DTF Capt. Pruitt faces cancer battle with calm

Tue, 02/05/2008 - 5:45pm
By: Ben Nelms

DTF Capt. Pruitt

There is something happening with Mike Pruitt. And it is a lot more than the terminal cancer with which he was recently diagnosed.

The long-time officer in charge of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Drug Task Force (DTF) has much more on his mind. It is the recognition of a reality that neutralizes fears of impending doom. It is the recognition of a reality that no human can guarantee. Peace.

Capt. Mike Pruitt has served in his home county in law enforcement for more than two dozen years. The Fayette Sheriff’s three-time Medal of Merit winner had surgery Nov. 27 to remove a kidney and lymph nodes after the discovery of a large tumor on that kidney.

Doctors at the time found two very small spots on his lungs that initially caused no concern. Yet only few weeks later, a trip to the doctor after Pruitt began to feel sick revealed unexpected news.

The two small spots had exploded into 70 quarter-sized spots on his lungs and the beginnings of a tumor was found where the kidney had been removed. The doctors have given him a few weeks to a couple of months to live.

Pruitt had been in a wheelchair since his stay in the hospital. He had been receiving chemotherapy and had trouble breathing. The news of the new cancers would be enough to knock anyone for a loop. And worse. Yet a visit to the doctor last week was a different kind of office visit.

“The doctor couldn’t believe I was out of my wheelchair and that I could breathe so well,” Pruitt said late last week. “I can’t explain what happened, but I feel great and I can breathe again.”

Pruitt suffers under no illusion about cancer. But for Mike Pruitt, cancer is only a small part of the story.

“It’s terminal. There’s no cure. Only God can cure cancer,” Pruitt said. Those who know Mike Pruitt know that he possesses a clearly animated personality. But that day in his office, the animation went far beyond its norm. Coming through in his words and in his eyes was something else, something much more like inspiration than animation.

“God can use cancer treatments and make me better, but treatments are no cure. They won’t stop the cancer. And I can’t change what is. I’m not angry, I’m not upset, I’m not mad at God. He’s taking care of me and my family. The cancer is not going to kill me. If it’s time for me to go home, I’m going. If it’s not time, I’m not going. So I’m at peace. If it’s time to go then I’m excited.”

Across the hall from Pruitt’s office a day earlier, task force Lt. Jody Thomas spoke about Pruitt, his friendship with him and their years together. Outside law enforcement, few recognize the long hours of sitting in a vehicle or outside a drug seizure location, in the sweltering heat of summer or the freezing cold of winter, waiting for the opportunity to take more drugs off the street.

“It’s one of the greatest friendships I’ve ever had,” Thomas said. “We love each other like a family. We spend more time with each other than we do with our families because of the job. We fuss and fight like brothers and we love like brothers. And Mike is as much a brother to me as my own brother.”

The list of DTF accomplishments under Pruitt’s command is staggering. DTF to date has seized more than $34 million in cash, arrested 1,623 felons, executed more than 500 searches, seized more than 5,300 pounds of cocaine, more than 37,000 pounds and 9,000 plants of marijuana, 961 pounds of methamphetamine and confiscated 228 weapons.

“Mike is the kind of guy who takes his job very seriously,” said Thomas. “He’s always willing to go above and beyond, whether it’s a $1 million bust or a sack of marijuana. Whatever we’re working on, he gives it 100 percent.”

Pruitt’s management style is unconventional when compared to the standard model. Maybe it is because he is in law enforcement, but perhaps it is something else.

“He does something a lot of supervisors can’t do. He found a balance between being a supervisor and being a friend. The agents love him because he can ride you to do your work and you can turn around to find him at your bedside when you’re in need. He just knows how to separate personal from professional,” Thomas explained. “He will discipline, but he will fight for his agents until the bitter end and he won’t leave anyone out to dry.”

Pruitt recently traveled to Tuscaloosa to the home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Virtually anyone who knows Pruitt clearly knows that he is an avid Alabama fan, and that is putting it very mildly. While at the campus, Pruitt had the opportunity to meet and spend time with Coach Nick Saban and tour the team’s many facilities.

“It says a lot about him to take time out for me,” Pruitt said, sitting in his office last week, walls adorned with everything Crimson. And while Pruitt’s sentiment about Saban’s time out for him may be accurate, perhaps Saban appreciated the spirit of a part of the Tide family that had rolled in from across the Georgia-Alabama line to pay a visit. “As excited as I was to go to Alabama and meet Saban, can you imagine how excited I am to stand in front of Jesus and talk to Him? It’s like the anticipation that builds in a kid going on a trip. One day I’ll be on that trip.”

And maybe Pruitt, in the eyes of his agents, has an effect in the way he manages the drug task force that is linked to the Crimson Tide in more ways than he might imagine.

“He says to have pride in your work and work hard, the winning will take care of itself,” one undercover agent said. “It’s the Bear Bryant philosophy.”

Many of the undercover agents sat last week in Thomas’ office, discussing Pruitt and his effect on their jobs. Their words were emblematic of how that effect transcends the tangible in terms of job performance.

“I’ve never seen a unit tighter than this one,” said another agent. “In all my years in law enforcement, DTF has got to be the tightest.”

“He is a caring man and it shows in every respect. Even when he reprimands us it’s done out of respect,” said yet another agent. “We stand as one.”

Two upcoming fund-raisers for Pruitt are scheduled. A $10 per plate barbecue fund-raiser sponsored by Fayette Daily News and Today in Peachtree City will be held Friday, Feb. 8 from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at 210 Jeff Davis Place in Fayetteville.

And next weekend, the Capt. Mike Pruitt Benefit Ride will be held Feb. 16 at Big Daddy’s Cycle, located at 1850 Ga. Highway 85 South in Fayetteville. The cost is $10 per bike. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m., with a raffle drawing at 10:30 a.m. and the ride beginning at 11:00 a.m. Free breakfast will be provided and donations will be accepted.

The benefit ride will end at Long Branch Restaurant, located at 692 N. Glynn St. in Fayetteville. For more information contact Tommy at 678-618-3615 or Angel at 404-392-4789.

“I’m shocked,” Pruitt said of the fund-raising efforts, along with another that was held earlier at the Davidson Masonic Lodge in Woolsey. “I didn’t know this many people cared about me. I’m speechless.”

Thomas said the fund-raisers will help Pruitt and his family with medical and other expenses they have incurred during his time off work.

All things considered, things just could not be better for Mike Pruitt. At least, that is the way he sees it, even if many others cannot.

“I’m a very blessed man,” Pruitt said, eyes sparkling. His eyes glowed, not from some unconscious denial of the gravity of his circumstances, but more from a peace that passes all understanding.

“I’ve got friends I didn’t even know I had. I have a wonderful wife, children and grandchildren. And I have my Lord, who sustains me every day. What more could I have. It’s easy to lose focus on what life’s all about. We get caught up in worldly things and we lose sight of what’s important.”

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shadowalker's picture
Submitted by shadowalker on Wed, 02/06/2008 - 12:39pm.

This same story could have been written in the late 70s when i was in high school with mike, i played football with him and attended many classes with him, mike you have not changed from way back then
run the ball mike


eodnnaenaj1's picture
Submitted by eodnnaenaj1 on Wed, 02/06/2008 - 6:52am.

Mike and family, many of us are praying for you during this leg of life's journey. I wish you good and happy things and will continue to pray for you all.

Git Real's picture
Submitted by Git Real on Tue, 02/05/2008 - 8:00pm.

What A Peace!!! Just keep on living large until that day Mike when you meet Jesus face to face. Thanks for the testimony..... May it endure for a very long time. What a great way to show His glory. Smiling

In regards to Democrats, Republicans, gangs, and other scads of coterie Kool-Aide drinkers; Remember this..... Eagles Don't Flock

BPR's picture
Submitted by BPR on Wed, 02/06/2008 - 12:12am.

My mom and sister passed about 3 years ago, I was there when my Mom passed just me and an CNA, we did not know it was going to happen, well she probably did the CNA- my mom was a Christian, my prayer was God if this is your will and has to be please let her go in peace, I will live to give you glory for that;

Her temperature went up to 130, I got water to cool her down with a cloth, we had hospice- she just stopped breathing- and took two breaths and then stopped. Not a struggle, like she was sleeping, I say this weeping- God will do the same for you and all of us- I am still amazed, it's like she didn't die, just stopped breathing with not a struggle or anything- you could hear a pin drop. What a gracious God we serve.

I am reading 90 min. in Heaven, a friend loaned me the book- it has helped some- amazing book- I suggest reading it- what you and the rest of us that have a relationship with Christ have to look forward to- not a day goes by that I don't weep for the both of them- I miss them- they are happy. In the book the guy had ordered two tapes and had not played them since his accident- he had ordered them before the accident, finally after a while he asked a nurse to play them- it's amazing what he says happened in his life. I hope this touches yours as his life.

click "Praise The Lord- btw this is my favorite singer.Smiling The guy playing the piano is already in heaven- great piano player

He ordered this one also:

click "We Are The Reason.

When my time comes I asked my husband for this one:

click "Everything To Me"

I leave you with Philip: 4 6-7.

My prayers are with you.

"Hope Changes Everything"

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