One man's life shows the art of living well — no matter what happens


Posted: November 16, 2023 | Word Count: 948

Some people just know how to live. One great example is Mike Hugo, who learns from stumbles and turns them into victory — tackling anything he wants to do with vigor and perseverance. This was clear as early as age 7, when the first pig he entered into a county fair was disqualified as overweight. Unfazed, Mike learned everything he could about pigs, even taking one on daily two-mile walks. The result? He won grand champion the next year — and the next nine.

This can-do attitude helped Mike become an all-state football player (even playing a season for a semi-pro Australian gridiron team) and earn his engineering degree by age 20. From obtaining patents for product design improvements at his very first job to doing marathons and Ironman competitions, Mike greets life with energy and enthusiasm, an attitude he hopes to impart to his two daughters, Bridget and Brooke.

A daunting setback

Mike was training for his 12th Ironman when everything changed. A day after swimming over two miles in the ocean, he had a seizure while driving and crashed his car. Waking in the hospital with a serious back injury was bad enough, but that was the least of his concerns.

In his work as a sales district manager for a medical device company, Mike had seen his fair share of MRIs. One glance at his scans was enough to scare him: He had a brain tumor the size of a tangerine.

Mike was diagnosed with glioblastoma (GBM), and surgeons removed as much of Mike's tumor as they could without impairing his cognition. But GBM can be very aggressive — within three weeks his tumor had grown back to about one-third its previous size.

What is glioblastoma (GBM)?

Glioblastoma is the most aggressive type of malignant primary brain tumor. Early detection is nearly impossible, and the condition can be challenging to control, typically causing progressive neurological symptoms over time. The survival rate for newly diagnosed patients is just 5-10%.

Facing his diagnosis with action

Not surprisingly, Mike and his wife Vanessa immediately started exploring treatments, while making the most of their time together. Vanessa is a clinical researcher in cranial and spinal technologies, so her research and their network of connections in the neurology field helped uncover new treatment options.

This is how they learned about Optune Gio, a wearable, portable, FDA-approved device indicated to treat GBM in adult patients 22 years of age or older. The device works by creating Tumor Treating Fields (TTFields), which are alternating electric fields delivered at a unique frequency that allows it to selectively disrupt GBM cell division. TTFields therapy attacks GBM cells where they're vulnerable, interfering with mitosis to disrupt cancer cell division, and ultimately can destroy cancer cells. When used together with standard of care chemotherapy in a large clinical study, this innovative treatment has been shown to improve survival outcomes in patients with newly diagnosed GBM, without adding systemic toxicities.

Living well and staying present, no matter what

Just as Mike faces all setbacks throughout his life with determination, this situation is no different. Looking toward an uncertain future, Mike remains steadfast in his goal to be present for his girls and keep planning for the future. He's created videos and letters for his daughters to offer guidance during life's milestones and rites of passage.

"As a father, I'm thinking constantly about, with the time I have left, how do I take care of them?" Mike said. "It's very hard to imagine every scenario where my kids might turn to me for advice in the next 30 years, but that's what I'm trying to do."

Mike took voice lessons to help him sing country star Tim McGraw's song "My Little Girl" for a video for his girls. But as usual, his dream was bigger. He wanted McGraw to join him for a duet and reached out via social media — and the message went viral. McGraw saw it and arranged for Mike's family to fly to Nashville. As the father of three daughters, McGraw also knows what it's like to lose a parent to glioblastoma. His dad, legendary baseball player Tug McGraw, died of GBM in 2004.

With cameras rolling and McGraw beside him, Mike delivered messages to his young daughters for their future wedding days before segueing into the duet, then danced with each of his girls to "My Little Girl" on the stage at the Grand Ole Opry.

For anyone facing obstacles, Mike offers the following advice from John D. Rockefeller: "I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature."

Where to find more information about Optune Gio and GBM

If you or a loved one is affected by GBM, speak with your doctor to learn more about Optune Gio and how to incorporate this therapy into a treatment plan. Learn more at OptuneGio.com.

The most common side effects of Optune Gio when used together with chemotherapy to treat newly diagnosed GBM are low blood platelet count, nausea, constipation, vomiting, tiredness, scalp irritation from the device, headache, seizure, and depression. The most common side effects when using Optune Gio alone to treat recurrent GBM are scalp irritation (redness and itchiness) and headache. Other side effects are malaise, muscle twitching, fall and skin ulcers. For more information, please see Optune Gio Instructions for Use.

Optune Gio is not for everyone. Talk to your doctor if you have an implanted medical device (programmable shunt), skull defect (missing bone with no replacement), bullet fragment or a known sensitivity to conductive hydrogels. Do not use Optune Gio if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

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