Murphy Teen Continues Rare Bone Cancer Battle
Michael (MJ) Graves was a thriving eighth grader at Murphy Middle School when his battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma took over his life in October of 2017. His parents, Mike and Becky Graves, could only watch their son in agony as the cancer attacked his bones and soft tissue. MJ’s nightmare began with misdiagnosis and many unanswered questions. It wasn’t until his fourth surgery that MJ’s biopsy revealed small-round-blue-cell tumor cells and inflammation in the bone. MJ was referred to Medical City Children’s Hospital where his oncologist began working on a chemotherapy and radiation treatment plan.
Becky explained, “During chemo treatment MJ would feel absolutely terrible. There’s just no way to put it into words. The week following each chemo treatment, MJ’s blood counts would all drop. The white blood cells that repair damage or infection would hit zero. His red blood cell count would drop to the point of super pale skin and dark circles under his eyes combined with shortness of breath and risk of passing out. His platelets would drop so low that if he injured himself he wouldn’t be able to clot, and if he were in even a minor accident— it could kill him.”
MJ’s oncologist said his cancer was almost completely gone after receiving chemotherapy six times. “Unfortunately, since Ewing’s is aggressive, the chemo continues for an additional eight treatments and he needed to start radiation. Proton therapy was a viable radiation option for MJ to try to reduce the impact on healthy tissue surrounding the tumor site,” Becky said. “Proton therapy is a more targeted, precise radiation that can avoid unnecessarily hitting sensitive areas like vital and reproductive organs, as well as growth plates in growing kids. Every weekday, for 31 days, we travelled to Irving to the Texas Center for Proton Therapy.”
At first, MJ seemed to be handling radiation treatment better than expected. It wasn’t long before the effects of radiation took a toll on his body’s ability to bounce back from chemotherapy. Devastating sores soon appeared inside his body, as well as on the outside. He recently finished his last radiation treatment and currently has one more five-day treatment before his oncologist checks to see if he is cancer-free.
On Nov. 19, the pain became unbearable for MJ. He was immediately admitted to the hospital to receive a constant narcotic drip and pain medication for two weeks. At this point, MJ does not have the ability to leave his hospital bed and had an additional surgery on Dec. 4. During surgery, MJ’s oncologist removed soft tissue from the tumor in an effort to make a vaccine for an upcoming clinical trial.
Throughout MJ’s journey fighting cancer, he has managed to find happiness within his unexpected surroundings. Medical City Children’s Hospital has a Child Life team working around the clock to help keep pediatric cancer patients entertained. They organize activities, provide gifts and even bring therapy dogs to visit the children. A room for teenagers has gaming systems, board games, foosball and ping pong tables, along with a media room and library. Younger kids have a play room as well.
The hospital provided several game carts with flat screen televisions. MJ and his new hospital friends grew to love playing Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and other games. The game carts weren’t always available, so cancer patients were often unable to play. Becky decided to write a post on the Moms of Murphy Facebook page to see if anyone had inexpensive flat screen televisions to donate or sell. Within a few days, four carts with televisions, two PlayStation 4 consoles, two Xbox One consoles, games and dual wireless controllers were donated. Moms of Murphy Holiday Craft Fair’s annual raffle raised $2,076 with all proceeds benefiting MJ’s family.
Becky explained, “Since he was very first diagnosed with cancer, MJ wanted to use his situation to help others. He talked about using his Make-A-Wish to fill the hospital with video games and systems, which was a beautiful sentiment. With all he is enduring, we wanted him to be able to use his wish for a once-in-a-lifetime experience of his own. Based on my personal experience, I was able to confirm my suspicion that people are good and people want to help others. They just need to know what the need is.”
The community came together and donated additional games, DVDs, Blu-ray discs and much more. The nonprofit VidsForKids is in the process of being created for MJ to continue this mission.As MJ battles Ewing’s Sarcoma, a GoFundMe account has been created to help pay ongoing medical expenses. Donations can be made at https://www.gofundme.com/mjs-fight-against-bone-cancer.