Eugene*, who lives in Louisiana, is a cancer survivor. The cancer began in his tonsils and was diagnosed in 2011 at a late stage that required intense radiation treatment. He couldn’t swallow because of the treatment, lost 80 pounds in about 90 days and got so sick he was told he would die from aspiration pneumonia if he didn’t get a feeding tube.
“Sweating” the need for a feeding tube
Eugene was 62 when he learned he would need a tube. He says he was “sweating the fact that I needed a tube. [I] didn’t want a big, ugly one,” which is what he calls the standard-length feeding tube. He was apprehensive about the longer tube because its length would mean he’d have to wrap it around himself or secure it with a hook-and-loop fastener. Eugene also worried that a longer tube wouldn’t give him the flexibility he needed to hold down a job and that it would leak or be hard to clean.
Thankfully, his nutritionist Laura had something different in mind. She showed Eugene the low-profile MIC-KEY* button and he decided it was a “no brainer” to start using it. He found the device was short in length and “simple and easy” to maintain and clean.
Ever since his doctor showed him how to use it, the MIC-KEY* button has been the only tube Eugene has used over the last three years.
MIC-KEY* makes a feeding tube meal more enjoyable
Eugene can’t eat anything by mouth, so all of his meals consist of formula. He says the MIC-KEY* button makes his eating experience “more enjoyable.” Of course, it takes a little time to adjust to. “You’ll need to find out what works for your body,” he says. He advises people to pay attention to how the tube feels early on and that will help tubies learn what works best for them when it comes to meals.
Now, Eugene points out, he doesn’t miss anything he used to do before he got the tube. “Honestly, most people can’t fix a meal as healthy as I get every day,” he says. “I get nutrients and calories and it’s easy to eat — I can eat in less than 10 minutes. I’m able to eat anywhere and there’s not a lot of clean up. You can’t do that with a regular meal.” He tries to eat every 3 hours and uses formula because he can’t get food as smooth as he needs it to be.
Eugene isn’t missing out on experiences with friends or family either. He sits with them at the table and can “eat while they eat.” He wants people to understand that there are a lot of cancer patients and others who need the feeding tube and eat this way.
He wishes his dad could use the MIC-KEY* button
Eugene’s father was diagnosed with head and neck cancer a year after Eugene. He also received radiation treatment that led to using a feeding tube. Now his 90-year-old father lives in Maryland in a care center and uses the standard-length tubes. Eugene sent his father a MIC-KEY* kit, but his dad’s doctors weren’t familiar with it and “wouldn’t use it.”
Eugene finds the standard-length tubes problematic and has also seen the issues his dad faces. For instance, “if the alligator clip breaks, all the fluid comes out and you have to use [a hook and loop fastener on the tube] to tie it up and keep it out of your way.”
Eugene finds the standard tube “is more difficult in general because there’s so much tube,” he says. “You almost need three hands: one to fill the tube up, one to release flow and one to close it back off.” His father complains the tube gets in the way and gets stuck in his shirt when he’s trying to get dressed. Another difference in the tubes Eugene has noticed is that his dad’s tube leaks quite a bit, but Eugene’s “doesn’t ever.”
His father’s tube leaks at the stoma site and gets red and infected. “It’s sad,” Eugene notes. “At his age he shouldn’t have to deal with all this stuff.”
A comfortable routine with the MIC-KEY* button
Eugene has found a comfortable routine with his feeding tube. He can wear it in the shower and feed in the car, on a boat and at work. “I go to work … simple, easy cleanup and if anyone sees me, they don’t see a big ugly tube.” He also appreciates that the MIC-KEY* button is:
- Simple and easy to use daily. If he’s going to change the tube himself, he always has a backup. He “hasn’t had any bad experiences with the tube.”
- Eugene doesn’t have to worry about leaking stomach contents as with a long tube. And there’s “not a lot of cleanup or mess.”
- Conveniently covered. His insurance pays for a new tube every four months.
If there’s one thing Eugene would like to see more of, it’s healthcare professionals who are more familiar with the MIC-KEY* button. There have been times when he’s had to show a doctor or nurse how to use or replace his tube. “A lot of hospitals don’t know about [the MIC-KEY*] — they only know about the old style, standard length,” he points out. “I know more about it than the nurses and doctors. They need to learn more about it.”
Advice from a cancer survivor — and MIC-KEY* tubie
Eugene has strong advice about cancer: “Get checked early before it gets to a higher stage. Then you may not need intense treatments, which led to me needing a tube. Find a doctor who will work with you and your needs.” And perhaps most important, “You’ve got to be optimistic. You’ve got to be positive. There is life after cancer.”
Eugene wants to bring education and awareness to the world about the MIC-KEY* tube. “The tube saved my life. Thanks to the MIC-KEY* tube, I’m doing very well.” He strongly encourages others, “Don’t be like I was — afraid, sad and discouraged” about the thought of a feeding tube. “Get what works for you.”
Considering Eugene describes his MIC-KEY* tube as “phenomenal and lifesaving” and something that will “change your life,” it’s safe to say he’s found a tube that works very well for him.
*Last name withheld for privacy.