Finding strength in family after cancer: The Blair family
October 5, 2014
How to help
If you would like to help Scott Blair and his family, checks can be made to the Scott Blair Fund and dropped off at Alpine Bank, 1901 Pine Grove Road, Steamboat Springs, 970-871-1901.
Steamboat Springs — It was May 2013 when Scott Blair and a group of friends were hiking up BC Ski Way ski run for a few late season turns at Steamboat Ski Area.
Scott's wife, Connie Blair, wasn't with him, but the events that unfolded on the mountain that day changed Scott and Connie's lives in a matter of minutes.
Scott suffered a seizure during the climb, but thanks to the quick actions of the three people in his group, including ski patroller Craig McDonald, Scott received immediate medical care on scene and was on his way to the hospital as soon as they could get him down the hill on a small all-terrain vehicle.
"I couldn't even think straight," Connie said. "It was crazy. I didn't even know what a glioblastoma was. I didn't sleep for four days."
At the hospital, Scott was treated for a dislocated and broken shoulder. To assess his injuries, Scott also had a CT scan, which revealed he had a brain tumor.
Scott immediately was flown to Swedish Hospital by helicopter, but Connie was left alone in Steamboat to figure out how to join her husband in Denver. Luckily, Dave and Bev Murray stepped up and offered to make the drive with Connie.
"There was no way I could have made that drive by myself," Connie said. "I was a mess."
When she arrived at the hospital, the news wasn't good.
Doctors thought that Scott was suffering from a terminal brain tumor, but they needed a brain biopsy to confirm their diagnosis. The tumor was located in a deep section of Scott's brain called the insular cortex.
The biopsy showed that Scott had a Grade 4 glioblastoma, and doctors told Scott and Connie there was nothing that could be done to remove it. In fact, most doctors, including the one who performed Scott's biopsy, refused to touch the tumor.
The prognosis also was bad. One doctor told Connie that Scott had two weeks left to live without treatment and only months with treatment.
The couple returned to Steamboat Springs and began weighing their options.
"I learned that it's important to ask around," Connie said. "Get a second opinion … and never give up."
Connie said Dr. Henry Fabian, who she was working for at the time as an X-ray technician, came to her and mentioned he had a colleague at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Dr. Fabian thought it was worth a phone call if Connie agreed, which she did. When the doctor in Houston reviewed Scott's case, he suggested surgery.
Within hours, Scott and Connie were on their way to Houston, where Scott underwent brain surgery to try to remove the tumor. In the months following the procedure, Scott had radiation and chemotherapy treatments in an effort to stop what was left of the tumor from growing and to deal with a cancer that was nearly impossible to remove.
Today, Scott is at home but still dealing with the impacts of that day in May. He is back to riding his bike, and exactly one year after his seizure on the mountain, he and a buddy skinned back up BC Ski Way for some late-season turns.
"That was a big deal for him," Connie said. "To go back to that spot and to ski down the mountain — well, that was pretty cool."
Scott is no longer able to work as a physical therapist and currently is doing a few odd jobs for friends around town to keep busy. Connie's life also has been turned upside down, and she recently started looking for a job to earn some money for the family, which includes two daughters, Ellie, who is in fifth grade, and Alex, a seventh-grader. Connie said Scott is working on renewing his physical therapy license, and he also got a ski pass for the season and plans on coaching for the Little Vikings skiing program.
The family is learning to deal with cancer, but Connie admits there are times when she wants to lock herself in her room and scream into a pillow. She understands that the odds are not in Scott's favor, and if the cancer progresses again, she isn't sure what options the family will have.
Despite the uncertainty, Connie prefers to stay positive.
She is thankful for the community, friends and family who have provided help and support throughout the past 18 months. In the days after Scott's diagnosis, their neighbors stepped up to care for her children. Friends helped complete landscaping projects around her house, and others organized fundraisers to help the family deal with Scott's medical bills.
Today, Connie still worries about her husband's condition and what their lives will be like if the tumor starts to grow again.
"I still worry about the big things. I want Scott to be there for our girls' graduation. I want Scott to walk the girls down the aisle at their weddings," Connie said. "I worry about being a single mom with two kids, and how I would stay in my house if something happens to Scott."