Fighting rare cancer, UH student gets OK for critical medical flight

Fighting rare cancer, UH student gets OK for critical medical flight
Michael Sills
Michael Sills

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A University of Hawaii doctoral student who's fighting a rare form of cancer that has struck him a second time received some good news Friday: his insurance company will cover an expensive air ambulance transport to a West Coast cancer center that helped him beat cancer before.

Michael Sills, 34, lay in a Queens Medical Center hospital room Friday, fighting a type of bone cancer called Ewing's sarcoma that affects only about one percent of cancer patients.

Asked how he will beat it again, Sills said, "I guess, just a positive attitude."

Sills is getting PhD in psychology at UH Manoa. He's lived in Hawaii for a year and a half with his fiancé, Jessica Meskel.

Late last year he started getting back aches and other pains and in January, doctors said the cancer had recurred.

So he and his family made arrangements to go back to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance that successfully treated him before.  That's where an oncologist will administer stem cell treatments and give4 him high-dose, full-body radiation.  A cancer surgeon will analyze a large tumor that is pressing on his spine, his mother Sally Hart said.

Sills described the last few weeks trying to get on a medical flight as "extremely frustrating."

The American Cancer Society and other charities offered him free airline mileage for a trip to Seattle, but since that tumor is touching his spine, he needs to travel in a bed or gurney.

"Michael is just unable at this point, right now, to be able to sit up on a regular airplane.  With all the limitations it would just been really difficult," Hart said.

When Sills was first hospitalized at Straub Hospital earlier this year, his mother received bad news about an air ambulance trip to Seattle, which could cost $40,000 to $50,000.

"Within the first couple of weeks, a case worker there at the hospital was telling us this is not going to be paid for through your insurance.  They will not approve this," Hart said.

Hart, who's a self-employed massage therapist in Portland, said she didn't have the money to pay for the special medical ambulance trip and her son, a student, didn't have funds for the expensive trip either.

But Friday, they got the good news: his insurance will pay for the trip.

"So that was a real blessing," Sills said.

"That was a big relief for all of us," said Hart, his mother. "And it's just a huge great thing for us.  I don't even know how to find the words. It's just a really amazing situation now that we can get him back to the treatment that he was so looking forward to."

Newspaper articles show Sills when he was one of the top wrestlers in Oregon where he grew up and a national wrestling finalist at Southern Oregon University.

He was at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado back in 2002 with the goal of joining the US Olympic team, when he was first struck with the rare bone cancer that forced him to drop of college, his mother said. Sills later beat the cancer, eventually finished his undergraduate degree and got a master's degree.

But now he's planning hopefully for his trip to Seattle.

"I'm going to have a couple of surgeries first and we're going to make sure that surgeries are stabilized, that I'm stabilized.  And then we'll go," Sills said.

He was hospitalized at Queens Thursday night after he had a high heart rate and had a fluid buildup around his heart, his family said.

Sills' friends have set up an online fundraising account at the web site called

Click HERE for a link.

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