For the love of Mike Donations pour in for cancer-stricken captain |

For the love of Mike Donations pour in for cancer-stricken captain

by Sheila Gardner

By the time volunteers had stacked the $5s, $10s and $20s, along with the fistfuls of $1 bills, the grand total for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office calendar project totaled $6,541 as of Thursday.

That was after $3,500 in expenses had been deducted for the 18-month calendar put together by Sgt. Bernadette Smith and Deputy John Munk.

Smith and Undersheriff Paul Howell presented the money to Capt. Mike Biaggini on Thursday.

Biaggini, 52, who has worked at the sheriff’s office for 25 years, is undergoing treatment for his third recurrence of colon cancer.

Biaggini said words failed him and his wife Mary in expressing their gratitude.

“We’re basically just in awe,” he said. “How do you appropriately thank all these people? It’s a perfectly example of what a great community we live in.”

Every day, Biaggini said, strangers stop him or he gets a telephone call from someone who wants to know how he is doing.

“Folks are giving me encouragement,” he said. “People I don’t even know. It makes the situation so much easier having this kind of support.

“Mary and I are extremely humbled by the outpouring of prayers, good thoughts and donations.”

On Wednesday, representatives of the Knights of Columbus, gave Biaggini a check for nearly $2,000 raised at bingo held March 9.

The bingo game at St. Gall Pastoral Center attracted 205 players, nearly twice the average crowd.

“Every quarter we try to come up with a local cause to help out,” said Chuck Ripoli of the Knights.

The money raised by the calendar project and the bingo game will be used for travel expenses and other medical-related costs not covered by insurance.

“The calendar was a great product for a great cause,” Smith said. “People just came in off the street to buy them.”

She said the day after a story appeared in The Record-Courier in February, she had 30 voice mails at work for people who wanted to purchase calendars which sold for $10.

Most of the calendars were sold locally, Smith said, but one went to North Carolina as well as nearly three dozen purchased by the Mono County Sheriff’s Department.

Once a Reno television station aired a segment, Smith said several retired policemen bought calendars.

“Pretty impressive for two months’ work,” she said.

Howell said everywhere he went – from the gym to the grocery store – people wanted to buy calendars.

“This is why we live here,” Howell said Thursday. “People just want to help. It shouldn’t surprise me but it always does.”

Of the 1,000 calendars printed, about 50 are left.

Biaggini was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2001 which went into remission after treatment. The cancer returned in 2003, disappeared again after treatment, but came back in December.

Just like the other two times, Biaggini has kept on working.

He is the head of the patrol division, leads the honor guard and the crisis negotiation team and is the chief deputy coroner. He was a member of the Special Weapons and Tactics team for 16 years.

“I’ve said all along I am not going to let it take me down,” he said. “Coming to work helps get my mind of the situation. The pain becomes secondary.”

Biaggini is in the middle of chemotherapy treatment which leaves him with stomach pain, nausea, excruciating headaches, bleeding, and occasional neuropathy.

But, there is a silver lining.

“It has been nice not fighting diarrhea,” Biaggini said. “I don’t lose hydration or potassium which puts me in the hospital. It’s made this treatment much easier to tolerate.”

This week, he is undergoing a colonoscopy to help determine how many more treatment cycles he needs.

There’s a bright side to that, too.

He talked his doctor into skipping a week of the chemo cocktail so he’ll be ready for the procedure.

“Things are progressing in my favor,” he said.