Florida man travels through Huntsville on 5,000 mile ‘cancer bucket list’ journey

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - If you were driving and saw someone loaded down with what looks like all their belongings, would you stop? Would you even take a second look?

Friday, we stumbled across a tale of human compassion, determination and inevitability. A random act of kindness from a pet sitter and a lawn care worker proves everyone has a story -- if you only stop to listen.

Lucia Tunstil decided to do just that when she saw a man pushing a peculiar bike near Hampton Cove.

"I was on my way home from doing a pet sitting visit and I saw his cart on the side of the road, so I did a 'U-ey' and got pulled over by the police.  And when I told the policeman what I was doing he said, 'honey, just go -- I'm not going to write you a ticket.'"

Tunstil did go and when she did, she met 51-year-old Michael Fanucchi, a former restaurateur originally from Chicago who had made his way to Huntsville by way of Gainesville, Florida -- all by bike.  She stopped and talked with him near Walmart in Hampton Cove.

"December of 2008 I was diagnosed with T-cell Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, stage 2," Fanucchi explained. "At the end of February, beginning of March they stopped all treatments on me because it was doing more harm than good."

Fanucchi decided to embark on a big adventure, even if it's the last thing he does.

"I started in Florida. I'm doing a three-leg trip. The first one is from Florida to Illinois to my home town of Chicago; from Chicago I'm going to ride the length of Route 66 to Los Angeles; and from Los Angeles I'm going to ride north to Astoria, Oregon."

Lucia learned all about the plans for the roughly 5,000 mile journey all because she stopped to get to know Michael -- but why did she do it?

"His name is Michael, my sweetheart's name is Michael and he also had Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma," she explains. "My Michael survived because he had insurance.  And this guy, if he had insurance -- he probably could have survived but now there are tumors all over his body. So, he's on his bucket list," Tunstil said, choking back tears.

"Everybody has said to me, 'it's time to stop, it's time to relax, it's time for other people to take care of you,' and I can't see sitting and waiting to die, if you know what I mean," Fanucchi said.

Tunstil offered Fanucchi bus fare which he declined, but she did call friend Jason Hampton of Hampton's Lawn Care who took time out of his busiest work day to bring his trailer and make way for Fanucchi's bike --  just to at least usher him over Cecil Ashburn Drive to cross Huntsville Mountain.

"Well, it's just a good thing," says Hampton. "A friend called and said he needed help and I just decided to help him out."

Jason Hampton took Fanucchi over the mountain to Jones Valley, and then all the way to Airport Road, dropping him off at Baumhower's Restaurant on Balmoral Drive.

Michael Fanucchi is well on his way now, but he'll likely never forget the warm reception and send-off from Huntsville.

"You should always stop," Tunstil advises. "You should always help people out -- always. You never know who you'll meet, you never know what their story is -- you could be touched for the rest of your life. I was in a hurry, but I stopped because that's what you should do; that's just what you should do."

Tunstil exchanged phone numbers with Fanucchi and plans to keep up with him on his journey, for as long as she can.

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