Introducing Mike George

This is my long-time friend Mike George. He is one of my heros; an unassuming man of remarkable courage, strength, determination, and conviction. I will say more later in the post but for now, I encourage you to spend 15 minutes of your life playing his clip titled How To Manage the Chaos. In his own words, “I want to share some strategies we’ve learned over the years that have helped to cope with the impossible. And counter the negative 24-hour news cycle that’s all around us.”

I have spent a lifetime believing I control my destiny. The reality is we only control how we respond to the hand we are dealt; both in our moments of celebration or challenge.

Much of my life was simply hanging on for the ride. My wife and I spent many years being busy with our five children’s activities. It was our priority and the results are in; our children are productive and living happy and satisfying lives. We didn’t neglect ourselves but life was a blur; blink and you’re forty, blink again and you’re fifty, and at the last blink … hello, sixty.

We all have a story to tell but my friend Mike faced a challenge with his third son Ben that no one can prepare to weather. In short, Ben was born with multiple disabilities. At birth, Mike and his wife Jan were told Ben might never walk, talk, or go to school. Mike chronicled their journey in a book titled, Third Time Lucky. He proved all the experts wrong and along with his wife Jan set on a journey of providing care unavailable in any of the traditional places. They navigated a system offering little hope, services or assistance. He is a pioneer and a marque proving his success was to watch Ben cross a stage at the University of New Brunswick Saint John to receive his diploma. Mike has made a mark on the world worthy of admiration.

Our friendship dates to the early 1980s when we were cohorts in Computing Science at Dalhousie University. Mike was beginning his undergraduate studies and I returned to school after teaching in the Halifax system for five years. I loved teaching but needed more challenge in my life so it seemed this was a good time for a career change. We both ended up in a group of engaged students who all became fast friends. After graduation, Mike headed back to Saint John to make his life and I was working at Dalhousie. He and Jan married soon after graduation and I did a reading at his wedding in Saint John, NB. That reading became a coincidental point of reconnection which I’ll reveal later.

We both started busy lives with growing families in the late 1980s. Mike and Jan relocated from their hometown of Saint John to employment opportunities in western Canada. At this stage, we fell out of touch. It wasn’t with intent; remember these are the days before the online connectivity we enjoy today and we were both busy. It happens.

As our son Chris matured, he became committed to and highly engaged with his Christian faith as a member of the Catholic church. Along with a large group of peers, he attended Steubenville Youth Conferences both here in Atlantic Canada and at various locations in the United States. He developed life-long friends from around Atlantic Canada and there were many weekend events where he travelled to other locations and occasions where we hosted young people from away in our home. One friendship was with Conor who ended up doing the music at Chris’ wedding last June 8th in Minnesota.

I may have the details a little skewed but as I recall, it was during one such trip to Saint John that Chris ended up viewing the wedding video of Conor’s parents. Surprise, Conor’s parents were Mike and Jan. All those times he had been our home, no one made the connection. What a small world.

Mike, Conor, Chris, Phil

Since then Mike and I have gotten together to catch up and will continue to do so going forward. As I stated at the beginning of this article, Mike is one of my heros. In addition to the challenge he faced with Ben, which I only learned about after we reconnected, he is already a member of the club I plan to join very soon as a cancer survivor.

Mike is a source of inspiration for me. I encourage you to visit his website called “Soaring Families.” From his opening statement: “Mike & Jan George co-founded Soaring Families in 2015, determined to support families who are impacted by a serious health condition or disability.”

As always, I thank you for all the support and encouragement. You are my support pillars. Having you at my side counts!

Peace, Love and Laughter

PS – Today I had a magic moment I need to share. Last year two of our sons got married, Chris to Becca outside Minneapolis, MN and Drew to Jade in Toronto, ON. As you can appreciate, it proved to be a very expensive year for us. In January, the clutch failed in our car and was not warranty covered. We started 2020 with an additional unexpected expense just shy of $3,000. Last weekend we noticed some stains in the driveway. It tuned out to be a leaky joint which attaches the transmission to the driveshaft.

The car was repaired today. When I went to pick it up I was presented with the no-charge bill at Steele Mazda on Baker Drive. This repair is not covered under warranty. The service manager and upper-management are aware I’m in cancer care, aware of our personal family drain with the weddings and clutch job, and decided to pay for bill as a gesture of support during these difficult times.


A huge kudos and thank you to Steele Mazda for this wonderful gesture. I invite you to share this story with anyone who will listen. In the face of all the doom and gloom we hear these days, gestures like this remind of the humanity we enjoy in our lives. I think we’ll look back on this time as an example of one of our finest moments in history.

3 Replies to “Introducing Mike George”

  1. hey Phil, I lost track of the rounds of treatments required, but next post maybe you can let us/me know if there’s a round 2 treatment or if we don’t know until some time after this round 1 ?

    1. Thanks for the question Robert … very timely. Today I had a call from Dr. Allison Wallace. She is my thoracic surgeon. My to-date treatment included 25 radiation sessions over the span of five weeks. There is no treatment on the weekends. At the same time, I had 5 chemotherapy sessions; one each week on Tuesdays.

      My final radiation session was on Monday, March 16th. My final chemotherapy session was on TuesdAY, March 10th.

      The next part of my treatment is allow my body to heal, my immune system recover, and rest in preparation for surgery to remove almost all of my esophagus and stretch and reshape my stomach to reattach around the level of my nipples.

      The call from Dr. Wallace was to replace an in-person office visit to find out how I was doing. Her plan is to schedule a second PET Scan, and second endoscopy and a date for surgery. I should hear those dates within a few days.

      In a PET scan, I am given a dye which takes about an hour to diffuse through my body tissues. Then I am passed through a machine several times where any areas of high cell replication stand out as a glow in the image. caner cells are high replicating. In my first, it was clear that my cancer was localized to the distal end of my esophagus (bottom at the entrance to my stomach) and three lymph nodes around the site of my tumour. If cancer is found elsewhere during the next scan, which is not expected given the goal of chemotherapy is to seek out and destroy high replicating cells, I expect there will be addition radiation and chemo. But that is considered unlikely.

      In an Endoscope, I get a drug which makes me pretty happy and a tube with a camera is sent down my throat to look at the inside of my esophagus and stomach. This helps Dr. Wallace plan for the surgery. She’ll likely harvest tissue samples and send them to the lab to determine is that the radiation did the job of destroying them as expected. Unlike regular body cells, cancer cells cannot heal which is why radiation is effective.

      Finally I’ll have the surgery which is about eight hours on the table. If all goes well, I’ll have a one week stay in the hospital where I’ll be fed intravenously with soft food introduced by the end of the week. I’ll have to learn how to swallow again but given the short distance from my mouth to stomach, I’ll be able to chug a brew with the best. That is the ideal scenario and given how well most of my treatment has gone, there’s a good chance my good fortune will continue. However, there may be complications: infection, pneumonia, and/or leakage at the site of reattachment. Any of these complications will extend my hospital stay for up to a month. All complications are treatable.

      That’s what I know at this time. I suspect there will be a post-surgery protocol to follow but I’ll learn more in the next couple of weeks. I’m predicting my surgery will be in the week of April 20th.

      Cheers, Phil

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