LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Louisville man has turned the painful loss of a loved one into hope and help for dozens of families.
As a result, cancer patients are receiving thousands of dollars in financial support because of a woman they've never even met.
"First thing I do every morning is get up and see if she's breathing," said Allan Loney, who is caring for his terminally ill wife.
Seven years ago, Loney's wife Elaine was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.
Since then, cancer has been the family's biggest challenge, but not the only source of pain.
"If they have to come take my house, they have to come take my house," Loney said. "That's my life in there."
Last year, Loney lost his job because he needed to be with his wife around the clock. That means the paychecks stopped coming, but the bills did not.
"They're piling up because, you know, I'm not working," Loney said.
Through all of the sadness, the pain and stress of making ends meet, Loney found emotional and financial support from someone he had not seen in more than 20 years.
"First time I met him, he come, cut me a check and said, use it for bills, take her out to dinner, do whatever ... just hope it helps," Loney said.
The man with the check was Mike Mulrooney, an old friend.
"When Allen walked up to the door, I had never put two and two together with the last names," Mulrooney said. "We went to high school together. Small world."
Turns out, high school isn't the only thing the men have in common. In 2013, Mulrooney lost his mother Shirley to cancer.
"Only reason we started is everybody who came to visit my mom had a story to tell," Mulrooney said.
Those stories were some of the forgotten side effects of cancer.
"They'd say, you know, Joe had a friend who lost his house because his wife had cancer, and they couldn't work," Mulrooney said.
After watching his mother take her last breath, Mulrooney accepted the calling.
"When they had her sitting in the living room after she passed, I promised her I would do something different to change the world," he said.
Mulrooney created a non-profit called Shirley's Way in honor of his mother. The organization uses donations, benefit concerts and an annual 5K to raise thousands of dollars for families who are taking a hit from cancer and bill collectors.
"We've given away a little over $160,000 since we started," he said. "Last year, we gave away $92,000."
Doctors say Loney's wife doesn't have much time, so, he appreciates the man who is helping him stay by her side until the end.
"I know I couldn't stay here without him," Looney said.
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