2017-06-08 / Front Page

County men on the mend from cancer

Both have supportive families
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff


CHRIS HARRINGTON of Suttons Bay is comforted by his puppy, Chloe, during his cancer treatment. CHRIS HARRINGTON of Suttons Bay is comforted by his puppy, Chloe, during his cancer treatment. Chris Harrington of Suttons Bay went to the emergency room in December with abdominal pain.

The 43-year-old driver for American Waste never anticipated he’d be sidelined for the next 12 months fighting cancer.

“I couldn’t use the bathroom for five days and was in a lot of pain,” Harrington said. “I had half my colon taken out and my appendix was about to burst. I was hours away from being Stage 4.”

Harrington is one of two Leelanau County men in their 40s who are battling colorectal cancer. Mike DePuy, a 1996 Glen Lake graduate, was diagnosed with Stage 3 rectal cancer in May 2016.

Both men were well below 50, the age adults begin receiving periodic colonoscopy screenings.

DePuy had surgery at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

The men, whose diagnoses are separated by seven months, have a shared experience of infection after surgery and treatment.


THE GLEN Lake community is rallying around Glen Arbor native Mike DePuy as he fights cancer. He is pictured her with wife, Mandy, and two daughters (from left) Emma and Sophie, ages 12 and 9 respectively. THE GLEN Lake community is rallying around Glen Arbor native Mike DePuy as he fights cancer. He is pictured her with wife, Mandy, and two daughters (from left) Emma and Sophie, ages 12 and 9 respectively. “I went home and within six hours I was back in the emergency room,” Harrington said.

DePuy returned to U of M post operative and underwent another surgery to remove infected tissue. He was sent home with a gaping hole in his abdomen which his wife, Mandy, had to pack with gauze three times daily.

“I’m just at the tale end of healing right now,” he said.

Harrington last week completed his seventh chemotherapy treatment. He spends five to six hours every other Thursday at the Cowell Cancer Center in Traverse City for treatment and goes home with a 48-hour supply of chemotherapy drugs pumped into his body via a surgical port.

He hasn’t tolerated the treatment well.

“I had my organ system shut down,” Harrington said, adding that symptoms included migraines and vomiting. “My bile was rising so fast I couldn’t keep it.”

Medication adjustments were made to reduce side effects. But the usual active garbage man is weakened and a return to work is well in the distance.

The garbage man whose service area includes about 80 percent of Leelanau County north of M-204 is constantly moving in and out of his truck.

“It will be a while before I can get through an 8-hour shift … and during the summer we work 12 sometimes 15-hour days.”

He and his wife Jennifer (Schaub) live in Suttons Bay Township north of 204. Jennifer works at Northport Highlands. Their mixed family at the home includes Sidney, 15; Jared, 18; and 17-year-old Stormy.

Harrington also has a 26-year-old son, Robert, who lives elsewhere.

“I don’t feel like doing a lot,” he said. “I exercise a little at a time, but then I have to sit down.”

During the day, when everyone else is working or at school, Harrington is kept company by the family dog, a Siberian Huskie mix named Chloe. The dog joined the family as a pup about the time is was diagnosed.

“She keeps me moving so I don’t get stiff,” he said. “We’re training her as a service dog, who can go get help if I need it.”

DePuy’s treatment was recently suspended after CAT scan identified spots on his liver and lungs. A subsequent biopsy of his liver was negative for cancer.

“I’m encouraged. It’s more than likely not cancerous,” he said.

DePuy maintains a positive attitude despite the illness that has turned his life, and that of his family upside down. His daughters — Sophie, 9 and Emma, 12 — attend Glen Lake School.

His parents — John and Pam DePuy of Glen Arbor — have stepped upped along with the extended Glen Lake School community. An ongoing GoFundMe campaign has raised $20,000 in donations nearly 140 individuals in six months. The original goal was $30,000. This doesn’t include money collected through donation jars at local businesses. Both fundraising activities are ongoing.

“The support the community has given me has been unbelievable,” DePuy said. “I’m forever indebted and can’t wait for an opportunity to help someone else.”

The DePuy recently sold their home and will be living temporarily this summer in a motor home with hopes of building another home in the near future.

Strangely, DePuy sees this cancer diagnosis as one of the best things that has happened to him. When stricken, he owned and ran three different businesses and was selling real estate.

“I’ve always had a strong faith. That and my relationship with my wife have grown exponentially,” he said. “When you have something like this, you have time to focus on what’s important.

… now I’m focused on the family and spending time with my girls.”

Return to top