Michael's Battle Against Cancer and the Gift of Every Precious Moment


Michael Capps, of Shelbyville Missouri, is a devoted family man whose world revolves around his wife Jennifer, and two children Chris and Chloe. In March of 2023, Michael began having pain in his stomach that slowly became disruptive to his daily life. After months of persistent pain and digestive issues, Michael visited the Hannibal Regional Emergency Department. CT scans of his abdomen showed no signs of anything wrong.

Michael continued taking ibuprofen daily just to get through but by July the pain became so intrusive he couldn’t get through a day of work even with medication. This facilitated a second trip to the Hannibal Regional Emergency Department in which a CT scan of his abdomen discovered several swollen lymph nodes. Recalling that moment, Michael shares, "They told me that they suspected it was cancer, and it hit me hard. But what struck me even more was the empathy they showed in delivering the news. It was as if they shared my pain, making it comforting to know they cared for me in such a personal way."

Michael was referred to Dr. Kevin Palka, an oncologist at Hannibal Regional Cancer Institute. Upon meeting Dr. Palka Michael says that he liked him right away, “He told it to me straight and got right to the point, which I appreciated.” A biopsy of the lymph nodes revealed that Michael, unfortunately, had stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. With tears welling in his eyes Michael says, “My first thoughts were concern for my kids. They are just getting ready to start their adult lives and they still need me.” Dr. Palka reassured Michael that while stage 4 lung cancer cannot be cured there were some exceptionally promising options for treatment.

Michael’s PD-L1 level on his tumor was 100%, which meant that he could be effectively treated with Keytruda without needing any toxic chemotherapy. Keytruda is an intravenous immunotherapy drug that activates the body’s immune system to attack and destroy cancer cells. In late August Michael began his immunotherapy treatments. Within two weeks, a noticeable decrease in pain brought Michael a great sense of optimism and relief. Dr. Palka, observing Michael's progress, commented, "This treatment was a perfect match for Michael. After his second treatment, tests showed a complete response and best of all Michael was feeling 100% better!"

Today Michael only visits the Hannibal Regional Cancer Institute once every six weeks for a thirty-minute infusion.  Michael reports that he feels little to no negative side effects from his treatments and has noticed his health improve significantly since starting them. Michael says his heart is full of gratitude, " I owe my life to Dr. Palka and the staff at the Hannibal Regional Cancer Institute.  They've worried about my weight and how I'm doing more like you would expect from a friend. I'm not a fan of doctors and hospitals but they've made me feel so at ease.”

This ordeal has transformed Michael's outlook on life. "I don't let little things bother me like I did before. I am just so much more appreciative of every day I have with my family, especially my wife Jennifer. She has been my rock through the whole ordeal. Without her help and love for me, I would have never gotten through this." he shares. Michael's story is a testament to the power of hope, medical advancements, and the profound impact of compassionate care.Save Article 

For more information about the cancer care services offered by Hannibal Regional, please call (573) 629-3500 or visit hannibalregional.org/cancer-care.