns out to be a great soccer goalie. We grilled salmon wrapped in banana leaves tonight for dinner. What a treat that was. The hotel has a grill for us to use out on the patio, which makes dinners easy to cook. They have a hot continental breakfast every morning including fresh made waffles, eggs, sausage etc. At 4 o'clock everyday there are fresh hot cookies out of the oven in the lobby. This Marriott Springhill Suites ROCKS.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a step forward. After all, tomorrow is Father's Day.

Good Night from Rochester,
Dawn & Kids

Friday, June 13, 2008

POD #2

Sorry the updates come so late at night. I like to have a good perception of how the whole day goes before I comment. Today was "change of shift day". His two private nurses from Michigan, who came out the night before surgery, will be on their way out. In their replacement, comes in his best two guy friends from Michigan. Their first words to Michael were "we are here to get you out of bed! Time for morning exercises!" And that is exactly what they did. They had Michael walking the halls three times today, whether he liked it or not. Doctors Orders!! Michael was able to stomach two cups of juice and we are looking at jello by Sunday. The 5 o'clock shadow is now settling in and it is either a dry shave by the "boys" or Virgil's (Michael's dad) electric shaver (the kids hate dad with a picky face).

The kids continue to scout out and find new parks around the area. Today was a little soccer, football and basketball. The kids are getting very skilled at putting puzzles together. Every waiting room in the hospital has huge puzzles to put together. I still am reaching for my waist every time I hear a pager or cell phone go off. I'm not sure how long it takes for that instinctive reflex to go away.

Path report: All lymph nodes negative for malignancy (cancer):
Tumor margins negative:
The liver will be re-imaged in a few days and again in a month to see if any further treatment will be needed. Most likely, chemo in a month.

Everyday when I read the comments I am blown away at the people that I am hearing from. It is like a blast from the past. Some people I have not seen or heard from in 15-20 years (same for Michael). Hopefully a few more days and Michael will be able to read the Blog. He has a lot of catching up to do.

We miss all of our dear friends. We appreciate all the "reinforcements" that keep filtering out to Minne"soooda" (as my kids have learned to say). They come not only for Michael, but the kids, myself and for Michael's parents.

Keep the home fires burning for us!
Dawn & Kids

Thursday, June 12, 2008

POD #1 (Post-operative day #1)

Today started out a little groggy for Michael due to all the pain medicines but by evening he was able to talk to the kids a little. The ng (naso-gastric) tube is out, 7 more tubes and lines to go. Michael was a little to lightheaded to get out of bed, but did manage to brush his teeth twice today. Hopefully, he will be up in a chair tomorrow. The kids are doing great, they are full of energy and are good for about 14 hours going at 50mph before they start to shut down. Just dragged them out of the pool now for a good nights sleep. It only takes seeing their dad for a minute to reassure them that dad is ok. Hopefully a few more days and Michael will be able to read the blog for the first time.

Love Dawn & kids

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Recovery Room

After an unbelievable 12 hours in surgery, Michael is out of the OR and on his way to recovery. Yah, there will be alot of hurdles over the next 6 months but none as great as today's. A new chapter now opens, one of healing. The kids gave their dad the first kisses tonight and though there was not much in return for them, I'm sure their presence was felt. The kids had bets on how many lines (tubes) dad would have coming out of the OR, their coping skills are amazing. If only we could cope as well as them. Michael is stable and tucked in for the evening and so are the kids. I can hardly wait until Michael is able to view the blog and the outpouring of love that has come in from across the United States. Technology works miracles in ways I never imagined.

We are so Blessed

Dawn Estelle (Yukon, Winter, Mag and Ruger)

A Word From the OR

We are now 8 hours into Michael's surgery and I have had a chance to talk to both of the main surgeons (urology and colo-rectal). News from the OR (operating room) is very good. Although the tumor has grown to approximately 11cm, they were able to remove it and preserve his bladder. He will have a temporary colostomy for 4-6 months, however they will be able to reconnect things to allow normal bowel function at a later date. They are currently working on the liver as I am typing. The lesion is also slightly larger than previous but the plan stays the same at this time, to do high frequency ablation thru a needle in the liver. The doctors figure 3 more hours of surgery as we speak. Michael could not be in better hands. These surgeons are incredible!

Your comments have been overwhelming!
Dawn Estelle

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Well, today was another long day filled with doctors appointments at Mayo Clinic, all in preparation for tomorrows surgery. It looks like it will be an early start in the morning with us arriving at the hospital at 5:45am and hopefully an 8:00am surgery start time. The good news of the day today was that the liver metastasis will be treated with high frequency ablation instead of actually removing a portion of the liver. The surgery could not come any too soon as the cancer is taking a toll on Michael, both mentally and physically. He is literally counting down the hours. I would anticipate sometime tomorrow afternoon we will update you on the surgery outcome. We have lots of love and support for both Michael and the kids, thanks to friends and family traveling great distances. What more could we ask for.

Good Night,

Dawn Estelle

Monday, June 9, 2008

Why a Blog?

By now many of you know Michael was diagnosed on his 40th birthday with a very rare, aggressive form of prostate cancer. Unlike the more traditional form of prostate cancer that affects many men after the age of 50, this cancer is much more difficult to treat. There are very few cases of this type of cancer reported in the medical literature (probably less than 100 cases), especially in men Michael's age. This type of cancer is called "Sarcomatoid Carcinoma of the Prostate". His diagnosis came early in May 2008, after being seen by the Urology Dept. at the University of Michigan. A week later we found ourselves at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN for a second opinion. Michael took a liking to the surgeons there and liked their attitude, "let's get this thing out". The surgeon's nickname in the operating room is "Commando", "he takes things out that most doctor's won't tackle" said his peers. That's the type of Doctor I would want to take care of me. So here we are two weeks after our initial consult, back out at Mayo, ready to tackle this cancer head on with some of the best help in the world. Michael has already received the unfortunate news that this cancer has already spread to his liver. We will find out tomorrow if this metastasis will be able to be removed with surgery. Michael's surgery is scheduled for this Wednesday, June 11th. The surgery will be 6-8 hours long and have up to 4 surgeons trying to remove this tumor. The tumor is next to bowel and bladder as well as involving the prostate. There is a good chance that these surrounding organs will need to be removed to provide the best possible long term survival in order to gain control of this cancer.

The purpose of this blog is to help keep all of our family, friends and co-workers as ACCURATELY informed as possible. We will try and provide daily updates for the next several weeks. We know many of you have Michael and our family in your prayers and appreciate all the support, in so many different ways, that all of you are providing our family. Please pass this blog site along to others to help keep everyone informed and follow Michael in his Journey.

Dawn Estelle