November 13, 1976 – December 12, 2021
Michael “Mike” Paul Dender, beloved father and husband, 45, of Prince George, VA, passed from this earthly world on December 12, 2021 with his wife, Andria W. Dender, and daughter, Lillian “Lily” D. Dender, by his side. The family is deeply saddened by the loss of this exceptional man.
I want to share Mike’s story, as many weren’t even aware of the struggle he was facing on a daily basis.
Mike met his wife in 1998 and knew right away he had found his soulmate and his equal in this world. In 2001, Mike proposed and, by 2003, his love story was just beginning when he married the love of his life whom he loved and adored until his very last breath.
In 2005, Mike and Andria decided to start extending their family, and within days had a child on the way. Days after deciding to start a family, he was having numbness on the right side of his face, ignoring it all day, until his wife speaking with him after work, noticed a change in his speech and insisted he go the ER, where he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and immediately took action, as he was a man of action. Mike’s journey began with an awake craniotomy where a large portion of his tumor was able to be removed. He fought diligently to regain his speech, and motor functions of the right side to learn to speak, walk and use his hand and arm again. Within 2 months, Mike came back to us 100%, and was the same wonderful man with the same optimism and refusal to be beaten. Soon after surgery, Mike was given a prognosis of 4 years of quality life expectancy. Mike was the most determined individual; he never saw any obstacle he could not overcome. When Mike was given this prognosis he said, “No, I will show you year after year that I will not be defeated in 4 years. I will not allow it; I will be here to see my child grow and mature. I will live this life.” Mike welcomed his beautiful daughter, Lily, into this world in 2006 and found his heart bursting with love for this new life he had part in creating. Mike quit his job the week after his daughter was born, deciding he would not spend his life being stuck at a job that couldn’t provide an ounce of satisfaction that his daughter could. He had plans and dreams for her and would ensure that he showed her every single day what she meant to him and put her first in his determination to live. Mike threw elaborate birthday parties for his little goose and wanted to give her the world, and he did give her so many amazing experiences. He then decided to start his own company, consulting for other companies in successful business practices.
Mike, being the competent and savvy business person that he was, was needed for more than consulting. And when asked to come work with Bloom Brothers Furniture, he decided he would go to work with a man that he came to admire and eventually love, the late Lawrence Bloom.
Mike was saddened when in 2008 the company he had grown to love was closing, and he needed to find something else to do. Mike had met this man who was here from Canada on a work visa while at Bloom Brothers Furniture that impressed him very much and seemed to have so many complimenting attributes to Mike’s own. His business colleague at the time, to later become one of his very best friends and business partner, Travis Hamilton. Mike and Travis created an upholstery and fabric store, U-fab, opening in Cary Town in late 2008.
Too soon, things started to change for Mike during his semiannual scans. Now 2008 comes, and he needs to take action again. The doctors are telling him 9 months is their prognosis, saying he should stop and smell the roses. He didn’t immediately listen to the doctors’ treatment advice; as chances of this treatment working weren’t high, he was determined not to poison his body without exhausting all other avenues. Mike, using his intelligent mind, had been researching his disease all this time, and had decided he would first go the homeopathic route. Mike started multiple treatments, traveling to where he needed to go to get what he wanted. He wasn’t able to stop the growth, though it seemed to be slowing down. Eventually, the beginning of 2009 showed it was time to take some different actions, so chemotherapy was his next option. Mike started chemotherapy, which he took himself at home every day for 18 months. This was a very difficult time, as you can imagine poisoning yourself on a daily basis would be. During this time of treatments, he never missed a day of work at his new and rapidly growing successful business, U-fab. Mike knew this therapy was a long shot and wouldn’t be enough to save his life, so, true to form, he searched and tried many other homeopathic treatments. He was determined to cure his cancer. Scans throughout this time were showing chemotherapy was not working, and the next step was radiation which Mike was determined he would not do. You see, radiation does not cure cancer; in fact, it creates cancer. This Mike knew was a band-aid to give him months, and he was not accepting months. His daughter was 3 years old, and he was not finished with his journey.
He didn’t want a few more years; he wanted a lifetime. Mike had never stopped searching for his cure, and he threw himself into stopping this cancer from growing. We had many appointments that weren’t showing the progress he and his family were expecting. He was told during the end of the 18 months that his next appointment would be to discuss starting radiation, and Mike spent that time throwing everything at this disease. Determined, his wife remembers him saying every day without a doubt in his mind, “I got this. I will not need to do radiation babe, you’ll see.” Mike had a way of making you believe in him and his limitless accomplishments, as he had never been beaten yet. Mike and his wife arrived for the appointment to discuss radiation, and Dr. Asadullah Khan walked in with a huge smile on his face, and said, “What are you doing?” We knew right then that we had this thing, Mike was right as always, and we got this. The tumor had not only stopped growing but had shrunk. His wife was once again amazed by this man, he was a marvel.
Life returned to a more normal pace, where Mike made experiences for him and his family the goal. Mike and Travis decided in 2012 that Mike had completed his contribution to U-fab; it was time for him to move on and do something more. Mike opened his consulting business again and began to consult for Ashley Furniture. He made a huge impact on all the people he ever met, and this was no different; in his consulting, he was able to help others become successful.
Around 2016, his time ended with the local Ashley Furniture. He started traveling all over the country to help others become successful, having a huge impact on everyone that he encountered.
Mike soon realized that he needed his wife by his side; he could not be away for more than 3 days at a time before he was racing home. He decided he would still consult, as his help was needed by so many, but he would also start a new company with his wife to attempt to stay home and be more locally based.
Mike and his wife started Furniture House Calls with all the optimism they had done everything else in life. They traveled and traveled some more all around the country, loving each other every single day and loving the chance at life they were given. Mike continued to focus on his own treatment and was showing that he had stabilized the tumor growth. During this time, I stopped Mike from nothing he wanted, I put all my trust in him, and he thrived in the faith I had in him.
His loving oncologist Dr. Asadullah Khan left the Richmond area around 2015 and headed for Milwaukee, WI. Mike did not like the new oncologist that took over, so he stopped going for check-ins and just kept doing what had been working.
Around 2016, his wife started to see some changes, but as usual, Mike’s optimism rubbed off on her, so she just chalked it up and left it to his deference. Come the end of that year, she couldn’t ignore the signs any longer. She said, We are going to Milwaukee; we are going back to our doctor.” You see, this is the only man Mike would trust to care for him. This took some time to coordinate, but, come 2017, they drove 930 miles to see the man Mike wanted in charge of his care.
Scans were showing some growth; it was time to take action again.
Mike, again, was not ready for that dreaded standard of care that doesn’t cure cancer. He threw himself into finding another answer; he’d done it once before, so this time would be no different. Never having any doubt in his ability, he researched and read all while running 2 companies, building a home HIMSELF for his family, and with thousands of obstacles. As ever, he never stopped living life, never was down, complaining, or wondering why me. He knew he was the one to have this disease, and he would be the one to win this fight. Time went on, and life was lived with experiences that Lily and Andria will never forget. They did some things most thought were crazy and outrageous, such as taking their 13-year-old on a birthday trip that spanned multiple states, including white water rafting the New & Gauley River in Lansing, WV.
Mike continued to focus on the many things he had going on, as well as his health. However, at this time, things were getting heavy, and keeping up with everything was becoming impossible. Mike and Andria had to sell their home and all of their possessions, but still they stayed positive. Mike and Andria turned every situation into a character-building exercise and just kept things going as well as possible. Mike was building the subflooring of his home on the hottest August day in 2018, all alone and exhausted himself so much. The next morning, he had his very first seizure, which was a grand mal seizure. His wife woke up to find him this way, and this was a huge blow to their positive attitude and took them some a ton of effort to get through. With their current situation weighing heavily, things got very scary very quickly.
In September 2018, Mike and his wife drove that 930 miles again, this time, for another awake craniotomy so he could get the gene information for treatment. Mike showed up for surgery expecting the world-renowned surgeon, Dr. Amin Kassam, only to find he was not listed as the surgeon. With 40 people scrubbed in and ready to go, Mike walked out and said, “No, I cannot go into this surgery without my mind at ease. I do not know this other surgeon; I have not researched him, and I cannot do it.” He was so upset to cause such a scene of refusing this major surgery but felt that was what he had to do. Mike and Andria left the hospital that day, and his wife took him across the country to make more memories through experiences. And a week later they returned for this surgery.
After surgery, he had the gene information. We now knew what he and his family were fighting and felt this would give him a leg up to know how to fight. He still refused radiation all the way and never received radiation. And though the same chemotherapy was recommended, he refused. He fought this fight his way and made his own decisions, and he was able to make it 16 years with this terrible disease that was supposed to take him in 4. He was able to watch his daughter grow and mature and know that she would be okay, as she is an exceptional human just as he was.
Mike had just begun a new promising therapy on December 8, 2021 that he and his wife were so very hopeful would be their answer. Mike just could not hold out any longer waiting for a cure. His brain tumor grew to the point of leaving no more room for growth and ultimately took his life on December 12, 2021.
Everyone that knew Mike will know how fortunate they were to know him and be influenced by such an optimistic person.
Michael is survived by his wife, Andria W. Dender; their daughter, Lillian “Lily” D. Dender; his father, Francis W. Dender; mother, Karin K. Newton; stepfather, Dennis Newton; brother, Frank Dender and wife, Christine; brother, Joe Mulholland and wife, Lisa; sister, Karyn Orth and husband, Jeff; and numerous nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, and cousins.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution to assist with Funeral and Medical Expenses. A Memorial Account has been opened and deposits can be made at any Wells Fargo Bank with only providing the name “Donation Account for Michael Dender”; or you may use my “@Andria-Dender” Venmo profile link.
A service will be held on Saturday, April 30th, 2022 at 1 PM at J.T. Morriss & Son Funeral Home – Chester, 3050 West Hundered Road, where a visitation will be held following the service. Online condolences may be conveyed to the family at www.jtmorriss.com.