By David Leone
WAKE FOREST — Cancer Shucks.
That’s not a misstatement, though it could be for many. Especially for the family of 5-year-old Mickey Macholl, who have had to see him go through eight grueling rounds of chemotherapy, four major surgeries, a bone marrow transplant, 21 days of radiation and aggressive immunotherapy treatments that’ll last the next 6-8 months.
No, Cancer Shucks is the name of a fundraiser taking place next Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Shuckers location in Raleigh, 510 Glenwood Ave.
It’s an adults only event, featuring heavy hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, comedians, a hypnotist, a DJ and dancing. All of it is donated, the whole kit and caboodle, to help Mickey, his mom Rachel, dad Mark, and brothers Trey and Tyce of Wake Forest with the enormous expenses they have to bear.
“The owners of Shuckers just formed a nonprofit called Cancer Shucks,” says Rachel Macholl. “They offered to host the event. They’re taking care of all the food and staff, setting up the website, taking donations, and auction items. It’s going to be a real fun evening. It’s all donated.”
Mickey has neuroblastoma, an extremely rare and very aggressive childhood cancer, that grows so rapidly he has been overwhelmed with tumors in his internal cavity in a matter of months. Just ask Rachel what that cancer has put him, put all of them through since it was diagnosed in 2015. Her answer will horrify you.
“It’s a living nightmare,” she says. “He used to be pudgy, a little pudgy, rosy faced, bright blue-eyed happy boy. I used to have to lift his belly to button his pants. Now he is frail and pale and weak. He has aged beyond his years. He has been through more than any adult I know has been through. He’s been sick almost as long as he’s been alive.”
If the Macholl name sounds familiar, it’s because Rachel is a teacher. She taught at Franklin Academy in Wake Forest, North Forest Pines Elementary in Wakefield, and for some years, ran her own academy of dance in Youngsville and Wake Forest. She previously taught dance for the Dance Attic in Wake Forest and teaches dance intermittently now for Wake Forest Parks and Recreation.
She only teaches when she has time now. Her full time job is taking care of Mickey. The family lives in Wake Forest’s Richland Hills neighborhood, in the part that’s in Franklin County, and her kids all attend school at Long Mill Elementary near Youngsville.
Rachel says they’ve received an incredible outpouring of support from her coworkers and parents of her students, as well as families at her kids’ school, family friends, and others.
Expenses pile up
And they’ve needed it. With the oncology work, the integrative medicine, seeing a nutritionist, with all the alternative therapies all that have helped shrink his tumors, and taking into account the massive deductible they pay for the medical treatments that are covered by insurance, with all of that, and trips to the hospital with overnight stays, food, gas, and lodging, trips to see specialists in other areas, they’ve ended up spending close to $30,000 out of pocket in a six month period.
“My husband makes too much to qualify for help, but not enough to cover [the expenses],” she says.
She recently worked out that after a single hospital bill, they owed $10,000 alone.
“We work hard, we’re just a middle income family,” she says.
Before the diagnosis in spring of 2015, Mickey was your typical, if somewhat gregarious kindergartener. He loves jumping on the trampoline, camping out in the backyard, having dance parties in the kitchen with his family, playing with his brothers, hitting on all of the girls in his class, his high school and college babysitters, having Friday night pizza and movie nights with his family, going to the drive-in movies, break dancing, playing with the neighbors, and going to school.
Mickey is still fun to be around, still teases and jokes with his brothers, still considers his nurses his girlfriends. But now he’s also heard saying things no 5-year-old should ever be heard saying, such as “‘Are we doing labs today?’ ‘Do I have to stay for an infusion?’ ‘Am I getting blood work today?’ and ‘I hope I don’t get a shot.’”
“He’s lost his innocence,” Rachel says.
Mark and Rachel say they’re humbled to have to seek out help, but they need it to save their son’s life.
In an email describing all that they’ve gone through, Mark notes, “It humbles me as a father, husband, and provider to not be able to provide the means to meet these astronomical costs and our family needs. It has been a very difficult challenge, to say the least, but with all of the love, support, and prayers from all of you, Mickey will win this fight.”
Tickets are $50 for the benefit. To attend or learn more about Mickey, see Cancer Shucks at eventbrite.com. You can make a donation, donate raffle items or auction prizes. Additional information can be gained by emailing email@example.com.