Mike Crumb hadn’t been feeling well in the fall of 2012. Mainly, his appetite had decreased quite a bit. He was working with his doctor to address this when he began to experience pain as well. His doctor ordered a CT scan that showed a tumor on his pancreas.
He was scheduled to have a Whipple procedure, but his doctors found small cancer cells in other parts of the body during the surgery, so they weren’t able to perform the procedure. When Mike came out of surgery, he learned some small cancer cells had spread to other parts of his body and that his cancer was stage 4.
This felt discouraging at first, but he bounced back quickly from surgery and was encouraged by his medical team, who told him he could still live a full life despite having cancer. About four weeks later, he started chemotherapy. That’s how he met his medical oncologist, Aram Hezel, M.D., who started Mike on a standard chemotherapy regimen that included three drugs.
Within only about six months, the treatment had helped significantly. The tumor on his pancreas was no longer there and the troublesome cells discovered during surgery were gone, too. He’s since stopped taking one of the chemotherapy drugs and is now on just two, which he receives every three weeks.
“Not only do I receive very appropriate treatment that is working well for me, the entire experience from the first step into Wilmot is always welcoming and supportive,” he says. “There’s kindness. There’s smiles. The staff is absolutely phenomenal in every way.”
Through it all, Mike has experienced little as far as side effects. Mike continued to follow his passion: helping children as superintendent of schools for the Spencerport Central School District, serving as an adjunct professor at SUNY Brockport and SUNY Oswego, and performing as a musician. Mike retired from his role as superintendent of schools in 2017 and has shifted his attention to several boards and charitable causes in the Rochester area that benefit children and those diagnosed with cancer. He also added that his good health and newly found time allows him to see his 11 grandchildren more often and spend time traveling with his wife, Debbie.
“For me, when I measure my success, of course I look at my medical condition. The tumor is no longer existent and my quarterly scans are always positive, but I also look at it from the other perspective,” he says. “I was able to continue making a difference in the lives of children, to be able to teach and mentor the next generation of educational leaders, to still be able to get to my root love of performing music and living a full and enjoyable life.”
His experience has made him more mindful of others who are going through cancer and made him think about ways he could give back. That’s why he joined the Wilmot Cancer Institute Board in 2016. He’s grateful not only for the amount of pancreatic cancer research that takes place at Wilmot, but also to be able to help spread the word about Wilmot in the community. Mike was an honoree at the 2016 Wilmot Warrior Walk and serves as the honorary chair for the Pancreatic Cancer Association of Western New York’s 2017 Step It Up 5K fundraiser that benefits pancreatic cancer research at Wilmot. In promoting this event, he has been busy sharing his story of hope and optimism.
“I have talked with a lot of people about the value of a positive attitude, never losing hope and recognizing how fortunate we are to be living in an area where we have access to top medical care, where research is being conducted on a daily basis,” he says.
He credits that level of care with helping him continue living his life fully and coming up on five years since his diagnosis.
“Going back to what the doctor told me after my surgery in 2013, that you can live with cancer, he is absolutely correct and I plan to do so for a long time,” Mike says.