By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE – A former city police officer’s battle with cancer continues, but Mike Gratz isn’t fighting alone. Family, friends and fellow officers alike have kept the “NinerStrong” campaign going with recent and upcoming fundraisers to help the cause.
Gratz, 36, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer – clear cell sarcoma – soon after he joined the Southgate Police Department in 2009. Public service had long been a family affair, including his father having carried a badge, and Gratz had put his banking career to the side with hopes of continuing the tradition. The Southgate native expected to serve his community while he and his wife, Jennifer, raised their twins, Laynie and Rylie.
Gratz had only been on the job a few months when diagnosed, and the department’s command officers stepped up and covered his shifts as patrol officers during initial treatment.
“My coworkers covered my shifts,” Gratz wrote in a blog chronicling his battle. “Not just patrol guys but the Chief all the way down to the lowest man.”
A portion of his foot was amputated, and a determined police officer and former Wayne State University baseball player returned to work after just a single therapy session.
Gratz was determined to beat cancer, and maintained an athlete’s regimen with ambitions beyond the department. He joined the Downriver SWAT team, and worked with a federal task force.
“I never let my foot hinder me from anything,” Gratz wrote. “In fact it has never bothered me.”
Earlier this year Gratz applied for another law enforcement position which required a physical exam, and it was discovered that the cancer had returned and spread into his lungs.
Gratz underwent several procedures this summer after the cancer in his lungs was confirmed as clear cell sarcoma, a rare form that accounts for just 1 percent of adult cancer diagnosis.
While Gratz fights the physical battle against cancer, family friends and fellow officers are doing their part to raise money to help with medical bills not covered by insurance. Benefit events were held earlier this month in Florida, at Mighty Warrior Crossfit in Brownstown Township, and at Texas Roadhouse in Taylor.
A crowd-sourcing page has been set up – www.gofundme.com/ninerstrong — and a benefit is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Dec. 4 at Rosie O’Grady’s, 14980 Dix-Toledo. Tickets are $20 for pizza and beverages, and “NinerStrong” wristbands will be available for purchase.
For information or tickets contact Alana Kainz at 734-812-0769 or Rachel Meussner-Ellis at 734-558-3543.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])