I met Mike Hunter in my twenties when I first got into the finance industry. He was wrapping up college and was assigned to me as my intern where we quickly became very close friends. Mike was one of a small handful of people in my life that I loved like a brother. He was eager to learn and we spent a lot of time talking about the future. By the time he graduated school I was also very close to his parents. He had a amazing family.
After he graduated he got his first job and was working as hard as he could to advance his career. That’s why I wasn’t that surprised when he ended up in the ER with a debilitating migraine. We all assumed it was just the stress of working so hard. Of course the doctors weren’t taking any chances and ran a battery of test to find out what was going on.
Mike called after the test were done to let me know he was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia with a low survival prognosis. He was in another city so talking face to face wasn’t an option. As you can imagine we were all devastated. To be honest, being young and feeling invincible, we all felt he was going to be ok and beat it in the end.
He relocated back to California to live with his parents while he went through chemo therapy. I flew up to visit with him as often as possible. Many of my most cherished moments with Mike was during our time together while he was in treatment. Watching him go through chemo was a terrifying experience. To this day my biggest fear is cancer, not flying like one would expect. We did a lot of growing up that year. Life all the sudden seemed fragile and created a huge sense of urgency. I realized we had much less time than I ever even considered prior.
When he was first diagnosed all his friends and family went to get tested in hopes one of us could be a bone marrow donor match for him. Unfortunately none of us were, and believe me I desperately wanted to be the one that was. Luckily he was able to find a donor and completed his treatment. We were all relieved it was finally over and very optimistic he had beat it. Soon we could be back to talking about all the great things we wanted to accomplish in the future.
I was heart broken when I learned the cancer had come back and he was going to have to go through chemo all over again. We all knew the odds were not good the second time around. Although Mike was convinced he could beat it until the very end. The second time around was worse than the first. This time I knew I was watching someone I loved die in unbearable pain. I could tell he was terrified and there wasn’t a thing I could do about. Its probably one of the reasons I work very hard at never feeling helpless like that again. I know it sounds cheesy but a piece of me died with him and I’ve never been the same since.
Fast forward over a decade later. I had recently relocated to Austin when I received a call from the bone marrow registry. Apparently I was a match for a man fighting leukemia and they went through hell trying to track me down. When they asked if would be a donor for him it was a solid yes without hesitation. Straight away I went through some testing to make sure I was going to be a good fit. Luckily, this time I was and they scheduled the procedure.
Clearly the best thing about this opportunity to help was the chance to save someone’s life. What a gift something like that is for a person lucky enough to help another in need. A comforting thought is the fact that even after Mike has passed he is still having a positive effect on people’s lives. If it wasn’t for him I would have never registered, let alone had a clue about cancer or how devastating it is. The best part though was being able to make a call to Barbara, Mike’s mom, and tell her how her son’s experience helped someone else. Amazing.
I reached out to the foundation awhile ago to see if enough time has passed so I could get a update on how he was doing. The recipient can refuse to release information so I have not heard word back yet.