By Ian Holroyd • METROLAND WEST MEDIA GROUP
Feeling frustrated and helpless during his mom’s cancer treatment, Mike Duhacek felt he had to do something. That was how Help Me Bury Cancer was born, a journey that will take the Milton resident from Windsor to Ottawa on foot in an effort to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society.
On Monday, Feb. 4, Duhacek started to walk. And by Wednesday, Feb. 13, he had travelled to Flamborough from Cambridge, making his way through Rockton along Hwy. 8 and into Waterdown along the 4th Concession Road West and down Hwy. 6 before taking a left on Dundas Street East en route to Burlington.
But Duhacek’s trek is no walk in the park. The 35-year-old will be pulling a 125-lb. sled with the letters C-A-N-C-E-R. And once he reaches his destination, he will literally bury the word in the ground, symbolically doing away with the devastating disease.
“I’m beyond proud,” said Duhacek’s mom, Liz Crocket, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2010 and has undergone three surgeries, two bouts of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
She said she wasn’t surprised when her son approached her with the idea of dragging the word cancer across the province through an unforgiving Canadian winter.
“When he told me his plans, I truly sat there and thought, ‘This is the man I hoped to raise and there he sits before me.’ It’s very touching,” she said. “He’s a determined guy and I know how strong his resolve is and so I didn’t doubt it for a second that he would do it and I still don’t.”
Crocket revealed her son’s anger and frustration with cancer also has a lot to do with losing two grandparents to the disease shortly before her diagnoses.
“Our family had kind of a 1-2-3 punch in terms of cancer,” she said, “because I lost my mom in ‘08 to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and my dad to lung cancer in February 2010.”
Duhacek described the emotional turmoil he experienced watching his mom fight cancer.
“We’ve always been close growing up,” he said. “She’s my mom. She’s a wonderful person.
“Seeing your mother go through that and seeing people around you when you’re in the hospital going through that, and the families that are in the waiting room…It’s very hard,” he said.
“I thought, ‘What can I do to take out my frustration?’”
So, Duhacek devised Help Me Bury Cancer and enlisted family members to help him pull it off.
His stepdad Ed Crocket took the lead on fabricating the 6-foot-long sled, his sister Nicole Girodat launched a public relations campaign and his brother in-law Joey Girodat filmed training sessions for the web site.
The trio will also take turns being on the road with Duhacek, each driving the 31-foot motorhome that will follow behind him during the trek.
Duhacek said the timing for undertaking his 900-km walk was no accident. He said he wanted to battle the inclement winter weather to symbolize the struggle cancer patients and their families go through.
“I wanted it to be hard on me. I didn’t want to walk on just any sunny day. I want to walk through February,” he said. “I want to see what it could throw at me. I want to see if I could walk through rough conditions: snow, ice, blowing snow, freezing rain, -30 temperatures and I wanted to show that I’m going to struggle but I am going to persevere.”
He also said he wanted to show cancer, symbolized by the letters on his sled, “no mercy.”
“I believe going through a Canadian winter in February across the province is going to beat that word down,” he said. “Then we’re throwing it in the hole and covering it up – where it belongs.”
Duhacek, who works in support services with the Halton Regional Police Service, said he has already received overwhelming support from the local community. He said he’s sure the support he’s experienced so far will follow him out on the road.
“It’s a motivator when I look at (the donations) and see that so many people are behind me,” he said. “I know there are going to tiring days, I know there are going to be times when I’m struggling and it’s a motivator to know that everybody is supporting me.”
His goal is to raise $250,000 for cancer research and to support those who are battling the disease and their families.
Duhacek figured his trek across the wintery landscape of Ontario will take him one million steps, more than 10 steps for each the 75,700 Canadians estimated to die from cancer in 2013.
Crocket said she believes her son’s journey might be able to alleviate the pain and anger felt by other people who have been touched by cancer.
“They feel frustrated, they feel helpless they love somebody who has cancer,” she said, “so this gives them the opportunity to get on board with something that’s gaining momentum and helping and that’s why people are responding in such a positive way.”
To make a donation, visit www.helpmeburycancer.org or to follow Duhacek along on his journey, visit www.facebook.com.helpmeburycancer.