Well-known local sporting figure Michael Harold will take on the Western Sydney Half Ironman 70.3 in late-November to make a difference after recently losing his mother Lisa to cancer. Nick Creely recently spoke to the ex-Berwick star footballer about his purpose in helping battle the horrible disease.
“It hurts and it can be hard to sleep sometimes and hard to smile, but she’s given us so much strength, and that’s what no one can take away for us.”
Michael Harold will never forget his mother’s strength, sense of humour and resilience despite any obstacle that was in her way.
It’s instilled in him permanently. It helps him carry on despite whatever challenge life throws.
Even in his mother Lisa’s final days – surrounded by loved ones – Michael could see it clearly. That strength, and pure love, above all else.
It was the mum he’s always known, adored and was inspired by.
“Mum had her battles over the years – she suffered some depression and anxiety being a single mum, so the resilience that she showed, and the determination to do what she had to for her kids was incredible,” he said.
“She ended up living with me for a bit, and I took her in – I sent her to the Golden Door up in Queensland to get her health right, and she just came back a changed person, she got a full-time job.
“We’ve never had anything handed to us as a family, and nor do we want it, but more so we’ve had to earn everything we get, and what she’s done to my little sisters, they’re only 16 and 19, is incredible.
“Even in her last week, she wasn’t going anywhere and she knew it – she had five kids, and she was so resilient that it took a pretty horrible, nasty disease to get her.
“The second last night before she left, she was still talking about having a couple of cheeky bets coming up towards the Spring Carnival, and my sisters discussed with her what she wants to wear at her funeral, and I’m not joking.
“We discussed what song she’ll be carried out too, we talked about some real raw stuff – she was 110 per cent with it, and she was on morphine for nearly six days, hadn’t eaten a single thing. She always had her wits about her.”
Michael’s mother Lisa passed away on 2 August this year after being diagnosed with lung cancer in May – just nine weeks after being diagnosed.
After hurting her back at work, Lisa decided to go do the doctor, where they found Lytic lesions on her spine. The doctors found cancer on her hip – a secondary bone cancer. After scans, it was found that the original cancer was in her lungs, and had spread.
Michael described the unknown of what was to come for him and his family in the wake of the devastating news, with his mother’s condition deteriorating rapidly.
“She was 52 with five young kids, a single mum,” he explained.
“We were given 12-24 months as a prognosis, and that was tough enough, and I went on a little getaway in Hawaii, and I got a phone call when I was over there that they weren’t letting Mum go.
“They found a rare blood condition called DIC (Disseminated intravascular coagulation) in her system, and that’s responsible for the red blood cells, and regenerating the red blood cells, and without being a doctor, if you don’t have any red blood cells, you don’t have an immune system.
“She had to have her chemo trying to stop the lung cancer spreading, and at the same time, the chemo attacks your good and your bad cells, so she was on a double-edge sword.
“She had her second-bout of chemo, and we went in to have her red blood cells topped up, and she never came home – we got nine weeks with her.
“(We) just weren’t ready for it – nothing had really sunk in that it could be this quick. We sat in Casey Hospital, took mum in for a top up, and we never came home.
“Pretty much the last five days in hospital got a hold of Mum.”
Michael said that having to see his sisters go through life without their mother, as well as watch helplessly at the hospital not being able to do a thing, was – and is – the hardest part to get his head around. For a man that likes to be able to make an impact, whatever that may be, it is gut-wrenching to witness.
“We’re all going fine, believe it or not, of course it hurts and it can be hard to sleep sometimes and hard to smile, but she’s given us so much strength, and that’s what no one can take away for us,” he said.
“I said to my siblings, because we were all hunched around mum bawling our eyes out that it doesn’t sit well, it feels horrible, and that’s why now I’ve thrown the toys out of the cot.
“I feel like I had no say in it – if I want something, I’ll work for it, so I’m a pretty stubborn bloke.
“To have something like that so out of your control, that’s the hardest part, you have to stand by and watch it happen.
“As a family, it sits horribly – I try not to think about it every day, but my girls have to go home and not have a mum pick them up from school, and that breaks my heart.
“I think at any age, it’ll have an impact – these girls are in their adolescent years, and you lean on your mum in these years, so having them with me has been a big driving factor.”
Michael – together with support received from his family, friends and employer BFirm Personal Training – doesn’t want any other family to go through the same agony his family has endured.
And he’s a man on a mission. He’s Mick on a mission.
Michael will take on on the Western Sydney 70.3 Half Ironman – entailing a 1900 metre swim, a 90 kilometre bike ride and a 21 kilometre run – on 24 November to raise funds and awareness for Cancer Council Victoria, and honour his mother. He hopes to raise between $15,000 to $20,000.
It’s set to be physically gruelling, but Michael said there’s been no pain in his training so far. All he thinks about is how much of an inspiration his mother truly was if it gets tough to push on.
“I’ve lived it, and it’s cruel – I just thought, I’ve thrown the toys out of the cot, and decided to do something about it,” he said.
“I wanted to do something like this for mum, and we’ve just got to over $16,000 (so far). I decided that I want to do something with my industry, and what I do, to try and raise as much funds and awareness, because I don’t want anyone else to endure this shit.
“That what’s driving me to do this Ironman is that I don’t want anyone to go through the same thing we did. I told Mum I’d keep the family afloat, and that’s what I’m doing right now.
“There’s no way that I can’t do this. I’ve got 16,500 reasons on our board at work that we’ve managed to raise, and I’ve got Mum to get me through, so if I can’t do it, there’s something wrong with me.”
A big part of the Berwick community with his company and the beloved football club he so famously dominated for and coaches for now, Mick couldn’t be any more grateful for the endless support he’s received as he trains in preparation for the Ironman.
“I was captain (at Berwick) and we won a couple of premierships there, and having people like that to lean on and text you here and there, or email you, they jump out of trees,” he said.
“There was blokes who’s numbers I didn’t have that texted me during the tough times for my family and it means everything– my community is based around my work, we have a lot of business owners, and for them to pull together has been second to none.
“You sort of don’t ask it, but people just find a way to show up. The response has been through the roof.”
Anyone that wants to donate to Michael’s cause can head to https://myownway.everydayhero.com/au/bfirm-micky