I met Mike Katz in 1993, when he came to the first ever Patient & Family Seminar. He walked over and introduced himself to me and told me that he and my late husband Brian Novis had spoken on the phone. I was so surprised and touched that this man took the time to fly all the way to Los Angeles to tell me about that conversation. I didn't realize that he, too, had myeloma because he was young, handsome and looked just great. We became great friends.
Mike Katz was many things: hero, friend, IMF board member, opera enthusiast, family man, lover of roller coasters, possessor of a great sense of humor, intolerant of BS, and champion extraordinaire for myeloma patients. Mike was laid to rest on Monday after waging a 25-year battle against myeloma.From the moment I met Mike, my life changed--as did that of patients all over the world. Mike was a force to be reckoned with, and it was always best to be on the side he fought for. He quickly realized the value of having patients communicate with one another, share experiences, share information, and share their fears, so they could overcome them. Then they could share hope, too. Mike was also a computer geek who built the IMF website, developed our database and provided a key portal for patients and caregivers to access information and support. He did everything and more for the IMF and the entire myeloma community, patients first and foremost, but he also worked closely with doctors and nurses. In other words there was no area that was off limits to Mike, and we all benefited from his passion and his tenacity.
A survivor of both multiple myeloma and rectal cancer, Mike showed us all how to live with life-threatening illness. "I've always chosen to live my life as if I didn't have cancer," he once said. "I just face forward and try to do everything I want to do, working around symptoms and treatment side effects." For 25 years, Mike worked as a patient advocate across a broad spectrum of cancers, serving as Chair of the Patient Representatives Committee at the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG), Chair of the NCI's Director's Consumer Liaison Group, a Patient Consultant for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and on the Association of Cancer Online Resources (ACOR).
He very passionately advocated to lower the standard dose of dexamethasone, which at that time was 40 mg for four consecutive days--a high dose of dexamethasone that today, thankfully, no patient has to endure. Mike worked with the chair of the ECOG Myeloma Committee and proposed the idea of a head-to-head trial of standard dose and low-dose dexamethasone. To no one's surprise, the patients on low-dose dexamethasone did much better and didn't have to endure the horrible side effects. And many a marriage was saved!
Mike was also the principal driver behind design and implementation of the comprehensive Myeloma Manager Personal Care Assistant application in 2008. This application is designed to help myeloma patients and caregivers manage their care, and can be downloaded free of charge on the IMF website.
At major cancer conferences around the world, Mike recorded video interviews with leading physicians, which were posted on the IMF website and other social media outlets for patients to view directly.
Mike also helped establish a link between bisphosphonates and osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ), and he helped change National Cancer Institute (NCI) policies regarding institutional review boards that removed serious delays in initiating clinical trials.
In 2014, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) recognized Mike with the 2014 Partners in Progress Award for his exceptional achievements, outstanding work, and dedication as a myeloma advocate. "Working with the IMF and others to help patients and caregivers and to advance myeloma research is an important and an incredibly rewarding part of my life. I am grateful to the community and to ASCO for this very special honor," Mike said at the time.
It is we who are grateful to have known Mike and to have been the beneficiaries of his wisdom, support, keen mind, problem-solving skills, honesty, and sharp wit. Mike loved to laugh and we had many laughs over the years as we traveled the world together. He was my dear, dear friend and I just can't imagine life without him.
Our hearts go out to his wonderful wife, Susie, their three sons Jason, Jeffrey and Jonathan, and their families, which now include many grandchildren.
Mike, we miss you, we love you and will remember you always.
International Myeloma Foundation