story by Claire Miller
In 2009, Mike Metzler was diagnosed with stage 4 head and neck cancer and spent the next nine months scheduling numerous doctors’ appointments, undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and enduring emergency room visits and hospital stays related to his treatment.
This was his first foray into what he calls “Cancer World,” “a physical and psychological place unwillingly inhabited by cancer patients, their caregivers, families and friends.”
Metzler was declared cancer free that same year but has spent the last decade on a second journey in Cancer World. He’s dealt with many permanent side effects from cancer treatments, retired from his successful career as a professor in the College of Education & Human Development, began working part-time for Georgia State University’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and navigating life as a cancer survivor.
He’s been blogging about his experiences with cancer since his diagnosis in 2009, culminating most recently in a book he published entitled, “My Two Journeys in Cancer World: Team Mike Versus the Prairie Dogs.”
“The blog entries gave me accurate memories of things that happened more than 10 years ago, so it was easy to use those entries as the building blocks for the book,” he said. “The rest of the book is based on reflections I had on those blog entries and other parts of my experience that never found their way into the blog.”
His wife, Terry, has been his primary caregiver and designated captain of Team Mike, the large group of family, friends, medical professional, and colleagues who provided Metzler with support over the past 11 years. Terry contributed a chapter in the book, describing her experiences in that caregiver’s role — a perspective rarely voiced in other books by cancer patients and survivors.
Metzler is donating all royalties from the book’s sale to the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance (HNCA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to head and neck cancer prevention, treatment and awareness.
The organization’s director also nominated Metzler for their ambassador program and he has started that work this year by recording a video message about his experiences to share with HNCA’s partners.
“This is a story about perseverance, survival and optimism, even when there was little to be optimistic about. I have survived cancer and its treatments for 11 years and counting,” he said. “I’ve chosen not to dwell on the many things that cancer and its treatments have taken from my life. Rather, I’m grateful for the many good things I still have in my life and the many good things yet to come.”