The music plays on for Onalaska man fighting cancer

Faced with mounting medical bills after being diagnosed with colon cancer, an Onalaska man started selling his prized possessions to pay for treatment. Now at the end of his life, family and friends stepped in to help him replace one of his favorite items.

“I like some newer stuff, [like]Red Hot Chili Peppers,” said Mike Oehler, sitting inside his room at La Crosse’s Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center.

Oehler, 32, loves to rock.

“Having that escape was a really great thing for me,” Oehler said.

He picked up his first electric acoustic guitar when he was 19 years old.

“I had a starter one– you know just a cheap something to kind of make sure it was a hobby I wanted to pursue,” Oehler said.

He kept playing that same guitar until a year and a half ago when he found out he had colon cancer.

“It spread through the liver, kidneys, lymph nodes,” Oehler said.

With all the expenses, he had to sell the guitar that his family helped buy in order to pay for treatment. Thankfully for Mike, a family friend reached out to Dave Rogers.

“They were trying to do a GoFundMe to raise some money to get guitar for him and she just approached me. I was just hands down all in. I said I’d donate a guitar,” said Rogers, owner of Dave’s Guitar Shop in La Crosse.

He’s handing off a new Fender in the hopes that he continues to play until he can’t anymore.

“It’s sad. It’s sad to see a young man like this. I wish I could do more,” Rogers said.

But the guitar will be the gift that keeps on giving. Mike plans to pass off the guitar to his seven-year-old daughter Alice.

“I hope it gives him some pleasure and peace and handed down to her. I hope she plays it for years to come,” Rogers said.

For now, Oehler is treasuring these last moments with friends and family.

“It’s nice knowing that there’s still good people out there that are willing to help people in the community that are going through a difficult time,” said Oehler.

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