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Colorado Springs man looking to travel the entire U.S., globe before he dies

June 14, 2016 Updated: June 15, 2016 at 5:48 pm
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The winter after Mike Scherr was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he skied a dozen days at Monarch Mountain. He'd stay in nearby Salida and sleep in the back of his pickup as long as temperatures didn't dip below 30 degrees. 

You embrace the sun; you've got to embrace the cold too, he said.

By the next winter, in 2013, he was medically retired from the military. He took advantage of the extra time, skiing twice as much. But the disease forced a change in routine as Scherr had to buy a camper.

"My whole life I was a big guy, you know, I was 6-foot-5, 240 pounds - I had plenty of insulation," he said. "And with cancer, you lose weight, and I couldn't stay warm anymore."

Scherr has a to-do list that includes visiting every state and continent. But now, faced with the reality that he might only have months to live, the 42-year-old has got to move fast. Scherr's wife, Katy, and sister-in-law Stacy Ralph are doing all they can to help. Katy began planning vacations in March, when his prognosis looked more like three to six years. After it became less than 12 months in May, Ralph set up an online campaign to raise money for Mike, Katy and their children - 17-year-old Stephen, 15-year-old Madalyn and 10-year-old Sam - to travel the world.

"I just want memories for his kids - my nieces and nephews," Ralph said. "Memories to last a lifetime."

Scherr's cancer, called acinic cell carcinoma, has metastasized past curability, his doctors say. Scherr doesn't know what caused it, but he does know this type of cancer usually is caused by radiation.

From 1993 to 2004, Scherr was a nuclear weapons specialist in the Air Force. He joined the military in 1993 shortly after graduating high school.

In 1994, he met Katy and they married a year later. In 2011, after living in Washington, North Dakota and Oklahoma, Scherr was transferred to Air Force Space Command headquarters in the Springs.

"My whole career, the whole time I was trying to come to Colorado Springs, Cheyenne, (Wyo.), anywhere along the Front Range," he said. "It's where I belong."

The cancer diagnosis came in September 2012. Chemotherapy, radiation and surgery followed. After his first round of treatment, he was medically evaluated by the military and retired in February 2013.

Despite the possibility that his job in the Air Force might be the reason for his suffering, Scherr has no misgivings about his time in the service.

"No regrets," he said. "Make a decision and press forward - that's a military thing. You make a (darn) decision, you go. And I've made my decision, and I'm proud."

Scherr has five states left to visit before he's covered the country: Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, North Carolina and South Carolina. Luckily, Scherr has friends from his time in the military who have offered everything from cabins to cars for the family to use, and Ralph's GoFundMe account already has accumulated $13,000.

"People in this world that I'm sure themselves have been or are in dire straits generously share with me so that I can live a dream I have, and it's just overwhelming and beautiful," he said.

Last week, the Scherrs began an adventure to Washington. Next month, they'll go to Illinois and Oklahoma to visit family and friends, including Scherr's 92-year-old grandmother.

"I have every intention, when I leave this world to leave my family whole," Scherr said. "I will not live beyond my means because it's not about me at this point; it's about them. But if people are going to give me this, we're going to see the world."

To donate to Mike Scherr and his family, go to gofundme.com/MikeScherr

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