21-year-old Michael Croteau was shocked when he was diagnosed with incurable cancer after he mistook the symptoms for an ingrown hair.
The college freshman was diagnosed with pseudomyogenic hemangioendothelioma (PHE), a rare type of cancer that affects 1 in a million people, according to the EHE foundation.
It was during summer 2017 when Michael began to experience tightness in his right knee and quadriceps. He also developed what he thought was an ingrown hair on his right thigh.
Michael and his mother, 52-year-old Susan Williams, became more concerned when it started to change color, grow, and appear infected after Christmas.
He went to a dermatologist, who said it could be something sinister.
Michael was referred to UT Southwestern Medical Center in April 2018. He was devastated when his CT and MRI scans revealed the rare cancer, which affects not only skin but also muscles and bones.
The student was heartbroken to discover that his cancer had developed into hundreds of tumors which had moved into the tissue, muscle, and bone of his right thigh.
“I could feel it underneath the skin, it felt like there was pressure,” Michael said. “I had never had [an ingrown hair], but I didn’t really know what else it could be. I did dig at it, but there didn’t seem to be a hair there.”
“It was a real shock,” he added. “It was something I never thought would happen to me, especially at this age.”
Doctors decided to treat his tumors with an experimental oral chemotherapy drug. Michael also underwent a course of radiation therapy.
Even though his cancer is incurable, the treatment aims to halt the development of his tumors.
“The options I was presented were amputation from the hip down, or to just monitor it and hope it didn’t grow or spread. There is no cure. We have chosen that option.”
His devastated mother, Susan, said: “Right now Michael is receiving palliative care. It’s absolutely devastating to hear there is no cure for your 20-year-old son who just finished high school.
“We don’t know how long he has. It could be one month or six years.
“Currently they are monitoring the spots on his lungs. But he will always be living with cancer which is the toughest part for our family.
“Because it’s so rare, there is not much research being done on it, so for us it’s a waiting game.
“Right now the focus is to give Michael the best quality of life he can have.”
Sending love and prayers to Michael and his family!
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