MOUNT VERNON — Scott Mickley admits that his faith has been a balm for his nerves.
“My faith is very good,” Mickley said from a couch inside First Congregational United Church of Christ, where he was the former custodian.
“If I didn’t have faith I’d probably be a basket case, but I’m not afraid to die.”
Mickley, a Danville resident, is simultaneously battling two cancerous diseases and a blood disease: multiple myeloma, myelodysplastic syndrome, and the newly-discovered VEXAS Syndrome, a UBA1 blood disease.
He’s the only documented individual who’s had these three diseases at the same time, he’s been told by the National Institute of Health (NIH).
Mickley’s health journey began on Oct. 27, the night before Danville High School’s football team would take the field at Tough Street Stadium to host their playoff game against Windham. Mickley helped paint the football field for the playoff game.
After the job was complete, he noticed a red spot on his leg that had concerned him for about two weeks. He showed his son and his son’s fiancé the swollen red spot; they believed it could have been a blood clot. They both advised medical attention.
After work at First Congregation, Mickley went to Knox Community Hospital (KCH) to have his leg checked. That was the day the ER doctor came back and told Mickley he had cancer.
“My heart went to my toes,” Mickley said.
At the time, the doctor believed he had leukemia and told him to see an oncologist immediately.
Mickley wasn’t angry. Instead of thinking “Why me?” he wanted to leave the ER and head back to Tough Street. He had a Blue Devils game to videotape.
Mickley went to Rite Aid to pick up his prescription and went to the playoff game.
“I probably prayed the whole game,” he said. “I went home to load the stuff up on our sports huddle and I didn’t even know what the score of the game was.
“I wasn’t mad at no one. I thought about how to tell my wife, I prayed about that during the game. I thought about how to tell my kids,” he recalled.
After seeing the family doctor, Mickley was referred to Dr. Husain A. Rasheed of KCH. That’s when he was told he had multiple myeloma and myelodysplastic syndrome.
Multiple myeloma and myelodysplastic syndrome are known as incurable cancers, though treatments exist such as chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants.
But an inexplicable factor kept revealing itself in Mickley’s bloodwork that was unknown to his doctors.
In hopes of finding out, Mickley was sent to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center for further bloodwork. His blood was also sent to the NIH.
“I’d do whatever it takes”
In January, Mickley was getting ready to start his chemotherapy treatment. It was at that moment when the NIH informed Wexner medical staff who then called Mickley, saying he had VEXAS Syndrome.
VEXAS Syndrome isn’t classified as a cancer but as a blood disease, causing inflammation and hematologic manifestations. It was discovered in 2020 and is still being researched throughout the NIH and world.
After his blood was sent over to Bethesda, Maryland — where the NIH is based — he was told that he would hear back from an NIH doctor since Wexner staff had little experience in treating Vexas Syndrome. He wasn’t given a timeline.
“I said I’d do whatever it takes to help find out what’s wrong with me and hopefully find a cure and help future generations,” Mickley said. “I kept waiting and waiting.”
It was at St. Luke Catholic Church in Danville, where Mickley was reading the church’s bulletin, that he saw the Catholic Ministries of Miracles was meeting in Columbus at the Catholic Museum on Broad Street.
“I asked my brother if he’d go down with me to it later that week (in Feburary),” Mickley said.
When Mickley arrived, he had a chance to speak with the museum’s director, who asked if he wanted to hold a relic of the True Cross.
The wooden cross, which is said to be made from the wood of the actual cross that Jesus Christ was crucified on, rested in Mickley’s hand for what felt like an eternity.
“What’s so impressive about that moment was we’d been waiting two months for the NIH to call, and they called at that second,” Mickley said. “I took the call and they scheduled me to check in at the NIH on April 9, which was Easter Sunday.”
Mickley’s Catholic faith has been strengthened since he found out he had cancer.
“Instead of dwelling on it or thinking on it, I got a Bible. I’ll start reading or I’ll read the Bible off the phone and occupy myself,” he said. “I’ve read through the Bible two complete times just waiting on doctor’s offices and while they’re getting chemo.”
Mickley decided early on during his cancer journey that he wasn’t going to follow a hateful or unpleasant path. Instead, he was going to follow God through this, he said.
“I’ve lived a good full life.” Mickley said. “I’m not ready to die, but I’m ready to accept it. Whatever path the Lord gives me … I deal with it that way.”