Kids shine on the slopes

Cancer patients take a break in Steamboat

Advertisement

— The nausea is all Kelsey Stone remembers from her first four rounds of chemotherapy.

"I had to try a million different medicines," she said.

Fortunately -- a word rarely used when discussing cancer -- Kelsey was just 13 years old when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin's lymphoma, so doctors could attack the cancer aggressively. The younger the patients, the better their bodies respond to chemotherapy, oncologist Stuart Toledano said.

"I went on the most potent chemo," Kelsey, now 14, said. "The doctors told me a 70-year-old couldn't survive that amount of chemo."

Kelsey responded so well that she was allowed to decrease the potency of her chemotherapy.

"Before, I was so tired after (chemo), I went right to sleep," she said. "On the other chemo, I could come home and play with my dog."

Still, the freshman from Calvert County, Md., hasn't been to a full week of school since she was diagnosed.

She is missing another full week of school this week, but not because of cancer. She is on a Steamboat Springs ski vacation with the Sunshine Kids, enjoying a respite from hospital beds and concerned family members.

"Even though I'm missing a week of school, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Kelsey said.

Asked what she will remember the most about this week, Kelsey, who successfully linked turns on the Preview ski trail at Steamboat Ski Area on Tuesday, replied, "just going by myself and going somewhere I've never been."

Sunshine Kids

The Sunshine Kids Winter Games is an annual trip for children with cancer from across the country, but this year is the organization's first in Steamboat.

More than 30 children, nurses, doctors and Sunshine Kids staff members are here largely because Steamboat Ski Area, Prudential Steamboat Realty and Steamboat Sheraton Resort Hotel made it happen.

Prudential Real Estate is a national sponsor of the Sunshine Kids, so its Steamboat office is thrilled to welcome the contingent from hospitals in California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, New York and Washington, D.C.

"They are really committed to providing positive group activities and emotional support to young cancer patients," said Pam Vanatta, co-owner of Steamboat's Prudential office. "It's just something we wanted to do to bring them here to Steamboat Springs. It's a great organization."

While in Steamboat, the Sun--shine Kids are taking part in a myriad of winter activities including skiing and snowboarding, tubing and snowmobiling at Saddleback Ranch.

Sunshine Kids officials are putting an itinerary together for next year's trip to Steamboat, and the organization wants to bring a larger group of children to the Rocky Mountains.

"The most rewarding thing is seeing what the kids go through at home and taking them to a different environment, where they can be kids," Toledano said.

Toledano is a doctor with Jackson Memorial Hospital at the University of Miami in Florida, and he also is on Sunshine Kids' board of directors.

"When they come back to the clinic, you need to see what these kids are like," Toledano said. "It's exciting to see the changes in the kids."

Snow day

Jake Lamb underwent a drastic change after the cist on his lip turned out to be rhabdomyocarcoma, a soft-tissue cancer.

"I started at 255 pounds and got down to 168 pounds," Lamb said while riding the Sundown Express lift Tuesday. "Usually teens get it, if you are going to get it at all."

He underwent nine months of chemotherapy and one month of radiation. The 18-year-old from Madison, N.Y., was supposed to go to Los Angeles with the Sunshine Kids in September.

"I got really sick," he said.

He took a rain check -- er, snow check -- and came to Steamboat instead. An avid snowboarder since he was 15, the delay worked out for Lamb.

Paired up with Steamboat Ski Area instructor Bobby Redd, the pair rode almost the entire mountain in two days, including a Monday hike to North St. Pats.

"It was a double black (diamond)," Lamb said. "That was my first one."

John Doddridge likely isn't venturing toward the double-black runs while in Steamboat. But considering he was linking turns with instructor John Schaible on their second day together, anything is possible.

"The toes were the hardest," Doddridge, 17, said, referring to turning on his toe-side edge.

Doddridge, like many of the other Sunshine Kids visiting Steamboat, was told to check in daily with his parents. On Tuesday, he talked to his stepmother, Monica Doddridge, during lunch.

"I was scared about it, but it's good for him," she said. "He was so excited just to get to ride on the plane."

Before John Doddridge left Newnan, Ga., doctors at Child--ren's Healthcare of Atlanta removed the port from the arm in which he was receiving chemotherapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was diagnosed with cancer right before Christmas, after doctors found a lump the size of a grapefruit in his chest.

The great part about living in a small town, however, is that everyone is pitching in to help with medical expenses. Doddridge's blue eyes light up when he talks about the Harley-Davidson motorcycle benefit ride that's been planned.

Four months after beginning treatment for cancer, Doddridge can return home and call himself a snowboarder.

"It's cool," he said. "It's fun."

Imagine what Rolando Gutierrez is going to tell his friends and family when he returns home.

On Tuesday, with his face pointed upward, the 12-year-old from Homestead, Fla., tasted snow and felt it tickle his nose for the first time. The moment was so overwhelming that he stopped in the middle of the Preview lift line to stare at the sky.

The sight of fat snowflakes brought smiles to everyone's face -- locals and tourists alike -- Tuesday, prompting one woman to wonder out loud, "Look, the Sunshine Kids brought Steamboat snow."

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.