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Retired Fullerton police officer walks for a cause, and the reason is her late husband, ‘Mac’

Retired Fullerton police officer walks for a cause, and the reason is her late husband, ‘Mac’

Retired Fullerton police officer walks for a cause, and the reason is her late husband, ‘Mac’

By Greg Hardesty

She joked he had ulterior motives for wanting to marry her.

“I told him he married me just so he could coach little league,” Karen MacDonald said during a recent conversation at Coco’s in Fullerton.

MacDonald, a Fullerton Police officer for 25 years who retired in 2011, was thinking about the man she thinks about every day: 

Mike MacDonald, her late husband. 

He was childless when he and Karen, both Fullerton police officers, got married in 1998. Karen had two young boys from a prior marriage.

But Mike raised her boys, Jon and Corey, as his own, taking them camping, to the river, coaching them in sports --- and in life. 

Mike and Karen then had a child of their own, Michaela. 

“We now have one,” Karen told Mike of their child. 

“No,” he corrected her. “We have three.” 

That was Mike: kind, generous, big-hearted. 

Which made his death, from malignant melanoma, on Christmas Eve 2009 --- three days after he had turned 41 --- cut that much deeper. 

Mike (or “Mac” as he was known) was a well-loved sergeant at the FPD when he passed away, a 6-foot-4 former football standout from Garden Grove High School.

For a while, he served as the public face of the FPD as a spokesman when reporters did stories about crime in Fullerton.

Part of Mac’s legacy carries on each year in the annual iCureMelanoma 5k, at nine years the longest-running fundraising 5k event in the U.S., according to race director Kelly Clauss, of the non-profit MelanomaCure.Org.

This year, 84 teams participated in the May 2 iCureMelanoma 5k, which snakes along scenic trails beginning at Laguna Road Elementary School along the Bud Turner and Juanita Cooke trails of Fullerton. 

And Team Mac had a record-smashing 107 members this year who raised $2,950 for aggressive melanoma research and clinical trials at UC Irvine Medical Center. 

Fullerton Police Chief Dan Hughes, a supporter of Team Mac since it officially was formed in 2011, played a particularly big role in rallying support for this year’s 5k, according to Karen MacDonald.

“This department is great,” MacDonald said. “It’s always been community-service oriented, and this is just another great example of that commitment.”

In 2000, two years after Karen and Mike got married, Mike was diagnosed with melanoma. Doctors removed lymph nodes from under his right arm and he was --- or so it seemed --- in the clear.

Flash forward to early 2009.

After running a half-marathon in Huntington Beach, Mike felt some swelling under his right arm. 

He went to the doctor, who thought he might have pulled something.

An MRI detected nothing unusual, but since the swelling was in the same area where his lymph nodes were removed in 2000, Mike’s doctor insisted he see an oncologist. 

A needle biopsy in March 2009 found the cancer had returned.

Beginning in April, Mike underwent bio-immunotherapy at UC Irvine Medical Center to kill the tumor.

He continued working at the FPD as he underwent a half-dozen treatments through October, when doctors declared that the therapy had, indeed, killed the tumor.

Things were looking good until Mike fell ill on Thanksgiving Day 2009.

Then things rapidly deteriorated, the cancer having spread.

There was nothing doctors could do.

Mike was sent home from the hospital on Dec. 23 and died the next day.

At her father’s Dec. 30 memorial service, Michaela read e.e. Cummings’ poem, “I Carry Your Heart,” which reads, in part:

You are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

Michaela MacDonald now is a 16-year-old sophomore at Fullerton High School. She is very active in softball and volleyball.

Corey left in his step-father’s casket a sealed letter to his father. Now 22, Corey Lindsey is a student.

Jon used to steal Mac’s socks. So he left in his step-father’s casket some black dress socks. Now 24, Jon Lindsey is an Army Ranger stationed in Savannah, Ga.

And Karen MacDonald left in her husband’s casket a 12-page letter she wrote to him that he had a chance to read before he died.

Karen said she hopes that her and her family’s participation in the iCureMelanoma 5k, as well as the participation of all members of Team Mac, helps raise awareness of the deadly cancer and encourages people to take precautions to reduce the chances of getting melanoma. 

“Be cautious by wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen and adopting other sun-safe strategies, take charge of your own life, and be your own best advocate,” MacDonald said. 

Asked about the 12-page letter she wrote to her husband during his last days, Karen said it contained her most private thoughts to him, including a sentiment that continues daily: 

I miss you. I wish you were here. Oh how I miss you.