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Remembering Michael Donovan

A Tribute to Michael Donovan, NFOSD Treasurer

By Sonia Blue, NFOSD Co-Founder

Michael Donovan, 1958-2018
At rest in Oakland, California on April 30, 2018, aged 59. Mike waged a courageous fight against cancer for 23 years.

What to say about Mike? Funny, kind, smart, laughter-loving, loyal, thoughtful, generous, tenacious, beyond-brave, willing, hopeful, spiritual, curious and so loving.

We were brought together through our doctor and friend, Peter Belafsky, whom along with Jan Pryor, became our mutual touchstone as we often agreed on our good fortune to have been in their care. We recognized a kindred spirit in each other; both of us thrown into a horrendous voyage and trying to find our way. Both of us searching to make meaning out of life’s randomness and trying to discover how to have a purposeful, viable and joyous life in the face of such a profound challenge.

When the foundation was in its infancy (2006), Mike and I spent a lot of good time together brainstorming about fundraising ideas and engaging in futuristic and fantastic ideas about this fledgling idea called the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders.

Dr. Peter Belafsky, George Donovan, Sonia Blue, Michael Donovan

Mike was the original engine behind NFOSD’s 3 golf fundraisers. With grace and his inimitable charm, he put the call out to his Oakland friends and family and they showed up to support him and his new venture with open hearts and open checkbooks. Mike matched donations (for all 3 golf fundraisers) out of his own pocket and in so doing became the first sustainable donor and through his efforts raised much of the “seed” money needed to keep our neonate vision alive.


Mike and I spent many years in each other’s presence talking, laughing, coughing and spitting, as we shared our grief at what it is to live in a body that feels like it’s betrayed you. Our humor ran dark and we often mused about dating and what fresh hell it is to both be and pursue a love object when one has a swallowing disorder. We always found the humor in the absurdity of it all.

Mike had an anchor in his faith, the love and support of his friends, Finn, his beautiful black Lab, and his steadfast family who showed their unwavering support of him and the foundation. It was evident that he was cherished by all those who knew him.

I am so sad he is gone because the world feels a little dimmer. But I am ever grateful to have been a friend, to have been able to walk at least a part of this journey with him. He inspired me with his desire to find light in the darkness and he turned something unfortunate that happened to him into something fortunate for so many others. He is part of the original DNA of NFOSD and leaves an indelible stamp on its good work far into the future.

In this way, he remains a bright and guiding light for all of us.

God speed, Mike, you are loved and missed for all time.

Your friend,


Sonia Blue and Michael Donovan