May 2001. One of the few family pictures taken, the best as Mike was feeling particularly good at this time. It was taken on our 6th wedding anniversary. Ari was 3 weeks old.


Michael Eugene Dowell was born in Stillwater, OK on Aug 20, 1975. His parents didn't stay together long after his birth and it became clear by Mike's 6th birthday that his birth father wanted little to do with him. Mike's mom, a struggling student decided it best he stay with his financially independent grandparents temporarily. Due to reasons beyond her control, it became permanent.
Mike was a highly intelligent child and went to mostly private schools throughout elementary and Jr high school. One story told by family is that he freaked his 2 nd and 3rd grade teachers out by deliberately writing "right to left" and backwards because he was bored.
In high school he went to Leander HS in Leander,TX. He was active in the debate club,astronomy club, played the Trombone in the marching band, and took Tae Kwan do. When he graduated he tested out of 18 college credits and took a semester at the University of Texas majoring in general studies. Mike wanted to be writer & English teacher. Due to a disagreement with his grandparents about his major, he dropped his UT courses.
During this time he met up with an old classmate from high school at a coffeehouse one night. He asked Jodi (me) out in March 1994. In a couple of months we moved in together when the disagreements at home finally escalated to a point past resolving. Not knowing how he'll ever pay for college on his own, Mike decided to enlist in the US Air Force and started boot camp in Dec. 1994. When he graduated and en route to his new base assignment, we married in a quick ceremony in Austin and headed to Barksdale AFB in Shreveport,LA.
Mike had been suckered by his AF recruiter into joining the Air Force security forces. Mike's ASVAB scores had been high enough to work in almost any field but seeing as manning was low in the police/security field the recruiter convinced Mike that it would be all war games, exercises, working with police canines, glorified the field. The boy in Mike caved to this and spent the next 4 years watching fences and monitoring landing strips. He stood near radioactive planes and in weapons areas for 13 hour stretches. The kicker being his hours were so varied and bad he had no time to even take college classes and work.
He did have the opportunity to write at home and he wrote many short stories and created quite a few RPG games that he hope to one day put the finishing touches on and get published.
He seperated from the AF in July 2000 and went to work for a brief time in Security at National instruments in Austin,TX before getting sick a final time. That same year we learned we were expecting our first child and Ariana was born in April 2001. Mike said before he died that God had given him just enough time to meet his daughter. He also said that he had never known unconditional love until she was born. He loved his little "peanut" very much.

Mike was first diagnosed with Squamous cell carcinoma T1 M0 N0 in March 1997. He had a lesion on his tongue, it was painless and had been noticed by his dentist on a routine check-up. After a biopsy, cancer was confirmed. The oral surgeon compared it to having a cancerous mole, curable, treatable. The treatment plan was to remove the lesion and margins surgically and if no spread is noted, no other cancer treatments would be necessary. The Air force wanted to wait a month to do the surgery so Mike's uncle, a pathologist at the Portsmouth naval hospital in Virginia arranged for Mike and I to be med-evacuated up to VA for the surgery there. He had the surgery within 10 days.
The surgery was very traumatic for Mike. He had never been hospitalized before and this one kept him there for 11 days. They removed 1/3rd of his tongue, performed a neck dissection to remove lymph nodes, an NG feeding tube down his nose, and he had to have a tracheostomy to keep his airway open. He was off work for 2 months. When he came back something was different about Mike. He refused to have anything to do with Cancer causing agents, refused to be in the sun, he had nightmares, insomnia, and even had flashbacks from his awful time in the hospital. After months of severe depression and self-destructive behavior, at my urging, Mike sought help. After the right balance of therapy and anti-depressants, Mike was doing much better. They changed his position at work as he also had facial/cranial nerve damage from the surgery to his neck. He could no longer carry a gun. It turned out he was very valuable to the security office he was assigned to after the next few years. He was their unofficial computer tech support guy and he re-wrote many police procedures and blotters in his position there.
Three and a half years later,in July 2000, just after separating from the Air Force, we had thought his cancer was resolved and as good as cured. Mike didn't think much of it even when he saw his ENT doctor for the last time in the air force. He didn't think to make a big deal out of the dull ache he had been feeling in his jaw. His ENT Dr had even brushed it off as stress.
The pain worsened over the next few months and was excruciating by October. He couldn't even open his mouth. We went to an ENT specialist and he was diagnosed with a second tumor, the size of an orange in his salivary (parotid) gland. It had wrapped itself around his jaw. With limited insurance, we went to the VA. The VA sent Mike all the way to Dallas to the big facility there to see the "best" ENT surgeons there. The treatment plan this time was to remove all the tumor as they could via surgery and remove part of the jawbone. Also since radiation treatment was to follow, they would have to remove all of his teeth to prevent infection. They also speculated that another facial nerve would be destroyed and a gold chip would have to be inserted into his eyelid to force it to close at night as it won't ever close on it's own. Not to mention he again had a tracheostomy and another NG tube.
The surgery went well, he was only in ICU for 2 days this time and in the hospital for 8. The radiation treatments that followed were hard. Mike was forced to stay at the hospital in Dallas for his treatments, only coming home to pregnant me on the weekends. This lasted 7 weeks.
By the time Ariana was born, Mike was feeling pretty good. He had limited movement in his right arm and the VA was good enough to grant him 100% disability payments. When my maternity leave was over, I went back to work and Mike stayed home with the baby.
In Aug 2001, Mike who hadn't been feeling well with a small cough and fatigue called me at work saying he was really having a hard time breathing. We went to the VA hospital ER in Temple,TX that night. We hoped it was just pneumonia but it was the worst. We found out on Mike's 26th birthday that the CT scan confirmed multiple tumors in all lobes of his lungs and a metastatic tumor on his collar bone (clavicle). His oncologist in Temple admitted he had never seen Mike's "type" of cancer spread and grow as fast as it did. He said Mike had 6 months to a year maybe to live. Mike went home with Hospice care, and a plan for weekly chemotherapy treatments to give him more time. He made it through 2 doses and swiftly went downhill after the second. The hospice had time for only one visit before early on the morning of Sep 4, 2001, I found Mike on the floor. He had been gone for a few (4-5) hours they estimated. Since he hadn't been able to swallow for a week due to the chemo and had very little fluids and nourishment, it can only be concluded he went into arrest due to an electrolyte imbalance or possibly had a pulmonary embolus. What ever it was it was fast and without any warning. The direct reason will never be known, there was no autopsy since his Cancer was diagnosed as terminal.

We were married for 6 years before his death. It wasn't a perfect 6 years and there were problems. Throughout even the worst of them, we came out stronger and loved each other even more as a result.
We had decided to wait to have children and had even said to wait until we were both 25. Being we had gotten married at the tender ages of 19 we thought it was pretty smart to hold off. I was pregnant and found out the news the day before Mike's 25th birthday. Scared and nervous about what lay ahead, Mike was unsure what to think about his impeding father-hood.
It turned out to be fate that Ariana was conceived when she was as Mike was stricken ill within a month with his second recurrence of Cancer. After the following Radiation and chemotherapy treatments and surgery...It would have been unlikely another chance would have come along.

all through the night
i'll be watching over you
and all through the night
i'll be standing over you

and through bad dreams
i'll be, i'll be baby telling
everything's gonna be allright

and when you cry, i'll
be there baby telling you
you're never nothing less then beautiful
so don't worry
I'm your angel standing by


Mike in 1994, when we were dating

Mike and me, Air Force graduation in San Antonio

Our wedding party, Maid of honor and best friend Jenni, me, Mike, and his best man Patrick.

May 1995, cutting the cake at our thrown together at the last minute wedding. It was great.


Our first christmas together, spent late and alone because he had to work. We were also too dirt poor to get anything cool for each other. We still had each other though.

Mike and me at my Aunt's in VA in 1996


Mike and Tristan playing the playstation, christmas 1997

My 2 favorite men, Mike and my dad, summer 1998
I love how they made the same face.
Mike and some in his squadron on his last day in the Air Force

Mike in a chubby phase, 1999 I loved the extra weight on him.

Mike in 2000 with his babies, Darcy and Tristan


Mike and Ari in 2001, she was about a month old


Mike and Ari catching a nap on the couch, This was about late July, early August 2001.

The last picture taken of him, on his 26th birthday at the hospital. He wanted a blueberry pie, my mom was awesome to bring him one.