By Ray Balogh
WARSAW — Mike Cochran calls himself a survivor. He has certainly earned the title.
Diagnosed with leukemia in 2014, Cochran was given a couple of treatment options, each of which would be, quite literally, short-lived.
The third option, a bone marrow transplant, offered the prognosis “that I would live another 30 years.” Cochran’s sister stepped up as the donor, and “she was a perfect match. Now the leukemia is gone.”
So grateful is Cochran for his spared life, he said of his 52nd birthday next month, “I will be seven years old.”
His grapple with death helped forge his life philosophy. “Every day is a good day. Some are just better than others.”
His advice to others: “Don’t burn your candle at both ends. Don’t work yourself to death, because you are not guaranteed tomorrow. Take care of the people who take care of you.”
Some of those people are the friends and family “who baby-sat me at home” while he was sidelined from work for seven months. He spent half that time enduring three stays in the hospital.
Cochran’s work history is a chronicle of “success in every position I was in.”
At 17, he worked at Scott’s Supermarket in Columbia City, carrying out groceries and stocking shelves. Two years later he was promoted to night manager and at the age of 24 became assistant store manager. When he was 29 he was promoted to store manager of the Fort Wayne location.
In 1999 Cochran went to work at Walmart when “they started building supercenters.” He oversaw the remodeling of the Walmart in Fort Wayne, working “70 to 80 hours a week” and helping the store increase its workforce from 200 to 550 employees.
He was on salary and left for a position with a “performance based income. It gives me a drive to succeed. I’m very much a people person and I just like talking to people.”
In 2000 he landed at Radio Shack in Columbia City, where he had worked one Christmas season during high school. “I absolutely loved it,” he said.
In January 2001 he was promoted to store manager, but made more money in commissions than his base pay salary. “At that time cellphones were gigantic,” he said, and he prospered by knowing which products, accessories, warranties and service plans to sell pursuant to Radio Shack’s SPIFF (Special Payment Incentive for Fast Sales) program.
After his bout with leukemia, Cochran “had to find a job without a lot of physical effort,” and found the “ideal job” in his current position as agency operator with Avis/Budget of Warsaw. After two months of training, he took over the location Jan. 1, 2016.
He said he has experienced “hundreds of instances” of gratification in assisting people, including a new mother who needed a rental to undergo cancer testing. “She was worried about needing the car an extra day, and we arranged that.” Cochran’s daughter, Mallory, who works with him, said of the woman, “we cried together in the office.”
“She called us the day she found out she was clean and has rented here a dozen times since then,” Cochran said.
In his time off, Cochran spends time with Dena, his wife of 15 years, and their children. “We live in the woods, so my hobby now is picking up branches and fallen trees from the storms.”
He also enjoys live classic rock concerts, and has attended “over 100” of them over the years, including 25 KISS concerts. He estimates he has attended the concerts of about 80 different bands.