At 42 years old, Michael Mancini had everything going for him. He was in great shape; besides his career in finance, he also taught early morning “Insanity” group fitness classes for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. He was at the top of his career.
Then one day at lunch, life stopped on a dime.
During a lunchtime meeting he began to feel intense cramping. The cramping led to the men’s room and from the men’s room to the office nurse, and from the office nurse to an ambulance ride to the emergency room where he would be told he was suffering from constipation. The doctor prescribed MiraLAX and sent him home.
Five days later he went to dinner and had the last solid food he would have for quite some time. The next day would bring another ambulance ride to the ER with similar results. After blood work and a CT scan he was again told he suffered from constipation, given MiraLAX and pills for the pain.
Five additional days would pass with Mike home from work and struggling to eat with intense bouts of cramping. He finally got an appointment with a gastrointestinal specialist, but again scans showed nothing wrong. The doctor would order an MRI, but on the way home from that scan he would go to the emergency room for the third time in twelve days. This time the doctors admitted him to the hospital. A nasogastric (NG) tube was inserted though his nose and down into his stomach to clear backed up a blockage of waste that needed to be cleared for an emergency colonoscopy.
Like many early age onset cancer patients, Mike had been misdiagnosed twice before receiving a colonoscopy. Most patients in his situation are misdiagnosed over multiple years. In his case, it was two weeks.
The colonoscope did not get far before the doctor found the large tumor in his sigmoid colon responsible for the blockage. A biopsy was taken, and an emergency surgery planned. While being rolled into surgery with his father at his side, he was told the tumor was cancerous.
He would wake up to a different life.
In a few short weeks he had gone from being a young executive in excellent health to a stage IV colorectal cancer patient on disability with a temporary ileostomy. He was 42 years old.
Things would go from bad to worse. The cumulative effects of chemotherapy weakened him dramatically. After exhausting his FMLA, Mike lost his job.
Problems would continue and, after having his ileostomy reversed, Mike would end up back in the hospital dealing with significant infections. It was then he found out the cancer had spread to his liver. After a liver ablation, Mike would eventually be declared cancer free, but was told he would be on chemotherapy for life.
Despite being declared disease free, Mike’s return to work would be a struggle. He returned to his former company at a lower position and reduced salary on a part time basis. He received another blow when he found that the belongings from his former desk had all been thrown away, as if they never expected the possibility that he would live.
Mike also faced problems trying to connect with people his age in the same situation. An online search led him to the pictures of the strong-arm selfie which would lead him to Fight CRC’s Call on Congress. This fired a passion and purpose in advocacy and Mike was all in.
Mike became an impassioned advocate. He contacted local minor league baseball and hockey teams to organize cancer awareness events. He participated in webinars and became a speaker at American Cancer Society events. He became the person he needed when he was at his lowest, and more than a few survivors today (even members of this year’s On The Rise class) recall that when they were at their lowest, Mike reached out to them.
His advocacy would also introduce him to Carole Motycka, a colorectal cancer survivor and On The Rise model herself. Connected by advocacy, they soon became partners in life and were married.
Mike passed in March of 2022. Before doing so, he had rebuilt the life he had before his diagnosis and added a passion for advocacy. That passion will live on in his memory through The Michael Mancini HERO Fund, assisting future advocates in helping others for years to come.