Student battles cancer with support from friends, family

Andrea Tinning

Every senior faces hurdles before graduation. For accounting and philosophy senior Michael Mott, the long list of senior year hurdles is punctuated by a battle with bone cancer.

Last month, doctors diagnosed Michael with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer that started in his foot, and told him he has an 85 percent chance of survival. In the coming months, Michael will have his foot amputated and undergo 17 chemotherapy sessions.

Michael is no stranger to adversity, and self-reliance became part of his personality at an early age. He said one of the hardest changes he’s had to make is asking others for help.

“My mom taught me to be really independent,” Michael said. “As a single parent, she works full-time, more than 40 hours a week. That makes it almost a requirement for her to teach me and my sister to be able to survive on our own.”

A GoFundMe page created by Michael’s twin sister has gone viral and earned more than 12,000 dollars. Kaitlin Mott, an education senior at The University of North Texas, said she created the page not only to help Michael, but also to take some stress off of her mother’s shoulders.

Michael and Kaitlin’s grandmother died shortly before Michael’s diagnosis, and their mother, Sherry Mott, is still paying off the funeral expenses. This isn’t the family’s first crisis either. Sherry’s husband, Michael and Kaitlin’s father, Steven Mott, died eight years ago.

“My husband had a history of heart problems and had a lot of health issues,” Sherry said. “It was sudden when he died, but I can’t really say we were surprised because he was sick for a long time. But to have my son tell me that he has a life-threatening disease, that’s just not right. That’s the hardest thing I’ve had to go through.”

Kaitlin said the success of the page, as well as her brother’s strength throughout, has surprised her.

“None of us ever expected it to get to that point (because) we’re from a small town. We thought maybe 300 or 400 people would see it, and (we’d) get $800 to $1000,” Kaitlin said. “Anyone else I know would be so knocked down by this, but he is not. He said this word for word: ‘Dying from cancer is too mainstream for me.’ He has been so incredibly positive, he’s a big rock for the family.”

Sherry was initially hesitant at the idea of starting a GoFundMe page, but she said the way people have reached out to the family has helped immensely.

“I never expected the response or the money that we’ve gotten,” Sherry said. “But looking at the medical bills that are starting to come in, it’s very much needed.”

Even though the diagnosis has caused financial stress, Sherry said the costs are the least of her worries.

“It’s a secondary concern,” Sherry said. “Michael’s life is worth way more than any financial bills that will come later. The bills will just have to wait — they’ll get paid when they get paid.”

Since his family cannot be in Austin all the time, Michael said he is grateful for his friends at UT who are constantly at his side.

Bilingual education senior Alex Chavez has considered Michael to be her best friend since they met in sixth grade during band practice. For Alex, looking after Michael came naturally.

“We’ve always been really close and checking in on him has always been a normal part of our friendship,” Alex said. “The hardest part is knowing there is not anything specifically that you can do to change anything. It’s just being there for support and making it more comfortable for him.”

Though the diagnosis has changed his life, Michael said it’s certainly not the end of it and his outlook on life has stayed the same.

“For me, this is just a mountain you have to get over. It’s something that happened, and something I’m going to have to deal with,” Michael said. “I also think it’s great to get knocked on your ass every once in a while. It shows you what you’re made of and how tough you are.”