PARRY SOUND - The disease that took Michael Gilchrist was swift and merciless.
He was approaching his 22nd birthday when he died of gliboblastoma multiforme (brain tumor) on October 14, 2011.
In his memory, Michael’s team, Sons of Pitches and Team Michael have banded together to raise his goal of $10,000 for the RACH (Rallying Against Cancer Hardcore) Fund that goes to the research of Dr. Jonathan Irish, chief of the department of surgical oncology at the University Health Network, a group of three Toronto hospitals, and his team of researchers.
Michael’s “big sister” Meagan’s eyes well with tears when she talks about her middle brother, who was full of “piss and vinegar,” loved baseball and had a soft, tender heart.
In February 2010 Michael began to notice anxiety during exams and he had difficulty writing, that progressively worsened, Meagan said.
“And from there it just kept getting worse and worse and they thought originally he had MS and he was tested for that. There were more tests and more MRIs and they found a lump the size of a tangerine on his brain - it didn’t finger out, or anything like that. It was just a clear cut, round circle, so they operated on that and they felt really good about that.”
Michael was diagnosed with a stage four brain tumor on St. Patrick’s Day 2010. Following the operation, Meagan said Michael received chemotherapy and radiation.
“Unfortunately, (the tumor) ballooned out to a deeper part of his brain. They operated on him, but they couldn’t get all of it, because it was so deep in his brain,” she said. “From there he slowly got worse. His mentality dropped...it was very up down, some days he had good days, others he had bad days. By the time he left us, he wasn’t all there, which I was kind of glad for, because it would have been harder on him and harder on the family if he was comprehending everything that was going on.”
During the 2011 RACH Fund 3-Pitch Tournament, Michael’s team, Sons of Pitches was joined by another, Team Michael, made of up those closest to him.
“While he was in the hospital going though his debacle, we had another team that we had created called Team Michael, which was all family and everyone that was at the hospital that was there to support him,” she said.
Following the RACH tournament, Michael was presented with an award as the individual who raised the most money for the fund, $1,400. That inspired Michael to set a new goal - to raise $10,000 for the RACH Fund in 2012.
“He wanted to make sure that the money is going towards specifically (brain tumor research) and not other avenues, because it was close to his heart, obviously, and he felt passionate about that. He was very compassionate when it came to helping other people. I think he just took that idea and ran with it...that, and he loves baseball,” she said with a laugh.
But time for Michael was running out.
Meagan said when she learned the extent of her brother’s disease he was given just three months to live.
“But really it was just a week and a half later he was gone. Everything is such a blur, I try not to think about it. We weren’t mentally prepared for any of it. We were thinking he was a young kid and he’d be able to fight it. His birthday was (October) 31, so we at least thought we would get to celebrate his birthday and maybe even Christmas with him,” she said.
Meagan, friends and family decided to help Michael reach his dream goal of $10,000 by having teams Sons of Pitches and Team Michael collectively raise funds.
Through word of mouth, going door to door and a car wash the teams held a few weeks ago, they have raised about $7,000 Meagan said.
“I think we’re definitely going to surpass that $10,000 goal,” she said. “I’m pretty amazed. This community is really supportive, and even his friends who are from all over the place, so it’s been a really great support.”
Meagan knows her brother would be pleased with the teams’ success.
“He would be very proud of us, I know that,” she said smiling. “I know he’s looking down on us and he’s probably giving us that push and putting it into people’s heads that we need the support. I’m sure he’s definitely helping in one way or another. Even at the car wash, it rained for half the day and we still had people coming in so he was there, somehow.”
Team Michael and Sons of Pitches are having a bottle drive from now until the RACH tournament on June 22. Drop off bottles at 7 Riverview Drive in McDougall Township, 35 William Street and 14 Cascade Street in Parry Sound. The teams will also be going door to door to collect bottles and donations.
For more information or to donate, contact Meagan Gilchrist at 705-746-4381.