Bluffton teen diagnosed with rare advanced cancer, community rallies for a miracle

BLUFFTON, Sc. (WSAV) – A 15- year-old high school student is fighting for his life after finding out he has a rare advanced cancer; now his community is rallying to fight for a miracle with him.

“Michael had been not feeling well for a couple of weeks. He had headaches and really bad leg pain, and I took him to the doctor and he said, ‘Oh he just has growing pains. It’s just normal.'”
Michael’s mom, Jessica Mugrage, said.

The Monday before Halloween, Michael came home from school and couldn’t breathe. His mother rushed him to urgent care, to find he had a collapsed lung. Five minutes later, an ambulance was outside.

“Thirteen hours in and the doctors all sat me down, and gave me a box of Kleenex and told me the bad news that he had a tumor and it’s not looking good,” Mugrage said.

Michael has high-risk Rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer in soft tissue less than 400 children in the United States get every year.

“It was high risk meaning that it was already announced and spread,” his mom said, “It had gone all around his long area on one side he had two tumors and his school and it had already gotten through to his bone marrow.”

From Coastal Carolina Hospital, Michael was transferred to Memorial Health, where doctors say he’s in for 54 weeks of treatment including chemotherapy, radiation, and surgeries.

“No one can bear to see their child you know shaking in bed, in pain… how do you be strong through that?” Mugrage said.

Well the answer to that is with a little help from a neighbor, Catherine Donaldson, who reached out to the community for help with a GoFundMe page and a special visit from the Bluffton Police Dept.

“The Criminal Justice class he’s enrolled in at May River High School is one of his favorite classes,” Donaldson said. “Here Michael is in the hospital and like 9 officers from Bluffton show up to let him know that he’s not alone.”

“Michael’s not your average kid you know, he’s pretty quiet unless you’re talking football, so he was just kind of humbled,” his mom said, “He was in a chair, we had gotten him to sit up, so that was a big deal, and they all did a Shaka picture because that’s a Hawaii thing… That was one of his best days in the last two weeks.”

Michael finished his first round of chemo Tuesday with a special visit from a new friend, Bluffton Police Officer Joe Babkiewicz. He came with two boxes of donuts and said, “It’s a cop thing.”

“Life does change in a moment, it’s not just a cliché,” Michael’s mom said, “You could go from sitting on your sofa one night with your son having a great time eating popcorn. To not having your son at home anymore I’m being by his side in the hospital just holding his hand just praying for a miracle.”

Mugrage is a single mom, who moved to Bluffton from Hawaii with her two sons a couple years ago to be near her father.

If you would like to help support Michael’s medical bills, you can donate to the GoFundMe page here.

If you would like to send Michael a card, they can be mailed to 101 Fording Bend, Bluffton, SC 29910.

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