WICHITA, Kan. Michael Ray Holliday, a retired nurse living in southeast Kansas, enjoys the thrill of his favorite sport, power paragliding. He now teaches others to fly and credits his new life's passion for saving his life.
About a month ago, Holliday was power paragliding when he felt something unusual on his landing.
"When we landed, a little bit of a bolt struck me in the ribs and I got a little contusion out of it," he says. "I didn't think anything about it."
After Holiday tried to self remedy, the pain worsened. He decided to see a chiropractor.
"When his hand hit the middle of my thoracic spine, I came off that table of his and said. 'that's enough of this,'" Holiday says.
That visit to the chiropractor was on a Friday. He planned to see his doctor Monday, but everything changed Sunday morning.
"I just collapsed. Immediately, I thought, 'Lord help me, why can't I stand up?'" Holliday says. "I felt nothing.
He was rushed to the hospital.
At the hospital, Holiday hear the grim diagnosis. He had cancer.
There was no time to respond. He needed surgery immediately to remove the cancer from his spine. He faced the possibility of never walking again. He said a prayer before going in for surgery on Oct. 7.
"I immediately turned to Christ," Holiday says. "And I said, 'Lord, these are your instruments. I'm going to follow whatever it is that you choose for them to do so."
Now less than a month after surgery, Holliday is making progress. His tests are good and rehab is going well.
The work is difficult and at times lonely, but he's pushing on.
He's fought through adversity before. He was displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and as a charge nurse, saw some of the worst devastation.
"The loss of human like and suffering that I had to encounter back then, I thought, 'I'm never going to have to endure this kind of pain in my heart. But that's honestly what I felt inside," Holliday says.
Holliday's motivation now is simple. He doesn't just want to return to unassisted walking, he wants to return to being able to do what he loves.
And it's not lost on him that the sport of power paragliding likely saved his life. Had he not felt the "little bit of a bolt" on his awkward landing, doctors may not have caught the cancer in time to save him. He wouldn't have felt the initial pain and wouldn't have made the chiropractor appointment. What was hidden in his spins would have likely remained hidden awhile longer.
"I guess the worst is that it would have killed me," Holliday says. Honestly, untreatable. It's a sentence. There's no way around it. The literature is there>"
The difficult work of rehab is leading him to one goal: getting back in the air. He gets closer to that goal every day at Via Christi Hospital St. Teresa in Wichita.
"I'm going to do it," he says. "You can bet money on it. I'm going to do it."