Sunday, February 11, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, February 11, 2001

Honorable Mention
Cancer patient turns to athletics during tough times

By Zenaida Serrano Espanol
Advertiser Staff Writer

Michael Dudock suffers from non-Hodgkin's lyphoma and manic depresssion. Despite that, he is an exceptional athlete who has won dozens of medals at the 2000 Aloha State Games and the Senior Olympics. He will compete in the National Senior Olympics this July in Louisiana.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Michael A. Dudock

Age: 58

Hometown: Akron, Ohio; now lives in Waikiki

Accomplishment: Although Dudock suffers from bipolar disorder and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, he has excelled athletically, receiving several honors and dozens of medals at local sports competitions.

Quote: "Regardless of your circumstances, you never give up."

When Michael A. Dudock recently recalled the hardships in his life, he calmly held back his tears.

"I couldn’t quit," said the Waikiki resident, pausing for a brief moment to pull himself together.

His three words were simple, but their meaning, profound - he did not want to give up on life.

Dudock, 58, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, or manic depression, in 1988, and was hospitalized in Tripler Army Medical Center’s psychiatric unit in 1994 for exasperated manic depression. It was at that time that doctors discovered cancerous lumps in his neck. He was eventually diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, an incurable and eventually fatal cancer.

His cancer is at its most severe, stage-4 level, which means it has spread throughout his entire lymphatic system and has integrated into his bone marrow.

When Dudock was diagnosed with the cancer in 1995, he was told that he would have only three to five years to live.

"I was being told to get my affairs in order," Dudock said.

More than five years later, Dudock has not only beaten the odds, but at the same time has accomplished outstanding athletic feats.

A source of pride’

Last year saw a series of victories, both big and small, for Dudock.

In February, Dudock completed his first Great Aloha Run. In June and July, he competed in the Aloha State Games, where he participated in 19 individual events in track and field, 1-meter diving and swimming. Dudock won 17 medals: eight gold, five silver and four bronze.

In September, Dudock received a commendation from Gov. Benjamin Cayetano for his "outstanding performance at the 2000 Aloha State Games."

"Your remarkable demonstration of athleticism á is surpassed only by the courage with which you have confronted the challenges to your health," Cayetano wrote in the letter. "It gives me great pleasure to commend you for serving as a source of particular pride to cancer patients throughout the state."

At the Hawaii Senior Olympics in November, Dudock competed in six swimming events, which resulted in three gold medals, two silver and one bronze. He will be competing in the National Senior Olympics in Baton Rouge, La., in July of this year.

In December, he completed his fifth consecutive Honolulu Marathon. He was also nominated to be the Honolulu Quarterback Club’s 2000 Senior Male Athlete of the Year, with results due later this month.

"I think he’s tremendous," said Carol N. Franklin of East Honolulu, a member of the Honolulu Quarterback Club. "I don’t know anybody that has the courage that this man has."

Franklin was the person who nominated Dudock for the award. In a letter she submitted with the nomination, she wrote that she nominated him "for his á athletic accomplishments and for an undaunted desire to permanently beat the odds and reverse his diagnosed cancer."

"It’s really neat to be able to participate and achieve athletically," Dudock said. "But what (would be) really neat is to get better."

Running for his life

Getting better has been an ongoing challenge for Dudock.

"The only reason I’m alive is because I wouldn’t accept the fact that the doctors told me I was going to die," Dudock said. "I figured, if I was going to live, it was going to have to be up to me."

He said he took it upon himself to research the various treatments available to cancer patients.

"I had no treatment whatsoever for the cancer," he said. "No chemotherapy, no radiation, no bone marrow transplant."

Instead, he opted to do alternative treatments, such as drinking oxygenated water and herbal tea specifically designed for cancer.

Dudock said that long-distance running also helped him.

"When I was suffering from depression, I would run and it would make me feel better," he said. "I figured if it worked previously, it might work for the cancer as well."

So after being diagnosed with cancer, Dudock decided to begin training for the Honolulu Marathon, which he ran a year later in 1996. It became the first of the five annual Honolulu Marathons for Dudock, including a run last December.

Dudock said that running also helped him surpass the three- to five-year prediction of his death.

He said he believes the long-distance running produced enough endorphins, or hormones that reduce the sensation of pain, to slow down his cancer growth. Dudock also said that running helps him keep his sanity.

You never give up’

But his intense training eventually took a toll on his physical and mental health. After the Aloha State Games in July 2000, Dudock said he felt "burned out, completely and totally.

"I experienced extreme fatigue and exhaustion," he said, describing his headaches, weight loss and extreme depression.

But Dudock said that the commendation letter he received from Cayetano in September inspired him to not quit.

"That was a turning point," he said. So he decided to again research treatments available to cancer patients.

Through Internet research, he discovered low-dose naltrexone, also known as LDN, a drug that boosts the immune system. After being prescribed LDN, he began to take it in November.

While Dudock cannot prove that taking LDN is what is making him feel better, "it appears that something positive has happened," he said.

He immediately noticed an increase in energy levels, which allowed him to train again for the Hawaii Senior Olympics in November and the Honolulu Marathon in December.

Although he may not be in top condition, Dudock said that he feels much better physically and mentally than he has in years.

He is optimistic and is looking forward to what he has planned ahead, such as the Great Aloha Run this month and the National Senior Olympics in July.

Dudock smiled and said he often wonders why he is still alive.

Referring to God, he said, "I wonder, What do you want me to do next?’"

"I believe that we’re all here for a reason and we’re lucky if we find out what that reason is," Dudock said. "I found out what that reason is for me á it’s to stay alive and help other people to stay alive."

Dudock believes he can accomplish this by spreading a message.

"Regardless of your circumstances, you never give up," he said. "If you do, you lose."

Do you know someone who has won an award, given of himself or herself, or accomplished other great things? The Ohana section profiles remarkable people every week. Write: Honorable Mention, Ohana Section, The Honolulu Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802; e-mail or fax 535-8170.

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