NOTE: The following story was submitted to News 10 by Entergy Louisiana
Less than a day after hearing he was cancer-free, lineman Tyler Manick knew what he needed to do first: help the people of southwest Louisiana.
So he loaded up his gear and joined his Duke Energy teammates, traveling nearly 900 miles down I-85 and beyond to help Entergy Louisiana rebuild a devastated community.
On May 16, 2018, Manick, with his eight-months-pregnant wife, Chelsey, by his side, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. If treatment didn’t work, he had six weeks to live.
“We hunkered down and held onto God,” said Manick, who has worked as a lineman for Duke Energy for the past six years.
Manick immediately entered treatment, beginning a grueling 27-month journey, bringing with it unimaginable weight loss and sickness, leaving him unable to do the work he loves. Instead of receiving job tickets and loading his truck with his teammates that Wednesday morning, he was told to start getting his affairs in order.
On Aug. 21 this year, his 812 days of treatment came to an end. A biopsy just two weeks ago would bring with it the day he and Chelsey, and now their two-year old daughter Samaira, weren’t sure they would ever see. Tyler was told Oct. 8 he was now cancer free.
“As hard as it is to explain what that’s like to be told you have six or 10 weeks to live, it’s just as hard to explain the joy of being told you’ve come through this,” said Manick. “Just hearing ‘you’re finished, go get back to a normal life,’ no more pain, no more suffering, no more chemo, no more radiation. It’s an indescribable feeling.”
Less than 24 hours removed from receiving life-altering news, Manick knew exactly what he wanted to do first: head south. The Old Fort, North Carolina, resident packed his bags and headed for Lake Charles, Louisiana, to aid the recovery efforts following hurricanes Laura and Delta. And by 6 a.m. Friday morning, he was on his way.
“We celebrated, started rejoicing and thanking God for an hour or two, then I got home and started doing laundry,” said Manick. “Chelsey was so happy from the cancer results that I could have told her we were going to China and she wouldn’t have cared.”
Manick is one of roughly 500 crew members from Duke Energy who pitched in to help out his Entergy Louisiana peers following Hurricane Delta’s landfall in southwest Louisiana, a region that has seen inconceivable devastation over the past two months. And it’s a task that has kept him well-motivated over the past two years.
“I went out on disability when I was sick and I couldn’t work, but I just kept telling myself ‘If I could just get back in that bucket one more time, if I can just go down the road one more time,’” said Manick. “I just wanted to get back to it. The best part of being a lineman is storm work. The rebuilding is awesome and being able to help people is amazing.”
Manick has been spending his days in Lake Charles, back in his bucket, working to get the lights back on for a storm-ravaged community. Setting poles, running wire and replacing transformers, back to his beloved routine with a group of guys who are closer to brothers than co-workers.
When Manick was undergoing treatment, his teammates were with him every step of the way, blowing leaves, taking out the trash, driving him 40-plus miles one way to his appointments. Because that’s what linemen do.
“It’s a brotherhood,” said Manick. “When something happens, they’re the first ones there and willing to do anything for you. When I was down on my luck, they were the first ones there to pick me up. It’s a family, and that’s just how it is when you’re a lineman.”
Manick is now spending his days in the Louisiana sunshine, helping Entergy restore power to more than 300,000 people who lost it following Delta’s landfall.
“I’ve been on a few storms that I thought were bad, but I’ve never seen anything like what I’ve seen in Lake Charles. I’ve never seen oak trees twice the size of a steering wheel just twisted and knocked down,” said Manick. “I feel sorry for these people; they’ve been through it in the past month or two. You see piles of debris on side of the road and think these people’s whole lives have changed. I don’t know what we can do other than get the power back on, but that’s what we’re going to do.”
With Manick’s help, Entergy Louisiana has restored over 90% of customers who lost power following the first three full days of restoration work since Delta, the second hurricane to tear through the state in just six weeks. And Manick has cherished every second of it.
“It’s hot – two weeks ago I could see my breath at home in the mountains,” said Manick. “It’s been my first time in this state and my first time seeing the Mississippi River. Getting down here has been absolutely awesome. I love Louisiana, and it seems like the farther south you get the nicer the people get. I’m happy to get the lights back on for them.”
He’s not just restoring normalcy for the community, but he’s restoring it for himself too.
“If I have an opportunity to say I beat cancer and give somebody hope, I want to do that,” said Manick. “I may never get to come back down here. I want to enjoy it. Life’s short.”