TAYLOR, MI (WXYZ) — A beloved Taylor teacher is in for the fight of his life against stage four cancer. Now, the community is rallying around Derek Kaunelis and his frailly.
It was back in February that Derek was rushed to the emergency room. At the time, he and his wife figured he likely had COVID-19. Not only did he test positive for the virus, but his labs indicated something else was wrong.
“They ended up doing a scope a couple days later and found that he has gastric cancer,” said his wife Tina Kaunelis.
Doctors gave Derek limited time to fight off stage four cancer.
“Two to three months probably without treatment anywhere from one to three years with treatment,” said Tina.
The couple has been together for the last 25 years and have two children together, 13-year-old Dominick and 16-year-old Brianna.
With delays in treatment here in Michigan, Tina and Derek rushed to Houston, Texas to get him the care he needed.
“We got discharged from the hospital about 9:00 pm that night and we were on a plane at six in the morning the next day, we came to Texas to MD Anderson, we went right to their emergency room,” said Tina.
While the fight continues in Texas, efforts are underway back in Taylor to make sure Derek and his family are taken care of.
“He is just, I can’t even put it into words how fabulous the man is,” said Liz Biddle.
Liz has known Derek since he started teaching 18 years ago, both currently work for the Taylor School District. Derek is beloved by his fourth and fifth-grade students he teaches at Taylor Parks Elementary.
“He always goes above and beyond, I mean meeting, doing a google meet with him from his hospital room, you know being there for them it has just been amazing to see,” said Biddle.
Look no further than Derek’s GoFundMe page to see just how loved he is.
One person writing ‘This man is too important to lose. Teachers are so valuable for creating well-educated American citizens. He simply must recover.’
Tina says the money donated to the GoFundMe will be used to help pay for plane tickets between Texas and Michigan so she can take care of both her children and Derek. It will also help pay for everyday needs as she takes time off from her job as a nurse.
“Thank you doesn’t seem like enough, we are so incredibly grateful for all the love and support,” said Tina.