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The Three-and-a-Half Hour Drive

 

In a field in Venezuela, Michael M. learned the value of human life and respecting the importance of each individual.

As a young man on leave from military school, Michael was in Venezuela to attend a reception honoring his father, an executive for a multinational corporation. On their way to the event, which would be attended by high-ranking U.S and Venezuelan officials and dignitaries, Michael's father pulled the car over to the side of the road and asked his son to follow him into the tall grass.

In the countryside, Michael's father introduced him to one of the local elders working in the fields. The message from father to son was clear -- it was just as important for Michael to meet this man as it was the wealthy and powerful individuals waiting at the reception. Michael never forgot the lesson that everyone, regardless of their status in society, deserves respect.

That philosophy drove his career decisions, from his enlisting in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War to his continuing service to others as a U.S. Park Service Law Enforcement Ranger, a position from which he retired in 2009. Two years after his retirement, this man who devoted his life and work to making others' lives better encountered his own crisis. He was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer, discovered through a biopsy procedure.

"Like anyone, I was scared. I thought I was going to die," Michael explained.

Upon his diagnosis, he was first treated with external radiation and a medication for advanced prostate cancer. Traveling back and forth from eastern Utah to Salt Lake City to see the closest specialist for treatment became a regular part of Michael's life. The three-and-a-half hour drive took its toll, both physically and financially. The cost of treatments and travel quickly exhausted his modest savings.

"Like anyone, I was scared. I thought I was going to die"

Soon after his initial treatment, a prostate-specific test indicated that further treatment was warranted. Michael was sent to see a hematologist-oncologist who recommended an immunotherapy treatment for advanced prostate cancer. With his finances drained, and already working a part-time job to pay for essentials, Michael did not know how he would pay the co-insurance for the new treatment his doctors recommended. His doctors understood this challenge and helped him apply for patient assistance.

Soon after, Michael received a call from PAN notifying him of his approval for financial assistance. PAN’s assistance also provided funds for his travel to and from treatment.

“It was a very emotional moment for me. I have spent my life in service, and I never really received anything for myself and I did not expect anything in this case,” Michael said.

Michael’s last treatment was December 5, 2013 and a recent bone scan showed minor progression of his disease and his doctors believe the treatment is working. He will have another scan at the end of September. As doctors continue to monitor the progress of his battle against the disease, Michael is enjoying his time spent at his home on the bank of the Green River with friends and his dog. He hopes to ride his horse this fall once he feels better.

“My father taught me the importance of serving others. I have had that privilege of helping people and PAN has now helped me,” he said. “This kind of work is very special.”