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Friday, April 18, 2014

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Alumnus raising funds to take fiancée battling cancer to Rose Bowl


Photo courtesy of Michael Bender

When 24-year-old Miranda Cooley ventured to the doctor for a random health checkup a month ago, she predicted everything would be fine. The MSU alumna did not expect to leave the hospital looking at an uphill health battle, she did not expect her outlook on life to change so drastically — she did not expect breast cancer.

Cooley also did not expect the opportunity to see MSU take on Stanford University in the 2014 Rose Bowl game, or even the chance to attend the game. However, with the help of the MSU community and the efforts of her fiancé, Michael Bender, the proud Spartan has quickly learned that life is full of surprises.

Bender and Cooley, who met during their freshman year while working at the Snyder Phillips dining hall dish room, are loyal MSU sports fans who have continued to bleed green after graduating and moving across the country together to Las Vegas.

As Bender and Cooley watched the game against Ohio State University with other alumni in Las Vegas, Bender kept a wary eye on his fiancé. Many of their friends in the room hadn’t heard about Cooley’s health problems yet.

“A lot of people kept asking me if we were going to go to the game, and the fact of the matter was I really wasn’t in the financial situation to do something like that,” Bender said.

Cooley’s medical bills were starting to come in, and without insurance, the two were looking at approximately $70,000 for one cycle of radiation treatment. Along with daily co-pays and five types of medications, financing the trip to Pasadena seemed nearly impossible.

However, Bender did not give up on the chance to make Cooley’s dreams a reality. Eager to find a solution, he created a website Wednesday morning featuring Cooley’s health situation asking for small donations with the goal of eventually reaching $5,000 to cover the expenses of going to the Rose Bowl and possibly help out with some other medical costs.

The website, gofundme.com, is the same one that hosted donations to help the owner of the car that was flipped on Sunday morning during the disturbances that followed the Big Ten Championship game.

Within hours, monetary donations came in with words of encouragement for Cooley. By the end of the day, the site had generated almost $1,000 towards their dream. As of Friday afternoon, the site reported $1,375 in donations.

“I didn’t know he was going to do that, it’s been a big surprise,” Cooley said.

Cooley said she was initially reluctant to share her diagnosis with everyone because she was afraid of their reaction, but is appreciative of everyone’s support.

Bender, who did not expect anyone to donate, said he is blown away by the experience.

“Any kind of support and the love people send just kind of shows you what the Spartan family is really like,” said Bender, his voice heavy with emotion.

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