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Miami Dolphins rally to side of cancer-stricken fan

Miami Dolphins fan Michael Smith has all but lost his fight with stage 4 colon cancer. After nearly three years of chemotherapy and antibiotics and hospital stay after hospital stay after hospital stay, the Smiths signed the documents to place the 42-year-old former aircraft mechanic in hospice last week.

"It's a new step for us, but a very hard step for us as well," said Amy Chandler-Smith, Michael's wife. "There's a realization one comes to when you sign papers to go to hospice. It's a huge, huge thing. Because you're admitting defeat. Photo 3

"He's a fighter and he's always been a fighter. He's always fought for his family. He's always taken care of his family, and now it's admitting you have to give up. There's nothing else you can do.

"There's no more treatment for him. He can't get any more chemo. He's gotten too much antibiotics and his kidneys and liver are having issues. If he gets any more they'll start making him more sick."

It's bad.

Michael is gaunt. His face is drawn and colorless. And the picture of him in that bed at Hospice by the Sea at Memorial Hospital South in Hollywood speaks to his prognosis.

"It's terminal," Amy said. "He's kind of the light's are on but no one is home right now. He'll have moments when he'll be up and be fine and talking and be okay and there's other times when he's lost and in la-la land and he kind of looks through you and not at you.

"The cancer has taken a toll."

The cancer is obviously winning. But despite this the Dolphins learned of their fan's dire situation and have rallied to his bedside.

They cannot save him. There are some things not even an NFL team can do. But they can acknowledge him. They can encourage him.

And they're doing just that.

It started oddly enough. On Sunday, when the Dolphins opened the regular season, the Smiths gathered by Michael's bed. Amy dressed her husband in his Dolphins gear.

"Oh my God, he is just the biggest fan." she said, "And this was just my husband putting on his Dolphins gear. I got him ready for the game. I was, 'Mike, it's the Dolphins, it's the season,' So we got ready."

The shirt Michael wore reads, "We are a Dolphins family."

"That's because we are a Dolphins family," Amy said. "We're true, true, true Dolphins fans. Good or bad. Rain or shine. We've always supported the Dolphins."

Sunday was a good day. The Dolphins won. And much more importantly but not to be dismissed as assumed, Michael survived the day.

That night, laying in bed, Amy recounted the day and what the football team meant to her husband. Right then she decided it really would be great to have her husband perhaps meet a Dolphin before he passes.

So she got on the phone and called friends, who called friends, who got on social media and reached out to the team.

"The next day there were Dolphins calling me," Amy said. "I never in my wildest dreams thought I would get a Dolphin here, let alone the next day, let alone a parade of past and present Dolphins here. We've had so many it's amazing."

Photo 2<---- Mark Duper was the first to visit.

Troy Drayton visited.

Zach Thomas called because he was going out of town. He promised to get back in touch today when he returns.

Derrick Rodgers called. Rogers then had Tim Bowens call. Lousaka Polite is visiting today. He asked if he could bring anything like "snacks, books, anything."

Roy Foster visited.

Three current players visited Wednesday at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Rookies Ja'Wuan James, Arthur Lynch and Billy Turner visited after their work day at the training facility had ended.

"It's an amazing outpouring," Amy said. "I'm so blown away. They have been truly beyond amazing."

Those visits and precious moments have been priceless for Michael and the family. But there are still other issues.

Michael had to stop working shortly after being diagnosed in November 2011. He tried to go back but couldn't do the job. The family lived on disability income and with no insurance had to rely on Medicaid from the state.

Then the medical bills began to pour in. The radiation bills alone were roughly $60,000, Amy said. And it does not stop there. There's ambulance bills, hospital stays, medicine.

"Astronomical," Amy said. "We get bills every day. I get a bill or two in the mail every day. To be honest with you, I haven't opened many of them. I can't afford to pay them. Getting them every day in the mail, they just sit in a pile. I'm scared to open them because I can't afford to pay them."

The family -- including the five children ranging in ages from 20 to seven years old -- had to downsize.

"We've had to downgrade everything," Amy said. "We've had to move into my mother-in-law's." 

The Dolphins have not helped the Smiths financially. Nor has anyone asked them to do so.

"Asking for money is odd to me," Amy said. Photo 1

But a company named HealthDonor has come along side the Smiths to try to help raise money. The company operates a crowd-funding platform to help people raise money for individuals with unexpected medical expenses in their time of greatest need.

One hundred percent of the donated money goes the beneficiary. If you wish to help the Smiths go to this link and kindly do so. You'd be helping someone in the Dolphins family. I checked the site out.

At the time of this writing $360 had been pledged to help the Smiths.

[Update at 10 p.m.: I'm told that Michael Smith died Friday afternoon surrounded by his family. May he rest in peace.]

 

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