Photo courtesy of Photoboss Melissa Abney
Sondra and Michael Stallings take a break from medical treatments to enjoy ‘Bash on the Branch’ earlier this summer. Moonshine Mike is battling leukemia.
One year ago, Michael Stallings was basking in the success of being featured on a Netflix series called Heist.
Stallings, a moonshine folklorist known by many as “Moonshine Mike” was also the subject of a documentary called, “Who is Michael Stallings?”
A veteran of the National Guard, a Shriner, a Freemason, a musician, a writer, and an artist, Mike was busy with his many interests.
But he hadn’t been feeling well for several months. During the year leading up to his interview with the Citizen Voice and Times in August 2021, Mike had been in and out of the hospital. He’d had several blood transfusions, and doctors suspected he had “some sort of auto-immune disease.”
He continued not to feel well, even after treatment. After some bouts of illness that put him in the emergency room, he was finally diagnosed with AML Leukemia in the beginning of October 2021.
“I was immediately hospitalized for 2 months, where I received multiple varieties of chemotherapy. I had a week stay in the ICU during that time because my kidneys had about shut down,” said Mike.
In January and February, he was again an in-patient at UK hospital, receiving chemotherapy, blood transfusions, platelets, potassium, magnesium, IV antibiotics, and other treatments.
“I had my sixth bone marrow biopsy in March 2022, and a week later I was told I was in remission,” said Mike.
“Sixty days went by, and I was showing signs of the cancer returning. They gave me another bone marrow biopsy and a week later it was found my cancer had returned.”
Since then, Mike has been in and out of UK Markey Cancer Center. When he isn’t in the hospital, Mike has to maintain near daily out-patient appointments, visiting the infusion clinic and hematologists, and receiving two varieties of chemotherapy per month.
“Each month I receive 26 days of treatment,” he said. “Just in the last five days I have five blood transfusions, six more of blood products, plus two varieties of chemotherapy including five bags of chemotherapy, plus oral chemotherapy also.”
“This ride has been more difficult,” said Mike. “My blood is not recovering from chemotherapy, and I am having to receive blood transfusions or blood products practically daily.”
Throughout the long and grueling process, he has impressed everyone who knows him with his optimism and cheerfulness in the face of great adversity.
He often sings and plays music and he or Sondra posts videos on Facebook.
What people don’t often see are the times he’s feeling down.
They don’t see the times he’s throwing up, has cramps, diarrhea, and “mad” feelings of anxiety.
For the past month, Mike has eaten almost nothing solid. He exists on broth, protein shakes, and sometimes eats a few bites of soup.
“My blood vessels have went to popping like little water balloons,” said Mike. “So I’m kind of polka dotted. I am having to wear bi-vocals now and just 10 years ago I was shooting 36/40 at 300 meters in the Army.”
Mike says he breaks out with constant rashes, and he had to have all of his teeth removed to qualify for consideration of a bone marrow transplant.
There are days when he is too weak to even get out of bed.
“Some days I’m emotionally a train wreck!” said Mike. “Some days bone pain is unbearable and I just cry and cry.”
Besides the physical and emotional struggles, there’s the burden of meeting financial needs. The costs of traveling back and forth to Lexington are considerable.
Both Mike and Sondra are quick to tell you that they couldn’t do this without the help of their friends.
Many friends and acquaintances that they have crossed paths with throughout the years have pulled together to support them.
They’ve organized fundraisers. They worked on their house. They’ve mown their lawn, and helped them acquire a dependable vehicle. They’ve brought food. They’ve donated money.
On Saturday, August 20, there will be a benefit concert for the Stallings at La Cabana, on Main Street in Irvine.
Mike said that Nael Maldonado, (owner of the La Cabana), pitched the idea to him about a month ago. He asked Mike to line up the talent and sound.
“I thought it was a fun plan and got right to work.”
The benefit concert will begin at 4 p.m. and will last until 11 p.m. There is a $10 cover charge, but the money raised at the door will go to help Mike and Sondra.
Scheduled performers include Cody Lee Meece, Ethan Wayne, Jen Richardson, Aaron Boyd, Jenn and Nate McDaniel, Jory Bowling, Morril Tavern (Jason and Amy Bowman, Brian McKinney, James Abney, and Johnnie Brockman), and Troy Estes (of Three Cent Nickel).
There will be raffle items and if anyone wishes to donate, they can do so. There will also be lots of merchandise for sale.
In true Mike fashion, he’s always thinking of his friends.
“We just want everyone to have a great evening with food, beverages, and incredible music,” he said.