- Associated Press - Monday, June 15, 2015

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) - When ex-drug addict Michael Pinnick of Joliet was first treated last year for lung cancer and lymphoma, he rejoiced when other patients graduated from treatments. He waited for his day to arrive.

But now that the cancer in his lungs and lymph nodes has spread to his bones, brain and liver, Pinnick is realizing that day might never arrive.

So instead of focusing on beating cancer, Pinnick has decided to strengthen his Christian faith with scripture, passing time in his serenity garden, and to live with his disease - even if that means using a cane and adjusting to shortness of breath.

As he does, Pinnick mourns the death of acquaintances from cancer, heart attacks, diabetes complications and brain aneurysms. He wonders why he still is alive.

“I say, ‘Lord, why do you still find favor with me?’?” Pinnick said. “I know it’s because my work ain’t done. I just pray that he gives me the strength of the body and the mind so I can continue this journey that he has me on - helping other people.”

Pinnick’s projects

Pinnick is enthusiastic about participating in Relay For Life of Joliet with his own team of a dozen members - Never Say Never - for the June 6 event. Pinnick also is part of Relay for Life of Joliet’s Community Champions team, which recruits teams for Relay for Life of Joliet.

His two recovery homes are nearly full, and he’s still going forward with his annual Back to School Fair, which Pinnick hosts each August as part of his Done With Drugs Foundation.

When donations were short at last year’s Christmas party - which the foundation hosts for several hundred kids - Pinnick himself asked for more. He even delivered holiday turkeys.

Pinnick’s wife, Iris, said on good days, her husband bursts with ideas and projects, joking he’s going to bury her from exhaustion.

“His brain goes 24/7,” Iris said. “Michael’s brain never stops.”

But Iris also sees another side to her husband.

“He’s getting tired,” Iris said.

Relay For Life of Joliet

Because of fatigue, Pinnick did less recruiting than he had hoped for Relay for Life, said Anita Carroll, who also serves on the Community Champions committee. Still, with 58 teams as of April 15, Carroll said the committee is just two teams away from its goal of 60 by June 6.

“If he could have gotten out there, he could have gotten people on board,” Carroll said. “He certainly has the personality.”

Carroll said for the last couple of years - starting before he had cancer - Pinnick had participated with her team, The Chosen Ones. Pinnick’s team makes two from Mt. Ebal Baptist Church in Lockport, Carroll said.

“There’s something about it that’s contagious,” Carroll said of Relay for Life. “It makes you want to grab on and get out and be the cheerleader and supporter.”

Carroll said it’s not necessary to form a team to support Relay for Life, and Carroll encouraged the community to join the fun.

“There’s people out there cooking, singing and dancing,” Carroll said.

Never going back

Until 2000, helping people wasn’t Pinnick’s goal; helping himself to more drugs was.

In a previous Herald-News story, Pinnick said he’d been to jail 48 times and prison seven times. He also had been shot and stabbed.

In 2000, when he cried out to God for help, Pinnick faced 15 years in prison. Attending his father’s funeral in handcuffs was a wake-up call. Pinnick wrote a short, candid account of his life as an addict in his book. “Out of the Darkness and Into the Light.” Proceeds benefit his foundation.

But don’t feel sorry for Pinnick. He’s not feeling sorry for himself.

“I’m still encouraged; I still like to crack jokes; I still like to have fun,” Pinnick said.

“But to be honest, sometimes I do get depressed. I don’t like being depressed, but I’m human, and sometimes I deal with fear.”

The fear, Pinnick said, is less a fear of death and more of leaving Iris alone to rely on herself financially and emotionally. Pinnick doesn’t like the emotional split that will occur if something happens to him. He and Iris are a team, Pinnick said.

But despite the challenges and a failing body, Pinnick said he remains strong in one thing.

“I’m not even tempted to use,” Pinnick said.

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Source: The (Joliet) Herald-News, https://bit.ly/1MhW9VU

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Information from: The Herald-News, https://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/heraldnews


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