A positive outlook

Man battles cancer with optimistic attitude

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— There never is a dull moment with Steve Ivers talks. Take his exchange with friends and family Friday at the Steamboat Golf Club.

Ivers stood on the porch with one arm extended forward and the other behind his head.

"These were the tough areas to get," he said describing the difficulties he had shaving his head. "I had to talk to people who shave their heads to find out how to do it. It's all in the Braun (razor), baby."

Ivers had a lot of talking to do Friday at a golf tournament held in his honor. Everyone asked how he was holding up, how his family was and whether there was anything they could do for him. Ivers happily exchanged greetings, shook hands and talked about how his bout with cancer has united the Yampa Valley. And he did it all with a smile.

"Steve has no strangers," said Faye Nissen, Ivers' mother.

Ivers, 35, said he has never smoked and has always stayed active, playing baseball since he was four and coaching numerous sports for more than nine years. That's why it came as such a surprise when he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

"It was devastating," Ivers' wife, Holly, said. "In a year and a half I lost my mother and father, and we found out Steve had cancer the day we buried my mother. All I could think was, 'What's next?'"

The symptoms started to show last October when he developed a cough. After a series of X-rays, doctors originally thought it was pneumonia in his left lung. After treating it with medicine, Ivers went back to work for Twentymile Coal Co. But the cough persisted.

Doctors drained a liter of blood from his lungs and found no cancer cells. After further tests, Ivers received a phone call he will never forget.

"(The doctor) tells me it came back positive," he said. "It's really serious, and it's already spread from my lung to my back. He tells me on the phone that I only had a couple of months to live."

Ivers tackled the cancer the same way he does life: with an upbeat, positive outlook.

"I put a goal for 15 years, and I am going to battle to get there," Ivers said about how long he expects to live. "I'm not going to say I'm going to make 15 years, but at the same time, I'm not going to shy away in the corner."

Ivers already has done one cycle of chemotherapy and will begin a second cycle Wednesday. Because of his overall physical health, doctors are giving him a higher dose of chemotherapy. While the chemotherapy can make him feel bad, Ivers said the any day he gets to be around his children, Brittney, 13, and Brentten, 11, is a good day.

"You wake up every day and see your kids and say, 'I can go to chemo,'" he said. "They're too young, and I still have a job to do. I want to walk my daughter down the aisle."

One thing that has kept the Ivers family strong is the support from Yampa Valley residents. Friday's benefit golf tournament attracted 104 competitors, and organizer Nancy Seams said she anticipated the tournament would raise more than $10,000 for Ivers. There's also a softball tournament Sept. 25 and a dinner auction at the hockey arena in conjunction with the tournament. A crew from Twentymile Coal even pitched in $50 a person to pay for a day of overtime for Ivers.

"The hardest thing is what to say to these people that go out of their way to help you," he said.

Ivers won't know his progress until he finishes his fourth round of chemotherapy. Still, he has set a goal to be in remission by Christmas.

So when the clouds rolled overhead and rain looked imminent Friday, Ivers sounded nothing like one might expect for a cancer patient.

"Hopefully it clears up," he said, peering into the sky. "I need to get some sun on this cue-ball head."

To make a donation to the Steve Ivers fund, send a check in his name to Moffat County National Bank in Craig or First National Bank in Steamboat Springs.

--o reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229 or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com.

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