Michael Mankowich

Growing up, I was the oldest of seven children. The five boys in the family were all high school and collegiate wrestlers who experienced a fair amount of success on the mats. I think it’s fair to say we thought we were fairly tough kids.

Now, I guess, my “toughness” is being put to the test.

Two years ago, in February 2017, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. In the year prior to my diagnosis, I committed myself to getting back in shape. After years of losing weight for wrestling, my body had struck back in an almost violent manner, by packing on an additional 40 unnecessary, unwanted and unsightly pounds. After attending close to a year of local “boot camp” classes at 5:30 a.m. each morning, I felt as though I was almost where I needed to be. I dropped close to 30 pounds and felt great, well at least until I started to get those pesky back problems which I attributed to past wrestling injuries. Two chiropractors, one doctor and X-Ray technology totally whiffed on the issue! It was not until I went to a spinal cord specialist, who ordered a detailed MRI scan, that we were able to figure out the problem. I knew I was in trouble when he called the morning after the scan and mentioned something about certain cells that were found in my bone marrow that were not supposed to be there. I had him e-mail the MRI report to me while sitting at my desk at work. I read through the first few paragraphs, which I found thoroughly confusing. However, the closing paragraph was very easy to understand. The report coldly and definitively concluded that I was suffering from either multiple myeloma or metastatic disease. That final report really caught my attention.

So that was about two years ago. I am doing okay. The road’s been a bit rough, but not incredibly so. What’s helped make the whole thing palpable is the support I receive at home from my wonderful wife, Kathleen, and my daughter, Mary. I guess I should also give some credit to the medical staff at Sloan Kettering – they have been incredible!

As mentioned earlier, I‘m a wrestler. I welcome challenge. To me, this is merely another match, another challenge, likely the most difficult I will face during this lifetime, but another match, nonetheless. The MM4MM trip to Patagonia also presents another challenge. I am told I may have the opportunity to wrestle with condors, mountain lions and llamas! Seriously, and most importantly, the trip will allow me to put forth effort to help others who are also suffering from this insidious disease, people who may not be faring as well as I am. The way I see it, we are all part of a team and need to be looking out for one another.

Time will tell if I am “fairly tough” or not. Granted I am biased, but I wouldn’t hesitate to bet that I am!
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