In the Spring of 2003, I received a wonderful call from Lynne Mattallana, president of FMaware Magazine. She was interested in doing a featured article about my life entitled,"Fibromyalgia On The Set Of The West Wing". With ample time, I was able to put together answers to the many questions she asked. Below are the original interview questions and answers for the FMaware Magazine Interview. Obviously all of this could not be put in the magazine (because of it's volume). I was very grateful , however, that she was able to put as much as she could in the magazine ....3 full pages along with my photo on the WW2 Ship, "S.S. LANE VICTORY". (To view magazine photo, click on "Fibro Magazine" on this web page)
WW2 BATTLE SHIP "S.S. LANE VICTORY" IN SAN PEDRO, CA
1) HOW DID YOU GET YOUR DIAGNOSIS AND HOW LONG HAVE YOU HAD FM?
I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia by my doctor in Del Mar, California
in 1996. However, I was aware of fibromyalgia symptoms since I was 28 years old (late 1980's), although at the time I didn't know what it was.
Before I get into the details of it's development, I want to mention
that I was very energetic and athletic growing up. (I literally grew up
on the trampoline and was very acrobatic).
During my early years, I also became a professional ballroom
dancer. I had 3 different dance partners (a blond, brunette,and a red
head) and we would compete in ballroom competitions. Our feet
just could not dance enough!
After this whirl-wind of events, I decided to settle down (a little)
and worked on a Masters program at a University in the San Diego area.
I would later end up moving to Florida to teach and spend some time
with my family (who had just moved there). During our summer breaks
from teaching, I would go down to the "Florida Keys" or visit Miami.
During one summer, I worked briefly with a modeling agency in
MICHAEL JAMES IN MIAMI 1990
I was a ball of energy during all these years, but then
something tragically happened......When I was 28-30 years old, I
noticed a drastic drop in my energy level (my brother Jack, had the
same phenomenon happen to him at this age as well). When I would
exercise, it seemed it was very difficult for my muscles to recover
from after a workout, even if it was a light workout. By age 30, the
muscles in my feet became unbearably tight. It was very difficult to
stand or even walk very far. I had my feet X-rayed, and they said
nothing was wrong. I really thought I had some rare type of foot
disorder. Dancing became extreemly painful and I had no idea why. Below
is a video clip of my final dance days with my beautiful dance partner,
Jennifer Galle (1993).
We would teach ballroom dancing during the fall, and for our graduation, we would have our "Cinderella Night" at the magnificent "Hotel Del Coronado" on Coronado Island. The women would dress up in their beautiful gowns and the men would dress up in their tuxedos. Below is a picture of the historic hotel along with the Grand Ballroom where we danced....
I thought my health could not get any worse, but
I had no idea of what was ahead....When I was 35, I took some
anti-biotics to get rid of a cold I had contracted, and I ended up with
a severe reaction. The anti-biotic (eurythromyacin) caused my stomach
to swell up like a balloon and my entire stomach became unbearably
"tight".....I thus began my journey into IBS (Irritable bowel
syndrome). My food would no longer digest and I developed severe
food and chemical sensitivities. I could no longer digest vitamin B
properly. I would be in excruciating pain for 2 hours after eating
almost anything. This went on for 2 years! The best way to describe the
pain would be as if someone was putting knives into your stomach. The
only thing that would not cause pain was tuna fish and lettuce. I had
to leave my teaching position and ended up being practically bedfast
for 2 years due to exhaustion and the inability to digest food.
While lying in bed one day, a girl from my church came over
with some herbs for killing parasites. Since I was a missionary in
Africa, we assumed that some parasite had gotten the upper hand due to
my weakened immune system from the anti-biotics. I took the
parasite herbs and they gave me tremendous energy (Thanks Sheri!)
I was able to get out of bed and at least half-way function. (The main
herbs were black walnut and cloves which are common in many parasite
formula's you find at your local health food store....I recommend
taking "Paraherbs" by the company, "Michaels"). www.michaelshealth.com
That day I discovered the power of herbs and began seeking doctors outside of my HMO. I continued on the parasite cleanse for 2 years, but was still very sick. I was just stumped. Meanwhile, symptoms of fibromyalgia seemed to develop in other parts of my body. It reminded me a lot of the sinking of the Titanic. Water kept pouring into one compartment after another, causing the ship to sink deeper and deeper into the ocean. My spine would later become stiff as a board, and my upper back and neck area became very painful. I later lost the ability to rotate my head. It was horrible! In the midst of this I became "hypoglycemic", had memory loss, and lived in and out of a "fibro-fog". This went on for a number of years. It was a horrible "lot" for anyone to bear and I never thought I would live to the age of 40 (You can ask my friends...They felt the same way!)
But I didn't quit.....Somehow after loosing my job, friends, and
my possessions, I was determined to find some answers to this
"invisible disease". Instead of going down with the ship,
into a lifeboat!...I would end up going to 40 more doctors. All helping
a little here and a little there. When I was diagnosed with
FM, it at
least helped me narrow in on what was really going on. (It wasn't a
rare foot disease, a stomach parasite, aids, or whatever). I want
encourage men and women who are diagnosed with FM to not
see it as a
"death notice", but rather a step in recovery...
NOT A "DEATH NOTICE" , BUT RATHER A STEP IN RECOVERY...
In 2002, I went online and submitted my
medical history to Dr. Teitelbaum's Diagnosis Program (www.endfatigue.org).
His computer spat out about 200 pages of very insightful information on
what my body was deficient in. I began taking some of the
and began to see some definite results.
DR. TEITELBAUM'S BOOK
Other doctors who have helped are Dr. Elrod, author of "Reversing Fibromyalgia"(http://www.TheBodyAdvantage.com) and Dr. Wilson an adrenal specialist in Tucson, Arizona.( www.adrenalfatigue.org). I highly recommend visting their webpages and trying their protocols.
Thanks to these doctors, my health is much, much better. Most people would have never guessed I went through such an ordeal. I still, however, have to pace myself, and not push the limits. Staying healthy and maintaining my energy is a priority, so I've learned not to over-extend myself. I've learned to say "no' to some projects and activities and not feel guilty about it. :)
Believe it or not, it was the day FAYE DUNAWAY punched me in the
stomach! I know this sounds a bit like a tabloid headline, and a tad
out of the ordinary, but let me first explain.....To start off with,
Faye is a wonderful woman and the whole incident happened by accident.
(I don't want any of you to get any "MOMMIE DEAREST"" ideas!)
3) HOW IS YOUR STOMACH TODAY?
The good news is that my stomach has improved significantly since my work on Faye's Production (2000). My digestion is still slow, but it is not interfering with my cognitive skills, as it did before. The IBS had really robbed me of all my confidence for many, many years. Through some herbal remedies and a wonderful Probiotic (Primal Defense by www.gardenoflifeusa.com), I have made some great gains in regards to intestinal health and fortitude. My confidence is back again! The IBS would often trigger panic attacks on stage, but now I have none. It's astounding that I can go on stage and not have my adrenal glands explode into a "4th of July Celebration". It's really a true blessing.
4) HAVE YOU MADE PROGRESS WITH YOUR FM?
Yes indeed. When I came to Hollywood at age 40, I was actually quite
ill. I had lost a lot of strength in my upper arms and back area. It
was very painful to type on the computer even for one
minute. It was
very difficult to work even one day...It was just so exhausting!
was also very difficult to carry a light garment bag over my shoulder
too. Carrying my garment bag from the car to the studio was very
painful. The pain was so bad that I had to go to acupuncture twice a
week and the chiropractor twice a week to relieve the pain.
5) WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST FUN ABOUT BEING ON WEST WING?
I am somewhat new to the cast of WEST WING, and came on the
Septemer of 2002. When I first came on, it was like stepping into one
of those CARY GRANT movies...You know, like a clip from "North by
NorthWest" or something...Better yet, it was more like stepping into
the Military and Christmas Classic, "White Christmas" with Rosemary
Clooney. I suppose running into GEORGE CLOONEY on our lunch breaks is
what sparked that. Anyway, we have had a lot of fun on WEST WING, but
we also have had to work very hard as well...(Lots of long, long
CAPTAIN MIKE'S FATHER IN 1942
The cast has been wonderful and Martin Sheen has been very out-going in reaching out to all of us. I've worked at many studios and on many shows here in Hollywood, and this is a wonderful group of people to work with. I worked on many episodes during season 4, such as "Debate Camp", "Process Stories", and "Red Heron's on Fire". My best clips are seen in the episode called "Process Stories". Season 4 should be out on DVD sometime soon. For more details about "The West Wing", visit the link below:
West Wing Info: http://www2.warnerbros.com/web/westwingtv/index.jsp
6) WHEN DID YOU BECOME AN ACTOR?
I was a teacher in San Diego for about 10 years. During one of my
vacations, I decided to earn a little extra money by being an extra in
a feature film that was being shot at La Jolla Cove. I was cast as an
Itallian swimmer in a swim suit. A week later, I received a call from
Warner Brothers. The agency that had booked me on the La Jolla Shores
Film had faxed my picture up to Warner Brothers.
MIKE'S MOM IN THE 194O'S
LA JOLLA COVE
7) HOW DID YOU GET THE ROLE ON WEST WING?
I was "picture picked" from the SAG/CENTRAL casting computer. When a
person joins CENTRAL CASTING or SAG (SCREEN ACTORS GUILD), your picture
is scanned into the computers. You then have the opportunity to be
picture picked for projects. I don't believe it was all of a
In addition, my roommate Matthew Eason would have an amazing answer to prayer and have his story aired on the show, "It's a Miracle" narrated by Roma Downey from "Touched by an Angel". Click here to watch Matthew's story of how he was led to Cristina, the love of his life:
8) HAS FM EVER INTERFERED WITH YOUR WORK IN HOLLYWOOD?
Not really, but there was one time that was a bit of a fiasco. I was working on the set of "Ally Mcbeal" and I had to run to the bathroom (due to IBS). When I came rushing back, I dove right through some cameras and ended up crashing right into Ally!....She was running too (for some reason) and the impact was tremendous. Our heads had just missed each other by a fraction of an inch, and we both were stunned and shocked. I thought she was going to to throw me out of Hollywood, but she ended up apologizing first!
9) WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO OTHER ACTORS AND CELEBRITIES WHO HAVE FM?
need to have wisdom in every situation we face. How one person responds
publicly to FM may be a good thing, whereas to another it could be
harmful. WISDOM involves 3 things: KNOWLEDGE, TIMING, and THE
APPROACH. Any one of these elements being out of place could bring
unfruitful results. Thousands of years ago, Queen Esther and her
husband lived in Persia (near modern day Iraq). Esther had wisdom to
know "WHEN" to share certain information about herself. Because of this
awareness, she saved the lives of many, many people. If she shared it
too early in her marriage (and career) with the King, history would be
completely rewritten, and many lives would have been lost in war. There
is a time to speak and there is a time to be silent. Sharing FM, like
other things, is an individual and personal issue. We need to HONOR
people's choices and each others privacy. An additional note: There's
no reason to battle Fibro alone. Being connected to a Fibro group
either on-line or in your local area is very beneficial. Two heads are
always better than on, and there is a good chance there is someone in
the group that has something that will really help you.
10) WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT HAS HELPED YOU LIVE WITH CHRONIC PAIN?
The answer is real simple: PEOPLE WHO REALLY CARE.
How are you feeling today?
It is important, however, for the person with fibro to reciprocate the
questions. Relationships are not a one way street....Good relationships
involve stepping out of "our world" and into the world of others,
reciprocating questions back and forth (like a ping pong game). There
is a time to focus on our fibro world, but then there is a time to
focus on others. I know this is difficult when you are in chronic pain,
but it is essential for healthy relationships. It shows both parties
that they are loved and cared for.
11) WHAT MAKES A PERSON STRONG?
A) Choosing the right leaders. That includes spiritual
leaders as well as health leaders.
F) Hold your plans lightly in your hands. When we do this, it gives God the opportunity to either take them out of our hands, or to bless and multiply them. If we walk around with a tight fist (a hard heart towards God and people), we block the answers we so desperately need, and we limit the progression of our own healing.
G) Accept constructive criticism; There is always room to grow.
H) Don't be cocooned in anger and bitterness. With FM, we must be patient. When it seems like we are making no progress, it is easy to be upset...even angry. We must be careful not to be emotionally enwrapped into a cacoon of bitterness and anger where there is no light nor answers. Step out of the cocoon. Know that bitterness and anger interfere with finding answers and solutions. Don't waste your good energy and time on these evil twins. With FM, we have to conserve our energy supply and use what we do have for developing good emotions and finding positive solutions. Our emotions can be weights or wings. We choose what they will be, and ultimately, what we will be. Life has many problems, but there are solutions to many of them. I believe breakthroughs for FM are right around the corner.
I) Know that much of life is made up of "HOLDING ONTO" and "LETTING GO". Our emotional health and inner peace all depend on this fine balance. We often find ourselves in emotional turmoil when we are holding onto something that we really need to let go of. This could be anything from a person, a place, an object, or even a thought. Yes, even a memory or our past can be something that we need to let go of. We can not move forward to embrace the new, the good, and the healthy, until we let go of some of these other things. Saying "Goodbye" to things we want to hold onto may be difficult, but remember: What may seem like an END is really just a BEND. God is bending us in another direction and we need to pay attention. Why? Because there is life and answers in the new direction (and we need answers!).
SPIRITUAL LEADERS THROUGH THE YEARS:
HENRY CLOUD AND JOHN TOWNSEND (Authors of "Safe People"). http://www.cloudtownsend.com/
CRYSTAL CATHEDRAL IN GARDEN GROVE, CALIFORNIA
CRYSTAL CATHEDRAL (INSIDE)
Brenda Watson (author of "Gut Solutions")
Jordan Reuben (founder of "Garden of Life")
Donna Gates (Body Ecology Diet)
12) ARE THERE ANY SIMILARITIES BETWEEN HAVING LUNCH WITH A REAL PRESIDENT AND A TV PRESIDENT?
Both Presidents are very gracious and welcoming. They both have the gift of hospitality. When I had lunch with the President of Kenya (President Moi) at his home in Africa, I was impressed at his concern for educating the young people. Every year he would send students to America to some of the finest Christian Universities. They would come back to Kenya as doctors, nurses, business men, theologians, etc...Kenya is a better place today as a result of his plan. Having lunch with the WEST WING cast and MARTIN SHEEN is a blessing too. Martin is a definite "People-Person" and truly reaches out to the cast. Martin makes you feel like a "Team-Player", not someone lost on the side lines.
When I was a missions director in Kenya, E. Africa, I would read
"Joshua" Chapter 1 everyday. It was my daily newspaper. It kept me very
focused. In the following chapters of Joshua, we see Joshua as a
military man who spent time with God and obtained "Blueprints" for
conquering the cities that layed before him. Each city had a different
"blueprint" and strategy for victory. I feel the same is for us, with
our battle against fibromyalgia.
MIKE AND THE GIRLS CANOEING ON "LAKE VICTORIA" IN AFRICA
MIKE PREACHING WITH JEREMIAH, THE PRESIDENT'S COUSIN
14) WHAT HAS HELPED YOU PHYSICALLY WITH FM?
See "SUPPLEMENTS" on this web page for a detailed acount.
15) DO YOU THINK IT IS MORE DIFFICULT BEING A MAN WITH FM?
I think it's difficult for anyone who has FM. Since only 1 out of 10 people who have FM are men, we may seem to feel more isolated. Sharing with other fibro men has definitely helped me. Please vist the other categories on this web page, such as "Fibro Web Pages" and "Fibro Groups". We continually add new links to help people find answers along with others who they can identify with.
16) GIVE ME AN ANALOGY OF WHAT IT IS LIKE TO HAVE FM.
On some days, it feels like being 99 years old, trapped in a 40 something body. Your blood does not flow or "pump" through your body. You feel stagnant and lifeless. I sometimes feel like a "mummy". My muscles are like bandages tightly encasing and entombing me within my physical body. Sometimes my muscles have been so tight that they felt like they were crushing my organs. When I see pictures of Pompeii with the "plaster-body casts" of the people lying in agony, that is what I can relate to at times.
With Fibromyalgia, sometimes you can be caught in a "BRAIN-FOG" that
doesn't seem to want to leave...It can leave a person somewhat
"direction-less" making one feel a bit like the 3 stooges in the
17) DO YOU THINK ACTING HELPS YOU WITH YOUR FM?
Yes and No.
good side is that working on the sets and being caught up in the
production of the day can completely remove me from the reality of FM.
It's a great distraction! When I'm NOT working, I seem to be more
cacooned in my Fibro world. Getting out and being involved is very
emotionally healthy, whether it's at work, the gym, or even church.
18) DO THE PEOPLE YOU WORK WITH KNOW THAT YOU HAVE FM?
Some do. Sometimes I leave the Fibro magazine out in the holding area,
and I find people very intrigued by it. I'm shocked at how supportive
and inquisitive people are about it. I'm finding that when I "open-up"
about Fibro, I find that other people with fibro open up too. I thought
I was all alone!
just want to be well. It's amazing how future goals have no meaning or
substance when your health is faltering. There are a million things
I would love to do. With FM, you often feel you can't do anything,
that is a flat out LIE! Whatever you set out to do, you just
realize that it may take 2,3, or 4 times longer than a healthy person.
You may have to take a lot of breaks...That's O.K.....With FM, I've
learned not to compare or compete with other people. I'm on a
completely different schedule. I've learned to just go at my own pace
and do the best I can. In the final analysis, I know my work will
some significance and meaning.