Local News

Treatments Prove Challenging For Cancer Patient, Family

Posted March 25, 2002

— Last month, WRAL introduced the Lancasters, a Nash County family dealing with cancer.

Mike, a husband and father, has a form of lymphoma that was diagnosed after doctors found a tumor on his tonsils.

The popular band director at Southern Nash High School and his wife, Pam, invited WRAL to follow them through their battle with cancer. On this leg of the journey, Lancaster goes through the toughest phase of his treatment.

In February, Lancaster was fighting the battle of his life against cancer, but was still clinging to the things he loves, like teaching and playing the trumpet. Things have changed a lot in the past few weeks.

"I'm tired. I'm just plain exhausted," he said.

Lancaster now spends a lot of time sleeping, and is taking time off from teaching band. He admits that he has not picked up his beloved trumpet much since WRAL's last visit.

"I haven't played it a whole lot since that day. I was just making a point," he said.

The physical and mental exhaustion has spread to Pam and their children.

Pam said that she is tired, but is "holding up."

"Leah and Wil were going [to treatments] with us a lot in the beginning. Leah's gotten to the point where she says, 'I don't want to go today. I'm tired of going to Wilson,'" she said.

The weekly radiation and chemotherapy treatments appear to be working, but at a price. Lancaster's throat is in bad shape.

"Last Monday it was just bloody," he said.

Because of that, Lancaster now gets one week without chemotherapy.

"I don't have to do it this week, and it makes a difference," he said.

That small victory is overshadowed by Lancaster's weight. His doctors said he is losing too much, too fast. Recently, he lost 5 pounds in two days.

The treatments leave Lancaster without much of an appetite. However, radiation speeds up his metabolism, so Lancaster needs to consume 2,800 calories a day. He said that he is lucky to keep 1,500 calories down.

"When I have chemo I have to be careful, because anything I put in my stomach may just say 'No,'" he said.

Pam does what she can to make sure her husband gets the nutrition he needs.

"Ice cream, heavy cream, I add things to it and he doesn't take it very well," she said.

Lancaster admits that his cancer has been more challenging than he expected.

"I think the Friday before I had gotten depressed," he said.

Lancaster keeps a video journal. It is here that his real fears surface; he worries about his children and is amazed by his wife's support.

"I couldn't have done it without her," he said. "No matter what, she's absolutely the best."

There has been some good news, too. Lancaster's doctors think the worst is over, and that he should start feeling better by the week.

"What you'll find is that things won't keep getting worse and worse and worse and harder for you as you go on through," said Dr. John Reilly, a radiation oncologist.

"That's what I was wanting to hear," Lancaster said at the news.

Besides his treatments, Lancaster is taking part in a clinical trial. He is using a new cream that could help reduce the amount of radiation burns on his neck. He said that the one positive from the radiation is that he no longer has to shave.

The initial cancer treatments should end in about two weeks. Then it will be a month before Lancaster knows whether the treatments have worked.

WRAL will continue to follow his progress.

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