Longtime Palo Alto Medical Foundation patient Mike Moone leads an active, busy life and, for the most part, has enjoyed excellent health into his 70s. He and his wife, Jan Soderstrom, exercise regularly, golf multiple times a week and have traveled extensively for both work and pleasure, including several trips to the Olympics, the Super Bowl and Australia.So when Mike was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, he was in total shock. On top of receiving news that would be disorienting for any patient, he and Jan had recently moved from Atherton to Pleasanton to be closer to their children and grandchildren, which could have meant having to navigate a whole new healthcare system.
It made sense to honor PAMF because of the impact it has had in our lives.
“If PAMF were only in Palo Alto, chances are we would have had to look elsewhere for care after we moved,” Mike says. “The fact that PAMF is also in Fremont and Dublin was a godsend.”
A Couple’s Disease
In the spring of 2017, Mike noticed a red discoloring in his urine and immediately made an appointment with his doctor. After a series of tests, PAMF urologist Simon Kimm, M.D., told Mike he had found cancerous growths in his bladder. That same visit, they decided that they would work with PAMF oncologist Bryant Sheh, M.D., to stop the spread of cancer using chemotherapy, and then Dr. Kimm would surgically remove Mike’s bladder.
“Dr. Kimm explained in great detail what the surgery would entail, how long my rehabilitation would take and how I could live my life afterward,” Mike says. “We left his office feeling confident that I was in excellent hands and very lucky to have such a top- notch surgeon.”
The very next day, Mike and Jan met with Dr. Sheh to discuss chemotherapy. “It was definitely a life-changing event,” Mike says. “Jan had beaten breast cancer 25 years earlier, but her treatment did not require chemotherapy or radiation.” His only connection to chemo had been his father’s treatments in 1982. “I would get phone calls from Dad telling me he was sure the chemo would kill him before the cancer did,” Mike recalls. “Needless to say, we were full of trepidation when we entered Dr. Sheh’s office, but within 10 minutes, he changed all of that. His sincerity, candor and confidence gave us assurance that we would win this battle.”
Having gone through her own bout with cancer, Jan made sure she was by Mike’s side for each appointment and treatment. “I remember from my own experience that when going to the doctor and hearing news you don’t want to hear, half of it goes right over your head, so it’s very important to have someone with you,” she says. “In the case of bladder cancer and the subsequent surgery, they call it a couple’s disease, and it definitely is—it’s not just one person going through it.”
Even when Dr. Sheh reviewed Mike’s PET scans to check how the chemotherapy was affecting the cancer, he would include Jan in the conversation. “Dr. Sheh would turn his screen, get in the middle of us and go through the whole 3D image,” Jan says.
After a course of chemotherapy and bladder-removal surgery, Mike is now cancer free.
Care that Goes the Extra Mile
Mike’s memory of his care at PAMF is peppered with small kindnesses he received from the physicians and staff, making one of the most difficult times in his life a little easier. For example, Dr. Sheh would regularly stop by to check in with Mike and Jan during his treatment to make sure they had everything they needed.
Also, on the second day of his treatment series every week, Mike would have three different types of chemo within eight hours, including an extremely caustic drug called cisplatin. These were long and challenging sessions for Mike, but his chemotherapy nurse, Gina Portillo, would always come in early on those days. “The whole reason she did that was so we could try to beat the traffic on the 680 on the way home,” he says. “That was wonderful of her.”
These small gestures made a huge impact on Mike’s mental, physical and emotional state during his treatment. “I always felt that everybody was there for me and doing the best they could,” he says. “No one ever acted like it was their job. I always got the feeling that they cared.”
Leaving a Lasting Legacy
Both Mike and Jan had long, successful careers, allowing them to save well and, ultimately, give back. The couple met when Mike, then president of Warner Communications’ video games division, Atari, hired Jan to lead the marketing team. Once they started dating, the CEO didn’t want Jan working under Mike anymore, so she got a promotion and began reporting directly to the CEO. Eventually, they both left the company, got married and raised two boys together.
Mike went on to launch a series of startups in Silicon Valley, including one that he eventually sold to Cisco. Jan spent her career in marketing, working for some of the most recognizable brands in the world, including Levi’s and Visa. The couple set up a charitable remainder trust with shares from their successful careers.
Though Mike and Jan didn’t have anything specific in mind when starting their trust, they recently designated PAMF as a beneficiary in recognition of the consistent, high-quality care both have received over the past 40 years. “Ultimately, we chose PAMF because I believe that Dr. Sheh and Dr. Kimm saved my life,” Mike says.
Adds Jan: “It is important to know we can support organizations like PAMF long after we’re gone. It made sense to honor PAMF because of the impact it has had in our lives.”
Two short years after his diagnosis, Mike is feeling healthier than ever. He and Jan are still playing golf, taking ski trips with their children and grandchildren and exercising daily. “There really weren’t any surprises during my treatment,” Mike says. “Now everything is fine and it’s like it never happened.”