Michael Leiter II

Michael Leiter II

January 13, 1987 - November 13, 2006

  • Hometown: Tower City, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Year of Diagnosis: October 22, 2004
  • Diagnosis: Hepatocellular Carcinoma (Liver Cancer)

Michael was a bright young man, who loved the outdoors, whether it would be hunting, fishing, camping canoeing or just sitting around the fire in the backyard with his friends. Michael had a promising future ahead of him. He was entering his senior year of high school; he had been accepted to college and just completed his last requirement to be an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America. Being accepted to college and completing his last requirement both happened in the first few weeks of October 0f 2004 but we had no idea what was ahead of us.

On October 22, 2004, after several visits to the doctors, we decided to take him for a CAT scan to see what was causing the pain in his back. All his test at the doctors were fine, I remember sitting in the waiting room for him to get the scan, joking with him that he was going to have to change his diet because we thought the pain was kidney stones, little did we know. That Friday evening while Michael was at work, I received a phone call from the family doctor, telling me Michael had a large mass in his abdomen, that they suspected it was cancer. I then went to work, got Michael and told him the news. How do you tell your son he has cancer? That weekend, we went through so many emotions and on the outside, Michael seemed to be fine. It was then that Monday that we took him to Penn State Hershey Medical Center, where they did a few tests, and it was confirmed, that he indeed had cancer. He was not given any odds or percentage to live, we were told up front, he would not live a normal life, and they could prolong it but not save it.

How could this be, in one phone call, life changed? He now had to tell his friends what was going on. Many came down to the hospital, shortly after he received the news. After several months of chemo and Hershey and several trips to UPMC in Pittsburgh, Michael had half his liver removed along with lymph nodes in his chest and abdomen. After the surgery, even though we were told the cancer would be back. Michael lived life normal again and back to his old self. There are two things that standout about that time and Michael going to his last few months of high school. One thing was he would wear camo shorts, hiking boots and a cut off flannel shirt to school and the second, I remember graduation night, and he rode his motorcycle to school in his graduation gown. That was who Michael was.

As he graduated from high school and prepared to move into college, a scan showed that the cancer was back, just 6 months after his surgery. Now what, there were no other treatments. Now Michael knew his fate, the cancer was back and he had to live life. In November of 2005, Michael received devastating news; his close friend was killed in a car accident. Michael even knowing his fate went to be with the family and attended that funeral. Over the next months, he would participate in trials which did not work, the cancer kept progressing. Again in March of 2006, he received more devastating news, another close friend died in a car accident. He again went to be with the family and attended the funeral. These young men were not supposed to die, Michael was.

Over the next months, now late summer and early fall, I could see the toll the cancer was taking on him. Michael could no longer hide it. During his two year battle, he lived life as normal as possible wanting that life he had before he was told he had cancer. Now jaundice from his liver shutting down and at times too weak to walk on his own, on an October visit to the hospital, Michael asked how long he had to live. At that time the doctor told him maybe a month to a month and a half.

After that news, Michael called his friends to come down to the hospital to tell them the news. Michael came home the next day, but could no longer live life the way he wanted to. On November 13, 2006, Michael passed away from his cancer.

Our Featured Ambassador

This is Josh Nelson – a childhood cancer survivor. He knows about facing all the challenges of childhood cancer:

“I know first-hand how it feels to be a prisoner in the hospital and endure the surgeries and the endless needles and treatments. I know how it feels to lose my hair, throw up regularly and watch other kids around me earn their wings. I lost a part of my childhood that I will never get back. I know how it feels to look different and to be different. That’s something that I wouldn’t wish for any other kid to go through, and that is why I do what I do.”

Read more about Josh’s journey »

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