When I went to Fairbanks to visit Lance Mackey last winter, I knew I was meeting one of dog-sled racing’s greatest champions on the downslide of his success. Even so, the relentlessly optimistic Mackey was feeling good about his chances at a comeback.
It didn’t happen, and since then Mackey has endured more than his share of setbacks. Zorro, the beloved long-time anchor of his kennel, died in June. Last week came news that Mackey himself was back in the hospital, a place he knows all too well. Radiation from the cancer treatments that saved Mackey’s life back in 2001 had caused most of his teeth to fall out and severely weakened his jawbone, but now he had to undergo surgery to remove the last two teeth he had. He was also two-thirds of the way through a series of 30 hyperbaric-oxygen treatments that could strengthen his jawbone enough to support artificial teeth.
Mackey has health insurance, but it apparently doesn’t cover oral surgery. He recently told a reporter for the Alaska Dispatch that he wasn’t sure how he would pay the $30,000 in bills for this and subsequent treatments. Musher Kirsten Ballard quickly set up a fund-raising website, and fans of Mackey have already contributed more than a third of the total. “Why am I doing it?” Ballard said to the Dispatch. “Because Lance won’t ask and because I care.”
Read more about Lance Mackey and his quest to keep on mushing.