Hi friends and family,

Today Michael had his brain/spine MRI. He did the whole thing awake and we had the
IV Dream Team who were perfect on the first try. He was brave as always.

Sadly, though, the MRI shows an area of tumor growth in the same spot as the recurrence in 2012. The spine looked the same. We never wanted to hear this news again and I feel numb and angry hearing it again. Michael and April were both in the room with us when Dr. Dhall gave us the update.

Michael told me he knew something was wrong when Dr. Dhall came in to the room not smiling. I could tell when he paused after shaking our hands. It was so hard listening, with some type of composure, and also trying to quickly explain what was wrong to Michael. We were all very upset. Dr. Dhall did place his hand on Michael's back and told him he was the bravest boy he knew and he would get him through this.

All of our doctors will be consulting with each other and other colleagues around the country.
With a 2nd recurrence we have to research all options, since treatment can be more difficult to figure out.

Tonight, after spending a few hours at home, we all managed to go out to eat. Michael and I had big bowls of mac-n-cheese. The kids had ice cream after dinner, outside on a patio, and M & A were dancing around to the techno muzak. On the way home, they were playing games and being silly in the car. Love their spirit.

We are asking for all of your prayers as we are about to tackle another round of treatment.
Pray for direction on his treatment plan and for many more years of health.
Pray that all of his doctors will find effective treatments and a way to cure his cancer.
Pray for Michael August!

We love you all! Fight on,
Colleen, Steve, Michael & April




On Monday we had our brain/spine MRI check. It almost didn't happen as scheduled, because some employee didn't do their paperwork correctly. We made some noise and they fit us in just fine a few hours later. It was all routine and Michael picked IHOP for dinner that night. He was brave as usual.

Then Steve got a call from Dr. Finlay on Tuesday afternoon. He NEVER calls. Steve called me at work. The MRI showed new tumor growth in a small area of the original tumor bed. Michael's tumor has come back. It feels so wrong to even type that. I am so angry right now and it has been a very difficult week for Steve and I. I'm still in shock and so, so mad.

We did meet with Dr. Krieger this morning. The best way to try to beat this recurring tumor type is more surgery and radiation. We talked about the details of surgery. It will be difficult and Dr. Krieger really won't know the full scope until he does the surgery. The new smaller growth is in two adjacent areas, one next to his brainstem and the other in a cave-like space next to it, outside of the brain tissue. One part of the growth is in an area where some main nerves are too. It is higher than the original growth, so the incision area will be on the left side, not the back of his head. None of this is easy to follow, but we know Dr. Krieger will do everything he can to get the best result for Michael.

We did tell Michael that he will need another surgery. He is scared and doesn't want to do it, but is doing well overall. He is just enjoying 1st grade, as he should be.

We have scheduled his surgery for Oct. 11th.

Until then, we are trying to do many fun, normal things. We are off to a Dodger Game with the Cub Scouts tomorrow!

Steve might add more details later, but for now I wanted to update everyone and ask again for your amazing prayers and support that you have all given us all these years. We need them in large numbers and thank God that we are surrounded by so much love. Go Team Super Michael!

Love to you,
Colleen, Steve, Michael and April


Michael is our first and only child. He seemed entirely healthy in every way until last June, at about 10-months old, when he started tilting his head to the right. Our pediatrician suspected something serious, and within a few days Michael had an MRI. We were told that the head tilt was being caused by a large tumor pressing against his brainstem—which was diagnosed as an ependymoma. Fortunately it was operable, although very difficult to get to, and the wonderful neurosurgery team at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles fully removed the tumor. There are some deficits from the surgery that Michael is still dealing with, mainly due to nerve damage that affects his hearing, eyes, and face, but this is typical and much of it should heal over time. Without question, the surgery was very successful.

We can’t possibly explain how scared, confused, shocked, trapped, and angry we felt during these first few weeks as we processed all this while Michael was recovering from the surgery. But at some point we accepted this as a new reality, and have pushed ahead and made it through five months of further treatment.

The tumor would surely grow back if we didn’t continue treatment with intense chemotherapy and radiation, so this was a relatively easy decision. Michael underwent four rounds of chemo, with the last one being a “mini” bone-marrow transplant. His radiation therapy began during the first week of December, which will continue daily for about six weeks. Ependymoma is not very responsive to chemotherapy, but radiation has shown to have fairly good results when the tumor has been removed—the prognosis can be as high as 60-70%.

Despite all that he has been through, Michael is doing remarkably well. He is incredibly tough. We are also managing pretty well, which has become easier as Michael has felt better. Colleen has maintained her job working as a graphic designer for Frederick’s of Hollywood, and I take care of Michael during the day. I was nearing the end of my graduate studies at USC in music when Michael was diagnosed, but it was necessary to temporarily withdraw from the program, as well as stop teaching, in order to care for him. 

This is a difficult time for our family, both emotionally and financially. We are proud that Michael has been named a TFF Kid with the Talbert Family Foundation, and are grateful for their help and support as we work through this. And we truly thank you for the prayers and financial help to get us through this time. 

Steve and Colleen Gates



100% of the monies donated to the fund will be donated to Michael and his family to help his defray ongoing expenses for his treatment.

Please donate now to
Michael's Fund
To Donate Online to
Michael's Fund
Click the Link Below -
designate the funds to
Michael's Fund

To Donate via mail
Click Here for a downloadable form

Checks can be mailed directly to:
Michael's Fund