Those were among the first words spoken by Scotts Valley resident Mike Shaffer during an interview this week.
Shaffer, a youth softball coach and professional plumber fondly known to friends as “Big Mike,” suffered a seizure while on a job site last month. The ensuing MRI found a dangerous tumor close to his brain stem and near a major artery.
Doctors have given him about three years to live, but Shaffer, the father of three girls with his wife Beth, is not having it.
“I decided, I’m going to prove (them) wrong,” he said. “Shaffer’s are fighters.”
Shaffer, 41, is a military veteran who served between 1989 and 1994 as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne division during the first Gulf War.
After a host of tests, his doctors at the Veterans Administration Hospital have called for surgery to remove what they believe is High Grade Anaplastic Oligodendroglioma. However, the doctors can’t fully test the cancer until it is removed, so there is a five percent chance Shaffer has Glioblastoma. Both are dangerous forms of brain cancer.
Shaffer will have surgery sometime within the next three weeks, followed by chemotherapy to battle the cancer.
“They have to go in and cut out as much as they possibly can; but it’s close to the brain stem and an artery, so they can’t get it all.” Beth Shaffer said.
Doctors told Shaffer that the surgery may alter his short term memory and speech. However, there is hope as a functional MRI showed that Shaffer, a lefty, uses the right side of his brain for speech — which is somewhat unusual and means that doctors may be able to retain his ability to speak.
Shaffer hopes to return to his job and coaching softball with his wife after the surgery. This summer they coached the 8-and-under Scotts Valley Trouble competitive softball team. Their daughter Kylee played on the team which had to second-place finishes during the season that runs from February through July.
The softball community will hold a fundraising pancake breakfast for the Shaffer’s on Sept. 7 to help with the costs related to Mike Shaffer not being able to work.
“A lot of girl are waiting for me to get back on the field with them,” Shaffer said.
AT A GLANCE
When: 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Sept. 7
Where: Siltanen Park
Cost: Adults, $10; children 12-and-under, $5; under-5, free.