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Cancer delays final goodbye

In April of last year, I wrote a column in which I announced that my wife, Amy Garcia, and I would be moving to Austin, Texas, to live near our two daughters. We also announced this life-changing news to Romeo, Bold Boulder, Beta Sigma Phi Preceptor Chapter, the Boulder City Stamp Club, Meals on Wheels, my weekly poker game, my numerous doctors and 45-50 of Amy’s closest friends, not to mention our families in Texas, Iowa and California.

The house that we had built in a new part of Georgetown has long been waiting for us to move in. We have had it fully landscaped, hooked up all the utilities, installed custom cabinetry, bought some new furnishings and light fixtures, and the doggie door is being installed at this moment. What Amy calls her “dream house” is probably thinking we were just faking the whole thing.

The delay, as many of you know, was that shortly thereafter, Amy was diagnosed with what turned out to be colon cancer. She has, with a single exception, always been as healthy as anyone could ever hope to be. No frailties of any sort in my robust sweetheart. We were stunned, of course, and had to shelve the moving plans in order to take care of this.

What followed was a gauntlet of new doctors and clinics, first to confirm it was cancer and what sort, and then what type of treatment to prescribe. She would see one doctor and then it took three weeks to get in to see the next one, on and on. She dealt with this in some iterations by patiently hanging on the phone day after day to the next doctor’s office and politely asking if they had any cancellations. That worked several times.

Part of the blame for this tag-team saga was due to the health insurance I had purchased years ago. I thought I had been doing some clever shopping when I got Sierra Health and Life for a mere $635 a month for one healthy woman. When we told the new providers that she had Sierra, more than one of them wrinkled up their noses in apprehension.

At the point where they decided what was the best new kind of chemotherapy/radiation for her rather advanced cancer, Sierra rejected it. They refused to pay because we had not shown proof that she deserved this higher-cost treatment. The clinicians said not to worry, “they do this all the time.” Sure enough, the insurer backed down and we could proceed, but meanwhile we had wasted more precious days while the evil cells continued to grow.

In the third week of February she finished the six-week regimen of treatments. As she had been told, the radiation was well tolerated for some weeks, but then the cumulative effects started hitting her pretty hard. All her life Amy has been the stoic, uncomplaining kind of gal, so she would not forgive me for detailing the effects any further.

The treatment plan called for the chemotherapy/radiation treatments first thing; they used to have the surgery first, then the radiation, but they now prefer to shrink the tumor first. This is a rapidly advancing science and if you’ve been told the horror stories of others who had chemo and radiation more that a couple of years ago, it is better now. Amy didn’t even lose any hair.

The next stage is a 10-week recovery period during which nothing is done. That is the window we are in now and when we will complete the physical move to our new home. The moving van pulls out of here March 15. The surgery will then be done in Texas so that follow up will be local.

We both will miss you all, a lot. It was never our ambition to leave this amazing town. We even did some cemetery shopping a couple of years ago. But, with both of our daughters owning homes around Austin, and no family here, it just made sense to move closer to them. My 6-year-old grandson is asking every day when I am getting there so I can take him fishing.

Dave Nelson retired to Boulder City in 2003 after a career with the FICO score company. He is vice president for the local Sons of Norway.

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