It’s hard for the Boysza family to see the silver lining at times like these, but Mickey Boysza finds it.
“The best thing about all of this is being in Butte,” Mickey said on Thursday morning on the first floor of St. James Healthcare before rattling off a long list of people who have pitched in to help since late July, when her 42-year-old son Mike was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
“It’s a little humbling,” said her husband, the senior Mike Boyzsa.
“Not a little,” said their son, correcting him. “It’s overwhelming.”
For Mike Boysza, the feeling of being overwhelmed is one he’s been dealing with off and on since the day in late July that began with him working as a carpenter on a Bouten Construction crew in St. James Healthcare and ended with him being diagnosed in the hospital's cancer center.
“I kind of had the carpet pulled out from under me that day,” Boysza said Thursday morning, after receiving his fourth chemotherapy treatment at St. James.
But something else also happened that day: his coworkers immediately set up a GoFundMe page to begin raising money for Boysza, who is a single father of four children.
The page appeared — and spread — online so quickly, in fact, that Boysza’s 19-year-old daughter Olivia found out about his diagnosis from a friend who’d seen it on Facebook before Boysza could personally break the news to her.
While word got around quicker than Boysza had planned, the eagerness with which his coworkers started pitching in was a sign of what was to come.
In addition to raising $6,745 via GoFundMe as of Thursday afternoon, donations and offers of support have come pouring in from as far away as Florida but mostly from within the Boyszas’ tight-knit but expansive Butte community.
“You wouldn’t believe the amount of support you get from your teachers,” said Olivia, who graduated from Butte High in the spring and whose two younger siblings, Katarina and Michael, go there now.
And on Saturday, from 2 to 8 p.m., the Boysza family, friends, and some Butte High teachers will host a fundraiser for Mike at the Butte Depot that will feature a live auction, a silent auction, a raffle, a 50/50 drawing, a taco bar, and live music from Andy Larson.
Boysza is grateful for the outpouring of support, even if he’s uncomfortable about being in a position to need it.
“Especially with being a single dad, I’ve been very fortunate over the years. I’ve never had to look for any assistance,” Boysza said. “We didn’t live a lavish life, but we always had what we needed. Maybe not always what they (his children) wanted, but they had what they needed.”
Boysza attributes his ability to provide for his family to his 14-year membership in the Montana Carpenters Local 82 union, which his father belonged to before him and which he joined after a stint in the Navy. The union, Boysza says, has allowed him to earn a living wage and to have health insurance that has proven crucial since his cancer diagnosis.
While the Boyszas are focused now on Mike’s battle with cancer, that focus hasn’t prevented them from being struck by all the other people they have encountered in the St. James cancer center facing their own battles.
“I’m surprised by how many people you see in the treatment area,” Mike senior said. “And it’s not like you see the same people twice. … I’m kind of taken aback by the amount of cancer in this community.”
And Mickey said she’s observed the same thing: “It’s not just adults. It’s young babies. This area, it’s definitely more than the norm nationwide.”
Boysza said he's doing his best to be optimistic, despite being told his cancer can’t be cured.
“They can put it into remission,” he said. “And the doctors seem to be happy with how my treatment is going so far.”
He says his doctors plan to reassess his progress and restage his diagnosis after he completes his sixth treatment. In the meantime, Boysza’s plan is to keep moving forward, parenting his children, working when he can, and remaining active in his other causes.
“I’m trying to stay as positive as possible and not have my life altered more than it has to be,” Boysza said. “Some days I’ve got pretty good success with it. Other days it’s more of a challenge.”
On Thursday morning, talking between chemo treatments, Boysza was looking forward to a union meeting that night.
But there are some things he can’t do, like hunt, which he loves to do and sorely misses.
“I’m union made and Montana made,” Boyzsa explained.
Then it was time for him to return to the cancer center, for another round of treatment.