Mike Reddish leaned forward, ran his right hand across three days' worth of facial stubble, then looked square into my eyes.
Painfully aware that the odds are 95 percent in favor of pancreatic cancer winning, Reddish said he'll take his 5 percent and see me in a year.
"It's OK -- I'll be a 5-percenter,'' declared Reddish, 41, determination in his voice. "A year from now, we are going to laugh at this when you interview me about beating it.''
In September 2012, Reddish, owner of Miletich Fighting Systems/Core Fitness in Bettendorf and Twenty Sports Grille and Nightclub in Moline, experienced severe side pain.
It should be noted Reddish -- a father of four with a mixed-martial arts fight and victory under his belt -- knows the difference between pain and injury. Soft and Mike Reddish have never met. But the pain in his side refused to leave.
Seven emergency-room trips later, he was admitted to the hospital. In December, tests proved he had aggressive pancreatic cancer.
"It just wouldn't go away,'' Reddish said of the pain. "I fainted from it. Once I found out, I at least knew what we were up against, and there would be a way to attack it.''
Chemotherapy has been the first defense, but it has knocked the forever-active Reddish to his back. His every-other-week treatments leave him shelved for five days at a time. He is unable to work and must rely on his wife, Missy, and staffers at the gym and Twenty to pick up the slack.
"That's what hurts, not being able to work,'' he said. "Everyone has been great, but Missy has gone above and beyond.''
At first glance, you can see Reddish has lost 35 pounds off what was a ripped, 180-pound frame. In conversation, you also learn he is frank and open about the task before him, family and friends.
"Missy and I have had the talk about what might happen if we don't beat this,'' said Reddish, a 1989 United Township High School graduate. "And that wasn't easy. I worry about four great kids not having me around to do my part in their lives. I worry about the kids and Missy. No matter how tough she is, I worry.''
The Reddish family is a unique, cooperative blend, given that Missy and her ex-husband got along well after divorcing. Sadly, though,Tom Keeler, her first husband and a dear friend to Mike, lost his life to leukemia.
His death weighs heavily on Reddish.
"Missy and I have one child together, and we have three from her marriage to Tom,'' Reddish said."I have to beat this for them. No child should lose a father, and three great kids should not have to lose a father for the second time.''
Through the years, Reddish has been called on to support hundreds of causes through business and friendships. And he always has been there for those in need. Now, friends and other business owners in the Quad-Cities are giving back.
A benefit for Reddish and his family is planned from noon to 6 p.m. March 10 at Twenty, 1405 5th Ave., Moline.
"People have been amazing,'' Reddish said."You have trouble wrapping your arms around people doing something on your behalf. When you are asked to help, you don't give it a second thought, you just do it. But when people are being kind and caring on your behalf, it's awkward. We are touched by the support.''
Despite the long odds against him, Reddish is a wide-vision guy, a hopeful sort with a fighter's mentality.
"Why can't I be a 5-percenter?'' he said. "I believe I can.''
Thirty minutes with Mike Reddish will make you believe the same.
Columnist John Marx can be reached at (309) 757-8388 or firstname.lastname@example.org.