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Lexington-area photographer, who captured Rich Strike's Derby win, facing another battle with cancer

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Posted at 7:00 PM, Nov 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-22 09:29:55-05

GEORGETOWN, Ky. — Mike Cyrus lives with a burning passion.

"It's a good space in your head to do what you love," he says.

Sitting at his desk in his home office, with five wicks burning brighter than the sun, Cyrus' passion sparks inspiration.

"You can't buy these," Cyrus says as he turns to hold the dozens of photographer media credentials on the wall. "These are to get inside events. Those mean so much to me."

Some of those events include the Kentucky Derby. This year, one shot, was Cyrus' run for the roses.

"I made that positive mental attitude that I'm going to win, I want this shot," he said. "Getting that shot will get you to somewhere else."

Cyrus got a shot of winner Rich Strike crossing the finish line, where he shocked the world at 80-1 odds. It was a shot that only belongs to champions.

"Every single time, champion it," Cyrus said. "If you don't champion it, you're never going to win."

Through all those times, he has never gone face-to-face with a battle he won't fight.

"He walks in and says, 'you have cancer,'" Cyrus recalls a doctor telling him in September. "Again."

Cyrus beat cancer to snap the shots at this year's Derby. The cancer returned in September.

"We're going to fight it again," Cyrus said while at Markey Cancer Center during chemotherapy infusion. "We're going to go back and make this better."

Dr. Reema Patel is Cyrus' oncologist. She helped steer his first fight.

"If there was to be a poster child for how you can tackle the journey of cancer care, then he would be someone who would be a really prime example," Patel said.

Doctors told him his second battle would be tougher.

"I was concerned, instantly for my life," Cyrus said.

"It was sort of part of our discussion to try and do life things ahead of time when you're still feeling really well," Patel said.

The first prognosis was grim.

"We went from six weeks to six months total that you're going to survive this," Cyrus said. "To now, 18 months."

He beat the odds before. He already knows what it's like to be a champion.

"I will champion this," he said. I will. Just like that picture [of Rich Strike] — get it. I will do it, and I will do everything to make it right."

In October, Cyrus walked with his daughter, Hannah, at a football game. Hannah is a Scott County cheerleader.

"This cancer has made me just about as weak as I could get," Cyrus said.

"To see her walking down that field -- she was solid," he recalled. "She looked up [and said], 'I'm so proud of you, Daddy, thank you for walking.' I was sitting in a wheelchair just a few minutes earlier, got up, and walked across. To see her cry, you see what it's doing to me. It's deep. That was — that was a moment looking at her, seeing the tears going down her face; it was awesome. She looked at me and said I'm so proud of you, Daddy. So proud."

Cyrus fights to cherish, love, and to go on more trips down memory lane.

"If you don't fight, you'll never win," he said. "If you lay down, you're never going to win."

He has that burning passion to win, which is his ticket to life's next chapter.

"If you know in your heart you are going to beat this, do it," he said.

Today — a fighter.

"You've got to get up and do what you've got to do every single day," he said. "And tomorrow will be a lot better."

Tomorrow — a champion.

Mike is unable to work right now as he continues his battle. There is a GoFundMe set up for his family. If you'd like to donate, click here.