Michael Muia is getting stronger every day.
The owner of Michael’s Hair Design and Day Spa, who has been battling tongue cancer, is on the road to recovery after a difficult process that included an extensive surgery and aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Speaking less than a week after being released from hospital, he is determined to use his experience to improve treatment for those who may find themselves in a similar position.
“When you first get the diagnosis of cancer you think it’s a life sentence until you go for your evaluation,” Muia said at his home on Monday.
“On the way back from Toronto after that surgery we decided God gave me a second chance to do something with my life so we would have a big fundraiser to help other people who might get diagnosed.”
Muia and his family are invoking the spirit of Lent with their Forty in Forty fundraiser, seeking to raise at least $40,000 in 40 days from Friday through to April 25.
Those funds would be directed to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation’s Exceptional Cancer Care campaign, specifically for the treatment of head and neck cancer.
In addition to donations, an event featuring a hair and fashion show is being held on April 25 at the CLE Coliseum building to serve as a wrap up.
The support the family has received from their fellow hair styling establishments in the community has been inspiring.
“I can’t believe how the hair salons in this city have come together,” said his brother Tony Muia, who owns the Terra Nova salon.
“When you’re in business you always think it’s competition ... Everybody has totally come on board. I’ve lost track of how many salons have come on board, it’s at least 50 or 60 in the city.”
The ordeal for Muia started more than two years ago when he discovered an abnormality on the side of his tongue.
It was not until late last year that the full extent became apparent, when he was diagnosed with cancer that had spread through to his lymph nodes. Muia was sent to Toronto in November, where he underwent a 12-hour surgery that involved splitting the front of his jaw and removing half his tongue.
The power of the support he was receiving first became apparent in the immediate aftermath of the surgery, thanks to social media.
A simple Facebook posted generated significant traction in less than 48 hours.
“There were about 1,300 likes and 260 comments,” he recalled. “There were so many people with good wishes and prayers and it really brought tears to my eyes.”
Muia bounced back quickly from the surgery and was able to play indoor soccer as well as pond hockey during the Christmas break.
However, he was still not out of the woods.
He landed in critical care nearly three weeks ago due to complications resulting from the subsequent chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
He was finally released from hospital this past Thursday, with this chapter of his life hopefully closed for good.Now, he’s ready for the snow to melt to get back to fishing and playing soccer.
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