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Shelby Mack / The Californian

Michael Dallas was the recipient of Kern County Cancer Fund's first donation. In this recent photo, he holds the hand of his girlfriend, Felicia Martin, while talking about his fight with leukemia. Dallas died Nov. 14 at age 45.

Michael Dallas is no stanger to fighting.

The soft-spoken 45-year-old is a former professional boxer and college wrestler. He's worked as the recreation/boxing coordinator at the Bakersfield Police Activities League and his son Michael Dallas II qualified for the 2007 Olympic trials.

But this year, Dallas found himself duking it out with a new foe outside the ring -- cancer.

His new opponent didn't go easy on him. The father of five collapsed at his part-time job at Old Navy in April and was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia soon after.

In this cancer, a mutation causes the body to produce too many white blood cells, which take over the bone marrow and don't function as they should, said Elizabeth Arvizu, an oncology nurse practitioner at Kern Medical Center who has treated Dallas.

Dallas underwent chemotherapy and lost close to 30 pounds.

Before the diagnosis, Dallas said he worked full-time at PAL and 25 hours a week at Old Navy. But his illness left him unable to work and he is on disability. Dallas didn't have health insurance and he said he can't afford his $1,370 share of cost for Medi-Cal.

"I've been basically stretching whatever I get from disability," he said.

But Dallas has gained some new partners in his current fight. He is the first person to get financial help from the Kern County Cancer Fund. The fund was created to aid local cancer patients.

Members of the fund's Patient Eligibility committee reviewed Dallas' application and his situation before they decided to offer him money to help him secure care.

"We had been notified that he was having problems getting all of his treatment," said Shannon Hernandez, a Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center social worker who is on the committee.

The committee approved Dallas to receive $1,275 a month for six months to cover his share of the cost for his treatment. The money will cover the amount that Dallas must pay toward his treatment each month for Medi-Cal to then pay the rest

"The Medi-Cal will not work at all unless he pays that amount up front," Hernandez said.

The money to aid Dallas' treatment will come from Saturday'sFight For Life, a massive fundraising event organized by Advanced Industrial Services featuring mixed martial arts fighting, music and dancing.

The fundraiser will benefit the new cancer fund and the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center has promised to match the event's proceeds up to $1 million.

The cancer fund is currently organized under the CBCC Foundation for Community Wellness but has its own bank account and separate financials, said Michelle Avila, the foundation's director.

The cancer fund's cash won't be given directly to Dallas. Instead, the fund will coordinate with his treatment providers so that the cost is billed to the fund, Avila said. This month, the money will be directed to a local pharmacy to help with Dallas' prescription costs, which can be upwards of $2,800 a month, Avila said.

The committee will review Dallas' case in six months.

Arvizu said there are many people like Dallas who could benefit from the cancer fund.

The issue is that there are state and county funds to help, but depending on income and assets, cancer patients might not qualify because they have a little too much, she explained.

People end up caught in the middle where they aren't poor enough or rich enough, Arvizu said.

For Dallas, the fund's help is a "big blessing."

"It took a lotta stress off my shoulders and worrying about my medicine and my treatment," he said.

Since Dallas was selected, he and his girlfriend, Felicia Martin, have met AIS President Leslie Knox, the driving force behind Fight for Life. On Friday, Dallas and Martin were looking forward to attending the event.

"It's nice to see that Leslie really puts her heart in. Just to be able to sit to talk with her and to be able to really see how (and) why she put the event on, it just puts another perspective on life," Martin said.

Dallas is good-natured about the attention that comes with being the first to receive money from the fund. After all, it might help someone, he said.

"I feel like (Dallas receiving the assistance) could open the door for someone else. Maybe they're sitting back, they don't know about the different programs that are out there," Martin said.

Dallas recently finished chemotherapy and will have a bone marrow biopsy.

"He finished his course of treatment, now we're going to see where he's at," Arvizu said.

Lately, Dallas said he's feeling stronger, more active and gaining his weight back.

"Right now I feel like I'm already in remission," he said. "I feel like I'm almost back to normal."